Fender 52 Telecaster Reissues

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The Telecaster Story

Long before the Fender 52 Telecaster Reissues in 1950 the Telecaster was developed by Leo Fender in Fullerton, California and originally introduced as Broadcaster. It is the world’s first solid-body electric guitar that was commercially successful and has been in production ever since. Because of the black pickguard, the early Telecaster had they are sometimes called ‘Black-guard’ Telecaster.

Leo carried over features from the Hawaiian steel guitars Fender had already been making since 1945, such as the ashtray bridge cover and Kluson tuners. Its simple yet effective design with two pickups and a 3-way-switch and revolutionary sound broke ground. Even today with all of the technological advancement this very first design satisfies the demanding needs of many guitarists.

The 1952 Telecaster Reissue

In 1965 Leo Fender sold his company to the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), an American commercial broadcast television network. Under its new ownership Fender produced numerous Telecaster spin-off models throughout the 70s. But most musicians rather played guitars from the 50s and 60s then the new designs. Therefore Bill Schultz and Roger Balmer (CEO and VP) decided in 1981 that they wanted to bring back the glory days of the pre-CBS era and the vintage reissue series was born. In March 1984 an investment group led by William (Bill) Schultz (Fender Musical Instruments Corporation or FMIC) bought Fender from CBS for twelve and a half million dollars. Because the deal did not include production facilities in Fullerton, California the USA guitar production ceased in late 1984. In October 1985 the production started in the new factory in Corona, California where only the Vintage Reissue Stratocaster models were produced until 1986.

The Specs of a 52 Telecaster

Here are the main ingredients of a 1952 Telecaster:

  • Body: Ash Neck: One-Piece Bolt-On Maple
  • Fingerboard: Maple, 7.25 Radius
  • Number of Frets: 21 Vintage Style Frets
  • Position Inlays: Black Dot
  • Pickups: Two Single-Coil Pickups with Volume and Tone Controls
  • Switching: 3-Position Switch
  • Bridge: 3-Saddle Strings-Through-Body Bridge with Brass Saddles
  • Pickguard: 1-Ply Black

Butterscotch Blonde

The original finish on a 1952 Telecaster was blonde. Since it had no UV inhibitors the vintage blonde color turned into a faint yellow color over the years. Butterscotch Blonde (BSB) is supposed to simulate that color.

Different Versions

Since 1982 there have been three different versions of the 52 Reissue made in the U.S.
The following overview should give you an idea of the differences and improvements that have been made over the years. It also should help you to identify the different versions at a glance.

U.S. Vintage Series 52 Telecaster

1982 - 1997
Model no. 010-1303-850
4 digits stamped on the bridge plate (1982 until early 1988)
5 digits stamped on the bridge plate (from late 1988 to 2012)

Fender started making the first 52 reissues in 1982 in the Fullerton plant but the first ones were allegedly assembled in Japan. The Southern California guitarist Ted Greene helped Fender with the design by referencing his extensive collection of old Telecasters. They were Fenders first try on recreating a 1952 Telecaster and had some historical inaccuracies:

  • No 100% nitrocellulose finish
  • A different headstock shape
  • Wider 12th fret dot spacing
  • Not 100% accurate body shape and radius
  • Alnico 5 magnets pickups with plastic insulation wire
  • A Top Hat switch tip (probably only on the first versions)

This version has a slim neck with a C profile and a 4 digits serial number stamped on the bridge plate.

American Vintage Reissue 52 Telecaster

July 1998 - August 2012
Model no. 010-0202-850
5 digits stamped on the bridge plate

In 1998 Fender changed from 1303 to the 0202 model. Because of the new name American Vintage Reissue, they are often referred to as AVRI. These guitars have a thicker neck than the previous ones with a modest U profile and more accurate 12th fret markers. They also have a little different color and Fender changed to more vintage accurate Alnico 3 magnets pickups and a Barrel switch tip.

Until mid-2005 the guitars came with a Certificate Of Authenticity (COA) with the date of production. After Bill Schultz aka “the man who saved Fender” died in 2006 the COA was discontinued.

American Vintage 52 Telecaster

August 2012 - 2017
Model no. 011-0202-850
V + 7 digits stamped on the bridge plate

The American Vintage 52 Telecaster (AV) was advertised as ‘Pure Vintage’ at first (e.g. see the last page of the Fender American Vintage Brochure from 2012). For this reissue Fender did a complete redesign. To get the guitar as accurate as possible the body dimensions and necks of several vintage guitars where remeasured.

1st of 46 Neck Plates

The first 46 instruments produced of each AV model featured a “1st 46” neck plate. Here you can read Fenders 2012 Press Release:

“Fender is proud to announce the release of a limited number of the popular American Vintage Series instruments featuring 1st 46 neck plates, a designation given to the first 46 instruments of each model year. These neck plates commemorate the fact that Fender was founded in 1946, as well as the fact that Fender is releasing the most accurate and beautiful Fender reissue instruments ever from key historical years. The neck plate will serve as an indicator that these “1st 46” models were the first of their kind to be built, as well as add an element of collectability to these first run instruments. These units will be randomly distributed around the globe for Fender fans everywhere to have a chance to find one in their local stores.
The American Vintage Series has long presented some of Fender’s best-selling guitars (their early-80s introduction, in fact, was one of the first signs that Fender was “back” as the CBS era ended). Today, Fender has boldly cleared the slate to make way for a fresh American Vintage series with new features, new specs and the most meticulous level of vintage accuracy yet. Rather than just replacing the previous models with different ones, the entire vintage-reissue concept has been completely and comprehensively re-imagined—restoring original tooling dies, voicing new pickups, reformulating vintage colors and more—based on actual vintage guitars designers tracked down to ensure even greater accuracy.”

All the new American Vintage Series guitars feature thick and slim necks with profiles and edges carefully re-sculpted to reflect even greater period-correct authenticity, with both maple and rosewood fingerboards, vintage-style frets and bone nuts; all-new vintage-style pickups wound to period-correct specs and sound to accurately reflect specific model years, and even specific periods within specific model years; retooled pickguards, parts, and hardware designed to accurately reflect specific model years (and again, even specific periods within specific model years), and standard and custom-color finishes re-formulated for even greater period-correct authenticity.
The new guitars are the American Vintage 56, 59 and 65 Stratocaster models (56 model also in left-handed version), American Vintage 58 and 64 Telecaster models (64 model also in left-handed version), American Vintage 65 Jazzmaster and American Vintage 65 Jaguar. Also, the American Vintage 52 Telecaster returns to the fold (in right- and left-handed versions) with body, neck, and pickups refined with the best features—tones, curves, perimeters, radii and more—from a handful of extraordinary 52 Telecaster specimens examined by Fender craftsmen.” – Fender

The Pickups are more vintage-accurate sounding and still have Alnico 3 magnets. The Barrel switch tip has a recessed-top which is also more accurate. On some of the previous models, one could see the pickup cavity under the bridge. Not so with the new models.

The neck lacquer on the AV 52 Telecasters is virtually untinted. In comparison, previous models have had an orange-ish heavily tinted neck. The new ones are looking much lighter. The neck has rolled edges that give it a broken-in feel. The frets are more rounded on the top giving them a feeling of being taller without actually being it. Some people expressed concern that the rolled edges could make refretting harder, if necessary. But I have not yet heard of anybody actually refretting one.
The color of the BSB is also lighter and less orange-ish. Previous models were sometimes called “Pumpkincaster”. While you could see through the previous finish the new one has a tint so you can see less of the grain.
The AV 52 Tele was the first of the 52 reissues to have a Flash Coat Lacquer (supposedly the same lacquer as Fenders Thin Skin models) that was all Nitro with a Nitro Sanding sealer, Nitro color and Nitro topcoat (according to Rob Schwarz, Fender). The Vintage Lacquer Information Sheet was part of the case candy and warned customers about possible “checking” or cracking of the wood. When Fender replaced the AV series with the American Original (AO) they started using the same body finishes as the AVRI (urethane base coat under lacquers) again.
This is the first 52 Tele Reissue that comes with a thinner case and the modern wiring of bridge/both/neck standard and a kit to convert it to the vintage wiring (bridge/neck/neck with the tone capacitor) (see AV 52 Telecaster Service Diagram). All prior versions came from the factory with the vintage wiring and the kit to convert it to modern wiring (e.g. see AVRI 52 Telecaster Service Diagram).
It is also the first one that lets you identify the year of production by the serial number. If you have V12 + 5 digits stamped on the bridge plate your guitar was made in 2012.

AV 52 Telecaster Specs

  • Body: Premium Ash Body
  • Neck: 1-Piece Maple, U Shape, (Nitrocellulose Lacquer Finish)
  • Fingerboard: Maple, 7.25″ Radius (184 mm)
  • No. of Frets: 21 Vintage Style Frets
  • Pickups: 2 American Vintage Tele® Single-Coil Pickups
  • Controls: Master Volume, Master Tone
  • Pickup Switching: 3-Position Blade-
  • -Position 1. Bridge Pickup
  • -Position 2. Neck Pickup with Tone Control (Bright Vintage Circuit)
  • -Position 3. Neck Pickup with No Tone Control (Dark Vintage Circuit)
  • Bridge: Original Vintage Tele Bridge with 3 Brass Saddles
  • Machine Heads: Fender®/Gotoh® Vintage Style Tuning Machines
  • Hardware: Nickel/Chrome
  • Pickguard: 1-Ply Black, (5-Hole)
  • Scale Length: 25.5″ (648 mm)
  • Width at Nut: 1.650″ (42 mm)
  • Unique Features: U Shape Maple Neck, Black Dot Position Inlays, Vintage styling, Synthetic Bone Nut
  • Strings: Fender Super 250R, Nickel Plated Steel,
  • Gauges: (.010, .013, .017, .026, .036, .046),

Other Versions

There has been a Factory Special Run (FSR) Limited Edition American Vintage 52 Telecaster Korina wich had a Korina body and was part of the 10 for 15 Limited Collection in 2015. There also where some Hot Rod 52 Telecaster Reissues with a Neck Humbucker. Then there are the Fender Custom Shop (CS), Made in Japan (MIJ), Crafted in Japan (CIJ), Made in Mexico (MIM) and Squire 52 Telecaster models.

Famous Players

  • Bruce Springsteen
  • David Gilmour (Pink Floyd)
  • Graham Coxon (Blur)
  • Ian D’Sa (Billy Talent)
  • James Hetfield (Metallica)
  • Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin)
  • Keith Murray (We Are Scientists)
  • Mick Jagger (Rolling Stones)
  • Robert Quine (Richard Hell & The Voidoids)
  • And many more…


By Michael Miller

Hi there, I'm Michael (reamp labs), and I am a musician / media creative from Munich.


    1. Hi there!
      No mistake here. You can see Mick playing a 1952 Telecaster here: https://youtu.be/L3QqMIjjNMI?t=45m21s
      Keith Richards plays a 1954 blackguard Telecaster since 1971 which he received on his 27th birthday from Eric Clapton. His guitar tech Ted Newman Jones III replaced the neck position pickups with Gibson PAF humbuckers and the guitar is called “Micaweber”.

  1. Many thanks for the writeup, I had questions that you’ve cleared up on these guitars except one. The dates and number of digits for serial #. I just purchased on that has 5 digits serial number on the bridge plate and the base of the neck has a hand written date of 11-8-96. Again thanks for the writeup!

  2. Only discovered the ’52 reissue model by accident. Had tried a number of current models in the Telecaster lineup, but found none of them gave that proper Tele Twang. Picked up a late model AV52 in one of the local music shops here in Ireland (Jimi’s) and fell in love with it straight away. Twice the price of any of the used Bajas and the like – but worth every penny.

    To me at least, better clean sounds than any of the more modern Teles (which all sound almost identical to the modern Strat incarnations) – and also just about perfect if you want to dirty it up as well. Definitely a keeper 🙂

  3. Bruce Springsteen may play the most famous 50s Tele in the world (after Keith). David Gilmour played a Broadcaster, and Jimmy Page almost exclusively used a 50s Tele on the first two Zep records. Other players who have made it famous include Danny Gatton, Ry Cooder, Andy Summers, Albert Lee, and Waylon Jennings.

  4. hello, I just bought one with the serialnr 0590 and a dot under one the bridge plate. Can you tell me anything on this guitar, I would really appreciate that.
    Anders Kraft. Stockholm Sweden

    1. Hi Anders,
      Congrats on your new guitar!
      If the serial number has 4 digits and is stamped on the bridge plate it could be from the U.S. Vintage Series that was built between 1982 and 1997. Another indicator of that could be a Top Hat switch tip. But to be sure you could unscrew the neck and check the end of the neck and the neck pocket for a date. Moreover, you could check the number on the back of the volume and tone pot. I have written a section about how to date a pot in my post about The Pro Co RAT.
      I hope this helps!
      Kind regards to Stockholm

  5. Thank you Michael.
    On the Tone pot all I can read is 64 250K – AU0 or AUO R9144
    Can you tell me what this stand for
    Thank you. Anders Kraft

    1. Hi Anders,
      My guess is that it says AUD and that the number 9144 indicates the 44th week of 1991. This would be in line with the 4 digits on your bridge plate pointing to a U.S. Vintage Series that was built between 1982 and 1997. Have you checked the neck and neck pocket for a pencil date or stamp?
      Best of luck

  6. Very excellent demonstration on the 52 telecaster reissues!Recently I got my American vintage 52 made in 2017 as it has a serial number started with V17 on the plate…I wouldn’t know if I hadn’t read this page.

    It is even more happier after reading this page , given that the American vintage series was extremely dedicated to the old ones with most period correct specs as possible.I am glad that I was able to buy my 52 as it has now been replaced by origin series in 2020 and I was merely wanting to buy a 52 telecaster without so many thoughts .

    Greetings from Hong Kong.

  7. Hello!I purchased my ’52 Tele back in 1982. These are the famous VJ series …with the small “squire” logo at the top of the head stock. These were only made in Japan in 82 through 84.
    Mine is a 82 as you can see by the pics (neck). it also shows a EX stamped on the back side of the neck which I still could not find why or what it means.
    I had the guitar at a friend’s place for more than 8 years…. before all this pandemic he moved away and brought me the guitar back. The guitar needed some real TLC…. for starters, the neck pup it’s busted! I checked it and I can see the broken wire inside, so I need to find an original MIJ replacement ..these are about 7K.
    All wiring on these guitars were to spec and cloth wire used, not the plastic used on later models. If anyone here has or knows about one of these neck pups, ill be interested in buying….must be original MIJ ’52. Thanks.
    I would like to share my pics with all of you but I don’t think it is possible to load pics here(??) If there is a way, please let me know and I will be motre than happy to share my guitar with all of you.
    Thanks again…. stay safe!

  8. hi, i collect 50’s and 60’s Fenders, serious stuff, but also getting interested in these fullerton reissues, i have a bunch of fullerton strats and 2 x 82/52 teles, one has the barrel tip the other the top hat, the top hat tele is untouched , march neck date, 3 digit serial, all the candy, but i dont understand why the top hat, every other reissue i have ever seen has the barrel tip, i would think the top hat is not original to the guitar, but i read your blog and you say top hat was the tip on the first reissues? but just look around on the net all the 82 /52 teles i can find have the barrel tip, any more info on this would be great
    also most revews say they are nitro, but you said its not 100% nitro?
    no big deal but just would like to know, thanks
    ps i also have a real in like 9/10 condition 52 tele …..and we all know its barrel tips for 52

    1. Hi Tony,
      Thanks for reaching out! Yes, as far as I know, the first reissues that were called U.S. Vintage Series 52 Telecaster and produced from 1982 to 1997 came with a Top Hat switch tip and had a nitro poly mixed lacquer. I am fairly certain about the lacquer, but I could be mistaken about the switch tip.
      I find TDPRI to be a good resource sometimes. I am sorry that I cant be of any help. Please let me know if you find a definitive answer!

  9. hi, well my recent 82 with tophat is dead stock untouched serial 0500, but really if you go over the net i dont think u would find any with the tophat, its no big deal of course but i was just interested to see if i actually did get a very early one with tophat , but i have never read anything that says they did have the tophat , and no other pics i can find , so u would have to assume barrel was the way…anyway one day the book by someone will come out as i see these fullertons rising in value every year…..

    1. Hi Tony,
      I just checked a couple of catalogs from that time and could not find pics of a top hat Tele. But I don’t think that necessarily means that yours is not stock. I am assuming that only the first models had a top hat switch, and I just changed the text of my blog post to this.
      You could check some catalogs yourself at Vintaxe or Music Man Steve.
      Good luck with your search and please let me know if you find an answer!

  10. Hi Tony – Alex from Australia here. I have a 1986 52 and it has a tophat switch. The guitar in all these years remains 100% untouched and original in all respects.Four digit serial 5***.

  11. hi Alex, thats interesting, still though i search reverb and other places and see all the 52 reissues for sale and so far never spotted one with top hat, anyway really its no big deal, actually just bought another one this week, a mint 82/52 i mean unmarked new condition except 1 minor issue, no ashtray and no switch tip, i just ordered a repro barrel and ashtray for it… Tony

  12. Hi! Thx for the great research! I miss the last reissue- the 2020 70th anniversary Telecster. I have a offer to buy a 2017 AVRI and would like to hear your opinion, weich one is the‘better‘ one – the 2017 AVRI of the 2020 70th Anniversary. Especially there are 2 main differences: The colour (BB vs Blackguard Blonde) and the PU‘s (Custom Shop).

    1. Hi Robert,
      I will have to dive into the specs of the 2020 anniversary Tele and actually play one. I will then add a chapter about it. Thanks for the hint!

  13. Hello!
    I have a 52 RI with a neck dated to May 1982, pots are from August 1983 and COA writes 2-3-84. Serial is 36xx. Pickups have grey insulated cables. Are these pickups original? I never saw anybody advertising such an instrument having grey pickup cables.

    1. Hi Vic,
      Are both cables on one pickup gray? Usually they have two different colors. Maybe you could ask the guys on TDPRI? In any case please get back to me if you can dig up any information on this!

  14. Hi. I have what I believe to be a 52 vintage reissue telecaster (well that’s what I believed it to be when i bought it). After reading this article i checked the bridge plate and it has a serial number of 41303. Using the fender serial number tool, it tells me that it is a 1960 Fullerton… but I’m sure that couldn’t be the case… or could it?

    1. Hi John,
      Thanks for reaching out. If your 52 Tele has a five digit serial number stamped on the bridge plate it points either to 1954 – 1963 or 1988 – 2012. But just like body and neck dates, using serial numbers to date a Fender is not always a sure bet. Have you checked the neck and neck pocket and the pickups / volume and tone pots?

  15. The dot spacing is wide on the AV 52 and American Original, and Narrow on the AVRI. The 70th anniversary broadcaster reissue features the wide dots in the standard and narrow in the custom shop. What is the history of the dot spacing?

    1. Hi Robert,
      Thanks for your interesting comment. I have no idea but I will try to figure this out 🙂

  16. I’ve got a NIB January 31st, 1985 Vintage Telecaster Re-issue in tweed case with all the docs, hang tags, etc. Still has the original strings on it! S/N 3937. and was interested in how many were made of that version?

    1. Hi Joanne,
      Congrats on your guitar! It is hard to say but maybe Fender has some numbers? You could write an email to their customer service. Please let me know if you find out anything.
      Kind regards,

  17. Hello,
    I have a nineties Fender tele 52 reissue 50th anniversary model. Are there differences with the other nineties 52 telecasters?
    Kind regards

    1. Hi Alain,
      My best guess is that it should be pretty much the same as a regular U.S. Vintage Series 52 Telecaster. I hope that helps.

    1. Hey Galen,
      Sounds like you have a American Vintage Reissue 52 Telecaster. Have you bought it with a top hat switch tip? If not, I am guessing it has been replaced.

  18. I have a 52avri tele, 5 digit serial # on my 2005. If I take off the neck, its stamped “relic”. The neck is also stamped, “custom shop”, and “relic”. I’m confused…there’s no “custom shop” decal back of the neck.

    1. Hey Scott,
      That’s a tough one. To be sure, I would suggest you reach out to Fender. Their customer service is often very helpful.
      Let me know what you find out!

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