The Fender Amp Field Guide FAQ

Written by: Mark Ware
Revised: v1.12 - 1/29/1999

This document is intended to answer some of the most common questions that people ask concerning Fender amplifiers. It applies mostly to dating, identification, amp cosmetics and other (mostly) non-technical stuff. If you have any additional information that you would like included or if you have any additions/corrections, please contact me at

New/Updated this version:

  1. New information on serial numbers.
  2. Added new parts sources.
  3. Added new EIA codes.


  1. Why isn't my Fender amp listed in the Field Guide?
  2. What is meant when an amp is refered to as a "black face" Fender?
    2.1.   Woodie
    2.2.   TV Front Tweed
    2.3.   Wide Panel Tweed
    2.4.   Narrow Panel Tweed
    2.5.   Brown
    2.6.   Blonde
    2.7.   Black Face
    2.8.   Silver Face
  3. What is a "Pre-CBS" Fender?
  4. How old is my amp?
    4.1.   Date Code
    4.2.   EIA Source-Date Codes
    4.2.   Dating By Serial Number
    4.3.   Circuit Revisions
    4.4.   Misc Dating Info
  5. What does it mean to have an amp "blackfaced"?
  6. How much is my amp worth?
  7. Where can I find out more about Fender Amps?
    7.1.   On the Web
    7.2.   USENET
    7.3.   In Print
  8. Where can I get parts for my Fender Amp?

1. Why isn't my Fender amp listed in the Field Guide

If you're Fender amp isn't listed in the guide it is most likely because it is a solid state amp. I like to build/restore/repair tube amplifiers as a way of excaping the pressure of daily existence. The guide is an extention of this fascination with tube technology so I have chosen to ignore the models that do not make use of thermionic phenomena for amplification. As for the qustion of tubes vs. solid state, my opinion would obviously be skewed. My advice is to use your ears and play/buy what you think sounds best.

2. What is meant when an amp is refered to as a "black face" Fender?

Contrary to what you might think this term is not politically incorrect and has nothing to do with Al Jolsen. The term "black face" refers to the color of the amp's contol panel. Fender typically chose a cabinet style, covering, and grille cloth and used it across the entire amp line. Therefore it is a convenient way of refering to an amp of that particular era. (in this case 63-67) Below is a listing of some other terms you might hear when people refer to Fender amps.

3. What is a "Pre-CBS" Fender?

In January of 1965, Leo Fender sold Fender Electric Instruments Co. and Fender Sales to broadcasting giant CBS who renamed it Fender Musical Instruments. So a Pre-CBS fender is simply an amp produced before the sale. It is a widely-held opinion that most of the changes to the amp line made by CBS were NOT for the better. Fortunately it wasn't until the early silver face years that most CBS "improvements" were put into production and some models were left almost untouched. In 1985 CBS sold off the Fender name and all remaining product stock to Fender's top executives and distributors. This became the current incarnation of Fender known as Fender Musical Instruments Corp.

4. How old is my amp?

There are serveral ways to determine when a Fender amp was produced. First use the cosmetic features to get a range of possible years. Next, (if applicable) look for the date code on the tube chart. If your amp dosen't have a date code, flip the amp upside-down and check the transformers, and speakers for their manufacturer codes. If possible, open up the chassis and check a few of the pots' and capacitors' manufacturer codes. Remember, many components could have been changed over the years, speakers blow, caps dry out, transformers melt down, and pots wear out. Be skeptical when buying a piece of "vintage" gear like a Fender amp, the prices for this equipment has risen high enough that many forgeries are out there. Caveat Emptor.

5. What does it mean to have an amp "blackfaced"?

Thru the 50s, 60s and 70s Fender was in a wattage race with the other amp manufacturers. Fender sought to increase the output of the amps while lowering the amount of distortion. As a result, the Silver Face amps tend to be "cleaner" and sometimes sterile sounding even at high volume than Black Face amps. Most people believe that the black face amps of the 60s are better sounding when overdriven than the silver face amps. Attempting to improve the sound of their silver face amps, some owners have opted to have the stock circuit altered so that it's the same as the black face amps. Generally this simple modification will be an improvement, but it will probably not sound exactly like a black face. Durring the 70s, the volatges produced by the power transformers in silver face amps steadily crept upwards, and lowering these volages is not typically part of the mod. In general, the older your silver face amp is, the more it will benefit from being "blackfaced". The late 70s high power silver face amps (Twin, Bassman 135, Showman, etc.) with the ultralinear output transformers are generally not worth the effort to convert.

6. How much is my amp worth?

I cringe when people ask me this question. Vintage amps, like everything else in the world are worth whatever someone is willing to pay for them. There are many factors that effect the price of a amp. Age, condition, originality of components, location, demand, buyers/sellers motivation level, etc. Check your local buy-n-sell papers, newspaper classified, and do a few Web/USENET searches. This should give you a rough idea of what people are asking for the amp. Keep in mind that most things don't sell for the asking price.

7. Where can I find out more about Fender Amps?

Fender amps have collected a huge following over the years due to their great sound and reliability. As a result there are many people who have a great deal of knowledge on the subject. Here are a few sources for Fender info.

8. Where can I get parts for my Fender Amp?

Here is a short list of parts suppliers. There are probably lots more, but these are the ones I have experience with.

Ampwares - Tube Amp Parts
POB 1172
Linwood, PA 19061
(610) 497-2024
FAX: (610) 497-9408
The best source on the web for all your tube amp needs including tubes, transformers, caps, Tolex and MUCH more. All your restoration, repair and tube amp building supplies in one site.

Angela Instruments
10830 Guilford Rd.
Suite 309
Annapolis Junction, MD 20701
(301) 725-0451
FAX: (301) 725-8823
A good selection of repro Fender parts, transformers, caps, tube amp kits, tube audio esoterica, and much more

Hoffman Amplifiers
Doug Hoffman
4209 S. Trail
Sarasota, FL 34231
(941) 923-5900
Repro cabinets, chassis, and baffles, custom amplifiers, drop-in eyelet boards.

NBS Electronics
Lord Valve (a.k.a. Fat Willie, a.k.a. Willie Whitaker)
230 S. Broadway
Denver, CO 80209
(303) 778-1156
NOS & current production tubes, pro audio, custom cables, and more. THE guy to talk to about Hammond organ repair too.

Rodgers Amplifiers
Larry Rodgers
7634 Southrail Rd. #B-2
Charleston, SC 29420
(803) 863-8877
Repro cabinets, chassis, and baffles, custom amplifiers, drop-in eyelet boards.

STF Electronics
171 Springlake Dr.
Spartansburg, SC 29302
(864) 573-6677
Tube amp kits, retube kits, Mojo repro parts, Hammond transformers.

Time Electronics
Rich Koerner
Union, NJ
(908) 353-0933
Repro parts, amp restoration and service.

Triode Electronics
Ned Carlson (a.k.a. Uncle Ned)
2225 W. Roscoe St.
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 871-7459
FAX: (773) 871-7934
Tubes, tubes, and more tubes. Heck of a nice guy too.

Vintage Amp Restoration
Gregg Hopkins
728 Karlsruhe Place
St. Louis, MO 63125
(314) 631-5030
Tolex, tweed, grill cloth, handles, hardware, repro cabs, amp restoration and service.

Zack's Vibroworld
16246 SE Salmon St.
Portland, OR 97233-4049
(503) 255-7122
FAX: 503-255-5951
Tolex, tweed, grill cloth, logos, handles, hardware, etc.

Field Guide - Corrections/Comments

Copyright © Ampwares 1999