You might have heard of mexican made Fender guitars with a black headstock decal, sometimes associated with some mystery Squier Series made in Mexico. It’s true that there actually was a “Squier Series” that was made by Fender in Mexico and featured a black decal on the headstock, but not all mexican made Fender guitars with such a black label were part of that very “Squier Series”. Since there appears to be a lot of confusion and half-knowledge about these guitars out there, I decided to do some research on my own.
The black label was used by Fender Mexico for a limited time only between 1993 and 1998. It can be found exclusively on the rather short lived mexican “Traditional” and “Squier” series for the Telecaster, Stratocaster and Precision Bass. Usually, Squier is to Fender what Epiphone is to Gibson. In this very case, the use of the name “Squier” had nothing to do with the actual Squier brand, as the series was named “Squier Series”, but it was by all means a Fender series, not a Squier series. The keyword is “series”, not “Squier”. The regular mexican “Standard” series was available too at the time, but it already featured the same silver-ish logo that is still used for it today. However, between 1993 and 1998, both labels (the black AND the silver-ish one) were used for mexican made Fender guitars, but for (slightly) different guitars.
The guitars with the black label consisted mostly of overstock american made Fender necks and bodies. The parts were shipped to Mexico for assembly with mexican made pickups and far eastern hardware and electronics. The overall quality of these guitars turned out to be below the Squiers made in Japan and Korea, whose production came to an end around the time the mexican made guitars with the black label surfaced, yet above Squiers made in China and Indonesia, whose production had not yet begun at the time. The guitars ended up on the american and european market for just about as much as a guitar from the regular “Standard” series would cost at the time.
Some (not all!) of the guitars were sold for a few bucks less as they came with 1-ply pickguards and hardware of slightly lesser quality. Those guitars (and those only!) had an additional smaller “Squier Series” label on front of the headstock, right were the artist models have the artist’s signature. Though some owners probably sanded off their “Squier Series” label, it is not true that all guitars with a black label had a “Squier Series” label in the first place. Most guitars with the black label featured tuners and bridges of decent quality as well as 3-ply pickguards. These guitars did not have the additional “Squier Series” label and were called the “Traditional Series”, which was stated nowhere on the headstock but the guitars were listed, advertised and sold as such.
The “Traditional Series” can be considered the slightly better but the “Squier Series” sure is the more obscure. At the end of the day, there really is not that much difference between the two. The most significant difference can be found on the Telecaster. The Telecaster from the “Traditional Series” had the traditional through-body stringing, while the Telecasters from the “Squier Series” were Top Loaders with different bridges, saddles and no string holes in the back.
The guitars from that very “Squier Series” are official and genuine Fender guitars like any mexican made Fender guitar regardless, and if you have a mexican made Fender Telecaster, Stratocaster or Precision Bass with a black label and a serial number beginning with MN3, MN4, MN5, MN6, MN7 or MN8, you have a genuine Fender guitar – with or without a small “Squier Series” label.