How do you spot a vintage fender?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by nunk6, Jan 16, 2001.

  1. nunk6


    Jul 29, 2000
    im wondering what makes a fender "vintage" and how you go about telling whether it is or not.
    i dont want to spend $$$blingblings on an 'almost' vintage fender
  2. Vintage Fender "ripoffs" are prevalent, so ya have to be careful. An expert can tell immediately by the feel, but there are one or two tricks for the not-so-expert to follow. First and foremost, you need to remove the neck from the body. The reason is that vintage Fenders had the date scribbled in pencil on the end of the neck. Forget the serial number, that's a good starting point, obviously, but is easily changed. I have seen Fender L series neckplates advertised for $150! It is a reasonable request for a purchaser of a genuine vintage instrument to want to see the neck date, so if a seller refuses, forget it. The seller probably knows it's a fake. Also recommended is to study pictures of the real thing and learn as much as possible about all the little differences between models,eg: the neck shapes changed through the years, as did the bridge saddles, the tuners, the position markers, the earthing strap and so on. "Vintage" is generally considered to be about 1967 or earlier. Fender was sold to CBS in 1965, and promptly went downhill, but they still had stocks of components made pre-CBS to last for another 18 months or so. Pre 1965 are the most desirable. 1960-1962 usually have a 5 figure serial number, 1963-64 had an "L" prefix on the number. CBS was run by accountants who did'nt give a **** about quality, so Fender went into decline from 1967 on. CBS Fenders were generally characterised by the big square block markers replacing the dot markers on the fingerboard. They're not all bad though, just inconsistent. Some very good 70's ones are around, most notably Marcus Miller's famous 1977.
  3. nunk6


    Jul 29, 2000
    thanks for the information i would have never thought to check for a date on neck body or anywhere
  4. nunk6 you didn't mention if you were looking for a Jazz or a Precision bass. My first suggestion once you decide which model you want is to do as much research as possible. There is a wealth of knowledge available on the internet and in print. Try searching this site and for starters.

    While I don't claim to be 100% accurate, there are several books on this subject. I've read a few so this info is from my memory.

    The age of basses classified as "vintage Fenders" on the market today constantly changes depending on the source. Some people feel that only pre-CBS Fenders should be considered vintage while others feel that anything over 25 years old should be considered to be vintage.

    Fender introduced the Precision bass in 1951 and the Jazz bass was introduced in 1960.

    The serial number is a good place to start when dating the bass but as mentioned, the neck bolt plates can be purchased as a separate item. That's why it's helpful to do your homework before you buy.

    The date that the neck itself was produced should be stamped in ink on the heel of the neck. This will not necessarily reflect the exact age of the bass since Fender would build thousands of necks and bodies each year and store them prior to assembly so you could conceivably have a 1966 CBS bass built from 1965 pre-CBS parts. Using the serial number, the neck date and the dates off of the volume and tone pots to approximate the actual date along with any features unique to a particular year (like bound jazz necks with dot inlays on a 66 jazz) is the true test.

    In late 1974, the three bolt neck was introduced in the jazz along with the bullet truss rod.

    The block inlays appear only on Jazz basses from 1967ish until sometime in the late 70's (I've seen 78-79 jazzes both with and without block inlays). I believe that the binding on jazz necks was introduced in 65 but I may be wrong.

    I've owned a few jazzes so I could go on and on but...

    Anyway the P bass was introduced in 1951. Slab body, tele headstock and a single coil p/u. In 1956 the most significant change was the contoured body. In 1957 the P was redesigned to look largely as it does today with the contoured body, split humbucker p/u etc. The P bass never received the bullet truss rod or the three bolt neck.

    Most reputable sellers shouldn't have a problem with removing the neck to check the date but don't be put off if they refuse as long as everything else checks out to be correct. Some people are kinda nervous about disassembling an instrument.

    I'll shut up now!

    [Edited by ZoomBoy on 01-17-2001 at 12:55 PM]
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Yes, but this was modified considerably by Roger Sadowsky! The last post mentioned 3-bolts necks and this is an easy spot - if it's got this don't buy it!!

    My view would be - don't get into this! Why not just buy a good current bass - if you really like Fenders, you can buy a Sadowsky that plays just like a vintage model and will have many other advantages - the main one being a cheaper price and less chance of getting ripped off!!
  6. I have a friend who's house was burgled, and the only things taken were TWO pre L-series Jazz basses and one same age P bass. Never got them back. Another friend who had his '65 Jazz stolen. He found out where it was but the cops would'nt do anything about it 'cos the house was under surveillance for something bigger. Eventually ( 5 months later) they recovered it, but then held on to it for 2 years as evidence. Jeez, there's some bad f*****s in the world.
  7. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    Interesting...don't buy a 3-bolt? Okay, guess it's too late for me:D


    I'd put this up against any Jazz type I've ever played.

    Marcus apparently did have a pretty good 70's Jazz to begin with. The Bartolini preamp added bottom, the BadAss II added sustain. I'd bet it sounded nice before the mods and just more to MM's liking afterwards.

    3-bolts are rising in value. I wouldn't recommend paying top dollar for one (around $1500), there are still some deals to be found. My 78 was $500 including the case, ashtray and tax last year. The neck is solid as a rock.
  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well my main advice was really for anyone who is a beginner or doesn't know much about this, not to get into it. You are almost certain to get ripped off. For someone who knows a bit more about this or who is a bargain magnet like Brad then there is more chance that you might get a bargain - $500 for a 70s Jbass is obviously great if it plays well.

    Mere mortals like me, having never got a sniff of a bargain, can only go on experience throughout the late 70s an 80s when all the Fenders you could find were uniformly awful and were really put in the shade by Japanese basses like the Ibanez Musician. It seems ironic to me that these are now regarded as "vintage" when at the time, the shops in the UK had trouble selling them and I wouldn't have used one if you gave it to me for free!

    I suppose it annoys me that people are buying basses for their investment value rather than how they play and sound.
    My view is that the late 90s RB5 is a far better bass than any Fenders I tried between 1976 and 1996! If somebody had given me Marcus Miller's bass in the early 80s I would probably have sold it and carried on playing my fretless, neck through, Westone Thunder III. ;)

  9. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    I agree with your description of the 70's and 80's, Bruce. I felt the same way.. until I looked back a little more objectively (for me).

    Back then Fenders were the "obvious" choice. Who wants to be "obvious"? This was the beginning of the boutique period and Fenders were a dime a dozen. Were they all bad? Compared to mental image of an Alembic, what wasn't?;)

    I realize now that I didn't spend a lot of time checking out Fenders back then, I had a succession of basses that were different, meaning different from a Fender, the "obvious" choice.

    It wasn't until the last ten or so years that I actually saw the flaw in my thinking. The sound I truly liked was that of a good Fender Jazz...and I tried everything but a Fender in pursuit of that sound. I've since played tons of Fenders, including lots of 3-bolts and more often than not they've been pretty nice. There are exceptions but I don't blame Fenders for those.
  10. May I say my thinking?

    I feel quite sure that the famous Marcus Miller's '77 jazz bass is nothing of special.
    Let's say an average bass, a good one for that period. I had two of them in the past.

    The one of a kind item is their interaction.