VINTAGE TELECASTER TIMELINE (1050 - present)
The Fender Telecaster was first released in 1951, and it popularized the new idea of solidbody electric guitars.
Fender has continued to produce the Telecaster in various forms through eight decades, and today you can buy brand new or classic used Teles in many different forms.
They range from affordable guitars such as the Standard and Player models through to elite versions such as the American Deluxe and American Ultra Luxe, with many variations and options along the way.
Fender has built over 200 kinds of Telecasters. Here are some of the most important models.
Need a hand finding the right Telecaster for you? Visit the Fender Telecaster Buying Guide.
Rare early Telecaster with original shortlived name. An even rarer transitional type without a model name on the headstock was later nicknamed the Nocaster.
First main version of standard Tele, fretted maple neck, blond-finish single-cut body, two knobs and a selector, five-screw black pickguard (white from late '54 on).
Second main version of standard Tele, rosewood fretboard on maple neck (later with maple fretboard option), various colors or sunburst, eight-screw pickguard.
Modern Alternatives: American Original '60s Telecaster, Vintera '60s Telecaster Modified, Vintera '60s Telecaster Bigsby, Classic Player Baja '60s Telecaster, Jimmy Page Mirror Telecaster, CS Jimmy Page Mirrored Telecaster, CS '60 Reissue Telecaster Relic.
Rosewood fretboard on maple neck, white binding on body. Not to be confused with neck-humbucker Telecaster Custom (1972–80).
Modern Alternatives: Jason Isbell Signature Telecaster Custom, TL-62 Telecaster Custom Reissue MIJ, American Vintage '62 Telecaster Custom.
Fender's first semi-solid Tele, single f-hole in semi-solid body, regular pickups. Later (from 1971) two humbuckers, six-saddle bridge.
Modern Alternatives: Classic Series '72 Telecaster Thinline, Vintera '70s Telecaster Thinline, American Vintage '72 Telecaster Thinline, TN-72 Thinline Telecaster Reissue MIJ.
Humbucker at neck and regular single-coil at bridge, Gibson-like four-control layout, large pickguard. Not to be confused with bound-body Custom Telecaster (1959–72).
Modern Alternatives: Classic Series '72 Telecaster Custom, Vintera '70s Telecaster Custom, American Original '70s Telecaster Custom, TC-72 Telecaster Custom Reissue MIJ.
Strat-style large headstock, contoured-back body, two humbuckers, Gibson-like four-control layout, large pickguard.
Modern Alternatives: American Professional II Telecaster Deluxe, Vintera '70s Telecaster Deluxe, Vintera Road Worn '70s Telecaster Deluxe, Classic Series '72 Telecaster Deluxe, Artist Series Chris Shiflett Telecaster Deluxe, Limited Edition American Professional Telecaster Deluxe with Rosewood Neck.
Long-running group of US-made period-vibe reissues, with regular models recalling '52, '58, and '64 styles, plus a '62 Custom (bound-body), '69 Thinline (f-hole), '72 Custom (neck humbucker), and '72 Thinline (f-hole, two humbuckers).
Shortlived early attempt at a revised high-end Tele, two new-design white-cover pickups, active circuitry, six-saddle bridge. Not to be confused with American Elite Teles (2016–2019).
Long-running new-standard modern take on traditional model. 22-fret board, contoured-back body (from 2012), six-saddle bridge. Two-major runs from 1988–2000 and 2008–2016. Known as American Series Telecaster, 2000–07.
Contemporary Alternatives: American Professional Telecaster, American Professional II Telecaster, Limited Edition American Professional Telecaster with Rosewood Neck, American Professional Telecaster with Roasted Maple Neck.
Affordable Japan-made (1988-91) then Mexico-made (1991–2018) regular Teles, usually with modern touches such as a six-saddle bridge. MIM had three major runs from 1991–1997, 1998–2005, and 2006–2018.
Contemporary Alternatives: Player Telecaster, Vintera '50s Telecaster, Vintera '60s Telecaster.
Mexico-made versions of regular US models, often with non-standard feature sets, including Nashville Tele with Strat center pickup, five-way switching.
Other MIM Deluxe Models: Deluxe Thinline Telecaster, Deluxe Nashville Power Telecaster, Special Edition Deluxe Ash Telecaster.
High-end versions of contemporary American Standard models, the regular Tele with compound-radius board, contoured-back bound body. Major runs dated 1993–2003, 2004–2010, and 2011–2016. Ash-bodied American Deluxe Telecasters (not bound and without contoured back) offered between 2004–2010 and 2011–2016.
Affordable Mexico-made takes on contemporary American Vintage models: '50s Telecaster, '60s Telecaster, Thinline with '69 or '72 specs, '72 Custom, and '72 Deluxe. Not to be confused with Classic Player series (2006–18) that matched Custom Shop know-how with Mexico production.
Vintage vibe with contemporary mods and upgrades: '52 Telecaster adds compound-radius board, neck humbucker; '60s Telecaster adds compound-radius board, Strat center pickup.
Mexico factory's take on the Custom Shop's Relic idea, offering various models with aged finishes. Part of Classic series from 2015. Fender now uses "Road Worn" as a term for that factory's aging process, as applied to some MIM Artist Series and Vintera models.
The Professional Series Telecaster is a modern US-made Tele, updating long-standing American Standard, deep-C-shape neck, taller frets, three-brass-saddles bridge. Replaced (2020) with similar American Professional II adding push-push series switching, sculpted neck heel; also two-humbucker Deluxe.
Period-vibe models with vintage-correct features: '50s Telecaster is regular model with U-shape neck; '60s Telecaster is C-shape-neck regular model or f-hole Thinline; '70s Telecaster is neck-humbucker Custom.
Acoustic-electric hybrid, spruce top set into mahogany body, Fender/Fishman three-pickup system (saddle, body, bridge) for acoustic flat-top and electric Tele sounds. Earlier attempts at a similar idea were Japan-made HMT models (1991–97), Mexico-made Acoustasonic Tele (2010–12).
American Performer Telecasters are relatively affordable US-made models, C-shape satin-finish neck, 22 jumbo frets, high-ratio tuners, '70s-style headstock logo, Greasebucket tone system, three-brass-saddles bridge.
Affordable Mexico-made models, C-shape neck, 22 frets, six-saddle through-body bridge. Not to be confused with China-made Modern Player series produced 2011–16 with non-standard feature mixes.
Mexico-made vintage-vibe models: '50s Telecaster has U-shape maple neck, 21 frets, three-brass-saddles bridge, vintage-style pickups; '60s Telecaster has C-shape neck with pau ferro board, four-way and S-1 switching, three-brass-saddles bridge (six-saddle on Bigsby model); '70s Telecaster is two-humbucker Deluxe, dual-humbucker Thinline, or neck-humbucker Custom.
American Ultras are the most recent high-end Teles, with Modern D neck, compound radius board, bound body with enhanced contours. American Ultra Luxe versions (from 2021) have Augmented D neck, stainless steel frets.
Stripped-down Mexico-made model, C-shape neck, 21 frets, single P-90-style pickup at bridge, small pickguard, three-brass-saddles bridge.
About the author: Tony Bacon writes about musical instruments, musicians, and music. He is a co-founder of Backbeat UK and Jawbone Press. His books include The Telecaster Guitar Book and Electric Guitars: The Illustrated Encyclopedia. Tony lives in Bristol, England. More info at tonybacon.co.uk.