Real Or Fake Pre CBS Stratocaster

1961 Fender Stratocaster Real Or Fake?

December 27, 2016

I’m planning on doing a post for these guitars each time I come across a fake that is for sale online. One of the things that most commonly happens to make a guitar seem real is to put some original pre-CBS parts on a guitar. But, this series is going to be designed to teach the difference between a guitar that is an original vs one that’s a fake.

So, let’s get started. Today we are going to examine a guitar that is being listed as a 1961 Fender Stratocaster being sold online from France. Here is the description that the seller gives.

“My father bought this guitar in 1961. It’s all original, except the bridge pickup which was MODIFIED with a cs 54, the tone buttons were also changed. It was refretted TWICE and the painting was redone in 1987 My dad bought this guitar in 1961.”

So, let’s take a look at the guitar and see. Normally these guitars will come with a story trying to increase the trust of the seller. In this case “My father bought this guitar in 1961.” But, did he?

Here is the first image of the guitar.

Fake 1961 Stratocaster

Everything seems to look ok from here right? But, let’s look closer.

1961 Stratocaster Fake Neck Plate

The first closeup image here is of the neck plate. That serial number appears in the correct range. But, look closely at the font of the serial number.

Fake Strat Neck Plate

Now look at the font of an original 1961 Stratocaster Neck Plate. See how the font below is a little thinner. Also, notice how the bottom of the 9 is more rounded on the one below. So, the neck plate is a fake. What about the rest of the guitar though?

1961 stratocaster neck plate

1961 Stratocaster Fake Neck

Let’s now take a look at the guitar neck. We’ll start with the neck heel. Right away I see red flags. If you look at the middle where the flash leaves a spot of light you’ll notice an indentation that looks like a line going sideways. Fender made marks similar to that in there that area of the neck to show it was completed and ready to move on. They were sometimes done with the end of a phillips head screwdriver or other tools. That indentation doesn’t look right according to ones that I’ve seen in the past. You’ll also notice a scribble in Pencil. That was usually an R, C, P or some single letter. I’m working on finding out exactly what they meant but I have a theory that it’s the initial of the person who did the screw holes.

There is also a hole in an odd position. Now that hole should actually be there. That hole is in the neck in that area because of the use of a template that Fender used. Those templates were used to cut out parts or to drill holes so that accurate placement could be on each guitar. The problem is that the hole there doesn’t look right. First of all, it’s not in the right placement. It’s just slightly lower than the actual template would have put it. Second of all, it doesn’t look like a standard template hole since it is rounded at the top and doesn’t have screw threads in it. A third indicator is that there is finish in the hole but there is no finish in the screw holes. Those were always drilled after the finish work was done. It looks like a fake. Let’s take a look at another verified 1961 Strat neck heel to see what I mean.

Fake 1961 neck heel

Notice how in this image the template hole is slightly higher positioned. It also has no finish in the hole and has screw threads in it. Then, when you look at the punch mark near the base of the heel it’s more of an L shape like someone stamping it with a precise tool end. You can also clearly see the letter C drawn on there as noted above.

Original 1961 Fender Neck Heel

So far things aren’t looking good for this guitar are they?

Let’s continue on with the process. Next up is the headstock. Before going any further with the details I can tell you that the decal is wrong. The decal on a 1961 Stratocaster will have patent numbers on it. In fact we have several problems here. Another issue is that the grain pattern on that rosewood is so tight that you can’t see any pores. That’s not Brazilian rosewood. Also, you’ll notice that on the letter E at the very top starting point of the letter on Fender that it is curved on the end. Let’s take a look at a verified 61 Strat to see the differences.

fake fender headstock

As you look at the image below notice how the letter E has a flat starting point from the top. Not curved like the image above. The decal above is from a reissue neck or falsified decal. Also, on the one below you will see the two patent numbers under the decal. Then, if you look at the rosewood above the nut you’ll see the pores where the lacquer has sunken into them. That’s what Brazilian Rosewood looks like. Another instant indicator is that the finish above is satin and the one below is a glossy nitro finish. Aside from all of that, the neck above has the wrong curve on it. Just under the stratocaster part of the logo where it curves into the contour body part of the logo the curve is too sharp of an angle. The originals have a lesser degree of curve there.

1961 Fender Strat Headstock

So, let’s keep going. Here comes the ugliest part of all. The neck butt shows us all that we need to know about fake guitars. It says it’s from January 1961. I’m not buying that. If you look at the radius it’s way flatter than a 7.25″ radius. But, that can be changed right? Sure. But, that’s not brazilian rosewood. Well, maybe they put a new fretboard on it? Nope. The last tell tale sign is that while that guitar is a slab board guitar it’s not a 1961 Fender Stratocaster Slab Board guitar. See the next image of a real 1961.

Fake Fender Neck Butt

Notice how the truss rod screw is up into the fretboard on the real guitar below. The one above is clearly a fake and that’s one obvious way to tell. On the neck above, the truss rod screw isn’t even touching the fretboard. It should be halfway through the fretboard like the image below.

1961 Stratocaster Neck Butt

1961 Stratocaster Fake Body

With the body, I see a couple of things right off the bat. The lacquer is pretty thick and makes things hard to see but the details are still there. First of all, in the pickup routes they used pin routers back then. So, each of the pickup routes should have a circle left behind from the router at each end of the route. Finally, the LPB 7 etched in the guitar is what Fender would do for customer ordered custom color guitars. Why would that be etched into a guitar that was claimed to be refinished by the owner 20 + years later?

Fake 1961 Strat Body

Here is an original 1961 Stratocaster body. It is a refin and yet you can clearly see the circles at the end of the pickup route left behind from the router.

1961 Strat body

1961 Stratocaster Fake Parts

One common thing that people do when creating a fake is to put some original parts on a guitar. This is something they hope adds some legitimacy to the guitar. In this case, the pickguard shield does look correct. The pots and capacitor are not original. The bridge pickup is definitely not from 1961 because it would have a black bobbin (bottom). The neck and middle pickup may or may not be original. I would need to see them more closely without the pickup covers on them. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if they were original just trying to add legitimacy to this fake guitar.

pickups from fake 61 strat

Let’s take a look at the pickguard and other plastics. That pickguard is not original. Normally, the pickguard would have a greenish hue to it. This one does not. It’s ABS plastic. You can also tell because the original cellulose pickguards of that era will shrink causing it to pull inward away from the screws. Also, the knobs are not original. You can tell by looking at the 10 number. On the originals the zero from the 10 is wider whereas the newer knobs, from the mid-70s through today, the zero is taller and skinnier. That tells me that most likely the pickup covers and selector tip are fake as well.

1961 Fake Strat pickguard

Let’s take a look at the bridge. This is a fake definitely. With the original saddles you’ll see tooling marks or scratches on them from where the medal was curved and formed. These are smooth indicating they are newer. Also, there are some indicators with the lettering but with the glare it’s hard to really see them clearly. The tooling marks are enough to indicate a fake here.

1961 Strat fake bridge

For reference, here is an original set of 1957 saddles. You can clearly see the tooling or scratch marks on the back of the saddles by the intonation screws.



So, I don’t know about you but I’m clearly ready to declare this guitar a serious fake. The guy is trying to sell it for $8,500. Definitely, you would want to run from this one telling all of your friends to steer clear along the way. I’ll continue to go through this series of Real Or Fake so if you see any you aren’t sure about shoot me a message and I’ll put an article together on it.


  • Reply John December 28, 2016 at 12:23 am

    A terrifically helpful posting.
    Thank you !

    • Reply Audiosway December 28, 2016 at 12:28 am

      Thanks John. If there are any other subjects you are curious about just let me know. We are always looking for new topics.

  • Reply Mr funkuncle February 5, 2017 at 8:47 am

    Great article. Now I’m really freaked out about buying a vintage guitar. Might stick with my reissues.

    • Reply Audiosway February 5, 2017 at 12:00 pm

      I can understand the concern. That’s why I will normally tell people to pay a little more to go through a reputable dealer. That way you know what you are getting. I’m going to be setting up a shop on this site as well that I’ll be doing articles like this about different guitars to show what’s real and what isn’t.

  • Reply Dave October 11, 2017 at 2:42 am

    Theres more fake details u havent mentioned and not everyone is aware. First of all indeed waterdecal its a cheap reissue kinda type, dots are way too white, capacitor its the orange one 1966 period onwards, the knobs have the wrong “l” it should be “1” instead not everyone is aware of this, the original bridge saddles u showed as example the height screws are reissues cause original ones dont have a cup shape to the inside its always vulcano shape so meaning towards the outside this is a detail i think the majority dont know of…its not only the tool marks that caracterize the originality of the saddles cause even these can be copied but the head shape so far noone copied them….i saw this ad on Reverb and told the owner to remove cause it was to much of a fake guitar but he never replied back and just ignored it….also that story of how he git the guitar was way too fake lol

  • Reply Ron Wilson November 17, 2017 at 4:34 am

    Great site! Keep up the good work! In this day and age of internet shopping, you need to know your stuff. Thank you for providing your well written Stratknowledgey .

  • Reply Rich December 27, 2017 at 1:03 am

    Hi, great site BUT the images aren’t showing, you’ll need to re-upload them or change the path in your database. Thanks!

    • Reply visitorstoleads January 9, 2018 at 9:18 pm

      Thanks Rich. I’ll see what’s going on there.

  • Reply scruff March 22, 2020 at 9:19 am

    you still out there Audiosway? i could really do with some expert advice

    • Reply Audiosway March 25, 2020 at 6:32 pm

      I’m here buddy. What do you need help with?

  • Reply Steve May 2, 2020 at 5:53 pm

    I took your tips and examined a few “vintage” strats from the late 50s and early 60s on Reverb and now I don’t trust most of them when their description says all original. There’s a 58 3-tone sunburst in London going for over $30k that just doesn’t look right. The checking looks cut with a razor blade to me. The pick guard looks too bright, but so do a lot of the others. Are reputable dealers even getting fooled? A COA is only as good as the authenticator. How many have sold their souls with this much money on the line?

    • Reply Audiosway May 2, 2020 at 6:17 pm

      I will say that in the 50s those pickguards will sometimes look very bright. That’s not that uncommon. The white plastic they used just has that look to it. Checking is a strange thing. In 58, they were using a little different formula with the nitro. I’ve noticed that a lot of them in that era have more of a razor blade looking checking vs the shattered look that you see on a lot of the newer relics. So, that’s actually more true checking with the “razor blade” look. Normally, you’ll see the spidering type checking or shattered look on the neck of the 58 models. It’s very similar on the Les Paul’s of that era. That’s why Tom Murphy generally uses a razor blade to do the check work on the 58-60 Les Paul’s he ages.

      That said, I’ve seen some fakes that were too good. There are more guitars out there than there should be. This fake was an easy spot. I’ve seen some where used the exact methods, tools, etc that Fender used back in the day. Nearly impossible to tell the difference. So, while most of the ones you see are legit if they come from a reputable dealer there are ones that have slipped through.

      • Reply Steve May 2, 2020 at 7:08 pm

        With that said, I’m sure there is a consultant market. Do they advertise their services?

  • Reply DeanIVersenGreen July 25, 2020 at 11:45 pm

    there are a lot of big money fake stratocasters out there, someo are so obvious its not even funny, new modern necks, fake decals, someo idiots arent able to even put ona decal so they leave it fubared apoarently thinking it will make it look road worn.. it messed up and some people get taken for a lot of money, like the supposed Bob Dylan strat some dood said Bob left on the a plane and the pilot has had it for 35 years..

    the idiot even posted pics of Bob playing the same color onstage live at the only concert he is seen playing the sunburst strat, welp, the red on bobs guitar is like maybe an INCH off the black, while the one in the auction is like 3″ off and CLEARLY covers the knobs where you can see bobs knobs have no red on that area!!!

    Fender does this fora reason they try to not to make anyone guitar look the same, and I KNOW THIS! so they bring the black out further, then the red out further and further and all sorts of combinations of that, when they run out of that that’s when they being to tint, they will add to the black, add tint to the gold and then the red…

    like one run of varying thickness’s of red will have more or less tint in only the red, then only the gold, then only the gold and black, then only the gold red and black then the gold and red only… he keeps switching it up until that run its done not ever painting two duplicates,,, UNLESS its a solid color, even then, the painter TINTS the paint, and keep tinting it as he goes, so maybe 3 are the original blue then he keeps tinging it as he sprays, jsut adds a few drops and goes, so not anyone placid blue guitar is the exact same tint..

    I know this cuz I saw the painter doing this, and he explained it as he went, and it makes perfect sense, its really hard to find any 2 sunbursts form the era that are identical in every way, the big one is the amount of red, they start with a real thin so there really isn’t any red showing at all to like a 4″ perimeter of it..

    you can see int eh supposed dylan guitar the one they sold is a FAKE! I couldn’t inspect it but I could tell from across the street the red ring was way off, I mean WAY OFF!


    if you care to look you can find the one sold at auction and the one of Bob playing the only sunburst onstage in like new york is it? there are pics of that all over…

    so get this, I called the dood on it right cuz some arsehat that runs a guitar shop verified it using some real messed up verification processes.. “oh yea we can clearly see here it has the green tinted pick guard and this one has it too” must be it, oh and see this, the head stock, the decal is right.. some serious BS!

    anywho I called the dood on it and he said, its just the lighting that makes it look wrong, so get this I thought I would try to trip him up so I asked him the lighting on which guitar? the one you are selling or the one Bob is playing?

    he came back with a snide remark, telling me its incandescent lighitng and it will make colors grow like that at the right angle, I wanted the punch him int eh face so bad. so bad, it sold for over $250k… i know right

    I* raised cain on FB and I doubt the owner ever saw it.. dood sure did get riled up, I called out the clown that verified it as well.. his info is on the video of them apparently “verifying it”

    I sure wish you would look at it and give me your thoughts, I treid to put it on guitar forums but no one cares, several people on FB did say yup I can see clear as day the two finishes are way different, even the tints are off..

    just erks me all these aholes trying to sell fakes, and we have no one keeping an eye out for us.. I am going to email Trump and ask if he can modify his hoarding agency to add counterfeiting as the FBI just doesn’t give a ratts and its their job… they wont even get back in touch, they just don’t care….

    here is bobs strat onstage.. look ho thin the red strip is…

    here is theone they sold, for $500k?

    so like to get a closer look at that guitar, a lot looks off to me… there is a video of dood “verifying it, or there was, since I said something a few years back its almost impossible to find any color pics of bob playing his onstage, most are black and white now, the pic was taken in COLOR! a half mill will do that, another site reported $950k!

  • Reply James Darby August 18, 2020 at 3:08 am

    hi dude! loved the article, can you investigate this one on Reverb?

    The photos uploaded have been very carefully shot/selected to minimise checking the things you’ve listed above. I think it’s a ’61 neck and guard but that’s about it

    • Reply Audiosway August 19, 2020 at 7:10 am


      The listing is correct about the neck being original. It looks like the tuning keys are as well from the photos. I can’t tell about the body from the images. I would pass on that one though. I wouldn’t pay near what he is asking. For what he is asking I would expect the guitar to be all original except for a refin. And that would still be a little above what I would want to pay.

      The saddles are not original, the pickups aren’t, pick guard, and maybe more from what I can tell. The volume knob looks suspect as well. Keep an eye out and you’ll find better deals that will come along here and there.

  • Reply Gary September 21, 2020 at 5:42 am

    Great article, the pics are particularly helpful, very much appreciated, I have a 61 that my father did actually buy …dad is long gone now, she has never been pulled apart or messed with in any way and that is how it will stay…I also have a 2001 strat my wife bought me for my 40th birthday now almost 20 years on both complement one another…… thanks again.

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