As you can see by the overlaps of numbers and years, the reference to the actual production date is rather loose. The numbers and decals are produced far in advance, and apparently, some N9 decals, (which were supposed to be used in 1999), were affixed to some instruments in 1990.
As a result, you will see some 1990 guitars bearing N9 serial numbers. Fender has recently (in the last 20 years) introduced LOTS of different serial numbers schemes, depending on the country the Fender was made (USA, Mexico, Japan, Korea, etc). The following serial numbers are somewhat outside the more, well known Fender serial number schemes.
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 have been used in various locations on Fender instruments through the years.
Some dealers simply go by the serial number, which you will discover can be far from accurate.
Some might go by the pot codes, but those could have been stock a year or more old by the time they were put into the newly finished guitar.
Or perhaps the guitar was even assembled by various parts picked up over the years and is being passed off as "All original".
My intent with this site is to educate those who are on the hunt for that last affordable vintage Fender Stratocaster.
(If you are not comfortable performing this operation, please use an experienced professional guitar tech in your area).
The serial numbers do not immediately reflect the change, as CBS continued to make instruments using existing, tooling, parts, and serial number schemes.
If you have serious interest in learning about the history of Fender instruments, or if you just want to try to establish the year of production of your own axe, we would highly recommend that you pick up one or more of the following books.