How do you know if a Fender is original? All differences between original Fender guitars and copies
How to tell an original Fender electric guitar from a copy is becoming increasingly difficult. The counterfeiting business is one of the most lucrative and widespread in the world, with revenues reaching billions of euros. In Spain alone, losses of over 10 billion euros have been recorded since 2008 and the figure continues to grow.
The main issuers of counterfeits are Asian countries such as the Philippines, Malaysia, China, and South Korea, among others. In China and South Korea, the copies are the most difficult to distinguish because of their high degree of accuracy. That is why these countries, and also in the European Union, mainly in Spain, have created strict legislation to reduce the counterfeiting market more and more.
However, these copies continue to arrive in European countries, and we all run the risk of acquiring a counterfeit if we don't shop wisely. That is why we've created this guide, with which you'll learn everything about how to know if a Fender Stratocaster is original, whether it's a Mexican or American Fender.
How do I know if my Fender is original? Aesthetic aspects
Basically, there are three aesthetic aspects that you must take into account to answer the question of how to know if my Fender is original:
- 1. The quality of the paint finish,
- 2. The finish of the hardware
- 3. The Fender name on the tuning keys and bridge saddles.
The first thing that stands out in an original Fender electric guitar is the aesthetic aspects, such as the paint finish. We know that this can be a difficult thing to distinguish for a beginner musician and even more so if you haven't had much interaction with authentic Fender guitars. However, you should know that the thickness of the protective cover is quite evident, as well as the quality in color.
The finish of the frets
Looking at the frets is one of the ways to recognize an original Fender Telecaster or Fender Stratocaster. The frets on replicas do not have rounded edges, but on a genuine Fender, this feature is present.
In the following image, you can see how the frets of an original Fender have a finish in which the grooves left by the flat files are not visible. On the other hand, in the filed frets of a replica, you can see the grooves, while the frets filed by a professional luthier are almost impossible to differentiate, and you must resort to the height of the frets.
We also see that in authentic guitars, the frets are perfectly inlaid and do not leave spaces between the wood and the frets. On the other hand, on a fake Fender, you will usually find gaps that detract from the finish on the fingerboard. However, experienced luthiers make the job of differentiating originals from copies even more complicated.
There are several types of frets: medium, medium jumbo, and jumbo. In the following image, you can see the difference between these types of frets.
The logo on the bridge saddles and its finish
To know how to differentiate an original Fender from a copy, either a Fender Telecaster or Fender Stratocaster, one of the most graphic and determinant is the logo on the bridge saddles. The finish of the saddles on the original Fender is clean, aesthetic, and without filing details. On the other hand, in copies it is rustic, not very aesthetic, and details of striations can be seen, as in the following image.
The replica presented in the image above does not have the logo but it does have an excellent finish because there are no observable traces of striations. However, the color of the chromium is quite different and this is due to the concentration of the alloy.
In the original Fender guitars, ferrochrome is used, composed of: 76% nickel, 20% chromium, and 4% carbon. On the contrary, in copies, gray cast iron with a chrome bath is used, so the impregnation does not leave the same color because it is more opaque.
Now, it's important to note that Squiers don't have the logo engraved on the saddles. But the chrome is the same type as on American and Mexican Fenders.
How to distinguish an original Fender: the logo
This is another visual reference that allows us to differentiate an original Fender from a copy. There is a big difference between a logo made by laser printing on wood or silkscreen printing and adhesive stickers. On the original Fender the logo is sublimated by laser or silk screen printing directly on the wood. While in copies it is usually an adhesive sticker.
If we look at the finish, we will notice that there is a big difference in color quality. Also when we feel the area of the logo we can feel that it is not totally smooth, but that each letter can be felt because it has a relief.
You can see that in all the images, each letter of the name has a border. In the Mexican and American ones the rim is black, while in the Squier the rim is gold and this is what you feel when you feel it. There is also a difference in the font or type face used for each Fender company. If you pay attention, the letter “F” is different between the Mexican and the American, but the Squier uses the same “F” as the American ones.
Another important element is the separation in the letters. On the Mexican Fender and Squier, the first letter “F” and the “S” are separated from the rest that follow in cursive style and joined together (F-ender). On the contrary, in American Fenders the “F” is separated and the rest of the word is written in italics but separated in groups (F-en-d-er).
The lettering style, unfortunately, can be imitated by a fake Fender made with some dedication. However, the embossing of the letters on the logo is much more difficult to achieve as it requires specialized machinery that would increase production costs.
How to know if a guitar is original? Sound quality
If you are hoping to know how to tell an original Fender guitar from a copy, then you need to develop your ear for the huge difference between a fake and the real thing.
It is really impressive the change in tone that can exist between any American, Mexican, or Squier Fender and a copy. In the fakes the sound is shrill, plastic, fake, without nuances, the gain is crazy and the sustain is absent.
Nothing to do with an original American or Mexican Fender, musical instruments that overflow with sonorous colors and have a sustain with an impressive warmth. In the Squier, on the other hand, the sound is never plastic. Yes it is brighter than the American and Mexican ones, but it has as much sustain and balance of gain as any of its sisters.
How to know if a Fender guitar is original? Fender serial number
Verifying Fender serial number is the most reliable way to know if a Fender Stratocaster guitar is original. Fender's platform allows you to check the provenance of your guitar by simply entering the serial number in their search engine. Obviously, you must perform this search before paying for the guitar.
It is important that you learn all these significant details so that you know how to recognize an original Fender from a copy. However, the best way to avoid being cheated when buying a guitar or any other instrument is to buy from a reliable store. And Thomann is by far the best of them.