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The first 100 or so Stratocasters from 1954 had their serial numbers stamped into the plastic vibrato-cavity plate, reverting to a four-digit number on the neck plate from around mid-1954.
This guitar has a non-1954 back plate, given away by its oval string holes; originals were round, turning oval in 1955, in order to facilitate easier string changes. Likewise, the tuners are non-original, having been replaced with post-1956-spec Klusons at some point.
As you can see, our guitar is numbered 1108, placing it most likely in latter ’54 (serial numbers were not sequential in terms of date, unfortunately), but along with certain other features, indicates that it may well have been produced on one of the first ‘official’ Stratocaster runs, in October 1954. A good many Strats predate that, of course, almost back to the beginning of the year, even before its ‘official’ release month of April 1954.
The knobs, pickup covers and switch tip are made from what’s often mistermed ‘Bakelite’. It has that slightly translucent look – particularly the pickup covers – and is in fact polystyrene. As you can see, our Strat’s pickup covers have suffered the same fate as those on Buddy Holly’s ’55 Strat, one reason Fender moved to using less-brittle plastics for knobs, switch tips (and later, pickguards).
By this point in late 1954, the Strat’s knobs had evolved to the modern shape we know now, and you might be surprised how white they are; the early white plastics didn’t discolour like later variants did.