While there have been periods where dramatic changes have occurred, for example: the transition periods between Leo's Fender and the CBS years, as well as the transition between CBS' Fender and the current ownership, generally speaking, most models are feature specific and do not change from year to year.
Serial numbers are also helpful in determining the year of production of a given instrument.
Between names, the company made the most of its remaining Fender Broadcaster decals by cutting off the word Broadcaster so that only the Fender brand made it onto the guitar’s headstock. Only about 60 Nocasters were made, which makes them extremely collectible, but by April of 1951 the guitar would finally get a name that would stick, the Telecaster. Unlike the Telecaster, whose ash body was outlined with rib-digging 45-degree edges, the Strat had a sculpted body that fit players like a glove.
In 1982, the Squier brand was reactivated by Fender to become its brand for lower priced versions of Fender guitars. S.-trained violin makers and is often referred to as "the American Stradivarius." Victor returned to Battle Creek, where he opened his own shop in 1890. With a limited market for violins in Battle Creek, however, Squier astutely sought relationships with national music schools and famous violinists.
Squier guitars have been manufactured in Japan, Korea, Mexico, India, Indonesia, China, and the United States. As his business grew, Squier moved the company to 429 Lake Ave. Up to 1900, the best violin strings were made in Europe.
Born in a barn in 1909, Leo Fender seems an unlikely father of rock ’n’ roll.
But as the man whose company perfected the solid-body electric guitar, his contribution to contemporary music cannot be overstated.
So, obviously a neck date, while being helpful in providing a date range of production, it cannot be a definitive reference.
Unlike the auto industry which has specific model years for their products, most specifications for a given Fender instrument model, change little if any, through the lifetime of the model.
The neck date simply refers to the date that the individual component was produced.
Given the modular nature of Fender's production techniques, an individual neck may have been produced in a given year, placed in the manufacturing warehouse and remained in stock for a period of time, and then subsequently paired with a body to create a complete guitar in the following year.
So, you can't afford that '54 Strat, or that '64, or even that '74 for that matter.
Your last chance to own a vintage Fender Stratocaster is with the guitars of the late 1970's.
You spot a '79 in a local shop, or online, but how can you be certain it is a '79?