Jump to content

Fender..too many choices?!?!?

Recommended Posts

Ok so here's the deal...I want a Fender Standard Strat..not a Squire...but I don't mind if its a MIM..or used for that matter.

I've looked on Ebay..Craigslist...local paper..etc. but the prices really vary. What should I expect to pay for a decent (nice..no dings..no electronics issues..works.)

Standard Strat.

Color is not a big issue for me as long as it isn't black. I'm going to check out new ones tomorrow locally. They seem almost like cars tho...drive them off the lot...take them out of the store and the value decreases. Like I said I don't mind buying used as long as it a good guitar. :dunno:

Its all so darn confusing..but I did find this helpful!!


One of the most frustrating and confusing purchases to consider for the novice guitar buyer is the Fender Stratocaster (aka Strat). I know because I've been there. There are so many different variants of the Stratocaster being produced by Fender (or Fender licensed entities) that it's nearly impossible for first time buyers to have any idea what the differences are or why there are so many in the first place. I guess it all boils down to wanting to provide a product to every possible price range (and make as much money as you possibly can!). And of course common sense should tell us that the lower the price the lower the quality. Here's what I hope will be a guide. For the sake of simplicity I'm just going to talk about the most common recent production Stratocasters. Keep in mind that there are whole slew of others out there including vintage American and Japanese Standards and Squiers, Korean Pro-Tone Squiers, vintage re-issue and anniversary Standard models, Custom Shop models, etc., that are beyond the scope of this guide.

- Current production Fender Stratocasters come in 3 basic groups which are:

1) American Series Stratocasters, which are made in America (aka MIA). These used to be called American Standards and still are by some. I believe they've been called 'American Series' since around 2000 but that doesn't really matter here. They will say "Made in the U.S.A" right on the front of the headstock. These are considered to be the best and cost quite a bit of change. New they can be over $1000 and used it's hard to find them under $600-$700. They will have a serial number that will typically be found on the back of the headstock. The 90's models will start with 'Nx' and the 2000 models will typically start with 'Zx' or a 'DZx' where 'x' equals the last number of the model year. So a serial number beginning with 'N8' will be a 1998 model and a serial number of 'Z3' will be a 2003 model. The serial numbers of both will include 5 or 6 additional digits. (i.e. N8256324 or Z3621835). Here's a couple good websites to check serial numbers and descriptions for all different sorts of model year Stratocasters.



Note: There is a budget priced American Stratocaster called the 'Highway 1' that has been produced since the early 2000's. These are about $600 new shipped and can be found used for as low as $450 or so on occasion. They feature a cheaper finish and a little less quality in the pickups and hardware. These would be rated somewhere between a genuine American Series and a Mexican Strat.

There was also a Strat made for a year in 1997 called a 'California Series'. This Strat is similar to a '62 reissue and supposedly the body was shipped down to the Mexico plant for painting and then it was shipped back to the U.S. for assembly. The serial number is a little unusual and may start with 'AMXN7' followed by 5 digits. They are considered 'Made in the U.S.A.' though and are a bargain if you can find them for around $475 to $525 or so.

2) Fender Standard Stratocasters, which are only made in Mexico (aka MIM). These may be referred to as Mexican Standards also. These will have 'Made in Mexico' and a serial number right on the front of the headstock (except for certain vintage re-issue models). The serial number will begin with 'MNx' for 90's models and 'MZx' for 2000 models, where 'x' = the last digit of the model year, followed by 5 or 6 other numbers. So a serial number beginning with 'MN8' will be a 1998 model and one starting with 'MZ3' will be a 2003 model. Many sellers don't know this so if they don't say what year the Strat is you can always ask them what the serial number is and you can figure it out yourself. These typically sell new for approximately $369-$429, shipped to your door from the online discount places like www.musiciansfriend.com or www.music123.com. Sometimes a special issue will be more. Keep these prices in mind before bidding on an auction because it's amazing the prices some of these seller's try to dupe unsuspecting buyers into paying!

Do some research first! Stock Mexican made Standard Strats will routinely sell for around $200-$250 used on Ebay, although you can luck out and maybe get one a little cheaper depending on condition. If you are patient you will be able to find a very nice one in this price range. This is not to say a nice used one is not worth the $275-$300 some people are asking. It's just that you can easily find a very nice one cheaper, if that's your goal. If it's a very recent model (2004-2006) in great shape, with no issues, then it's probably worth up to $275-$285 or so (depending on shipping costs) but just remember before you plunk down close to $300 or more plus $30-$40 shipping that you can currently get a brand new, close-out model year Strat for $369 shipped to your door...with a warranty....from Musicians Friend! (see link)


3) Squier Stratocasters, which are currently mostly made in China and Indonesia with some coming from Korea. (Note: There were some that were made in Mexico in the very early '90's that have the standard Mexican serial number, i.e. MNxxxxxx). The newer ones will say 'Crafted in Indonesia' or 'Crafted in China' on the back of the headstock but the older ones will normally have 'Made in Korea' or 'Made in China' on the front of the headstock. I won't go into the serial numbers here other to say that they are normally found on the back of the headstock, but these will say "Squier" in large letters right on the front of the headstock instead of the regular "Fender" logo that's on the American and Mexican Standard models. The Squiers may say something like 'by Fender' in smaller letters. To make things more confusing, the Squier line of Stratocasters come in 3 sub-models. The top of the Squier line is the 'Standard' which sells for around $199 new, the 'Affinity' which goes for around $149 and the bottom of the line 'Bullet' which goes for around $99 new. Those are shipped to your door prices. It's amazing what some people will try to sell these for on Ebay but you should be able to find a very nice used Squier Standard on Ebay for between $120-$140 shipped.

The heirarchy of course is American Series, then Fender (Mexican) Standard, then Squier Standard, then Squier Affinity and lastly the Squier Bullet. The American and Mexican Strats will have similar bodies and necks as far as materials go but the Americans will typically have much nicer finishes and better hardware (tuners, bridges, etc) and electronics (pickups, tone/volune controls, etc). Both are pretty good quality though and lots of people are perfectly happy with the Mexican models which are a great value for the money. You can upgrade the pickups to American Series quality or better and end up with a really great guitar that may rival an American model. If you're going to get serious about playing the guitar I'd suggest you start with at least the Squier Standard or even the Mexican Standard. If you're not sure the person the guitar is intended for is really serious the Affinity can be a decent guitar. I'd stay away from the Bullet. For the extra $50 I think the Affinity is worth it. The general rule is to buy as good of a guitar as you can afford. Used is a great way to start as you can usually get your money back on a resale. That's if you don't overpay to begin with, which is what this guide is intended to prevent. Plus, when you buy used you can get a much better guitar for the same amount of money. Use the new and used pricing I've listed above as a guide.

- Fat Strats?

Yes there is such a thing as a 'Fat Strat' also called an HSS (Humbucker, Single-coil, Single-coil) Strat. The typical Strat has 3 single-coil pickups. The Fat Strat has 2 single-coil pickups, one in the neck and one in the mid position, and a humbucker pickup in the bridge position. Humbuckers give what's called a 'fatter' sound than a single-coil. They have more windings and as a result are 'hotter'. The hotter the pickup the more treble is cut and the mids come out more prominently hence they're said to have a 'thicker' or 'warmer' sound. The Fat Strat can give you more tone options if that's the kind of sound you're after. But if you're after the true vintage sound of the Stratocaster you may want to stick with the standard 3 single-coil variety. You can buy after market single-coils that are wound hotter and give you a warmer sound also. A lot of people will add a hotter single-coil in the bridge position which I guess could give a "similar" effect as a humbucker.

There are also HH Strats which contain two humbucker pickups and no single-coils at all. These can also be referred to as 'Double Fat' Strats.

- Some things to watch out for when buying a Strat

* Stratocaster parts are highly interchangable. Leo Fender made them that way. Necks can be removed and replaced very easily by removing 4 screws. Other parts are easily changed out also and there are a ton of aftermarket parts and/or parts from Stratocaster copies (many inferior), including necks and bodies out there. Read the ads carefully, ask questions if the ads aren't clear, look for serial numbers and check the sellers feedback ratings. I will actually read the feedback the seller has received. His overall rating may be deceptive. Maybe it's all from buying and not from selling. Look at his feedback from buyers. Look at the sellers previous sales. If it looks like they sell a lot of guitars but then try to play dumb in an ad about a certain guitar you should maybe be suspicious. Keep in mind that you can buy very real looking Fender logo decals out there. So anyone could buy an aftermarket neck and slap a Fender decal on it and attach it to any Strat looking body (Squier, aftermarket, copy, etc). That's not to say that there aren't excellent aftermarket parts out there......there are, but there are also inferior parts too. But the bottom line is, if the guitar has a Fender Stratocaster decal on the headstock but no serial number anywhere you should be suspicious.

* Many sellers who are selling a Stratocaster will fail to mention in the ad that it's a Squier! Or if they do mention that it's a Squier, they won't mention which model it is (Standard, Affinity or Bullet). And they will often make a point of not giving you a good shot of the headstock so you won't be able to see for yourself. Some of these sellers are obviously just not real knowledgeable themselves but others do it on purpose to dupe unsuspecting buyers. They are counting on your lack of knowledge to charge more than the guitar is worth or to get a quick sale. If the ad does not mention what model (or year even) the guitar is you need to ask specific questions and if you don't get an answer you should be very careful. The bottom line is, if it was made in Korea, China or Indonesia then it's definitely a Squier of some sort.

Here's a picture of a Squier Standard model. Notice the small "Standard' decal on the end of the headstock indicating that this is a Standard. This is where you would also find the 'Affinity' decal for the Affinity models.

* Make sure you know the cosmetic condition of the guitar before bidding. If it isn't mentioned you can email the seller and ask specific questions.

* Don't fall for bogus claims from the sellers. I've seen many sellers tout their Strat as being 'upgraded' when in fact all they've done is put a different pickguard on it or replace the nut. While maybe nice, these modifications alone do not really warrant a premium. Another trick sellers like to play is to claim that the era or year (or factory) their Strat was made in "was back in (pick a date or factory) when they made them good" or "better", "not like the junk they make now", or similar claims. Actually the truth is that the quality and quality control today is probably at an all time high.

* Many sellers like to quote the original list or retail price of the guitar. Don't go by this number! The street prices on new guitars can be up to hundreds less than the list or retail prices!

* Many sellers charge way too much for shipping. It shouldn't cost more than about $35 or $40 maximum to ship a guitar clear across the country. These sellers that charge $50 or $60 (or more) to ship a guitar are trying to make money on shipping. Always check the shipping charges before bidding.

* Between 1994-1996, there were some Mexican Standard Strats made that were called 'Squier Series'. These are not to be confused with the Squier Stratocaster model line! Although very similar to real Mexican Standard Strats, there are some subtle differences. These models were made using the same bodies and necks as the Mexican Standard version but they used the cheaper Squier hardware (tuners and bridges) and electronics (volume/tone controls). The single-coil ceramic pickups appear to be the same as the Mexican Standards though. These guitars have a small 'Squier Series' decal on the ball of the headstock, right in the front. Many, if not most, previous owners have found a way to remove this decal but there are still many easily identifiable traits. The easist way to tell is by looking at the 'Fender' logo decal on the front of the headstock. The following pictures show the standard 'Fender' logo decal. Notice how it is a gold-ish or silver-ish color with a dark outline.

Now here is a picture (below) of the 'Squier Series' headstock. This one happens to have the 'Squier Series' decal but also notice how the entire 'Fender' decal is darkened in. That is a 100% dead giveaway!

I am convinced many sellers don't even know this themselves as they probably bought the guitar used with the decal already removed. All you have to do is compare it to a real Mexican Standard and you will notice the different bridge and tuning machines. Actually the bridges, although considered slightly inferior, are pretty good. The 'Squier Series' are certainly not bad guitars and would probably fall between a genuine Mexican Standard and a Squier Standard. I actually own one of these and like it very much. In fact I kept it over another genuine MIM Standard and am in the process of upgrading the pickups and tuners. These should not command quite the same price as the genuine Mexican Standard due to the cheaper hardware and electronics. To clarify, when I say 'cheaper hardware and electronics' I do not mean bad......I just mean not quite as good. Look for good ones under $200, but if you're patient you can sometimes grab these for between $110-$150! For that price these are a huge bargain in my opinion. (NOTE: There were some 'Squier Series' made in Korea in the '90's also but there is virtually no information about them. They do not have the darkened in 'Fender' logo but do have the 'Squier Series' decal. They say 'Made in Korea' on the front of the headstock. These are not the same quality as the Mexican made 'Squier Series' guitars due to lower quality bodies and necks!)

Well, that's about all I can offer for now. I will update this as I gain more knowledge or as the market changes. Again, please keep in mind that I have only discussed the more common types of stock Strats you'll find out there. You'll find owners that have performed upgrades asking more for them. Like I mentioned in the beginning, there are many more vintage, vintage re-issues and/or specialty Strats I have not talked about. Some of these are very highly thought of and/or possibly collectable and can command much higher prices and are beyond the scope of this guide (and my knowledge!). If you'd like to learn even more about Strats and/or Fender products, here is a great website that will teach you just about everything there is to know about Fender from history, products, model differences and more. Just cut and paste this link into your browser and when you get there just click on a topic.


I hope this helps relieve some of the confusion about all of the different Strats, or even more hopefully it doesn't add to it!

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

If you could hold on for a wee bit, I heard through the grapevine that Eddy VanHalen may team up with Fender. New Fender guitars and an amp is in the works. Will appear at the next NAMM. Just another option to look at.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think you pretty much covered the question in your post dawn.. I have a fender satin strat, and I spent around 400 I think, its been a few years. I love the thing, and to me it was well worth it. With a good setup and new strings, its just as good as some of the higher priced models.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey D-Dawn,

You should have a serious look at the Guitars from G & L Guitars.

The "G" stands for George Fullerton & the "L" stands for Leo Fender. Ssooo G & L !!!

Now! not alot of people will tell you, But Leo Fender sold Fender like over 20yrs ago.

Some years later he started this company With George Fullerton.

Leo Fender actually went back to the work bench to hand make Guitars again hence the Strat-like appearance.

And for those like myself who have one. Well we reckon they are actually better made than many of the strats of Fender today. Whoah, I may well have said too much already. "OOPS, Sorry to all you Fender bent believers". Anyway G & L are certainly worth the looking at as I know that being in America you will find many of them at good prices.

P.S. ALL of the earlier models where "Made in America". And even for me an Australian like me, I know the american made Guitars are known to be better than off-shore.

My own G & L is a Leo Fender Signature Model of 1990ish. Which Leo was taken to court for this model (and Lost). Fender Co. charged him for using his name on there new "Strat" Guitar. - Go Figure !!!

Check these out !!! It's worth the look!




Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey D-Dawn,

Have a look at this, Just another G&L voter that came on 1 hour ago.

Of course is you want a second rate Fender then look for a Fender that is owned by a Japanese consortium. Making Fender - The Japanese Fender Co.

And whilst Fender make nice Fenders, G&L Make Better Fender -s, that are American Family owned.

Kevin Bowling .............................Kevin Bowling is online now

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

The G&L Jalopy

I showed thisun off at Wholenote earlier so I figured I might as well post 'er up over here too. It's a SC-3 by George and Leo from '87. I got it brand new for about $600.00 and it had a lot of extras that the $500.00 model didn't.

She may not look like much but she's a pleasure to play.

As a testament to G&L quality control techniques, this guitar has never needed a single repair of any kind (and, as you can see, it's been abused quite a bit). Nuthin wrong with it now either and I play it every day and have for almost twenty years.

For anyone considering buying a "real" Fender, you really should check these puppies out before you commit.


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes I agree, buying a fender is a bit of a minefield. and the info you have given is a useful buying tool guide. I bought my American Fat Strat (well my wife did) 2 years ago. I couldn't understand why there are so many version's of the Fender strat about.

So I went to a respected Fender dealer, which so happens to be the one that is most local to me, and spent 3 hours in there defining the difference between Korean/china, Jap,Mexican, man there are 1000's of all the different versions. Especially the signature models, not to mention the custom shop models. So I was confused as hell.

What strat did I want to buy ???. In the end I went with what I really liked and more importantly the sound that I really liked. I was lucky, I went there with a healthy budget, So I ordered an American fat strat in Sienna sunburst.

I may seen like I'm being a snob, but the difference of quality between the Korean/Jap/Mexican and the American, are miles apart. However if my budget was smaller I would have probly gone with one of the lesser model's. I think that the money in your pocket determinds the guitar you end up with. But what I can't get my head around is, why some would pay 1000's for a guitar that has been distressed in a custom shop. But it is down to personal choice. But I think that if you like the look and the sound, just buy it.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

You can get a new MIM strat for $400 online or in stores, about $100 less if you go the Ebay route. I guess you have to decide if saving that $100 is worth taking the chance that you'll end up with one you don't like because you couldn't try it out. The Korean G&L's seem nice but I never played one. They are also about $400-$500. Good luck!

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I was kind of hoping for a larger price difference going the Ebay route, but to pay $100 less for a used no warrenty no return one just doesn't apeal to me....If I could pick one up for right around $250-275 for a standard MIM.. it'd be alright, but their shipping is insanely high most of the time.

BUT going new has its own drawbacks...certain colors (yes I care what it looks like too :P ) seem to be unatainable....whats a girl to do?! LOL

Thanks for the G&L tips as well!!

I'm still looking!!

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I've seen several go for right at 250-270...(MIM anyway).but then ya gotta tack on the shipping so I won't go too high...I lost 3 this weekend...1 I didn't worry too much about, but the other 2 I was hoping to win! I was beat out by less than $20 on each LoL that the name of the game tho...Like I said before if it isn't $100 diff in the cost, I'll go new.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Dawn, I'd say a great price for a MIM strat would be $250. Which is precisely in the range you figured. Again I recommend keeping your eyes on Craigslist. eBay is a bit pricey. There are a lot of buyers out there on eBay that seem to have a compulsion to buy sight unseen guitars at retail street prices. If you are close to a major city then watch Craigslist everyday. When a good deal pops up you have to jump on it fast. And you can hold it in your hands before your buy.

This was just a week ago in Orlando's Craigslist...


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a hard time resisting. If I wasn't married I'm sure that I have a huge amount of gear off Craigslist. Which Craigslist is closest to you?

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Probably Atlanta, but thats still 3 1/2 hours north of me..Tallahasse is probably 2-3 hours south....never seems to be anything there tho.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.