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Fender Telecaster and Esquire

Updated on August 21, 2015

For you history buffs who haven’t been digging way back into the Leo Fender story, the Telecaster guitar was first introduced as the Broadcaster in the late fall of 1950.

The first 300 to 500 made, according to Gruhn’s Guide to Vintage Guitars, were manufactured into early 1951. This amazing resource also notes that the model name was removed from the peghead in February 1951. If you can find a “No-caster” you will have something very collectible.

After this, the design became the Telecaster guitar. For the next few years, the company made some changes and physical improvements, including Phillips-head pickguard screws on Telecaster guitars in late 1952 and putting the logo above the string guide in the summer of 1956.

Alder wood was used for Telecaster custom colors. The blonde finish is an ash Telecaster. The guitar was renamed Standard Telecaster in 1982, according to Fender’s history and Gruhn’s research.

Fender Telecaster Deluxe

(c) Pinyonero66 at
(c) Pinyonero66 at

The differences between a Fender Stratocaster and a Telecaster

What separates this model from the well-known Fender Stratocaster is the Telecaster body, for one thing. The Strat body has more rounded edges and the double cutaway, while the Telecaster electric guitar is a single-cutaway with sides and edges that are “sharper.”

Telecasters are noticeably different in another way. The headstock, while similar in shape to the Stratocaster and many other Fenders, is slightly reduced in size. The wing portion is cut down.

The Fender Telecaster guitar has two pickups, as compared to three on the Strat.

About 10 years ago, the Broadcaster from 1951to about 1954 was valued at $10,000 to $12,000 in excellent and mint condition (Blue Book of Electric Guitars, Edited by F. P. Fjestad). Even the pre-CBS model from the early 60s, still a classic Telecaster, brought $3,000 to $5,000. Major retailers sell a new American Telecaster Deluxe (maple, with case) for about $1,275.

The Telecaster from ’52 is an interesting story, in that it is a very early vintage Telecaster guitar, but is also known for being re-issued. The reproduction model was announced in 1981 as the Vintage Telecaster, but according to Gruhn and other researchers the model appeared as the ’52 Telecaster in 1982. Most guitar guides state that the serial number for this model is on the bridgeplate.

Fender Telecaster Custom

Telecaster Thinline

(c) Matt Eason at
(c) Matt Eason at

Some other individual Telecaster models to look for are the Fender Telecaster Deluxe and the reproduction ’72 Tele Custom made in Japan and available from 1997.

You may even want to seek out the Paisley Telecaster, also made in Japan (1994).

The Squier Telecaster, made in Japan, was offered from 1983 to 1994.

One of the unique models is the Telecaster Classical Thinline, a Japanese product with nylon strings. That interesting effort was made for a couple of years in the mid-1990s.

There are other Telecaster electric Thinline guitars in the catalog as well, and they attract some collector attention.

Some guitar guides include the Esquire in a general category with the Telecaster guitar. The Esquire was first introduced in 1950.

Telecaster pickups are two in number and some Esquire models have two. The re-introduced Esquire (January 1951) has one pickup. This guitar was last produced in 1970.

By the way, there is also a Telecaster bass, first produced in 1968 and made until 1979.

Famous Telecaster guitarists

Telecasters have been used by some of the world’s most famous musicians, including country legends Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard.Just about all of the well-known tunes by those two have the Telecaster sound as an integral part of the mix.

Jimmy Page used one for the famous solo in Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven"

Syd Barrett, one of the original members of Pink Floyd, played a unique Esquire as well as a Telecaster.

Eric Clapton started out playing a Fender Telecaster when he was in the Yardbirds.

Steve Cropper, of Booker T & The MGs fame, used a Telecaster. Eventually he replaced the single-coil Tele pickups with humbuckers.

Rock great Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders) uses a favorite blue Telecaster.

Shop carefully when seeking a used Telecaster guitar. Select models may be worth thousands, while others bring just a few hundred dollars. But the Fender Telecaster guitar is certainly one of the most desirable axes among collectors and players.

  • Get  an appraisal of any piece you just happen to "find." The value of these guitars ranges widely and each piece deserves its own recognition.
  • Know what you are looking for. Before you buy one of these Telecaster guitars, learn the symbols and logo on these pieces. This is one of the easiest ways to spot a fake piece.
  • Know who you are buying from. Avoid spending a lot of money on these guitars unless you are confident that the piece is an authentic piece. The good news is that those who own these pieces often have a strong passion for them and can tell you a lot about the guitar itself.

The good news is that if you do invest in a Telecaster guitar, its value will continue to grow for years to come. Take care of it, by properly protecting it from any type of sunlight, physical or water damage. The quality does matter and since these guitars are out there, how much it is worth is very dependent on its condition. 

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