Has Norman's Rare Guitars found the world's first Fender Telecaster?

There are few people with a better nose for sniffing out vintage electric guitars than Norman Harris of Californian guitar retail institution Norman's Rare Guitars, but this time he might have outdone himself with a 1951 Fender Telecaster that is a piece of history. 

The Telecaster bears the serial number 0942. “It could be the first Telecaster ever made with the Telecaster logo – or it has got to be in the first batch,“ says Harris.

In 1951, the Telecaster was going through a transitional phase when it came to branding. Having been produced as the Broadcaster before Gretsch complained that the name was too close to its Broadkaster drum set, Fender snipped the decals off the headstock and sold them anyway.

The so-called Nocasters were soon renamed the Telecaster, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Somebody who wants this guitar is going to have a major piece of memorabilia

Norman Harris

As Harris explains in the video segment with All Guitar Network, there is a little crossover between the Broadcaster and newly branded Telecaster, with any with a serial number under 1000 typically a Broadcaster.

1951 Fender Telecaster

(Image credit: YouTube / All Guitar Network)

“It is in remarkable condition, with the original strap, the original case," said Harris. “It is just ridiculous.“

The example Harris has found is pristine besides some checking on the finish and a rewound neck pickup to compensate for a dark control circuit that is typically fixed with an easy mod. It arrives with a picture of the former owners and its original case, strap and bridge plate cover.

“Somebody who wants this guitar is going to have a major piece of memorabilia,“ said Harris. "It is one of the cleanest ones I have ever seen. It has a little weather checking but that is to be expected. This thing is completely out of control.“

What is a guitar like that worth in this, of all years, the Tele's 70th anniversary? Well, there is a 1951 Nocaster in very good condition on Reverb that is listed at £64,995, but Harrris' pristine find would surely be north of that. Might Joe Bonamassa be clearing a spot in Nerdville right now?

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.