From the production of the first solidbody Fender guitars and until 1976, Fender tagged a production date at the butt of the detachable neck of their guitars.
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April 1973 to 1980: After March 1973, Fender dropped the old style date stamp and continued to use the new style, 8-digit code. 1976 to present: All non-vintage reissue instruments have the serial number printed on the decal on the face of the peghead.
The approximate production year can be determined from this (more about serial numbers will follow).
Sometimes a date is stamped or hand-written on the butt of the neck.
Vintage reissue instruments have the date on the butt end of the neck like the originals.
It is important to remember that Fender serial numbers are NOT conclusively chronological. Back in the day, Fender made their serial number plates in big batches and the assembler simply grabbed a decal or more from the crate and slapped it on the guitar. To get as close as possible to determining the age of your Fender, make sure to check all dates on both body, neck and pots.
The locations of the serial numbers and dates change from model to model and in some cases they have simply been omitted.
How to date and identify your Fender instruments using serial numbers and production date stamps.
No one likes it when you forget their birthday and neither does your Fender. For most of Fender’s production history they have applied serial numbers and production dates that can help you determine their production date (within a few years’ margin, at least).
Finally, the first one or two digits of the code tells you which model you are holding; 22 being a Stratocaster.
There are some exceptions as you can see in this information provided by Mike Gagliano.
1972: A new eight-digit neck stamp was introduced colored either green or red. From 1972 to around March 1973, this new system was used simultaneously with the previous “XX MMM-YY W”.