The Fender "Squier Series" Stratocaster - Not A Typical Squier!
Normally the difference between the standard Fender brands and the Squier brands of guitar are clear and plain, but in the 90s, a number of guitars were released by Fender that blurred this distinction. The Fender "Squier Series" of Stratocasters will not be familiar to many guitar fans, but in this piece, we'll take a look at this unique series and what marks them out from the usual budget range of Squier guitars.
Following my recent experiences with a Fender Stratocaster that I bought at eBay, I thought I would put together this page to help other potential buyers spot if they are getting a standard or "Squier Series" Stratocaster. It turns out that the one I bought was not a standard Fender Stratocaster despite being sold to me as one. What I didn't know, and nor did the seller was that this was in fact a "Squier Series" Stratocaster.
I'd not heard of these sort of guitars before so at first was a bit worried I'd bought a dud. Don't get me wrong, it is a lovely guitar, but I uncovered a surprise when I took the neck off to make some adjustments. There in the neck pocket was a stamp that said Squier. I was initially horrified thinking I had a cheaper body stuck on the guitar neck, but turned to the internet to try to learn what was going on.
Before I'd played with this guitar I hadn't suspected that it was anything other than a Fender Stratocaster. The body was a lot more solid and heavier than the Squier Stratocasters I had tried from the same era. It all felt right and sounded great. I couldn't believe that this was actually a cheaper built Squier, it felt too good! As it turns out, Squier in this case signifies something different to the Squier brand.
So, I set off on searching to try and see if I could figure out what was going on. My searching led me back to 1993, and a budget range of Fender Stratocasters, that were most definitely not the lesser Squier, but something else instead.
Fender Vs Squier
Firstly I think for those who are new to Fender and Squier guitars, it's worth giving a quick overview of what the differences between the two brands are. Firstly, Fender have been producing guitars since the 1940s. Their history is well covered elsewhere, but for the electric guitar fan, they are one of, if not thee premier guitar brand. With classic and often copied models such as the Fender Stratocaster and Telecaster, Fender guitars are omnipresent in the music world.
Despite their undoubted appeal to guitarists, there is one barrier that will stop many players from owning a Fender, and that's their price. Whilst not as heavy as some other guitar brands, the prices would be a cut to high for many. With this in mind, Fender introduced the Squier range of guitars back in 1982. The brand was Fender's budget solution, giving them the ability to use their classic guitar designs at affordable, entry level prices.
Whilst the Squier brand utilised these classic and sort after Fender models, they were able to build them for a lot cheaper to make their budget range a huge success. The guitars were built with cheaper woods, cheaper components and cheaper labour in the far east. The earliest Squiers are much sort after as their quality was very high, but as the brand developed and new factories opened in different regions, costs came down more along with the quality of the instruments.
It's wrong to think of the Squier brand as inferior, as a well built one in the right hands can sound as good and play as well as a fully fledged Fender model. Unfortunately though, the Squier brand does come with a slight stigma, due to its budgetary origins. As good as Squier guitars can be, most musicians will use them until they are able to afford a proper Fender. Most guitarists would rather see the plain Fender logo on their guitar than the 'Squier by Fender' that Squiers display.
The Fender "Squier Series" Stratocasters
Whilst there can be no mistaking the Fender and Squier brands, around 1993 a new kind of Fender came out that would blur the boundary between the two brands, causing confusion and skulduggery for years to come.
The period at Fender was marked by a number of changes in production, with new Asian factories coming online, and one of their production being hampered by a fire at their Mexican factory. There was also lots of production changes and movements for the Squier brand. As part of their drive to expand the budget side of the business, presumably to increase sales turnover, Fender brought out the Made In Mexico Fender "Squier Series".
Typically, the "Squier Series" Stratocaster is a Fender guitar, roughly on a par with the current Mexican Standard. However, if it was on a true par, then the guitar could not have been sold as a budget model. The prices were generally mid-way between the standard Squier Stratocasters and the standard Fender Stratocasters. The cost savings came in the both the way the guitar was manufactured, where it was manufactured and the components used.
Standard Strat Body Meets Far Eastern Parts
At the time Fender used its overstocked American cut necks and bodies to construct the "Squier Series." Apparently, these parts were shipped down to Mexico where they were put together with the cheaper components. These guitars utilised cheaper electronics from the far eastern factories alongside pick ups made in Mexico. The cost savings from the use of these cheaper components meant that from 1993 to 1998, the "Squier Series" came into the market place as a slightly cheaper Fender standard. These "Squier Series" guitars carry a couple of prominent features that easily allows them to be recognised, provided those features haven't been tampered with.
All these guitars have a Fender logo and branding on the headstock that is solid black (see the picture above) and on the ball of the headstock, where on a standard model it would say "Original Contour Body", it instead says "Squier Series" (picture below). Other Fender guitars of the time featured the gold and black logo. It's not known if all the "Squier Series" guitars feature the logo on the ball of the headstock, but the solid black logo along with the other features should be a strong pointer.
Another feature to look out for is the plastic pick guard, as there is another noticeable difference that will help identification. Unlike the standard 3 ply pick guards on the standard Fender Strat models, the "Squier Series" has a single ply one. Presumably this was another cost cutting exercise to bring the price of the guitars down. As well as these physical differences, further identification will be helped by the serial number, which would begin with one of the following: MN3, MN4, MN5, MN6, MN7 or MN8.
I'll also mention what I found to be the case on my guitar and a number of others I've seen dissected on the forums. That's the Squier stamp in the neck pocket of the guitar. I haven't confirmed that this is true of all "Squier Series" guitars, but it is in the examples that I have seen. As most buyers are unlikely to remove the neck, this feature, if it turns out to be correct, is not such an important one. If it is a "Squier Series" the body will be a standard Fender body whatever the stamp is.
As the Squier label carries its own baggage due to its budget nature, it's widely thought that many of the people who owned these "Squier Series" Fenders took steps to hide the name, despite the fact they owned proper Fender guitars. It's often mentioned that owners tool to removing the offending "Squier Series" logo from the ball of the headstock, by sanding it off.
This isn't necessarily so, as not all "Squier Series" guitars are thought to have had the black logo on the ball of the headstock. There have certainly been cases of people sanding it off, but if the guitar doesn't have the logo, it could be just because it didn't have it in the first place. Either way, this has meant many a person has bought a "Squier
Series" guitar without really realising it. I myself have fallen victim to this, as the guitar I bought had the decal sanded off.
The Good News Is
If you have one of these "Squier Series" Fenders, you do own a proper Fender, and not a lesser Squier. The body and neck will be the real deal, and if you want to improve yours, you can do so by upgrading the pick-ups, tremolo and electrics. And, there's more good news - due to the way people think of these guitars, wrongly considering them as Squier when they are truly Fender, these "Squier Series" Stratocasters can be found for considerably less than the standard Fender on the second hand market.
Unlike me though, who bought this blind thinking it a proper standard Strat, you should now have the info you need to either stop you buying a "Squier Series" Fender without knowing what the differences and weak points of the guitar are. Alternatively, you can use this info to help you locate one that will get you a decent Fender Strat for less than you would normally expect to pay.
Everyone I've seen mention their own "Squier Series" at the various guitar forums I trawl are more than happy with these guitars. If you want a proper Fender but can't afford it, but don't want own a guitar displaying the Squier logo, then buying a "Squier Series" could be the way to go.