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instrument production history, production dates have been applied to various components.
Production dates have been penciled or stamped on the butt end of the heel of the neck of most guitars and basses.
Over the years the serial number has changed a few times.
Serial numbers have been used in various locations on Fender instruments through the years.
They have been placed at the top of the neck plate, on the front of the headstock, on the back of the headstock, and on the back of the neck near where the neck bolts onto the body.
There were periods of time when this was not consistently done, (between 19), and there are certainly other examples of short periods of time, and individual pieces, where the dating was simply omitted.
Neck dating is useful in determining the age of a guitar, but is not definite.