Best Year for the Fender Stratocaster

The Fender Stratocaster is the archetype electric guitar. When someone mentions "electric guitar," the body shape and style of the Stratocaster is probably what comes to mind.

The Stratocaster is a classic guitar because it has a great build and an equally great sound. It's been used by music greats, like Jeck Beck, Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix, and newer artists alike. Since its first model year in 1954, the Stratocaster has kept its distinct body shape and notoriety.

Most of the vintage Stratocasters considered to be the best were made before 1965. That year, Fender's management transferred to CBS's control. This takeover marked a huge change in the company's reputation. Because of this change, Stratocasters made after 1965 are typically not as valuable as ones made before the takeover.

A Brief History of the Stratocaster

The Stratocaster is considered a revolutionary guitar, but it was never expected to be so influential. Leo Fender just wanted to make a great guitar — to improve on what was already done. However, it turned out very differently than the company's previous model, the Telecaster.

Freddy Tavares designed its distinct body shape and Don Randall gave it its name. The Stratocaster also had three pickups instead of two. This feature, along with its other controls, gave guitarists more creativity through its greater tonal range. However, one of the Stratocaster's most notable new features at the time was its tremolo system. Musicians found, even more, uses for this feature than even the guitar's designers imagined.

The Strat's popularity really took off after Bob Dylan played one at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965.

Even though it hasn't changed much throughout its lifetime, the Stratocaster has had some stand-out years. Whether you're a guitar collector or a player, you can appreciate these guitars from some of Fender's best years in making Stratocasters.

Honorable Mentions

Before we talk about our favorite year for the Stratocaster, we wanted to share some others that we considered for the top spot. Here are our honorable mentions for the Stratocaster's best year:

  • 1954: This was the Stratocaster's very first year in production. Similarly to first-issue books, the 1954 Stratocaster is the most collectible compared to all of the other years. Strats from '54 are being sold for $100,000 or more. And sometimes it's much more — at the time of publication, had a 1954 Stratocaster with a listed price of $225,000.
  • 1957: The next great year for the Stratocaster came in 1957. With their maple necks and sunburst look, you could fall in love with one just by looking at it. And it sounds just as great as it looks.
  • 1964: 1964 was a big year for the Stratocaster because it saw a lot more customization in color. You'll still get that full, rich tone that you're used to. The 1964 Stratocaster is everything a Strat should be.

If you're into vintage guitars, the Fender Stratocaster is a true classic, especially before 1965. These are some standout guitars from that era, but any vintage Stratocaster would be a pleasure to play. If you ever have the chance to play one of these vintage Stratocasters, you should make sure you take advantage of the opportunity.

The Best Year for the Stratocaster

While certain years for the Stratocaster stand out, 1962 stands above all of them.

Compared to other years, there were more changes made to the Stratocaster that year than usual. The Brazilian rosewood used for the fretboard of the neck was made thinner to bring out a brighter tone. The date of production also changed from being penciled on to being stamped on. The 1962 Strat was made with an alder body, a maple neck, and a rosewood fingerboard.

The best part is these vintage guitars only sound better the longer they're played.

If you're looking for a vintage or new Stratocaster, browse through our inventory of Fender Guitars.

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