Fender Telecaster: How to Find the Year & Value

John Shults

Posted on October 12 2021

Fender Telecaster: How to date Telecaster and how much is it worth?

The Fender Telecaster has been in continuous production since its introduction as the Broadcaster in 1950. Fender Telecaster values range wildly depending on what year they were made, so accurate dating and identification is a very important step in finding out how much they're worth. Fender guitar collectors can date a Telecaster with only a quick glance, but the most accurate way to date them is through a thorough inspection.

As a passionate Fender guitar collector, I want you to know how to find the year and value of your Fender Telecaster so you can feel confident to sell your guitar. If you're curious about what I might pay to buy your vintage Fender Telecaster then you can contact me here: Sell a Fender. If you think your Telecaster was made in the 1950s, 1960s, or 1970s then I'd be happy to take a look at it. I'd be happy to help with how to find the year and value of your Telecaster. 

If you're looking for more information on vintage Fender Telecaster guitars then I recommend this book: The Fender Telecaster by Andre Duchossoir. It's a great resource for all the small details of how the Fender Telecaster changed throughout the years. 

How to date a Telecaster

Knowing how to date a Fender Telecaster is the first step in finding out how much it's worth. Many people go straight to a serial number lookup to date the guitar, but Fender serial numbers are not usually an accurate way to date Fender guitars since they're not necessarily consecutive, style dependent, and are easily swapped using only a screwdriver. The steps that I use to date Fender guitars start with the serial number, but include the neck heel date, potentiometer codes, and features. 

Here's a resource for Fender serial number information for 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s: Fender Serial Number Lookup. Fender serial numbers from 1950-1954 are located on the bridge plate where the strings attach to the body (contact me if you have a 1950s Telecaster with 4 digit serial number on the bridge plate). The serial numbers then moved to the neck plate on the back of the guitar until 1977. The guitar below bears the serial number "-18xxx". Our Fender serial number information indicates that the 5 digit serials with the "-" symbol in front were made in 1957. 

Fender Telecaster Serial Numbers

The next step to find the year of a Telecaster is to check to see if the neck heel date matches the time period of the serial number. I recommend leaving this part of the inspection to the Fender guitar experts since there's a chance of damaging the finish if you haven't done it before. Fender employees signed the neck heel of the guitars early in the manufacturing process. The Telecaster below bears the date "11 - 57" indicating that it was signed in November of 1957. 

Fender neck heel date 1957

 

Since both the serial number and neck heel indicate the same year, we can then check to see if the potentiometers support the year as well. Potentiometers are variable resistors that allow a player to control the volume and tone of the guitar's signal going to the amplifier. They have codes on them which indicate the manufacturer, year, and week of the year. The potentiometer codes on this Telecaster read: "304704" where 304 = Stackpole (manufacturer), 7 = 1957, and 04 = the 4th week of the year. 

How to date Fender Telecaster with potentiometer codes

How Much Is A Telecaster Worth?

Now that we know what year the Fender Telecaster was made, we can begin to compare our guitar with other guitars that are currently available for sale. When I'm comparing Telecasters, I look for guitars from the same year, condition, originality, and color. Since Fender generally increased production year over year, there are far fewer earlier guitars than there are later guitars. This is why we would compare Telecasters made during the same year or time period to find out how much they're worth. You can contact me here if you're curious about what a Fender guitar collector might pay for your vintage Fender Telecaster: Fender Guitar Buyer.

The condition is another very important factor in finding the value of a Fender Telecaster. Fender guitar collectors will usually prioritize a clean and unworn Telecaster over a similar guitar with loads of player wear and grime. We don't mind a little wear and tear, but I personally enjoy the feel of unworn original frets when I'm playing my Telecasters. I still enjoy a well worn vintage Tele, but I usually have to have them refretted or repaired in other ways to get them to play as they were intended. There are far fewer unworn 1950s Telecasters than there are Telecasters that have been played. 

Original parts are another important factor impacting Telecaster values. The finish is likely the most important part of a vintage Telecaster. It was very common for people to refinish Fender guitars since they're easily disassembled using only a screw driver. It's also common to find replaced pickups, potentiometers, and wiring in vintage Telecasters. Fender guitar collectors will always prioritize guitars original parts over guitars with many replaced parts. 

The Fender Telecaster was offered in the standard finish it called Blond which is also the most common finish. A Blond finish is a semi-translucent cream white color with wood grain visible through it. Any finish other than Blond is considered a custom color, and Fender guitar collectors will prioritize custom colors over the standard Blond finish. I am always looking for custom color Fender Telecaster guitars. Please contact me if you have a black, blue, red, or sunburst Telecaster from the 1950s or 1960s.

Fender Telecaster 1960s Red

Sell a Telecaster 1950s 1960s

I am actively collecting Fender Telecaster guitars made during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. I travel worldwide to acquire the vintage Fender guitars I've always dreamed of. If you're looking for where to sell a Telecaster near me then I may be the collector you're looking for. Take some pictures of your guitar and click the contact me button below. If you think it was made in the 1950s, 1960s, or 1970s then I'd be happy to take a look. 

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