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Most specifications for a given Fender instrument model change little (if at all) throughout the lifetime of the model.

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.

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As seen in the overlap of numbers and years, even these references to actual PRODUCTION DATES are rather loose. The numbers and decals were produced far in advance, and some N9 decals (denoting 1999) were inadvertently affixed to some instruments in 1990.

Consequently, some 1990 guitars bear 1999 “N9” SERIAL NUMBERS. American Deluxe Series instruments use the same dating convention, but with the addition of a “D” in front of the “Z”; i.e., DZ1, DZ2, etc.

This new numbering scheme was short-lived and was replaced only a few months later by an improved scheme that identifies an instrument’s country of origin and year of manufacture in the body of the serial number.

This new scheme uses the letters “US” as a prefix to designate an instrument made in the United States, followed by an eight-digit number.

These SERIAL NUMBERS did not identify the country of origin in the body of the number.

Instead, the instrument's country of origin appears on the decal on the back of the headstock, near the serial number.

SERIAL NUMBERS were stamped on the back vibrato cover plate on early ’50s Stratocaster® guitars, and on the bridge plate between the pickup and the saddles on some Telecaster® guitars.

But once again, due to Fender’s modular production methods and often non-sequential serial numbering (usually overlapping two to four years from the early days of Fender to the mid-1980s), dating by serial number is not always precisely definitive.

The “10” prefix was designed to identify the first year of the second decade of the new millennium, and while it appears on the instrument decals, it was not captured in Fender’s operating system.

Only the seven-digit suffixes were actually entered into the database.

SERIAL NUMBERS are also helpful in determining an instrument’s production year.

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