In excellent condition, this handsome instrument can fetch up to $25,000 today.
The Stratocaster debuted in 1954 as Leo Fender’s attempt to improve what he had begun with the Telecaster and achieve the perfect solidbody guitar. Although he continued this process with the Jazzmaster, Jaguar, and his Music Man and G&L designs, the continuing popularity of the Strat is evidence that he got it right in 1954. The text in the 1965 catalog remains true today: “The many remarkable design features incorporated in the Stratocaster, including many ‘Fender Firsts,’ have resulted in making it the choice of many of the world’s leading musicians.”
The standard finish for a Stratocaster was a two-toned sunburst (three-toned, starting in 1958), but, even early on, customers requested custom finishes to suit their personal style. Fender first mentioned a custom finish option in its 1956 catalog, although it wasn’t until 1961 that an official custom color chart sampling 14 rectangular paint chips was made available. Fender’s custom colors generally came from existing automotive paint supplies.
Note the ridges of the plastic Body-Guard on the guitar’s lower contour, as well as the immaculate gleam of both
of these classic Fenders.
The 1965 Strat pictured is finished in the rare Foam Green (originally a Buick color from 1956) and otherwise has the typical features associated with that year. These include a maple neck with a separate rosewood fretboard, pearl dot inlays (replacing the earlier clay dots), and a small headstock (until 1966) with a gold “transition” Fender logo. This example also has the factory-original larger and wider frets that, although not mentioned in any catalogs, can be seen occasionally in models from that year. The 1965 list price with custom finish was $295. The Fender Body-Guard—a clear plastic plate that fit over the guitar’s back—was available for an additional $13.50. The current value for a Foam Green 1965 Fender Stratocaster in excellent all-original condition is $25,000.
This close-up of the Strat’s neck plate reveals serial number L74470 and reflects the protective Body-Guard shield that fits over the entire back of the guitar.
The Deluxe Reverb behind the Strat dates from 1967. Two 6V6 power tubes push 20 watts through a 12" Oxford speaker. This last-year-for-blackface amp has a “normal” channel with volume, treble, and bass controls, and a “vibrato” channel with volume, treble, bass, reverb, speed, and intensity. The original 1967 list price was $249.50. The current value is $2,500.Sources for this article include: The Fender Stratocaster by A.R. Duchossoir, The Stratocaster Chronicles: Celebrating 50 Years of the Fender Strat by Tom Wheeler, Fender: The Sound Heard ’Round the World by Richard R. Smith, and Fender Amps: The First Fifty Years by John Teagle and John Sprung. Detailed information on Fender custom colors can be found here.