In 1977, Fender applied the smoky “Antigua” finish to their classic models.
Leo Fender’s pioneering work in the 1950s led to the creation of several classic guitars and amps, including the archetypal Telecaster and Stratocaster. These guitars continued evolving along with the growing company, even through its sale to the Columbia Broadcasting System—CBS—in 1965.
Notice the neck plates: The Strat has a 3-bolt system, while the Tele sports the traditional 4-bolt arrangement.
After the sale, players noticed a gradual decline in instrument quality, especially at the end of the 1960s. There were loose neck pockets, 3-bolt necks, and “thick skin” polyester finishes (durable, but detrimental to a guitar’s tone). There were still some interesting and creative ideas, like the new Telecaster Custom (with neck humbucker) and the Telecaster Deluxe (two humbuckers). Another inspiration was the revival of the Antigua finish as a custom color in 1977.
This ’79 Strat shipped with a 5-way pickup selector, a feature that had only become available on stock Fenders in ’77.
The Antigua finish had been introduced 10 years earlier for the Coronado, Fender’s attempt at a Gibson ES-335-style semi-hollow guitar. Fender had some difficulty applying the binding to these guitars, and scorch marks often appeared in the wood. The Antigua sunburst with darker grey edges effectively concealed the blemishes. The 1977 reintroduction, however, was entirely for visual allure. The guitars receiving the Antigua treatment were the regular Tele and Strat, the Telecaster Custom and Deluxe, the Mustang, the Jazz Bass, the Precision Bass, and the Mustang Bass.
The pickguard on this ’78 Tele is black plastic that has been painted in Antigua.
Both guitars pictured have typical late-’70s features, including large black “CBS” Fender logos, thick skin polyester finishes, black pickguards (painted over with Antigua finish), black knobs and covers (the Tele retained chrome knobs). Three bolts secure the Strat neck, while the Tele retained its original style 4-bolt neck plate. The Strat is also equipped with the new-for-1977 5-way switch.
The 1977 list price for a Stratocaster was $595. The 1977 list price for a Tele was $505. The current value for each in excellent all-original condition is $2,250.
Sources for this article include 50 Years of Fender by Tony Bacon, Fender: The Sound Heard ’Round the World by Richard R. Smith, Fender: The Golden Age 1946-1970 by Martin Kelly, Terry Foster, and Paul Kelly, The Fender Telecaster by A.R. Duchossoir, and The Fender Stratocaster by A.R. Duchossoir.