We all know the thrill of finding an older amp for a great deal at a yard sale or flea market. Even better if it’s a Fender amp. But then a problem arises – how do you tell exactly how old the amp is? In this article, we’ll take a look at how to date Fender amp.
Table of Contents
- Dating a Fender Amp
- How to Look Up for Fender Amp Serial Number or Code?
- Fender Tube Chart Letter Date Stamps
- Fender Transformer Date Codes
- Date Codes From 1951 to 1967 and From 1990
- Production Period Fender Models
- Final Thoughts
- FAQs about Dating Fender Amps
Dating a Fender Amp
If you’re trying to find out how old your amp is, you might be asking “How do I check my Fender serial number?”
Fender serial dating isn’t especially difficult, although the result you get is often only an approximation of the year an amp was built.
Fender’s numbering of their amps isn’t always 100% accurate — in some cases, amp casings were pre-stamped with serial numbers before assembly and then built out of order. But decoding your serial number will help you at least get an approximate idea of when the amp was built.
Are Fender Amp Serial Numbers Generic or Specific?
Whether you’re looking at an older Fender Champ amp serial number or trying to date a newer amp, you probably know that you need to look for a serial number first.
The serial numbers Fender uses are unique to each model, so determining when an amp was made can be more difficult if you also can’t determine the model.
In many cases, though the serial numbers are unique to each model, they are prefixed by two letters. These letters are part of Fender’s production date coding system (more on that below), and that system is the same across different models.
Though Fender’s serial numbers are fairly specific, they aren’t always accurate. Fender didn’t always assemble amps in sequential order. The brand has also never released records of the total number of amps they made from the 1940s to the 1970s.
How to Look Up for Fender Amp Serial Number or Code?
How do you date a Fender Blues Deluxe? How do you date a Fender 70s amp?
Most amps have a Fender serial code that lets you know when (or approximately when) they were made. Most amps have a clearly labeled model name.
But if you can’t tell what model your amp is, it’s possible to use an online lookup tool to find Fender model by serial number.
But what if you’re having trouble finding the code or serial number? Depending on when the amp was made, the code could be in a few different places.
We already mentioned that some amps have the tube chart pasted on a wall in the back of the amp chassis. Older amps will usually have the serial number stamped into the right side of the chassis. And on newer amps, look on the back for a quality assurance sticker. This sticker will have the two-letter date code that you need.
Fender Tube Chart Letter Date Stamps
If you’re hoping to learn a Fender year by serial number, you’re in luck, at least if you’re looking at an amp built between 1953 and 1969.
In almost every case, Fender amps made in this window have a small paper tube chart (showing the tubes included in the amp) inside the back of the amp. You should see two letters hand-stamped on it.
On these charts, the first letter represents the year the amp was built, while the second represents the month. Fender had a system where certain letters stood for both years and months.
Below, you’ll see a chart outlining what the letters mean. If your amp is stamped with GL, it was made in December of 1957. The first letter, G, represents the year (which is 1957 on the chart). The second letter, L, represents the month (which is December on the chart).
Fender Transformer Date Codes
In some cases, an amp may have lost its tube chart, or you may not be able to read a serial number anywhere else. But there’s still hope!
You can get an approximate idea of when an amp was built by taking a look at the transformer. But how do you date a Fender amp transformer code?
First, find the transformer — it’s usually a plain-looking metal box screwed to the amp chassis. It’s usually mounted on the inside of the top of the chassis so the box points downward.
Once you find the transformer, you should be able to easily locate its code. Every transformer will have an Electronics Industry Association (EIA) number engraved on it. This engraving will have six to seven digits.
The first three digits are a special code for the manufacturer of the transformer. On many Fender amp transformers, that code is 606, which stands for the manufacturer Woodward-Schumacher. In many cases, you will see four digits following that code. The first two digits stand for the last two digits of the year of manufacture (if made in the 20th century), while the last two digits stand for the week of the year.
So if the EIA number is 606 5807, the first three digits (606) is the manufacturer code. We see from the next two digits (58) that the transformer was made in 1958, and we see from the next two digits (07) that it was made in the seventh week of 1958.
Rarely, a transformer will have a six-digit code. If this is the case, the first of the last three digits is the last number of the year of manufacture. You would need to have a general sense of the decade in which your amp was made to date it this way, but many of these six-digit codes were printed in the 1940s.
Finding out the date a transformer was made doesn’t guarantee that you know when an amp was made. Transformers are made before being added to amps, and in some cases, they also spend a good amount of time in storage. The transformer also could have been replaced. If you are confident that the transformer is the original one that came with the amp, adding six months (or even more) to the transformer manufacture date will give you a good idea of when the amp may have been built.
Date Codes From 1951 to 1967 and From 1990
You already know that the tube charts for older Fender amps have letter date stamps. But without a Fender amp serial numbers lookup table handy, they aren’t too easy to decode.
In this chart, we’ve placed the relevant letter in the middle. In order to help you remember that the first letter of the code is for the year and the second is for the month, we’ve included years to the left of the letter and months to the right.
Fender Amp Date Codes: 1951-1967
|1951 A January
1952 B February
1953 C March
1954 D April
1955 E May
1956 F June
1957 G July
1958 H August
1959 I September
|1960 J October
1961 K November
1962 L December
1963 M —
1964 N —
1965 O —
1966 P —
1967 Q —
Newer Fender amps use similar date codes. Instead of being printed on a tube chart, these date codes are included on a sticker on the back of the amp. They will sometimes be followed by a serial number, so the sticker may be printed with something like “AC4567.” As with older amps, the first letter in the code is the year, while the second letter is the month.
So in the case of this example, the amp was made in March of 1990. If your amp was made in 1990 or after, use this table instead.
Fender Amp Date Codes: Contemporary
|1990 A January
1991 B February
1992 C March
1993 D April
1994 E May
1995 F June
1996 G July
1997 H August
1998 I September
|1999 J October
2000 K November
2001 L December
2002 M —
2003 N —
2004 O —
2005 P —
One or both of these tables will be useful if you’ve found yourself asking “How do I tell what year my Fender amp is?” Keep in mind that the date you find may not always be completely accurate, but it should be relatively close.
Production Period Fender Models
If you don’t need to do a Fender serial number lookup and just want a more general sense of how old Fender’s amp models are, check out this helpful table (arranged in alphabetical order). You’ll see that some of Fender’s current popular amp models were first produced decades ago!
Fender Amp Model Production Years
|Deluxe Reverb II
|Hot Rod Deluxe
|Hot Rode Deville
|1948-2012 (several model variants)
|1976-1978 (reissued from 1994-2016)
|1963-2008 (several model variants)
We hope that you can now go forward confidently and decode any Fender USA serial number that comes your way. And even if you can’t find an amp serial number, you should be able to use transformer codes to at least give you an idea of when the amp was first built. Don’t be afraid to look back at this guide — few people have the different date codes on instant recall.
Happy amp hunting!
You might also get interested on how to choose best guitar amplifier.
Not a Fender owner? Try this post on Gibson serial numbers.
FAQs about Dating Fender Amps
Fender has used several different numbering schemes throughout its history, so it’s best to consult a reliable reference source or the Fender website to find the appropriate decoding method for your amp’s era.
To determine the specific year of your Fender Bassman amplifier, you will need to locate the serial number and use that information to decode its manufacturing date. The location and format of the serial number can vary depending on the era and model of the amp.