25th Anniversary Stratocaster, 1979

by Tom Watson

As Fender Stratocaster fans around the world anxiously await the unveiling of 2004’s 50th Anniversary Stratocaster, what better time to take a look back at the instrument that marked the 25th Silver Anniversary of the Fender Stratocaster.

In 1979, Fender celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Stratocaster (introduced in 1954) with the first “anniversary” instrument, and the first Fender instrument to be issued in a pre-determined and numbered, limited quantity.

The first 500 or so instruments produced were finished in Pearl White. However, due to the instability of the finish and the checking that resulted, many were recalled and re-finished in Porsche Silver (though Fender refers to it as “25th Anniversary Stratocaster Silver”), the color that was used in the rest of the production run.

An example of the checking problem with the Pearl White finish.

© 2003, The Michael Perry Collection

Not so noticeable at a distance (the same instrument).

© 2003, The Michael Perry Collection

The 1979 Anniversary Stratocaster is significant for a number of reasons. It represents both a look behind and a look ahead for Fender. Features of note include: reversion to the four bolt neck plate; abandonment of the “bullet” truss rod adjustment in favor of the truss rod adjustment at the body end of the neck; and, the first use of “locking tuners” in a Fender guitar (Sperzel).


39″ L, 12¾” W, 1¾” D

Exclusive Fender “offset” contoured waist design. Shaped for comfortable fit to the player’s body.

Detachable hard rock maple neck and curved maple fingerboard graduated for fast action and more comfortable playing. Adjustable truss rod nut. 25½” scale. 21 nickel-silver frets. 6 individual machine heads. 4-hole plate.

2-way adjustable design. 6 individually adjustable bridge sections.

Three adjustable and grounded, wide range, high output pickups in a shielded cavity. Six pole pieces on each pickup. Pickup elevating screws located at either end of the pickups for tone balance adjustment.

Special effects and controls:
Five position pickup selector switch. Synchronized tremolo with swing-away arm. Master volume and two tone controls.

Standard Accessories:
Molded case. Strap. Polishing cloth. Authenticating certificate. Commemorative owner’s manual.

25th Anniversary Stratocaster Silver.
No other color available. [obviously written after the Pearl White run]

Fender tells the story of the 25th Anniversary Stratocaster in a one page ad from 1979.

Advertising Copy Presented in the Above Ad

When a guitar remains a standard for a quarter of a century, you know it’s special. So Fender® celebrates the instrument that gave music a whole new voice and a lot of new directions to move in.Our 25th Anniversary Stratocaster. A limited edition. The Anniversary Stratocaster was designed by players for players. It’s not simply an imitation of the early Strat, but a combination of all that made the Stratocaster revolutionary plus a technology that’s evolutionary.

The quantity, naturally, is limited. Which is why we include a certificate authenticating the serial number with every guitar.

It’s loaded. What you see is a new anniversary-silver painted body with a maple neck. The commemorative designation appears on the front. A four bolt chrome neck plate marks the dates “1954-1979.”

What you hear are those three famous wide-ranging pickups, synchronized tremolo that comes back to pitch every time, precise intonation thanks to individual bridge adjustments and the Stratocaster’s legendary fast, easy action.

New Sperzel keys. The Anniversary Stratocaster also features new Sperzel keys, a significant tuning key innovation. Tolerances are superior, and patented string post locking totally prevents backlash.

To top off the package, we also introduce the new Fender black molded flight case lined with super plush. It’ll help keep your instrument a legend for the next twenty-five years.

They went fast in ’54. They’ll go fast now.

Go see and play the unique Anniversary Stratocaster at your authorized Fender dealer today. In a world of imitations, it’s nice to get your hands on an original.

The 25th Anniversary Stratocaster from Fender®


The quantity of anniversary models produced was 10,000. All but the first two instruments were numbered “25XXXX”. This system allowed for 9,999 numbered guitars (the last being 259999). The first two instruments bear unique serial numbers, the prototype was numbered “000000” and the first model produced was numbered “000001” (#000001 rounding out the overall number of 10,000).

The serial number appears on the neck plate. There is no serial number on the decal on the front of the headstock.

The neck plate of #000000. Although the prototype has an atypical number format, the design would remain the same on all subsequent production models.

© 2003, The Michael Perry Collection

Each instrument came with a “Certificate of Merit”, often called by Fender at the time, an “authenticating certificate”. Note how the Certificate of Merit has the instrument’s serial number. This is the Certificate of Merit of the prototype, which accounts for Bill Carson’s “OK” signature on the silver seal to the left. The rest of the Certificates of Merit had only one seal (which reads: CSB Inc. Corporate Seal 1929 New York), as seen to the right of Carson’s.

© 2003, The Michael Perry Collection

Past and Future

As stated above, the 1979 25th Anniversary Stratocaster represented both a look to the past and a glimpse of Fender’s future. Some of the features of this instrument recall the days before CBS and represent specifications that many players view essential to a Stratocaster. These same features also serve as a glimpse into Fender’s future when in 1987, Fender-FMIC would introduce the American Standard Stratocaster, incorporating many of the features found on the 1979 Anniversary model.

Below: left, Pearl White 1979, 25th Anniversary Stratocaster; right, Anniversary Stratocaster Silver (Porsche Silver) model.

© 2003, The Michael Perry Collection