The story of the ‘Ghost Finish’ Telecaster – one of the rarest Fender guitars ever made

Fender Ghost Finish Telecaster
(Image credit: Olly Curtis/Future)

As the ’60s became ever-more wild and psychedelic, Fender decided to see if prototype instruments in special finishes could help them tap into a market that had gone from all-American surf groups who thought custom colours were pretty far-out to LSD-taking hippies exploring the outer limits of the human psyche.

Fender tried to rise to this almost metaphysical challenge by creating so-called ‘Ghost Finish’ guitars with psychedelic designs that showed up only under UV light. 

Fender Ghost Finish Telecaster

Under regular light, this looks like a regular blonde Telecaster… (Image credit: Olly Curtis/Future)

Vanishingly rare, David Davidson of New York’s Well Strung Guitars is only aware of the existence of two prototype Teles, one of which is at Well Strung – though photos exist of a ‘Ghost Finish’ bass, too.

“Right after the ’67 Summer of Love, Fender decided they were going to go and buy into this hippie dream,” David says. “So they come up with a few different designs for these ‘ghost’ or day-glo finishes that only show up under UV light. I know of only two different patterns [for six-string guitar] and there was only one of each one made.

Fender Ghost Finish Telecaster

Switching on UV lights reveals a different story: the trippy floral patterns of the body are continued, in the form of dayglo stripes, up the fretboard to the headstock. (Image credit: Olly Curtis/Future)

“This is the ‘Floral’ pattern and there was another one called a ‘Swirl’. The Swirl is like a bunch of horseshoes that go around the bridge cover in different colours, and when you blacklight it, it comes to life. That was also applied to a Telecaster that exists, but has non-original tuners and no day-glo patterns on the fretboard or headstock as this one does.

“The other ‘Ghost Finish’ guitar is a bass that has what looks like firework pinwheels painted on it, but I’ve only seen pictures of that one – I’ve never known it to actually be out there.”

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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.