1959 & 1960 Fender Stratocaster Guitar

Description: 1959 & 1960 Fender Stratocaster guitar
Available: 1954 to present.
Collectibility Rating: B
Production: no official (or unofficial) production numbers available.
General Comments:
The Fender Stratocaster guitar is probably the most popular solidbody electric guitar ever made. Early models (1954 to 1965, known as "pre-CBS" models, since CBS Broadcaster Company bought Fender in January 1965) are the most collectible. Originality and condition are the two most important features of a vintage Fender Stratocaster guitar, and Fender Strats do seem to have been easily modified (due to their "bolt together" nature).

A lot changed with the 1959 Fender Stratocaster. By mid-1959 the maple fingerboard was changed to a Brazilian rosewood fingerboard and "clay" dot fingerboard markers. Personally I liked this change, as the sound of the Strat got deeper because of the rosewood. Unfortunately the backshape of the neck also got even thinner. But I guess you can't have everything! Another change was the pickguard. Instead of a single layer thin white ABS 'guard, it was now a laminated 3-layer celluloid pickguard, which turns a mint green color. I like this look, though the celluloid material does have a problem with shrinkage, causing the pickguard to crack. Lastly the red dye used in the 3-tone sunburst was not very robust, causing the red to often fade. Yea, the 2-tone sunburst is back (by accident)! The 1960 Stratocasters were pretty much the same as the 1959 model. Even the three color sunburst on 1960 models tended to fade just like the 1959 Fender Strats.

Serial number range for the 59 Fender Stratocaster are generally 30000 to 40000 (on the neck plate). Serial number range for the 60 Fender Stratocaster are generally 40000 to 58000 (on the neck plate). If you need to figure out the exact year of your pre-CBS Fender Stratocaster, use the serial number and the general features of the guitar. The serial number is located on the back metal neck plate. See the Fender Serial Number Info web page for help determining the year.

If you have a vintage pre-CBS Fender Stratocaster guitar for sale, please let me know. I am a private vintage guitar collector (not a store), and you can contact me at cfh@provide.net

See the previous year's 1958 Fender Stratocaster guitar.
See the next year's 1961 Fender Stratocaster guitar.

Back to the main Fender Vintage Guitar Info webpage

Mid 1959 Fender Statocaster guitar specs:

  • Starting May 1959 "slab" Rosewood fingerboard with white "clay" position dots and 7.25" finger board radius. Bottom of fingerboard (part glued to maple) is flat. This change was implemented for the summer 1959 NAMM show. Basically Strats 5/59 and later will have rosewood fingerboards.
  • Celluloid "mint green" three layer (white/black/white) pickguard (sometimes called a "nitro" pickguard), with 11 attachment screws. This celluloid pickguard was implemented around 7/59. So for a short time rosewood fingerboard Strats were made with a single layer white pickguard with 11 screws. Some 7/59 Strats even had a single layer white pickguard with 8 or 9 or 10 screws (though this is rare). Also in the same time period some 1959 Strats were made with a maple neck and a 8 screw three layer celluloid pickguard (this implies the body will not have a "shoulder" under the pickguard in the control cavity).
  • A thin aluminum sheild the size of the pickguard is installed underneath the three layer pickguard. This replaces the thicker and much smaller shield previously used on single layer pickguards (this older style shield encompassed just the three pots and the switch).
  • Stratocaster body now has a "shoulder" in the potentiometer control cavity. This "bump" in the cavity was implemented to allow the use of another pickguard screw by the 3-way switch. This shoulder can only be seen with the pickguard removed. All rosewood fingerboard Strat bodies with 11 pickguard screws should have this shoulder.
  • Fender used a very photo-reactive red dye in their sunburst finish, causing many 1959 Strats to fade from a 3-color sunburst to a 2-colors (the photo-reactive nature of the red caused fading from ultra-violet light). This is typically seen on the front of the body, where the back often still has the red in the sunburst. If the pickguard is lifted, the original red finish in the sunburst can still be seen.
  • Neck now has a very thin "D" backshape. As 1959 progresses, the neck backshape gets even thinner. By the end of 1959, the neck has an extremely thin backshape. Also most mid to late year 1959 Strats will usually not have a neck date below the truss rod adjustment.
  • Brown paper rectangle tone cap changes to white "chicklet" paper tone capacitor.
  • A metal spacer was added below the butterfly string tree.

A 1959 Fender Stratocaster guitar with original brown tolex case.
The red on this sunburst has faded a bit, but not completely.
Body date of 11/59 and no neck date (typical of late 1959 Fenders).

The backside of the neck plate shows body finish which matches the
missing finish on the body under the neck plate. Clearly this neck plate
is original to this guitar. Also the neck attachmentscrews are not threaded
the full length of the screw.

This is a close-up of the "clay dots" top and side fingerboard position markers used on Fender
rosewood 'boards before 1965. These dots are made from celluoloid. Note the frets and how the
"tang" does not break into the maple wood of the neck. Pre-1970 Fender fret wire had fairly short
tangs (by today's standards), so refretted vintage Fenders are pretty easy to spot because new
fret tangs are longer than these originals. Also original Fender frets were installed by sliding them
in from the side of the fingerboard (not hammering them down from the face of the fretboard).

These are the "case goodies" that originally came with every 1959 Fender Stratocaster.

A May 1959 Fender Stratocaster guitar with original tweed case.
On the face of this guitar the red is completely faded.
But the back of the guitar still shows some red.
Note this guitar was made the first month of 1959 slab rosewood fingerboard production.
The pickguard has but EIGHT screws, yet is a 3 layer celluoid pickguard.
Also notice the lack of a "shoulder" in the control cavity route.
The wiring is unique too in that it is completely original, but lacks the
usual masking tape wire wraps. The body has a 5/59 date in the middle pickup cavity,
but the neck has no neck date.

1960 Fender Stratocaster in original Fiesta Red custom color.
This guitar has a white undercoat, which is typical of 1950s custom colors.
It also appears to have a Dakota Red layer over the white and under the Fiesta Red.
Again this is original, and often happens if there was a problem with the finish.

* Email the collector cfh@provide.net
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* Go to main Fender Vintage Guitar Info webpage