The Fender Telecaster was originally introduced in 1949, and has been made continuously since then, as of 2010. This solid-body electric guitar won fans among professional musicians, many of whom played Telecasters over the following years. Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan all played a Telecaster. Dating a Telecaster is not an exact science, as the dates on the various pieces of the guitar may be inaccurate if the pieces were manufactured before they were incorporated into the instrument. However, the serial numbers on the neck will provide the rough age of the instrument, according to Telecaster.com.
Check the bridge area of the guitar. Fender Telecaster guitars made in the years from 1950 to 1954 had a serial number stamped on the bridgeplate of the guitar. Guitars with serial numbers from 0001 to 0999 were released from 1950 to 1952, while those with serial numbers from 1000 to 5300 were built from 1952 to 1954.
Look on the neck plate area of the guitar. Fender guitars made from 1954 to mid 1976 have a neck plate serial number, which changes depending on the year. Guitars with serial numbers 0001 to 6000 were made in 1954, 6000 to 9000 in 1955, 9000 to 16000 in 1956, 16000 to 25000 in 1957, 5000 to 30000 in 1958, 30000 to 40000 in 1959, 40000 to 58000 in 1960, 55000 to 72000 in 1961, 72000 to 93000 in 1962 and 93000 to 99999 in 1963.
Examine the neck plate for a serial number beginning with an "L." If your Telecaster has a serial number starting with an "L," this normally dates the Telecaster to the years 1963 through 1965. However, some Telecasters with this kind of serial number may have been made as early as 1962, according to Telecaster.com. Numbers from L00001 to L20000 indicate that the guitar was made in 1963, L20000 to L55000 mean it was built in 1964 and L55000 to L99999 date the guitar to 1965.
Check for a large scripted "F" below the serial number on the neck plate. Telecasters with these numbers were made from 1965 to 1976. Guitars with serial numbers 100000 to 110000 were made in late 1965, 110000 to 200000 in 1966, 180000 to 210000 in 1967, 210000 to 250000 in 1968, 250000 to 280000 in 1969, 280000 to 300000 in 1970, 300000 to 330000 in 1971, 330000 to 370000 in 1972, 370000 to 520000 in 1973, 500000 to 580000 in 1974, 580000 to 690000 in 1975 and 690000 to 750000 in 1976.
Look for a peghead decal on the Telecaster. These Telecasters were made from the mid 1970s to about 2005. An "S" prefix dates the guitar to the 1970s, an "E" prefix means the Telecaster was made in the 1980s and the "N" prefix indicates the 1990s. A "D" or "Z" prefix marks Telecasters made from 2000 to 2010. However, due to the use of older serial decals, these dates could be as much as two years off, according to Telecaster.com.
Serial numbers can only give a rough date. Precisely dating a Telecaster can be very complicated, but, according to Telecaster.com, it can be done using detailed reference books on the subject (see Resources).