Fender Relic Serial Numbers

 

Serial Number and Approximate Date of Manufacture of Fender Guitars Made in Japan and Crafted in Japan. Also Some History!

 

Among the Fender Japanese guitars, there were two different logos used: Crafted in Japan and Made in Japan, and both were being made at the same time from 1994 till 1997. This means that the the serial numbers starting in 1994 ran consecutively on both the MIJ and the CIJ models while the MIJ logo was being phased out. Mid–1997 the CIJ logo was the only one used on Fender guitars coming out of Japan (with exception the Squire series). I have more info on the MIJ Reissues page.
There are several theories about why some Japanese Fenders have MIJ and others CIJ. One is that there was a reorganizing of where the parts were being make in the large, expansive Fugi Gen Gakki company. The island of Matsumoto is where the Fugi plant is located. It houses 15-20 different smaller companies, Like Kawi, Gen Gakki Ten, Yamara, Gotoh, Yamoto, etc. I was told by a former Fender Rep that the necks were made one place and the bodies another, while the electronics were made in yet another. I was told that the contract with Yamoto stated if any major subcontractor was to be changed the weaning process would have to take place (MIJ to CIJ). They call it the “Squire countdown.” Since Fuji was pressing hard to get the Epiphone contract, a change was made. Kawi was moving the bulk of their piano building to a new facility in China, and would also be making their own “harp” frames there. This freed up a lot of space in the plant. Yamara and Gotoh retooled to handle the woodwork and finish aspects of the guitars—thus the Crafted in Japan line was created.

The other story is, and maybe both are true and run consecutively, I really don’t know, but the MIJ logo Fenders were for the USA market. USA Fender wanted to stop the import of these guitars to the USA due to firing up their Mexican plant and due to the “too good” quality Japan was creating which competed with the USA models.

Regarding quailty, I have owned many of both these Japanese guitars and it is a fallacy that the Made in Japan models are better than the Crafted in Japan or vice versa. As far as I am concerned, the quality of either is much better than the Mexican made guitars and rival many of the USA models. The JV and SQ guitars, as well as some of the E series, had USA parts (mostly pickups, switches, and potentiometers) that were shipped over to Japan to help speed up production while the new USA plant was being set up in Corona, California. The early series are the most popular for collectors. Also, some Crafted in Japan models came with Custom Shop parts, like special Limited Edition guitars and Signature guitars. The Japanese serial number can be confusing too. For instance, many of the MIJ/CIJ Telecasters have the serial number on the bridge and they start with an “A”. Yet if you take the neck off they can be 1994-1997!

As you look at these serial numbers, please note that the same “letter-prefix” on the serial numbers are used for two different sets of dates.  The first being the “Made in Japan” date and the second is the “Crafted in Japan” date. Most of the “Made in Japan” and the “Crafted in Japan” guitars us a 6 digit number (But not all and excluding the A prefix!) Confused? LOL! And then there are exceptions to the rule! AND now Japan as started making the MADE IN JAPAN guitars again and using old serial numbers. In another 5 years there is going to be sooo much confusion, it will not ne funny!
A + 6 DIGITS 1985-1987, 1997-1998 (Made in Japan) and (Crafted in Japan) This was one of the most confusing serial uber used by Japan. They placed the “A” on the bridge on the Telecasters and some of them could be as late as 1996 (as in the case with many JD Teles. Maybe the transitional guitars from MIJ to the CIJ??)

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