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He has been a contributor to Antiques Roadshow Online since 1998.
"But the true way to really date the guitar," Kerry told the woman who brought in the instrument, "would be to pull the neck out and to read what might be either penciled or stamped here at the end of the finger board. With mass-produced items like Fender guitars, they're made of component parts.
While there have been periods of dramatic change—such as the transition periods between the Leo Fender years and the CBS years or the transition between the CBS years and the current ownership—most models are generally feature-specific and do not change from year to year.
Serial numbers are also helpful in determining an instrument`s production year.
"Whenever a specialist is looking for a mark, they like to know they're the first ones in," he says. Well, there was rumor that there was a guy at the end of the production line and he was penciling in not the dates but profanity, and then bolting the necks together.
"It's like we're opening up an old grave that hasn't been tampered with in the past." But he found no hidden date penciled in at the end of the neck. "It's a well-known fact that [in 1959] they dispensed with penciling in the dates," Kerry explains. Leo Fender heard about it, and said, 'Okay, you guys, no more writing the dates in pencils.'" To find other identifying serial numbers, Kerry could have searched other parts of the guitar's innards by taking off the tremolo mechanism, for example, or removing the pick guard, or uncovering the vibrato cavity.
But once again, due to Fender`s modular production methods and often non-sequential serial numbering (usually overlapping two to four years from the early days of Fender to the mid-1980s), dating by serial number is not always precisely definitive.