Dating Fernandes Guitars By Headstock Shape & Logo
I'm creating this guide because Fernandes guitars, particularly their 1970's and 1980's Fender clones, are becoming very popular collector's items on eBay, and because there is some confusion about the dates of the guitars among eBay sellers. Many of the eBay sellers simply don't know how to date the guitars they have, and a few, unfortunately, may want to mislead bidders as to the actual age of the guitars. My hope is this article will serve as a general guide to those either buying or selling Fernandes guitars.
The guitars I'm most interested in dating are the "Burny Olds", "Limited" and "Revival" series produced in the 1970's and 1980's. Later guitars such as the Sustainers and other newer models are not my area of focus.
First, a quick note about the term "lawsuit guitar": You may often see this term used in relation to Fernandes guitars, but the truth is that Fernandes was never sued by Fender over the shape or quality of its guitars. It's a story that's been around a long time, since it was told to me by the store owner who sold my my first Fernandes strat clone back in 1985 (pictured below). The truth of the matter, however, is that Fender never sued anybody. Gibson did sue Hoshino Gakki, the company that marketed guitars under the Ibanez brand name, but in the end, Hoshino did not lose the suit, even though they (and other Japanese guitar companies) did end up changing the designs of their guitars slightly to avoid further litigation. Fernandes only began changing its headstock shapes in 1985, as you will see below. Another thing I've found out recently is that many Fernandes guitars were made at the Fujigen factory in Japan, which also made the legendary vintage Ibanez, Greco, and even the first Japanese Fenders (under the Squier brand). So their pedigree is guaranteed.
I'm basing my findings below almost entirely on catalog scans of 1970's and 1980's catalogs that can be freely accessed and viewed at the Fernandes Japanese corporate web site, at www.fernandes.co.jp. The headstock images I've used here are captured from those catalogs, and, unless noted below, copyright on all images I use in this article should be assumed to be owned by Fernandes. When catalogs are not available, I've attempted to use scans of Fernandes magazine ads, when they can be dated with certainty. I do not guarantee the date ranges I show, they are just my best, educated guess. In particular, the oldest catalog I have access to is from 1973, so I can't tell you if those headstocks/logos were in use prior to that date.
What I recommend is that you look at the shape of the headstock of the Fernandes guitar you want to date, taking note of the design of the logo as well, and then match it as closely as you can to one of the images below. This can be difficult when dating guitars made close to the end of the 1990's as Fernandes started using a different logo shape on guitars with black-painted headstocks (FERNANDES is all caps) before it began using the same logo on guitars with natural-stained headstocks. So take note.
1973 - 1977The Fernandes logo at this time was similar in font and style (particularly the "F") to the Fender logo. I'm not saying they were purposely copying the design. It's just my personal observation. (Covering my legal butt here.) The headstock shapes themselves were clones of the Fender strat and tele shapes.
(1977 Catalog scan)
(1977 Catalog scan)
1978 - 1981The Fernandes logo shifted to its own design, preceded by a stylized icon that sort of looks like an F, I guess, and followed by "Fernandes Corporation LTD" and lots of tiny writing above that. Headstock shapes remain clones of Fender shapes.
(1978 Catalog scan)
1982 - 1985The icon thing disappears, and the tiny writing after "Fernandes" reads either "LIMITED EDITION" or "REVIVAL SERIES". The tiny writing below "Fernandes" reads "Electric Sound Research Group". The shapes remain Fender clones.
("The Limited" model, 1985 Catalog scan)
1985 - 1986The dates get a little blurred here, since I know for a fact I bought my strat clone (LIMITED EDITION) in 1985, but the headstock does not show up in catalog scans until the 1986 catalog. The change here is not one of logo design or wording, but of headstock shape. This is the first change to the shape. The rounded "nose" of the strat-clone headstock is replaced with a kind of hook-shaped nose, and the tip of the tele-clone gets a bit of a point to it:
(Photo by Chuck Evans)
(Photo by Chuck Evans)
1987 - 1996/1997The next major change to the headstocks took place in 1986-1987, when both the headstock shapes (for the strat and tele clones) changed again, and the logos changed slightly. Note how the tele "pointed nose" got even pointier. This headstock change is the important one, as you'll see LOTS of Fernandes guitars with these shapes offered as 1970's or "early" 1980's models on eBay. To the best of my knowledge, this particular logo design was discontinued circa 1997 in favor of the modern, "All Caps" version of the logo described next.
(Tele model: Photo by Chuck Evans)
1990's and BeyondAs I said above, Fernandes' use of their logo and the various designs began to vary among models beginning in the early 1990's, which is when their "all caps" FERNANDES logo began to appear in advertising, and on some guitars:
A note about "non-US market" Fernandes guitars: Recently someone sent me a picture of a Fernandes strat with a very modern logo (as shown in the image directly above this paragraph) but a decidedly "Fender" shape to the headstock. Since the person was in Brazil, all I can think is that Fernandes may have been selling non-altered headstocks in the non-US markets well after the mid-1980s and possibly into the 1990s. Certainly, other guitar brands kept Gibson-style headstocks long into the 1980s, including Tokai, Greco and Burny. So anything is possible, I suppose. That's the only "late" Fernandes I've ever seen, though.
I hope this guide helps you in your selling or buying decisions. Thanks for getting this far.
Oh, and one more note: This is the total extent of my knowledge of Fernandes guitars. I really can't help you date other models or offer you opinions on value, etc. They are fantastic guitars, easily of the quality of MIJ Fenders and other brands, and I love the few of them I've owned and had the pleasure of playing.
-Chuck Evans (cevans999)