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This makes things a little more interesting and difficult in playing the "dating game." And yet there is another variable to contend with as it appears that models that share chassis may also share the same serialization scheme.
The blackface and silverface amps (late 1963 to 1980) generally have serial numbers begin with the prefix "A." However, it appears that these were not used sequentially across all models.
These say "Fender Electric Instruments." Depending on the model the use of these pre-CBS panels have been observed on amps as late as August 1965, except for Champs and Vibro Champs which had foil stickers on the back the chassis.
Fender must have had a million of these labels printed up since they appear on Champs and Vibro Champs well into 1966.
We combined all of our information into a computerized database for this project and for the past 18 months have been slowly (sadly, very slowly) gathering information that we collect ourselves as well as from other people. What we need is the following: 1) Model name 2) Model number on the tube chart 3) Date code letters on the tube chart 4) Speaker codes (if speaker is original) 5) Transformer codes (if the amp doesn't have date codes on the tube chart) 6) Cosmetic features (flat/raised logo, tweed/tolex, blackface/silverface, rough/ smooth blond tolex, white/skirted knobs, TV-front/wide-panel, etc.) One very interesting and very important factoid has surfaced regarding the date code letters on the tube chart.
In the fall of 1965, Fender switched from stamping these numbers in black ink, to dark green ink.
I turned to the Internet to do some more networking which resulted in a major turn of events as I met two individuals who have become instrumental partners in this project: Greg Huntington and Devin Riebe.
Greg is a long time Fender collector who is very knowledgeable not only in the details, but in the circuitry as well.
New panels made after the CBS acquisition were used beginning in April 1965 and say "Fender Musical Instruments." So, if you have January 1965 amp, it will have a Fender Electric Instruments panel whereas a January 1966 amp (even though it has that green "OA" date stamp) will have Fender Musical Instruments. Although the database doesn't have thousands upon thousands of entries, we are seeing some interesting patterns emerging that will help date amps by serial number. The early amps (woodie and tweed) had serial numbers handwritten on the tube chart.
These appear to be used sequentially independent of model.
Our evidence is that we are finding some serial numbers duplicated between models.
For example, serial number A00121 has been found on a Champ dated November 1964 and a Vibrolux Reverb dated February 1965.
Dating Fender Tube Amps by Serial Number, Part I by Greg Gagliano Copyright 1997, 20th Century Guitar Magazine. Well, we'll get to good parts, but first a little background information is in order.