Unlimited Power Records

The original and best Retro British Pop Music Label

Spotting a Fake Stratocaster

How to spot FAKE Stratocasters “Chinacaster” example


There’s nothing more disillusioning then to realize you’ve actually purchased a guitar (new or used) that NOT really a true Fender. Yes, China makes stratocasters that are “closer than clones”. They aren’t perfect, as we will see, but to an untrained eye they could sneek their way into your guitar collection or be your first guitar.  What bugs me about them, is that they are not a “copy” which have obvious differences; instead they went out of their way to try to FAKE a real Fender Mexican Stratocaster.  As part of the story is I had NEVER seen a fake before so the thought of a fake never entered my mind. Let’s expose them, be WARNED!  Now that you know the Plot, let’s go on with the story.  Bruce Gombrelli -Unlimited Power Records


I bought a guitar recently from a 3rd party I saw on craigs list (could have been e-bay where these guitars were originally sold).  I went to see the guitar and here was my first impression:


It looked OLD, lots of rust, etc but it played and sounded ok. Obviously it needed a good setup job and new strings but first touch it wasn’t bad but then the things started to show up.  I asked the guy when he got it, he said new about 8 years go. Ok, so it was already a relic but I could tell the guy treated his stuff that way, and hey as long as it played good and the prices was right $250. It also had a Fender logo’ hard shell case that was unusually warped. It must have gotten ultra hot or something. Strange.

The first thing I always do on 3rd party purchases is I check out the serial number.  I didn’t recognize the prefix TZ18<6 digits> so that threw me.  I played it some more and of course, noticed right away that it had Noiseless pickups; well, this isn’t a standard stratocaster so maybe it’s a FSR or something but there wasn’t any FSR sticker.  I then looked at the headstock and the way is said Made In Mexico was weird also, I’ve never seen it printed in such big letters on the headstock.

      More Clues

Still examining the guitar more I noticed the bridge pieces had an odd shape I’ve never seen before. Back to the serial number. It wasn’t on the headstock, it was on the heel of the neck. THAT’S wierd, only Japanese strats that I knew of did that. Maybe it was a Japanese model, but why did it say Made in Mexico?  It had a Fender Stratocaster sticker on  the headstock.  Later on I would reflect back on the day of the purchase and recognize things I didn’t get then but made sense later.


My mexi and the fake – unfortunately I didn’t get the front shot?! except for close ups)


So it seemed ok and I figured I’d check out the serial number when I got home, it came with a hardshell case (Fender) and had noiseless pickups so how bad could it be.  I gave him my $250 and he seemed bummed I was taking it cuz he wanted to play it that night. We shook hands and offered me a recipt, and I said na and took it home.  I would either just clean it up and leave it “relic’d” or clean it up and simply resell it, I like playing with guitars so that’s cool.  He said he bought it new but I was thinking he must of gotten it used and it must have been an older strat than he realized…or so I thought….


The Investigation

This is what you’ve been waiting for.  When I got home I immediately tried to look up the number and posted on a few Strat groups. Right away, I could NOT find the serial number prefix on the Fender website.  To cut the story short, after some web searches later and feedback from some nice people in the strat groups I figured out it was indeed a China fake. But even more questions like “He said he bought it new?” From a dealer?? I thought. I’ll tell you the full story of the guitar later, let’s get right into the “fake identification” marks.



A shot of the noiseless pickups – Look normal….


Looks at the strange bridge pieces…Ok, those are strange but maybe it was some crazy special edition…maybe not!!


Fake Mexi Headstock

Notice how BIG the Made in Mexico is and there is no serial number on the front (or back) and Notice that the Fender Log is slightly goofy.

Also, the string tree is TOO big


Real Fender Mexi Headstock from the roughly the same “year” as the fake was “supposedly” made. Notice that the serial is on the front and how small the Made in Mexico is and the color of the logo.

NOTE: New Fender Mexi’s don’t say “Made In Mexico” on the front. (BG is my initials, I do that for fun on my mexi’s)


The CUT – Also look at the cut by where the round area is, notice how SHARP that cut is compared to the real Mexi, and on the left side, the cut is more sharp and less rounded on the real Mexi. The cut of the headstock is all wrong.


Notice that on the head stock above the serial number is on the head stock front. ON this guitar it’s on the heal and it starts with TZ18<6 digit) which is NOT a valid number AND is a signature prefix used by the FAKE strats sold on EBAY!!!! (in the late 2000’s)



Also notice that is has a FENDER logo backplate, they didn’t do that with the Mexi’s, it was a blank.

Headstock curve and workmanship

Notice how much the FAKE dips down and the angle of the strings. Further note, the Nut job is really really bad and it’s deep. (note, my strat has locking tuners).



BackPlate – You can’t really see, but even though the sticker is correct, the actual backplate

is made of ultra cheap single ply plastic and is fat.


Placement of the strap button was all wrong, notice mine (the red one) is much further down and the shape of the horn is slightly off. Actually, when you compare back to back you’ll see the entire body is slightly bigger on the FAKE strat.


Pickups and stuff

You could probably part out this guitar, I don’t know if the pickups where real or not, it had a “FENDER” neck plate which is very unusual but other than that and the back plate is salvagable there isn’t much the salvage off this guitar because most of the rest of it is based on misc parts, most of them being Fenders most basic stratocaster, the Squier.


I found more minor differences but that should keep you busy.  Bottom line, if the serial looks strange (always check!) or things look odd, BE suspicious.



I found out the guy bought it on EBAY during the year the FAKES were very active and he gave me my money back! (Yeah).  He honestly didn’t know it was a fake and was very apologetic, I felt bad for the guy. But now I’m strat purchase gun shy…Buyer Beware..a story with a happy ending and an education to boot is always a good story.

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