How to tell a good ’70s Fender Stratocaster from a bad one

1979 Fender Stratocaster Antigua Burst
(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

There’s a line of thinking you hear in guitar circles that says the quality of Fender Stratocasters dropped off a cliff during the 1970s. But like much of the received wisdom in electric guitar, that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Yes, as the decade wore on the finishes got thicker, the X-1 single coil wasn’t to everyone’s taste and they changed the belly cuts, but the decade is well worth reappraising. There are many great instruments to be had. And when you consider how overheated the vintage market has become, it is more important than ever to be able to spot a diamond in the rough.

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Jamie Dickson

Jamie Dickson is Editor-in-Chief of Guitarist magazine, Britain's best-selling and longest-running monthly for guitar players. He started his career at the Daily Telegraph in London, where his first assignment was interviewing blue-eyed soul legend Robert Palmer, going on to become a full-time author on music, writing for benchmark references such as 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die and Dorling Kindersley's How To Play Guitar Step By Step. He joined Guitarist in 2011 and since then it has been his privilege to interview everyone from B.B. King to St. Vincent for Guitarist's readers, while sharing insights into scores of historic guitars, from Rory Gallagher's '61 Strat to the first Martin D-28 ever made.