How to tell if a Fender is original? All the differences between original and copy Fender guitars
How to tell the difference between an original Fender electric guitar and a copy is becoming increasingly difficult. The counterfeiting business is one of the most lucrative and widespread in the world, with billions of euros in revenue. In Spain alone, losses of more than 10 billion euros have been recorded since 2008 and the figure continues to grow.
The main emitters of counterfeits are Asian countries such as the Philippines, Malaysia, China, South Korea, among others. China and South Korea are where the most difficult to distinguish copies are made due to their high degree of accuracy. That is why these countries and also in the European Union, mainly in Spain, strict legislation has been created 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 do not shop wisely. That’s why we’ve created this guide, where you’ll learn all about how to tell if a Fender Stratocaster is original, whether it’s a Mexican or American Fender,
how to know if my Fender is original? Aesthetic aspects
There are basically three aesthetic aspects that you should take into account to answer the question how to tell if my Fender is original: 1. the quality of the paint finish, 2. the finish of the hardware and 3. the Fender name on the tuning keys and bridge saddles.
The paint finish
The first thing that stands out on 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 of the colour.
The finish of the frets
Looking at the frets is one of the ways to recognise an original Fender Telecaster or Fender Stratocaster. The frets on replicas do not have rounded edges, but on an authentic Fender this feature is present.
In the following image you can see how the frets of an original Fender have a finish where you can’t see the grooves left by the flat files. On the other hand, on 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 can also see that on authentic guitars the frets are perfectly inlaid and leave no gaps 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 fretboard. However, experienced luthiers make the job of differentiating between originals and copies quite complicated.
There are several types of frets: medium, medium jumbo and jumbo. In the following picture you can see the difference between these types of frets.
The logo on the bridge saddles and the finish of the bridge saddles
To know how to tell the difference between an original Fender and a copy, be it a Fender Telecaster or a Fender Stratocaster, one of the most graphic and determining factors is the logo on the bridge saddles. The finish of the saddles on the original Fender is clean, aesthetically pleasing and without filing details. On the other hand, on the copies it is rustic, not very aesthetic and there are details of grooves 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 grooves. However, the colour of the chrome is absolutely different and this is due to the concentration of the alloy.
Theoriginal Fender guitars use ferrochrome, which consists of 76% nickel, 20% chromium and 4% carbon. On the other hand, the copies use grey cast iron with a chrome bath, so that the impregnation does not leave the same colour because it is more opaque.
However, it is important to note that the Squier does not have the logo engraved on the saddles. But the chrome is of 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 distinguish an original Fender from a copy. There is a big difference between a logo made by laser printing on wood or silk-screen printing and stickers. On the original Fender the logo is sublimated by laser printing or screen printing directly on the wood. While on the copies it is usually an adhesive sticker.
If you look at the finish, you will notice that there is a big difference in the quality of the colour. Also when we feel the area of the logo we can feel that it is not completely smooth, but that each letter can be felt as 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 border is black, while in the Squier the border is gold and this is what you can feel when you touch 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 letter spacing. On the Mexican and Squier Fenders, the first letter “F” and the “S” are separated from the rest of the letters, which follow in cursive style and are joined together (F-ender). On the other hand, on 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 style of the lettering, unfortunately, can be imitated by a fake Fender made with some dedication. However, the embossing of the lettering on the logo is much more difficult to achieve as it requires specialised machinery that would increase production costs.
how can you tell if a guitar is an original? The quality of the sound
If you are hoping to know how to tell the difference between an original Fender guitar and a copy, then you need to develop your ear for the huge difference between a fake and an authentic one.
It is truly amazing 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 sound colours and have a sustain with an impressive warmth. On the Squier, on the other hand, the sound is never plastic. It is brighter than the American and Mexican, but it has as much sustain and gain balance as any of its sisters.
how do you know if a Fender guitar is original? Fender serial number
Checking the 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 should do this search before paying for the guitar.
It is important that you learn all these significant details so that you know how to recognise 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 shop. And Thomann is by far the best of them.