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1. FENDER CUSTOM SHOP "NUMBER ONE" TRIBUTE GUITARS

When I toured the  Fender factory in California in 2001, there was discussion about a possible limited edition Custom Shop replica of Number One. At that time, it was suggested that there might be as few as four replicas made. In November 2003, Fender announced that 100 guitars would be made, priced at $10,000 each, all made by John Cruz. The guitar debuted at the winter NAMM show January 15-18, 2004. These guitars have serial numbers, but they are NOT serialized 1 through 100. Each guitar John Cruz makes, regardless what kind of guitar, gets the next serial number in line. I believe the first Tribute Strat is JC044 and the last JC229.  He mentioned to me that Jimmie was getting three of the guitars. Mine is JC063 which Mr. Cruz informed me was the 12th Tribute Strat.

There is no shortage of criticism of the project. I do not see it as different from any other product - where there is a demand, someone is going to fill it. Stevie's guitar is one of the most easily identifiable, famous guitars in history, and folks other than Fender have made dozens of replicas of Number One at prices from several hundred to five thousand dollars. Replicas of Stevie's Hamiltone have sold for up to $8000, I'm told. The Charley replicas sold for $2500, and are now selling for $3500 if you can find one.  Fender's Custom Shop employs some of the best craftsman in the business, and it is not unusual for their guitars to sell for thousands of dollars due to the number of hours spent handcrafting each guitar. It is certainly not unusual for artwork to sell for $10,000, and that's one way to look at this guitar. The replicas of Clapton's Gibson 335 had an original price of $12,000. The bottom line is that $10,000 is not unusual in the guitar market, particularly considering that some vintage electrics are listed at up to $250,000.

It is my understanding that sales of the Number One guitars worked like this: Fender sold them to their top dealers (in this case by a lottery system due to the high demand) who can resell them to customers (or not). All 100 of the guitars were sold at the 2004 NAMM convention to Fender dealers. For the Clapton 335, my understanding is that orders were taken on a specific date from Fender dealers on a first-come first-served basis. In both cases, the customers who were successful in getting a guitar were those who paid for them in advance.

The Tribute Strats come with a flight case stenciled "SRV - Number One," a red gig bag modeled after Stevie's, a replica of the black leather strap with white music notes, and a documentation folder containing the certificate signed by Cruz, a photo of Stevie with Number One, a copy of the El Mocambo DVD, a Fender Custom Shop DVD of the night they inspected Number One, and a tube of Rene Martinez' Graphit-all. (I do not make copies of the DVD for anyone, so please do not ask.)

My initial impressions: excellent tone, love the fat neck, and it's lighter than I expected. It looks great, but there are some things about 25 years of wear that no one has accurately mimicked. This should be the closest anyone will come to copying the weight, dimensions and electronics of Number One, because no one else has had access to the real thing from which to copy the specifications. 

Additional photos of the prototype, taken at the debut at NAMM, courtesy T.Roberts, Guitar Center: ONE, TWO.

Value: JC044 was sold during the Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Auction on June 24, 2004, for almost $42,000. Given the factors involved in that sale, I thought it would be unlikely anyone could get that amount in a private sale. However, by November 2005 the market for these guitars has risen to about $24,000. I have heard of sales at $25,000 and $32,000. Several recent eBay auctions with asking prices of $28,000 to $45,000 were unsuccessful. Guitar Center has offered these guitars for up to $45,000 (believe to be sold), and as of 2010 I have seen others ask $50,000 to $60,000. In the summer of 2011 one sold privately for $35,000. In May 2013 it was reported that Guitar Sofa in Hong Kong sold one for $51,500 USD. If you have personal knowledge of a sale, I would be interested to hear what the price was, and when.

2. FENDER CUSTOM SHOP "LENNY" REPLICA

lenny.jpg (53292 bytes)

"Lenny" replica: The Fender Custom Shop made 235 replicas of Stevie's "Lenny" guitar (185 for the U.S. market, 50 overseas) that went on sale in mid-December, 2007, at a price of $17,000 each. "Lenny" was purchased by Guitar Center in the 2004 Crossroads guitar auction benifitting Eric Clapton's Crossroads Center in Antigua for $623,500. See Fender.com for more information.

It will be interesting to see how Fender does with these guitars. Lenny is certainly nowhere near the iconic guitar that Number One is. With the significantly higher price and production number, it is difficult to imagine it will share in the immediate appreciation that Number One experienced. The value of Number One nearly tripled within months of its release, but I don't see Lenny being met with that kind of demand. UPDATE: I hope you didn't buy one when they first went on sale. The price had dropped to around $12,000 by early 2009. FURTHER UPDATE 6/09: I am told by Guitar Center that they have reconsidered the price drop, believe in the long-term value of this guitar and have rasied the retail price back to $17,000. 

 

3. The Fender S.R.V. Signature Series Stratocaster

The SRV Strat debuted at the Los Angeles NAMM show in January 1992 and started hitting music stores by March. It is not a limited edition guitar, and is readily available today. Though Fender does not release sales data, it has been said that the SRV Strat is a strong seller.

srvstrat-namm.jpg (37791 bytes)
SRV Strat debut, January 1992
l-r: Chris Layton, Jimmie Vaughan, Buddy Guy, Albert Collins and Eric Gales
click on photo for larger image

The specifications from the original promotional material in 1992:
part number: 010-9200-800
body: alder
neck: maple - special neck shape (bolt-on)
machine heads: vintage style - goldplated
Fretboard: brazilian rosewood (12" radius - 304.8mm
frets: 21 [6105 fretwire]
pickups: three "texas special" vintage-style single coil
Controls: master volume, tone (neck), tone (mid)
tremolo: left-hand vintage-style - goldplated
pickup switching: 5-position blade switch
scale lenght: 25.5" (648mm)
neck width @ nut: 1.685" (42mm)
colors: 800 - 3-color sunburst
other: black-white-black pickguard with white knobs and pickup covers;
       "srv" initials in pickguard

Much of the following information comes from fans on a Fender listserve, with some additional info I've collected from other sources over the years. It should be noted that I did not get any of this information directly from Fender or Fender employees. I welcome any corrections.

Work on the SRV Strat began in the late 1980's with a plan to release a standard SRV Strat in 1989 plus a limited edition of 500 Custom Shop Artist SRV guitars. Something (perhaps Stevie's recording and touring schedule) delayed the release, and Stevie was presented with three prototypes of the guitar in June 1990, backstage before his Tonight Show performance. Stevie wanted the guitar to have his "SRV" stickers on the pickguard, but guitar tech Rene Martinez was out of them at the moment. They had the Tonight Show art staff apply white Letraset stickers to the pickguard, which Rene ultimately switched onto Number One.

As you know, Stevie died about 10 weeks later, and the SRV Strat was shelved until 1991. Jimmie allegedly nixed the idea of the limited edition guitars and focused instead on the goal of making the SRV guitar affordable to any kid (or big kid) who wants one. This jives with the fact that the Tex-Mex Strat that Jimmie endorses is one of the more affordable Strats.

Supposedly, there were about a dozen Custom Shop SRV's made in 1989, with half of them now in Jimmie's possession and the others given away or sold. One person says a collector he knows paid $18,000 for one. (By the way, the rumor that Randy Bachman bought Number One is completely false.)

Dating SRV Strats

No, I don't mean taking one out for dinner and a movie, I mean determining when they were made, and which ones are the oldest. With most guitars, one can rely on the serial numbers because the system is both consecutive (1,2,3,4,5...) and sequential (lowest to highest, but not necessarily consecutive). Apparently this is not the case with the SRV's.

Brazilian Rosewood Fingerboards
Only a relatively few SRV's actually had Brazilian rosewood fingerboards as specified in the original Fender promotional literature, due in large part to environmental protection issues regarding use of rainforest wood in mass production. Pau ferro, also known as Bolivian rosewood or ironwood, is used on all but some of the earliest SRV Strats. Pau ferro may come from any number of places - Brazil, Bolivia, Africa, etc.

Several years ago, someone told me they had spoken with two people at Fender about the quantity of SRV's with Brazilian rosewood. One said there were "probably less than 100," and the other said "no more than 50." From watching sales of the guitars for the past 10 years, there are certainly far more than 100 people claiming  to have SRV's with Brazilian rosewood. Another person has said that a Fender employee told him the Custom Shop foreman said there were "about 50" made in the custom shop with rosewood, and that there were less than 100.

Determining Brazilian rosewood from it's cousin, pau ferro, is not always easy. Brazilian is darker, though pau ferro darkens with age. Brazilian may even have deep redish tones. Typically, pau ferro will be lighter brown with light streaks in the grain ("coffee and cream"). Brazilian rosewood can be almost black and, when held in the light correctly, reveals long straight slits in the grain which pau ferro is said not to have. Below are photos of the woods, but they can vary widely.

pau ferro Brazilian rosewood

The Serial Number Problem
The difficulty in determing where your SRV Strat fits into the production line lies in the fact that Fender serial numbering, apparently, has only to do with internal stock control and not particular dates of manufacture. The SE9xxxx decals were probably purchased for use in 1989, but weren't used on SRV's until 1992. Further complicating matters, the SRV did not have its own block of numbers. In other words, SE905653 is an SRV, but SE905654 may be a Jeff Beck Strat or something else.

You would think that the lowest serial numbers would be the oldest and be the ones with Brazilian rosewood, but one fan says he has seen an SE9046xx with pau ferro, and SE905xxx's and SE906xxx's with Brazilian. It appears that all the SE91xxxx's and later numbers are the pau ferro, however.

Some say that Stevie had already approved use of the pau ferro as a substitute for Brazilian rosewood because it was more readily available, would cause the guitar to be less expensive, and would stand up to more use and refret jobs. If so, you might ask why there would be any Brazilian rosewood fingerboards on SRV's, and why all the original promotional material refers to Brazilian rosewood. Perhaps the planned but never built Custom Shop SRV's with Brazilian rosewood were the source of the Brazilian stock on early SRV's. Well, if the stock meant for the Custom Shop SRV's was used on the standard SRV's, maybe it means there are as many as 500 SRV's with Brazilian rosewood. Or, maybe the statements attributed to Fender employees are correct - only 50 to 100 SRV's have Brazilian, and the rest of the stock was used on other guitars.

So What Do We Rely On?
One fan says the markings on the pickups and the codes in the tremolo cavity are not date codes, though the round brown sticker in one of mine says "2-23" which would jive with other dates on the guitar. If you take the neck off, there are dates on the neck heel and sometimes in the neck slot on the body, but unfortunately they are often illegible. Finding a legible date seems to be the only reliable way to find your SRV's place in the production line.

Conclusion
Based on the chart below, the easiest way to reconcile all this information is that the SE90xxxx serial numbers were not used in order from lowest to highest. In other words, the pau ferros with lower serial number are newer than the Brazilians with higher serial numbers. This could easily be the case if the numbers were just for internal stock control - what difference would it make which serial number decal they stuck on the guitar? Maybe they just handed a stack of decals to each of the people working on the SRV's without any care who was using which decal or when. If this is what happened, the only way to determine which SRV's are oldest is to take the neck off and hope the date stamps on the neck and neck pocket on the body are legible.

This theory also seems to be supported by the fact that there are two guitars with consecutive serial numbers in the chart below, but the necks were made seven weeks apart. Also notice SE907662 wasn't made until September, while others with close serial numbers were made in March, six months earlier.

Here's another guess from someone who has a dozen or more early SRV's and over 200 guitars. He speculates that the necks with Brazilian fingerboards are leftover stock from 1983-vintage '62 Reissue Strats. He bases this on his assessment that the markings and personnel initials in the Brazilians match those of some of his other 1983 Fenders. Also, he thinks the neck profiles of the early Brazilians are different than the SRV pau ferros, resembling the 1983-era '62 Reissues. Another owner agrees with this and says that the neck on his is actually dated 1982.

Value: The early SRV's are starting to appreciate. Sales are now occurring from $1500 to $2500 for the earliest guitars. Tommy Shannon's guitar sold on eBay in 4/05 for $3500. The pau ferro necks are routinely available in excellent used condition for about $800-1000.

registry

I have to rely on the people sending the information to be able to tell which kind of wood is used, so this chart may not be absolutely correct. I am no longer collecting information on these guitars.

SERIAL # BODY DATE NECK DATE FINGERBOARD
SE905625     Brazilian rosewood
SE905653 Feb. 12?, 1992 ??-??-1992 Brazilian rosewood
SE905770 ? ? Brazilian rosewood
SE905923   Feb. 14, 1992 Brazilian rosewood
SE905769 Feb. 20, 1992 Feb. 18, 1992 Brazilian rosewood
SE906254 Jan. 28, 1992 Feb. 18, 1992 Brazilian rosewood
SE906277 Jan. 29, 1992 Feb. 14, 1992 Brazilian rosewood
SE906396 Feb. 25, 1992 Mar. 10, 1992 Brazilian rosewood
SE906410 ? owner says 1982 Brazilian rosewood
SE910121 ? Feb. ??, 1992 Brazilian rosewood
SE906433 Feb. 7, 1992 Mar. 10, 1992 Brazilian rosewood
SE906439   Mar. 10, 1992 Brazilian rosewood
SE906485 Feb. 17, 1992 Mar. 9, 1992 Brazilian rosewood
SE906578 Feb. 17, 1992 Mar. 13, 1992 Brazilian rosewood
SE906770 Feb. 12, 1992 Mar. 17, 1992 Brazilian rosewood
SE907829 Mar. 16, 1992   Brazilian rosewood
SE907898   Mar. 25, 1992 pau ferro
SE908551 May 19, 1992 Mar. 30, 1992 pau ferro
SE908560 Jan. 27, 1992 Mar. 30, 1992 Brazilian rosewood
SE908900 Mar. 7, 1992 Mar. 30, 1992 Brazilian rosewood
SE908225 Apr. 23, 1992 May 3, 1992 unsure
SE908262 May 4, 1992 May 7, 1992 pau ferro
SE909373 Jan. 29, 1992 May 27, 1992 unknown
SE909679 Ju? 2, 1992 June 30, 1992 pau ferro
SE908788 July 11, 1992 July 1, 1992 pau ferro
SE909242 July 28, 1992 July 28, 1992 Brazilian rosewood
SE909245 June, 04, 1992 July 28, 1992 Brazilian rosewood
SE909281 July 23, 1992 July 29, 1992 Brazilian rosewood
SE909592 June 30, 1992 Jun. ??, 1992 Brazilian rosewood
SE910808   Ju?, ??, 1992 pau ferro
SE9046xx   Aug. ??, 1992 pau ferro
SE909407 July 28?, 1992 Aug. 8, 1992 Brazilian rosewood
SE910908 Aug. ??, 1992 Aug. 25, 1992 pau ferro
SE907662 Sept. 11, 1992 Sept. 14, 1992 Brazilain rosewood
SE909408   Sept. 25, 1992 Brazilian rosewood
SE909409 Sept. 8, 1992 Sept. 25, 1992 Brazilian rosewood
SE909421   Sept. 25, 1992 pau ferro
SE909469 Sept. 25, 19?? Sept. 25, 1992 Brazilian rosewood
SE907258   Oct. ??, 1992 pau ferro
SE914152 Dec. 16, 1992 Dec. 16, 1992 pau ferro
 

4. OTHER REPLICA GUITARS

srvguitarreplicas.jpg (108771 bytes)

(click on the thumbnail for larger photo)

Left to right: (1) the 20th Anniversary Hamiltone made by Jim Hamilton, (2) the Fender Custom Shop "Number One" and (3) the Charley replica made by Charley's and Rene Martinez. More information about the Hamiltone can be found here

Behind the guitars are Stevie's Cry Baby wah pedal from the '70's, Stevie's Marshall amp (see the gear page for more information) and a 1964 Vibroverb which has a serial number inbetween the two which Stevie used on stage for about ten years (not easy to find since only 34 amps separated Stevie's two Vibroverbs on the production line).