Fender Relic Serial Numbers
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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