DATING EARLY FENDER AMPLIFIERSDating early Fender amplifiers is sometimes quite challenging. While dating Fender amps made before 1994 by serial number is all but impossible (as records of these numbers were never kept), all hope is not lost—the charts below should prove helpful in dating your Fender amp.
First, it will be useful to you to understand the following five terms in order to choose the correct chart for dating your amp: Silverface, Blackface and Brownface are slang terms used to identify Fender amplifiers based on the color of the control panel (these terms are often misconstrued to refer to the color of the grille cloth). Tolex is the textured vinyl material that covers the amp; offered in many different colors and textures over the years. Tweed refers to the two-tone woven fabric that covered many early amplifiers. On early amps, this material was varnished to make it a more durable covering. Several different types, in vertical and diagonal weaves, were used.
Please note that it’s quite difficult to precisely determine the production date of early Fender amps. Although the dates derived using the charts below will likely be a good approximation, they should not be considered exact.
DATING CONTEMPORARY FENDER AMPLIFIERSAll Fender amplifiers manufactured from 1990 to the present include a date code, printed on the quality assurance (QA) sticker on the back of the amp chassis. This black-and-silver sticker contains several lines for “sign-offs” on completion of sound and electrical testing. The final line contains a date code of two printed or handwritten letters denoting the amplifier’s production date by year (the first letter) and month (the second letter).
In the table below, for example, a “CE” date code indicates a production date of May 1992.
DATING 1951-1969 BLACKFACE, BROWNFACE, BROWN TOLEX, WHITE TOLEX OR TWEED AMPLIFIERS USING THE TUBE STICKEROn the inside of the cabinets of most Fender amps made after 1950 and before 1970, there might be a “tube location” sticker. This sticker is a chart that shows the types of tube types used and the order of their physical location in the amplifier, and may be rubber-stamped with two-letter date codes that denote the year (first letter) and month (second letter) of production. These stamped letters may appear in various positions on the chart.
In the table below, for example, a “JE” date code indicates a production date of May 1960.
DATING FENDER AMPLIFIERS (INCLUDING SILVERFACE AND BLACKFACE AMPS) USING TRANSFORMER CODESIn general, Fender amps that don’t have rubber-stamped tube sticker date codes have EIA numbers on their transformers that might enable determination of the production date. These numbers always begin with “EIA 606,” and are followed by three or four digits in various combinations.
If three digits are present, the first digit refers to the year (i.e., a “7” would mean 1967). If four digits are present, the first two digits refer to the year (i.e., a “66” would mean 1966). The last two digits refer to the week of the year (i.e., a “26” would mean the 26th week or, roughly, June). For example, EIA 606-4-21 would denote the 21st week of 1964. It is also advisable to add about 6 months to the date to allow for time these parts may have spent in inventory storage.
REFERENCE MATERIALS FOR DATING FENDER AMPLIFIERSIf you are unable to determine the approximate production year of your amplifier using the above charts, there are other means of dating Fender amps. Several excellent books are available that contain reliable and invaluable information on the history of Fender amplifiers. We highly recommend each of them.
To use these books most effectively, you’ll need to get the date codes from the speaker frames and potentiometers, and as much other detailed information as you can find about the specs and features of your amp. They are detailed reference resources with a wealth of information on determining the production years of various amplifiers and on Fender history in general. Indeed, we use these same books here at Fender when researching historical and date-related issues.
Fender Amps: the First 50 Years
John Teagle and John Sprung
Available through your local Authorized Fender Dealer
The Fender Amp Book
GPI Books, Miller Freeman Inc. Publishing
The Tube Amp Book
Distributed by Groove Tubes
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