Guitar Safari Champion: Fender Stratocaster 1957
Posted on January 02 2022
For this Fender guitar collector, 2021 was the year that my passion for vintage guitars went from strong to out of control. I was (and am) always on the hunt for nice examples of Fender guitars but especially 1950s and 1960s Fender Stratocasters. The hunt escalated to the point that it prompted Reverb.com to post an interview feature by Tony Bacon about me titled The Guitar Safari Champion. There are many guitars from this past year that contributed to the title, but one of them that sticks out to me is this Fender Stratocaster made in 1957.
If you've inherited a vintage Fender and are looking for help with identification and values then you can check the year of manufacture here: How to date a Stratocaster. If you're curious about how much I would value your Stratocaster then you can contact me here: Sell a Fender guitar.
Vintage Stratocaster in Ohio
After personally owning this 1957 Fender Stratocaster since the early 1970s, this Columbus, Ohio gentleman decided it was time to sell. His grandfather was the '57 Stratocaster's original owner; many of his family were musically inclined, but he received the Strat as a gift from his grandad in 1973. He played it sparingly throughout the years but had no intentions of becoming a professional guitarist. We connected over the fact that I travel worldwide to be the buyer for the vintage Fender guitars I've always dreamed of. We set a date for the next week to meet in person so I could play and enjoy the Strat. The map said that it was about a 10 hour drive so I lined up a few other guitars to look at along the way: this Fender Telecaster 1957 and this Gibson Les Paul 1960.
One thing that has become apparent with guitar safaris is that they don't always go as planned. The seller called the morning I was set to leave on the 10 hour drive to say that he was tending to a family member in the hospital and wouldn't be able to meet that day to sell the Stratocaster! I understood, but was still sad that I had to wait to buy it. I decided to do my trip backwards and set off to Virginia to meet the seller of this 1960 Gibson Les Paul then head onto West Virginia for the 1957 Fender Telecaster. Both are fabulous guitar that I'm thrilled to have, but my heart was set on the 1957 Fender Stratocaster. I hadn't heard from the seller in a few days, but I drove to Columbus, Ohio anyway in hopes that he would be available.
As luck would have it, my timing was perfect. I met the seller at his bank and we inspected the Stratocaster at length. It had everything I look for when buying a 1950s Fender guitar: original finish throughout, a straight neck with good frets, original pickups, potentiometers, and solder throughout. But it also had the added benefit of the rarely seen figured maple neck and headstock. Tony Bacon's book on the Stratocaster indicates that Leo Fender preferred unfigured Maple for his guitars, so finding the figure is like a needle in a haystack. In my opinion, the figured Maple on a 1950s Fender Stratocaster doesn't make for a "better" guitar, but it sure is fun to look at.
1957 Fender Stratocaster
All 1950s Stratocasters are excellent guitars, but Fender continually update the features for each year of production. The '57 Strat still has the two tone Sunburst finish and Maple neck and fretboard like the introductory 1954 Strat. Check out the fresh red band in the three tone Sunburst finish starting in 1958. '57 is the transitional year for the early style polystyrene plastic knobs to the ABS knobs which better resist cracking and deterioration.
Let's check out the details of this 1957 Stratocaster using the features from How to date a Stratocaster. Fender employees signed the neck heel with a month and year in the 1950s up until 1962 when they started using a stamp instead. The neck heel of this Stratocaster reads "6/57" indicating that it was roughly shaped out in June of 1957. The tremolo cavity also reads 6/57.
Potentiometer codes are helpful to date when those parts were made, but don't necessarily tell us when the guitar was made. The potentiometer codes on this Stratocaster read "304715" where 304 = Stackpole, 7 = 1957, and 15 = 15th week of that year. The 15th week of the year means that these parts were made during the 4th month (April) of 1957.
We can reasonably estimate that this Strat left the Fender factory in Fullerton, CA in July or August of 1957. We would then expect for the serial number to be within the range expected from that time period. The plate on this Strat bears a number which begins with "-18xxx" which falls exactly during the time period we would expect when compared with other guitars from this time period.
One feature I often find on 1957 Stratocasters is the white "Koylon" tag on the inside of the case which reads "U. S. Koylon Foam Cushioning - U. S. United States Rubber".
Fender Guitar Collector
As a vintage Fender guitar collector, I'm always on the road to acquire the vintage Fender guitars I've always dreamed of. The nearly 24 hour road trip to buy this Fender Stratocaster 1957 was quite the journey but worth every minute. The best part of this trip was being able to collect another vintage Fender guitar close to this one: Fender Telecaster 1957. Both guitars were still with the families of their original owners. That's how I like to find them.
If you have a vintage Fender guitar and are curious about its value then you can contact me here: Sell a Fender. You can send pictures of your guitar to the contact information at the bottom of this page so I can check it out. I'd be happy to offer my thoughts on what year it was made, originality, condition, etc. If it's a Stratocaster, Telecaster, Jazzmaster, or Jaguar made in the 1950s and 1960s then I may be the collector you're looking for.