The 1959 Fender Stratocaster saw a lot of changes. It started the year with the maple neck and fretboard. But, by mid-1959 the maple neck and fretboard was changed to a maple neck with a glued on Brazilian rosewood fretboard and the now famous clay dot fretboard markers. I loved this change, as the sound of the Strat got darker because of the rosewood. Unfortunately, though, the back shape of the neck also got even thinner. But I guess you can’t have everything! Another change that came along was the pickguard. Instead of a single layer thin white ABS pickguard, it was now a laminated 3-layer celluloid/nitrocellulose pickguard, which turns a mint green color. When new these pickguards had a sort of grey look to them. Over time when exposed to UV it begins to look mint green. I really like the look of it though. However, the celluloid material does have a problem with shrinkage, causing the pickguard to stretch and crack. Finally, the red dye used in the 3-tone sunburst was not very robust, causing the red to often fade. So, you’ll see quite a bit of the 59 Strats that look like a two-tone sunburst because of the fading red.
As with anything Fender during this era, Leo Fender didn’t waste materials. So, there is a handful of “transition” 1959 Stratocasters. You’ll see ones that have the single ply pickguard with 10 screws instead of the previous year’s 8 screws. You’ll also come across Strats with the 3 ply pickguard but only 8 screws. Here are some samples of transition Stratocasters from 1959.
1959 Stratocaster with 8 hole/screw pickguard
1959 Stratocaster with 9 hole/screw pickguard
1959 Stratocaster with 10 hole/screw pickguard
1959 Stratocaster with 11 hole/screw pickguard (First is a single ply. Then, it’s followed by a 3 ply)
The cases for these guitars also saw a change mid-year. They started the year with the tweed cases with the yellow lining. Then, around the middle of the year, they transitioned to a new brown tolex and brown leather ends with the yellow lining. Below is an example of this new case.
Serial number range for the 59 Fender Stratocaster is generally 30000 to 40000 (on the neck plate). As with all Fender Instruments during the Pre CBS era, you can’t solely rely on the serial numbers as they did overlap. So, if you need to figure out the exact year of your pre-CBS Fender Stratocaster, use the serial number and the general features of the guitar. The serial number is located on the back metal neck plate. See the Fender Serial Number Info web page for help determining the year.
More images and content coming.