Fender Amps: the 'Rivera-Era' (1982 to 86);
Dating Amps by Serial Number

latest updates;
small changes to a few amp batches dates, Dec 2015, Feb 2016, July 2016, Sep 2016, March 2017, Feb 2018, Mar 2018, Aug 2018
small changes to 4 amp batches, Nov 2015
typos found, two edits, thanks Ben H, June 2015
Jan 2015 info updated, totals unchanged
Oct 2014 really nifty table design
Aug 2014 small data and totals updates
Jan 2014 (info updated
and typos corrected, thanks Greg G)


  ( Nov 2018 - still collecting data - email - remove capital letters) NOSPAMstratopastor@hotmail.com

Valve / Tube amp info
Solid State amp info
Further reading


Why I started doing this

In 2002 I acquired a Princeton Reverb II. I became curious as to how many were made. Fender don't part with that kind of information*, so I put out a call for serial numbers on the website I developed for this amp's care and feeding, . Eventually, I thought, I'll get a rough idea what the highest and lowest s/ns were. Subtract one from the other and I'll have a rough-cut figure for how many were made. Oh, the naivite.

PRII owners were kind enough to start sending their serial numbers in. I was puzzled to see how some of them were separated by over 100,000. Could Fender make so many PRIIs, considering they were making the other 13 amp types in the range at the same time? Then Soren in Denmark started showing serial numbers on his excellent Super Champ website (which is no longer on the web) - some of those numbers fell in between some of 'my' PRII numbers. A little light Googling revealed serial numbers for a few other amps in the range - they seemed all mixed up together. Then the terrible truth dawned on me: they WERE all mixed up; Fender had decided to change their 35-year-old system of serial numbering so that, starting in 1982, every amp had a unique number. I would have to collect data for ALL the amp types, just to work out how many were made of mine.  Then I became aware of the amazing work Greg Gagliano had been doing since the 1990s - the summary of his latest results are here - and that his research didn't take in the Rivera-era, or anything later. Then I read the challenge on page 245 of Teagle and Sprung's excellent book Fender Amps: the First 50 Years concerning dating the Rivera-era amps, and I decided to press on; maybe I could do, for this small range, what Greg has done for everything that came before. 

* Fender have a right to keep that to themselves. However for this range of amps at least, I reckon it's not just a policy of withholding company-confidential information. I reckon they simply don't know. It's no criticism of Fender to suggest that they were too busy making great amps to keep records just so some amateur could use them thirty years later.  



How I'm doing it

I run a couple of websites making the schematics for these amps easily accessible. As people download them, I'm hoping they'll respond to my request that they send me their amp's serial number for this project, and many do. For a while I also had automated searches running on eBay for these 14 amp types - whenever one appeared for sale I would contact the seller, asking for the serial number. 9 out of 10 did - many thanks to them for their trouble and good will. There are a handful of amp types for which I'm still running the searches because I don't have so much data for those (mainly in the solid-state range). In addition Greg Gagliano sent me the Rivera-era-relevant numbers from his huge research info, for which, along with his friendly encouragement over several years, I thank him. His info (rightly without details of the amps' owners) still represents about a seventh of my database. I appreciate Jeff Lacio for contacting me (Dec 2015) with some more serial numbers and date codes, and for enlightening me regarding amps with a 'H' in their chassis stamp. I should also thank Pierre Boile in France for his original idea of keeping a log of PRII owners, way back in 2004.

As of March 2018 I've got info on 1850 amps. Compared to my estimate of the total made, that's more than one in forty. It might not sound like much, but quite a lot can be deduced from such a sample. Advertisers and politicians make decisions based on smaller percentages!



Why I'm putting it on the web

I'm guessing amp-owners like to know when their amp was made, if it's old-ish. Certainly the hundreds of people who have helped me seemed keen to know. Meanwhile I've offered this info to Fender US, Fender UK, and a US magazine. Fender never replied, and the magazine showed polite disinterest. So, with my dreams of being A Published Author in shreds, I might as well make what I've got available to folks. It represents fourteen years of hobby time, so if you quote it elsewhere, I'd appreciate a link and/or a name-check, either as "Stratopastor" or under my real name. (C) copyright Andrew Waugh 2004-2018.

Stuff Like This is Never Complete or Totally Accurate


All these amps have serial numbers beginning F2, F3 or F4 followed by another 5 digits. It's sometimes said that F2 = 1982, F3=1983 etc. However Fender couldn't maintain that system for long, and there are no F5 or F6 amps. If you've got one of the 14 amp models in this range you can get a rough idea of its date-of-manufacture from these tables.

Please note this isn't official Fender information, nor is it anywhere near complete. It's just my data so far, and you may well find exceptions to it, in which case please let me know on NOSPAMstratopastor@hotmail.com (delete the capital letters).  I never reveal names along with serial numbers, and I'm not making any money out of this.

For the batches labelled "date codes needed", I haven't got any loudspeaker or transformer date codes, or (gold dust) the 4-digit inkstamp on the metal chassis, which is usually only visible when out of the wooden cab. However the dates for these batches are certain to be later than the batch shown immediately above, or earlier than the batch shown below. If you've got an amp in this category and can supply any of those codes as well as the serial number, I would luuuuurve to hear from you. The speaker codes are in the form 109xxxx or 67-xxxx; the transformer codes are 606-xxx.

Also, things got a little crazy during Fender's last few months in the Fullerton factory, and when the management buyout was complete (March 1985) they had some parts but no factory. According to Tom Wheeler's excellent book about the Stratocaster, it may be that they had no factory after December 1984!  So (example) the last few hundred Super Champs seem to have date codes from 1984 but there's anecdotal evidence that they were assembled in nearby Brea, CA in 1986. One run of Princeton Reverb II serial numbers seems to stretch from 1984 to 1986 with just a few from 1987, yes 1987, when some 220V models were still being shipped to Sweden and the UK. So if you'd like a bit more detail on an amp in that category please get me the speaker date codes, not just the serial number.

There are a few other notes at the bottom of this page which you may find interesting.... you may not. Here's the date info!
Seasons of the year are for the northern hemisphere. I apologise for any parochial attitude this may convey.


Valve / Tube Amps
schematics, manuals, parts lists for these amps

Bassman 20 and Champ II

These 2 amp types shared the same metal chassis design. As explained (or assumed) elsewhere in this article, the chassis were given serial numbers before the amps were assembled. Upon arriving at Fullerton, any one of these chassis might  be built as a Champ II or a Bassman 20, in a process which appears semi-random when tracked only by serial number. This means that these 2 amp types can only be treated together for dates or production quantities when, as in this study, the serial number is all we have to go on. (Fender did this chassis-sharing thing in earlier years, with the same implications for guessing quantities, as noted by Greg Gagaliano.) I estimate about 5500 were made in total. While it's anyone's guess how many of those 5500 were Champ II and how many were Bassman 20, they seem to come up on eBay equally often. (There is a self-perpetuating internet myth that fewer than 500 Bassman 20s were made - I believe this is due to a misreading of the tables in back of Fender Amps: the First 50 Years by Teagle and Sprung. People keep on referring to this 'fewer than 500' thing, especially when they're trying to sell one as 'rare', but I'm still waiting for anyone to point back to the original 'fact' of the matter!)  The last batch in this table also belongs in late 1983, judging by surrounding data for other amp types and the received wisdom that they were discontinued around that time.  

from s/n F... to s/n F... date
200272 200500 spring 1982
201516 202972 late 1982
204702 205785 late 1982
206503 206604 late 1982
224142 224471 spring 1983
305807 306340 summer 1983
310741 311310 autumn 1983
313878 314245 autumn 1983
315766 316034 autumn 1983



Concert

All this amp's speaker configurations, and the head unit, included. Estimated total production is 12,500. If your amp's serial number falls into the last 3 batches then your best hope of dating it is if you've still got the original speaker. These 3 runs of serial numbers start in mid-1984, when production was fairly normal. Then comes the March 1985 management buyout, when the new owners were left with some parts but no factory! Then began a period in which amps were assembled from pre-existing wired-up chassis in a small ad hoc facility in Brea, CA. They bought in speakers, and probably cabs, on a last-minute basis due to cost and space considerations. This carried on until 1986.

from s/n F... to s/n F... date
210325      210787 spring 1982
211716 214573 late 1982, early 1983 (hi Scott)
215250 215506 late 1982
222294 222479 early 1983
302752 303297 summer 1983
303525 0nly one s/n known summer 1983
309939 310672 summer 1983
316046 317555 summer/ late 1983
326188 326476 late 1983
331187 332759 1984 mostly early
409435 410666 summer 1984 and 1986
415120 416316 mostly early 1985
419233
419404
spring 1985 to maybe 1987!



Deluxe Reverb II

Production total estimated at 3,500. If your amp's serial number falls into the last batch then your best hope of dating it is if you've still got the original speaker. This batch's run of serial numbers starts in mid-1984, when production was fairly normal. Then comes the March 1985 management buyout, when the new owners were left with some parts but no factory! Then began a period in which amps were assembled from pre-existing wired-up chassis in a small ad hoc facility in Brea, CA. They bought in speakers, and probably cabs on a last-minute basis due to cost and space considerations. This carried on until 1986..

from s/n F... to s/n F... date
200501 200550 spring 1982
205832 205847 date codes needed
208957 210279 summer / autumn 1982*
311346 312272 summer 83 / early 84
325838 325926 late 83 / early 84
329359 329629 84 to 85
410866 411122 autumn 1984
414906 414978 summer 1984 & 1986

* but with at least one amp from April 1983.... chassis stamps needed in order to be sure.



Princeton Reverb II

Production total estimated at 5,600. I am close to having serial numbers for 1 in 10 of them.
If your amp's serial number falls into the second-to last batch then your best hope of dating it is if you've still got the original speaker. This batch's run of serial numbers starts in mid-1984, when production was fairly normal. Then comes the March 1985 management buyout, when the new owners were left with some parts but no factory! Then began a period in which amps were assembled from pre-existing wired-up chassis in a small ad hoc facility in Brea, CA. They bought in speakers, and probably cabs on a last-minute basis due to cost and space considerations. This carried on until 1987 by which time there were only 220V models left. There are at least ten PRIIs in this batch with a 1987, week 7 speaker.


from s/n F... to s/n F... date
148501 148510 prototypes, only 2 known
203698 203900 spring 1982
205926 206350 autumn 1982
206681 207357 autumn 1982 but a few from early 1983
216501 217248 late 1982
219450 219979 late 1982
309585 309916 summer 1983
312295 313008 late 1983 -spring 1984
325025 325360 spring 1984
326181 (only one s/n found)
date codes needed
327432 328531 84 to 86
338204
(only one s/n found)
1984



Super Champ

Production total estimated at 11,500. If your amp's serial number falls into the last batch then your best hope of dating it is if you've still got the original speaker. This batch's run of serial numbers starts in mid-1984, when production was fairly normal. Then comes the March 1985 management buyout, when the new owners were left with some parts but no factory! Then began a period in which amps were assembled from pre-existing wired-up chassis in a small ad hoc facility in Brea, CA. They bought in speakers, and probably cabs on a last-minute basis due to cost and space considerations. This carried on until 1986.

from s/n F... to s/n F... date
200001 200241 spring 1982
200576 201478 spring 1982
202508 Only one s/n known) summer 1982
202992 203666 summer and late 1982
208428 208932 late 1982
210920 211037 date codes needed
214772 (only one s/n known) late 1982
215536 215878 summer to late 1982
217256
217799
summer to late 1982
221167 222274 early 1983
307284 308395 summer 1983
313043 313788 late 1983
319702 320535 autumn/late 1983
326486 326782 late 1983
327393 327422 date codes needed
400191 401119 spring 1984
411451 411913 summer 1984
414103 414894 summer 1984
416525 416840 85 and 86



Twin Reverb II

The head unit and the far more usual 2x12 are included here. Production total estimated at 7,000

from s/n F... to s/n F... date
214584 (only one s/n known) possibly the prototype
215127 (only one s/n known)
date codes needed
220112 (only one s/n known)
date codes needed
226389 227083 summer 1983
300119 300646 spring 1983
302311 302587 early 1983
around 318700
seems to be a batch sharing numbers with solid-state Harvard Reverb IIs, which were made in another state...! assume some kind of numbering error...
318845 318905 summer 1983
320720 321188 late 83, early 1984
325959 326140 date codes needed
328556 329255 spring/summer 1984
400030 400052
date codes needed
404306 405517 spring 1984
407164 407655 late summer/autumn 1984
411246 411316
1986
413096 413757 1984 to 1986?



Solid State Amps
schematics, manuals, parts lists for these amps

Harvard Reverb II

Production total estimated at 3,500. The serial numbering of the HRII is a little flaky... some are mixed up with runs of other amps' numbers.

from s/n F... to s/n F... date
223380 223945 spring 1983
307022 307232 early 1983
318632 318813 summer 1983
319549
319549
summer 1983, only one s/n known
320515
320515
only one s/n known
322817 323491 late 1983
325405 325723 late 1983
329855 330531 spring 1984



London Reverb

All speaker configurations included. Production total estimated at 4,500

from s/n F... to s/n F... date
224503 (only one s/n known)
possibly the prototype
225982 226358 summer & autumn 1983
304024
(only one s/n known) guess summer & autumn 1983
305023 305716 summer & autumn 1983
321193 321349 autumn 1983
323751 323984 late 1983
329737 (only one s/n known)
early 1984
333141 333234
spring 1984
402651 403167 spring 1984
408648 408789 date codes needed
416354
(only one s/n known)
date codes needed



Montreux (mis-spelled on Fender schematics as Montreaux)

Production total estimated at 2,000

from s/n F... to s/n F... date
224558 225239 early 1983
309405 (only one s/n known)
date codes needed
321642 321967 autumn 1983
333589 (only one s/n known)
date codes needed
408861
409045
autumn 1984
417095
(only one s/n known)
assume later than autumn 1984



Showman

All speaker configurations included. Production total estimated at 2,000

from s/n F... to s/n F... date
225427 225851 date codes needed
308437 309266 summer 1983
324445 324539 autumn 1983
329780
(only one s/n known)

409073

(only one s/n known)
autumn 1984



Stage Lead and Studio Lead, made in USA

These 2 amps share the same chassis design (April 2016, thanks to Jim Thorpe for confirming this, as he owns one of each) so I have treated them in the same way as the pairing of the Bassman 20 and Champ II (see above). The Stage Lead and Studio Lead have turned up in roughly equal numbers in my survey, but it's a small sample so make of that what you will. I estimate the 2 amp types total 9,500. Thanks also to Ed C for a photo which shows these 2 amps also shared the same PCB, albeit with a few component differences. A completely different amp called 'Stage Lead' was made for Fender in Japan at the same time, with a different serial numbering system. They are not included in these figures and I am not tracking them.

from s/n F... to s/n F... date
218001 219270 early 1983
220379 220515 early 1983
300917 302131
spring/summer 1983 but one amp has components from 1984... ???
303370 (only one s/n known)
date codes needed
303774 (only one s/n known) date codes needed
306383 306667 spring/summer 1983
318186 318598 summer/autumn 1983
319048 319069 autumn 1983
321515
321515
only one known
324061
324107
date codes needed
324650 324975
date codes needed
327123 327340
late 1983
330795 330906 spring 1984
333824
334214
spring 1984
401701
402265
date codes needed
403339
404153
spring 1984
407835
408600
summer 1984
412130
412470
late 1984
412914
412937
date codes needed



Yale Reverb

Production total estimated at 2,500

from s/n F... to s/n F... date
222534 223220 early 1983
304471 304704
summer 1983
318061 318137 summer 1983
319284 (only one s/n known)
summer 1983
322109 322402 late 1983
401186 401386 spring 1984
406951 (only one s/n known)
summer 1984
412792
(only one s/n known)
date codes needed



Further Reading

Fender's Serial Numbering System for this range of Amps

Up to 1981, Fender's serial numbers were genuinely serial within one amp type. Thus, for a given amp (say, the 5E1 Tweed Champ) they started with a definite number, in this case C00001, and just kept adding '1' for each new Tweed Champ until the model was discontinued - in this case approximately C23000 nine years later (info from Greg Gagliano). So that's about, oooh, let's guess, 23,000 Tweed Champs. Easy. Some serial numbers were used more than once, on different amp types - example; A01600 could be a Bandmaster, a Bassman, a Champ, a Concert, or a Deluxe (info from Greg again). There was no possibility of confusion though, as the amps' names were clearly printed on the front panel....

For the Rivera-era, everything changed. One style of serial number was adhered to for all amp types, with each number used only once. If you sort my database by serial number, and then read it in that order, you can see they started with s/n F200001 ('F2' was meant to uniquely represent 1982). That was a Super Champ, as were many immediately following. F200272 is another amp type followed by several of the same, F200517  is a third amp type followed by more of that, F200576 starts a second run of Super Champs, and so on. As we follow the serial numbers upwards, more and more amp types appear; about 250 of those, about 500 of these, etc etc.  This serialisation method means, in order to estimate how many were made of just one amp type, data must be collected for all 14 amp types (partly to eliminate which s/ns represent the amps one is not interested in), and guesstimates made for the size of each batch. The run of serial numbers seems to end with a bunch of 110V Concerts with s/ns a little over F419000. That 'top number' in my data used to be around 416,000 and it took seven years for anything higher to turn up, so I think it's safe to assume that anything YET higher out there must still be in the same ballpark. Some huge gaps are evident - the range doesn't total 219,000 amps (419,000 minus 200,001).

Fender's Manufacturing Process

Here follows some personal guesswork about how these amps were made.

It's decided (dealer re-stocking demand?) to build more of an amp type (say, Deluxe Reverb II). All the previous chassis for that amp type were built into amps the last time, so there are none left. Chassis are ordered from the metalwork supplier. They arrive, already serial-numbered*, and are put into the parts storage. They are pulled out of there onto the shop floor in no particular order or maybe even a rough accidental reverse order (last in = first out), built into amps, and shipped. Chassis are expensive and bulky, so no more chassis of that type are ordered until all are used up. Meanwhile the same thing is happening simultaneously with some of the other amp types. The result is a kind of stock rotation whereby the serial numbers definitely go up with elapsed time as you move from one batch to the next batch of the same amp type. But within a batch the numbers were used in semi-random order. Some batches are over a thousand amps each, but given any 2 amps from such a big batch, the 2 s/ns don't tell you which amp is older.

Fender evidently started in  1982 with the plan of making the first serial number digit represent the year of manufacture. That would have been easy if the completed amps were serialised just before shipping. But because the amps were serialised before assembly even began, the system would lose its meaning if a batch of chassis weren't all used by the end of their calendar year. And that happened. At the end of the first year. And the second. And the third. After which, they didn't even bother increasing the first digit; thus F4xxxxx covers 1984, 85, 86 and any stragglers from 1987. F3xxxxx could also mean 1984.

*this is also Greg G's assumption. It's not clear if the serial number were stamped onto the chassis by the metalwork supplier or by Fender, but I think it was the former.  There's a lot of interesting anecdotal stuff on one of Greg G's earlier pages (though he points out there that the dating-tables have been superceded by his latest page)



The total number of amps

While the highest and lowest serial numbers in my database are 219,000 apart, there are vast banks of apparently unused numbers. My figures above suggest that, across the whole range, there were about 70,000 amps in total. This may conflict with figures you'll hear elsewhere -  I am not trying to start an argument and I think any perceived differences lie in the sourcing a lot of Fender-badged amps from Japan, a whole different range, serialised very differently, in the same period. When you consider that the vast majority of the US range were made in three years ('82, '83 and '84) my figures suggest the factories averaging over 50 hand-assembled amps per working day, which is not to be sniffed at. Meanwhile, if you know different - especially if you worked at Fender during the relevant period - I'd be pleased to hear from you. Email NOSPAMstratopastor@hotmail.com (delete the capital letters).

Here is Paul Rivera talking about his time at Fender...  he has been running his own fine amp firm for a couple of decades. Mr.Rivera has kindly responded to a couple of my emails during my project, and I really appreciate the way he was happy to discuss a period from which he stopped profiting many years earlier.


What about the Rack-Mounts?

The 1983 amp catalogue includes the RGP-1 preamp and RPW-1 power amp, a matching pair of rack-mount units. For a couple of years I expected to 'find' examples of these out in the field. After drawing a blank, I began to believe that these were never made, the catalogue photos being space models and the spec sheets being a way of gauging interest from the dealerships. Finally, in 2010 I discovered this interview . In the first two and half minutes Paul Rivera confirms, yes, the Fender rack-mount units were never sold. I was wrong, however, to think that the photos in the catalog were dummies with LEDs lashed up behind the front panels.... in November 2013 I was very kindly contacted by Robert W who worked in the Hoopeston factory during the Rivera years. He had the only RPW-1 in the world - the prototype - and had recently, generously, passed it on to Paul Rivera. Mr. R already had the matching RGP-1 and gave Robert a new Rivera amp in exchange...


The Fender Rivera-Era; an abbreviated time-line
(sources include my own database, books by Teagle & Sprung and Tom Wheeler, FDP discussion threads, YouTube, and personal email; thanks everyone)

1980
Fender introduce the 30, 75 and 140 amps, all designed by Fender's Ed Jahns, all in imitation of Mesa's range of channel-switching, built-in-overdrive amps. These 3 amps are often erroneously described as belonging to the Rivera-era range of Fenders, possibly due to the design of some circuit elements and the fact that Ed Jahns carried on to be a key player in the design of the Rivera-era amps.

1981
In January Paul Rivera is hired by Fender as Marketing Director. In May he scopes out their next range of guitar amps. The Super Champ was one of his own designs - the rest are designed by the Fender team in fulfilment of Rivera's specifications.

1982
The tube amps are launched in the Spring.

1983
Early in the year, the solid-state amps are introduced; they are all made at the CBS-owned Gulbransen organ factory in Hoopeston, Illinois. Sourcing of Fender Blue Label speakers is shifted from Pyle to Eminence. Assembly and wiring of some tube amp chassis is moved to Fender's factory in Mexico; these get chassis stamps beginning with 'M'. Some of those 'M' chassis are sent to Fullerton to be fitted into cabs, some to Hoopeston (those gain an extra 'H' stamp). At the end of the year the Champ II and Bassman 20 are dropped from the range.

1984
Fender/CBS let Paul Rivera go in October as a political move in anticipation of the buyout. He then presumably sets about developing the fine firm which bears his name today. Late in the year the Gulbransen/CBS factory is sold off (= no more of the range's solid-state amps).

1985
CBS sell Fender to the Fender management team in March. The workforce is down from 700 to 275 (reported LA times, 6 years later, June 6 1991 in an article about the move to Scottsdale) The Fullerton factory is not included in the sale. The new Fender uses a small facility in nearby Brea (1130 Columbia St) to continue assembly of the remaining inventory of amp parts, buying cabs and speakers just-in-time when needed to make Concerts, Deluxe Reverb IIs, Princeton Reverb IIs and Super Champs using chassis wired up in 1984. This goes on through 1986 and even into 1987, with the last amps being sold into Canada and Europe. 

1987
Fender buy Sunn and move in with them in Lake Oswego, Oregon. Maybe a few Rivera-era amps were assembled there; no evidence of that so far. The entirely new, PCB-based 'red knob' range of Fender amps is launched. As with the 30, 75  and 140, Paul Rivera was not involved with the red knob series. By 1991 there were 115 people still working for Fender in Brea, of whom around 40 moved to Arizona, the rest taking redundancy.

Suggestions and Corrections welcome! (but please don't ask me how much an amp is worth. I might make a very rough guess for the UK market because I live here. For other countries, unknown factors like rarity and relative income levels mean I.just.do.not.know.)

Email me on NOSPAMstratopastor@hotmail.com (delete the capital letters).
(c) copyright Andrew Waugh 2013-2018

StatCounter -
          Free Web Tracker and Counter