The following charts detail the most common Fender serial number schemes used from 1976 to the present.Please note the introduction of the "S" prefix serial numbers.
While there have been periods where dramatic changes have occurred, for example: the transition periods between Leo's Fender and the CBS years, as well as the transition between CBS' Fender and the current ownership, generally speaking, most models are feature specific and do not change from year to year..
Serial numbers have been used in various locations on Fender instruments through the years.
The neck date simply refers to the date that the individual component was produced.
Given the modular nature of Fender's production techniques, an individual neck may have been produced in a given year, placed in the manufacturing warehouse and remained in stock for a period of time, and then subsequently paired with a body to create a complete guitar in the following year.
On Telecasters and certain other models, you will find the serial number on the bridge.