While there have been periods of dramatic change—such as the transition periods between the Leo Fender years and the CBS years or the transition between the CBS years and the current ownership—most models are generally feature-specific and do not change from year to year.Serial numbers are also helpful in determining an instrument’s production year.Although a serial number is helpful for roughly determining the age of a guitar, this is often not the exact date.Usually, the production date is stamped or written is on the heel of the neck.Your last chance to own a vintage Fender Stratocaster is with the guitars of the late 1970's.You spot a '79 in a local shop, or online, but how can you be certain it is a '79?
The Fender serial number decoder currently supports all documented MIA, MIJ, MIM, MIK and MII formats with the exception of Custom Shop, Relic and Reissue instruments.
Please note that fender serial numbers tend to overlap by at least a year, and thereby the date of your guitar can only be approximated.
Most notably, production dates have been penciled or stamped on the butt end of the heel of the neck of most guitars and basses, although there were periods when this was not consistently done (1973 to 1981, for example) or simply omitted.
Given the modular nature of Fender's production techniques, an individual neck may have been produced in a given year, placed in the manufacturing warehouse and remained in stock for a period of time, and then subsequently paired with a body to create a complete guitar in the following year.
So, obviously a neck date, while being helpful in providing a date range of production, it cannot be a definitive reference.