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A frequently asked question in bass & guitar forums is, "What year was this bass made?" Click the underlined white headline links below and find out.
Brother Dave's Printable Fender Field Guide - I personally cooked up this four-page printable WORD document applicable to practically all Fender guitars and basses ever produced from day 1 in the back room of Leo Fender's radio shop up till this very moment. I did it for ME, but now I'm sharing it with YOU. Just download, open & print! Keep a copy in your car's glovebox for those pawn shops, flea markets and yard sale finds where you don't have computer access. The Field Guide includes ALL serials from 1950 to 2011! BONUS!!!! "THE BROTHER DAVE POT CODE DECODER RING" allows you to date any USA made pot with just a mere GLANCE! The Pot Decoder is on page 4. Additions and corrections appreciated! My Field Guide is a work in progress. If you don't have Microsoft WORD you can download the Microsoft "WORD READER" free HERE. (You're welcome.)
Dating a US Fender Guitar/Bass From Fender
Dating a Mexican Fender Guitar/Bass From Fender
Dating a Japanese Fender Guitar/Bass From Fender
Dating Fender Acoustic Instruments From Fender
Dating Fender Amplifiers From Fender
Dating Odd Fender Serial Numbers - Includes basses like the otherwise impossible to date short California Series run! Again, from Fender
Dating a Japanese Fender Guitar/Bass - Includes CIJ and MIJ models. From Guitars Japan.
Guitar Dater Project for FENDER - MIA, MIJ and MIM formats with the exception of Custom Shop, Relic and Reissue instruments. The entry field is at the bottom of the page and note the tic boxes that apply to your guitar.
Fender Guitar & Bass Dating Help Page - Overview of collecting vintage Fender guitars, basses and amps. General specifications, serial numbers, neck codes, Fender vintage guitar case logos. Excellent reading! Fender fanatics will LOVE this page!
Jim Shine - His website is primarily geared toward vintage 6-string guitars, but much of the information is applicable to basses as well when it comes to dating. I refer to his NECK CODE and POT CODE pages frequently.
Fender Country Codes - If you suspect an instrument has been modified to hide the true country of origin but you have the original serial number, then the country code reveals where it was made. Another BrotherDave.Com site addendum page.
Dating a Squier Bass - This is a WIKI page on dating Squier guitars and basses. Squier serials are VERY confusing but this page can help date at least some of them.
Guitar Dater Project for Epiphone - Note the caveats in the left margin. The entry field is at the bottom of the page.
Guitar Dater Project for Gibson - Works for pre-1977 instruments too. The serial entry field is at the bottom of the page and they also like to get your model number to help them sort serial ranges among models.
Dating Guild Guitars & Basses (1952+) - From Guitar Nucleus (Gotta love Guild basses. They are still AWESOME!)
Guitar Dater Project for Ibanez - Often Ibanez instruments are very difficult to date, but this tool seems to be an excellent dating method. I've tried it on two different basses of known manufacture date with dead-on accurate results. The input field for your serial is near the bottom of the page.
Dating Rickenbacher Guitars & Basses - The official Rick site.
Guitar Dater Project for Yamaha - You might or might not ever find out what year your Yamaha was made. Apparently Yamaha serials are the most difficult to pinpoint. The input box is near the bottom of the page. Yamaha serials are even more convoluted than the Squier or Ibanez serial schemes.
Guitar Dater Project for POT CODES - As a last resort when you can't find a reliable date from the instrument serial or super reliable neck codes you can resort to dating the pots. Only works for USA made pots. Also if you have the guitar manufacture date you can see if it has original pots. The input box is at the bottom of the page. Pot code dating will tell you when the pot was made, so the instrument most likely is not older than the pot, unless the pot was changed out for an older pot. Usually replacement pots will have newer dates. Most often all pots in an instrument have the same code.
Fender Precision Bass Timeline Chronology - From Vintage Guitars in the UK comes a wonderful source of information detailing the evolutionary chronology of the number one electric bass in history! There are three pages in total: 1950's, 1960's and 1970's!
1972 Fender Jazz Bass "Owner's Manual." This PDF file has the infamous "JASS BASS" misspelling on the warranty registration card which is on page 12. This manual was used for several years. This file came from member "Bassclef" at the Fender Jazz Bass Forum.
Vintage Bass Information - Also from Vintage Guitars in the UK. This page is a gateway to a wealth of information on vintage electric basses by Fender, Gibson, Rickenbacker, Hagstrom, Gretsch, Hofner, Epiphone, Guild, Harmony, Vox, Ampeg, Danelectro and Kalamazoo. Warning, you can waste hours on this site. Very educational and very fun site with tons of historical information. This site also has a forum.
VINTAGE GUITAR COLORS - Fender color offerings changed periodically which can help with dating. For example any Fender Candy Apple Red instrument is 1963 or later. Keep in mind that scans of color charts will be an approximation at best. The following sites will help identify your color:
Curtis Novak Restorations Color Blocks (Appear very accurate renderings to me.)
In-Depth information on Fender Custom Finishes from Provide.Net including FENDER COLOR CHARTS from 1960 and 1966. A good read!
(The following 6 color charts are from Strat-Central.Com)
(Following from vintageguitars.org.uk)
(The photos of the 1982-1983 Color Chart at following link courtesy "TREY" at the Fender Forum)
Vintage Fender/Gibson Guitar Finishes - A "300 Guitars" interview with Gord Miller of Canada who is a leading authority on vintage instrument finishes.
Gruhn Instrument Appraisal - Gruhn Guitars of Nashville operates one of the most reputable, highly regarded and knowledgeable guitar appraisal services. An appraisal of a vintage collectible instrument by a recognized authority is indispensable should you ever need to file an insurance claim on the instrument. Also knowing the appraisal value gives you a starting point for setting a price to sell an instrument, plus you will have an accurate and authoritative description to use when advertising it for sale and can quote the appraisal value and appraiser's name. Usually an appraisal will contain information you were not aware of that would be of significant interest to potential buyers. Many times I see vintage basses on eBay for sale with incorrect color names or other obvious errors and an appraisal would have prevented the seller from looking like an idiot. Instruments almost never actually sell at full appraisal value, but instead usually sell for a majority percentage of the appraisal value. I call the sale price "actual final value." This actual final value percentage fluctuates based on several factors including location, the state of the vintage instrument market and the overall state of the economy. At this update in the 1st quarter of 2011 the vintage guitar market is rebounding dramatically. However over the past few years "actual value" was bringing a smaller percentage of the appraisal value than three or four years ago when the economy was better. Vintage instruments are again beginning to sell and the actual sale prices are starting to rise again. People fearful of losing their jobs are not apt to buy $8,000 vintage 1954 P-Bass. The past two years has been a better time to buy a vintage instrument than to sell one as prices have been depressed and buyers few. I'm seeing signs that this is changing. The fact that the actual final values on vintage bass transactions are rising is a sure sign that the recession is either ending or in fact is already over.
Autograph Authentication - If you have a signed instrument but can't prove it was the artist that actually signed it, having the autograph authenticated may add value to your instrument. Whether or not authentication adds enough value to cover the cost of the authentication depends on the collectability of the artist's signature. My advice is not to buy a celebrity signed anything, vintage or otherwise, without authentication that the autograph is in fact genuine or proof that it is the artist's signature. Proof could be a photograph of the artist signing the instrument or a photo of the owner with the celebrity while he is signing it is even better. A letter from the original owner detailing the chain of ownership is also important and it should be notarized. Defacing a vintage instrument is never a good idea, as even an authentic signature will usually hurt the collector value. Of course if the signature turns out to be fake it even more substantially hurts the instrument's value. A celebrity signing a vintage instrument hurts the value of a vintage instrument as a general rule. However there are exceptions to all rules. Would an authentic 1968 Gibson flattop signed by either Elvis or John Lennon be worth more or less than an unsigned one? More of course! However, I've seen a few basses signed by little known and sometimes unidentifiable people which is a huge value mark off. In the case of celebrity owned instruments a notarized signed statement and photo of the celebrity playing the instrument is far more desirable than the artist actually defacing the instrument by signing it. Remember 60 or 100 years from now the instrument may survive but nobody will know why some moron wrote their stupid name on it. With very few exceptions every artist's fame fades over time, but instruments can endure indefinitely far outliving most artists' popularity or collectability. I've seen vintage instruments that owners actually wrote THEIR OWN NAME on to identify it as theirs. Usually this was on the back of the headstock and they just wrote their name. Apparently writing down the serial number was way more trouble than writing your name on the instrument back then. I've seen this a lot. It is of course a big markdown in value. Funniest one was on a 1957 P-Bass. It said, "BOBBY PRESSLAR, Rt 2, Wadesboro, NC," which I took to mean, "If you find my bass, would you please mail it back to me?"
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