Fender

25th Anniversary Stratocaster

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Homage to the 1954 Strat

The Fender Stratocaster’s release in 1954 was amongst the most important of milestones in guitar design and development history. The contoured body, highly versatile three pick-up arrangement, and built-in tremolo/vibrato unit, among other notable features, set it apart from the competition and endured the test of time. 

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Fender 1954 catalogue

Pic Credit: guitar-compare.com

The Strat underwent a series of iterations over its initial years to improve its design and better meet consumer demands. Sales began to steadily pick up over the first decade. Then, at its peak, Fender was sold to CBS in 1965. The new management took measures to make the company’s production more efficient and economical, but the guitars leaving their factories were flagged by players as declining in quality. Strat fans started seeking out “Pre-CBS” models instead of the new ones. The building demand and limited supply of vintage guitars led Japanese guitar manufacturers to exploit an apparent opportunity in the market, in the mid-1970s. Companies like Tokai started to design and sell replicas of the 50s and early 60s models for a fraction of the real deal, eventually inspiring Fender itself to start making reissues of the good old Strat! 

25th Anniversary Model

The first vintage reissue model made by Fender was also its first-ever anniversary model in 1979 to celebrate 25 glorious years since the iconic Stratocaster was released in 1954. The 25th Anniversary Strat was a limited-run, with only 10,000 guitars produced. Keep in mind that at the time, the '70s Stratocaster models were infamous for their characteristic three-bolt neck and the bullet truss rod that peeked out the front of the headstock. The 25th Anniversary was the first Fender guitar in the '70s to abandon these two features - much hated by collectors and players - and instead reverted back to the four-bolt neck and truss rod at the heel of the neck. In doing so, the 25th Anniversary Strat was a historically-significant model, because soon after it was introduced Fender's standard Strat design incorporated many of the 25th Anniversary model's features that collectors and players appreciated.

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Fender 1979 catalogue

Pic Credit: https://usermanual.wiki 

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The 1979 advertisement reads, "When a guitar remains a standard for a quarter of a century, you know its special. So, Fender celebrates the instrument that gave music a whole new voice and a lot of directions to move in... The Anniversary Stratocaster was designed by players for players. It's not simply an imitation of the early Strat, but a combination of all that made the Stratocaster revolutionary plus a technology that's revolutionary. The quantity, naturally, was limited. Which is why we include a certificate authenticating the serial number with every guitar." I don't have this certificate, it would have been a nice piece of collectible ephemera. "It's loaded... They went fast in '54. They'll go fast now. Go see and play the unique Anniversary Stratocaster at your authorized Fender dealer today. In a world of imitations, it's nice to get your hands on an original". Nice dig at Tokais and other brands ;)

Fender 1979 catalogue

Pic Credit: www.stratcollector.com

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Fender 1979 Japan catalogue

Pic Credit: https://brochures.yokochou.com

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Fender 1979 Japan catalogue

Pic Credit: https://brochures.yokochou.com

Dating

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The 25th Anniversary Stratocaster production was started in 1979, and extended into 1980. We see it featuring in some advertisements as late as 1981. However, the example that I possess was made in 1979, as evident from the pickup code that has a "79" at the end of its number, denoting the year of production. Unfortunately, the potentiometer codes are covered with original solder (ignore the 013446 code that featured on all pots). The serial number on the neck place tells us that it was the 5707th piece made out of 10,000 limited pieces made. 

Price

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The 1979-80 price lists show that a Strat with case, tremelo, and maple fretboard was priced between USD $800-900. Unfortunately, none of the price lists or catalogues that I found from 1979-81 have the price of the 25th Anniversary Strat on them! I'd expect it to cost more than the typical model because it was a limited run, but I can't say exactly how much. Just for perspective, USD $900 in 1979 is worth about $3500 in 2022. And, based on my research on Reverb and other websites, the 25th Anniversary Strat sells for below that amount today. There might be some solid collectible value in these guitars! I know there is a lot of hate from collectors towards the 70s production, but this particular model does away with all the bad stuff related to the CBS-era guitars (except the heavyweight). And collectors are fickle! Today, 70s Strats might suck, but tomorrow they will suddenly be desirable. I know this as a collector ;)

Shape

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The 25th Anniversary Stratocaster stays true to its classic and revolutionary shape. The 50s Fender catalogues advertised the Strat’s “contoured” shape as perfectly fitting the player's body and providing unparalleled comfort. 

Wood

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I believe the body of this guitar is made of Ash, as used in the earliest Strats and many modern ones. With regard to weight, the guitars from the 1970s are notorious for being heavy! I've watched videos and read listings of the 25th Anniversary Stratocaster that range from 4.10-5.9 kg (9-13 lbs). This is Les Paul territory, and not appreciated by Strat players who prefer its typical 3-something kgs (7-8 lbs). Interestingly, my 25th Anniversary Strat weighs in at 3.9 kg (8.6 lb), which is heavier than the pre-CBS examples, sure, but it's the lightest of the 70's Strats that I have spotted out there. So, I'm quite happy!

Bridge

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Another frowned-upon change brought by CBS was the die-cast material bridge. Companies like Tokai in Japan that made replicas of pre-CBS Strats in the late 70s, asserted that the quality of their guitars was better than Fender's itself at the time - citing the bridge as one example. Tokai catalogues lamented that “it's a shame that the current Fender Strat, as well as the old copies from other companies, are die-cast”. There might be truth to their claims because I have two vintage Tokai (ST-42, ST-100) and their bridges are in great condition while this 25th Anniversary Strat bridge has been seriously eaten away by rust at the ends!

Headstock

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The 25th Anniversary Strat has the large '70s-era headstock that is appreciated by many collectors. Notice the difference in size against the Tokai which is meant to be an exact replica of the 1954 smaller headstock. CBS made the headstocks larger in order to make space for a larger decal. Notice the difference between the two decals. The Tokai stays true to the 1950s spaghetti smaller font, while the 25th Anni. Strat moves on to a larger font thanks to the larger headstock. Personally, I quite like the '70s head stock - it feels rather substantial! 

Tuners

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The 25th Anniversary Strat has two butterfly-style string trees to maintain a higher break angle on the D-e strings. This, in theory, supports greater sustain. The metal they are made from has rusted quite severely, unlike the round string tree on my Tokai from the same period. I think this is another example of lower-quality metal and plating work by CBS. 

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The tuners are yet another feature that was not borrowed from the pre-CBS Strats. Instead of Kluson vintage-style tuners, the 25th Anniversary Strat had Sperzel tuners. The 1979 advertisement presented it as, "... a significant tuning key innovation... tolerances are superior, and patented string post locking totally prevents backlash... these new keys represent perhaps the most significant advance in guitar tuning capabilities in many years…”. I must say, these are some of the best tuners I have, in terms of how well they keep the strings in tune even after big bends and tremolo use; I wasn't expecting that!

Neck & Fretboard

The neck is more 'C' shaped, compared to the rounded 'U' or 'V' shapes of the 1950s Strats. The 25th Anniversary neck is one piece maple, with the skunk-stripe and teardrop like its vintage counterpart. It returned to the four-bolt neck, away from the much-denigrated CBS-era three-bolt design. 

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Neck heel and pocket showing quality control stamps and the name of the quality control inspectors

Finally, the fretboard radius is 7.25, just like the original 50's Strats. The fretwire, however, feels to me like it is a bit wider than the vintage wire found on the pre-CBS Strats and my vintage Tokais. This makes it more comfortable to play for me.

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Notice the "bullet" of the trussrod protruding at the headstocks of the standard 1979 Strats to the left and right of the 25th Anniversary Strat in this old Japanese catalogue

Unlike the standard CBS-designed Strats of the time that had "bullet" truss rods - protruding ends from the headstock end for adjustment - the 25th Anniversary reverted to the more appreciated truss rod adjustment at the heel of the neck via a Phillips-style screw.

Colour

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The first 500 guitars were a shade of white, but it had serious problems with the paint - flaking, checking, etc. and so they were recalled and painted with Porsche Silver (I’m assuming because it was the silver anniversary). This paint tends to go a little green like Les Paul gold tops over time. The body has the rather conspicuous “anniversary” decal on its body. I feel like the pain is poly and not nitro, but I can’t be sure. I believe all Strat necks were nitro at the time because the decal reacted badly with poly, but again I can't be sure. 

Pickups

The 25th Anniversary Strat pickups have grey bobbins and fixed pole pieces. They produce 5.65k ohms resistance at the neck and 5.8k ohms at the bridge - slightly lower than my vintage Tokais but close enough to the vintage Strat. They are clear and chimey to my ears, and don't break up as easy. Its a nice clean tone, though I do tend to use my Tokais more when I am practicing lead guitar work.

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Control Knobs & Switch

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As for tone and volume knobs, the ‘54 Strat had two tone controls (middle and neck PU) and no tone control for the bridge pickup, because Fender believed it “does not require additional tone modification”. Same with the 25th Anniversary Strat. The original ‘54 only had a 3-stage switch. But players accidentally discovered and started appreciating the midway positions. These were a bit of a fiddle to achieve though. The 5-stage switch was finally incorporated into Strats later in the 70s, like this one. 

Pickguard

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The pickguard has 11 screws and is three-ply black, white, and black, layered plastic with all the electronics attached to it. This wsa not true to the historic '50s strats that had the single-ply 8-screw pickguard. The entire inner part of the pickguard has aluminium shielding. 

Nut

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The nut looks very much like it is bone. The slotting seems to have been done quite well, because like I explained earlier, the guitar really doesn't go out of tune even with big bends and tremelo use. 

Case

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I believe this hard case that came with the 25th Anniversary Strat was made only for one year in 1979, just like the guitar itself. What makes this case different from the early 1980s cases is that this one is a little thicker, has a cover for the pocket, has four latches, and the interior is similar to the older wood cases in terms of the material used instead of the fur seen in the 1980s cases. 

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Bibliography 

 

  1. Vintaxe.com vintage Fender catalogues 

  2. Guitar-compare.com Fender catalogues

  3. Hunter, D. (2020), Fender Telecaster and Stratocaster: The Story of the World's Most Iconic Guitars (link)

  4. https://www.stratcollector.com/news/25th-anniversary-stratocaster-1979/

  5. https://www.fuzzfaced.net/25th-anniversary-strat-en.html

  6. https://usermanual.wiki 

  7. https://www.yokuchu.com

The nut looks very much like it is bone. The slotting seems to have been done quite well, because like I explained earlier, the guitar really doesn't go out of tune even with big bends and tremelo use.