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Affinity and Standard Telecaster History

Information in this article provided by nicod98 from Squier-Talk.com

There is a lot documentation about the Squier Stratocaster on the internet; however, the Telecaster is under documented. The information in this article will hopefully shed some more light on the Affinity and Standard Telecaster models from this era. There are many holes in this article since many things are not (or hardly) documented.

In The Beginning (1996-2001)

The "Standard Telecaster" dates back to 1990 under various part numbers. The "Telecaster" begins life in 1984. For the purposes of this article the the focus will be on Squier Telecasters starting 1996.

During this time, a version of the “Standard” Squier Telecaster was produced in Mexico (013-2302). It had a top load bridge and the dreaded hexagonal tuners. It was more or less a cheaper hardware version of the Fender MIM Standard telecaster. There are also Korean telecasters from around 1996/1997 (VN6/VN7-serials) which overlap with the Mexican Squiers.

PT 033 3802 X38   PT 033 3700 X21

In the 1996 mid year price list, the ProTone Telecasters were introduced. This series is considered by many to be among the best Squier guitars built. It was available as a Fat Tele and as a ‘69 Thinline.

Unfortunately, the ProTone Telecasters were in direct competition with the Fender branded guitars, which was hurting sales. To protect the brand against internal competition, it was decided that Squier guitars had to become cheaper and lower in quality. The ProTone was discontinued in 1997.

When the ProTone series was discontinued, the first steps in the modern Squier history started. In 1997 the first Affinity Teles were introduced. Two years later, a new Squier Standard model followed. They were produced in China and Indonesia, respectively.

The early days of the Affinity

Tele Headstock
In 1996/1997 Fender ordered Squier guitars from China for the first time. All previous models were made in Japan, Korea, Mexico, and a rare US model.

The Chinese Affinities of this era are regarded to be of good quality when compared to either the Mexican or Korean models. These Affinity telecasters had the following specifications:

  • 21 frets
  • Thick rosewood 9.5” radius fretboard
  • 42mm nut
  • Full Thickness String Through Body
  • Modern Bridge with 6 Block Saddles
  • Hexagonal Tuners
  • Inexpensive Ceramic Pickups
  • Plastic Rectangle Jack Plate (becomes very brittle after a while)
  • Bare Wood Truss Rod Hole
  • Single “Butterfly” String Tree
  • Serial Numbers On The Back Plate and Starts With “YN”


Fender protected the “Telecaster” name with a “Tele” abbreviation on this model. A practice still going on today with the cheapest models (Bullet and Affinity). Up until around 2000 the “TELE” designation is in a non-fat(bold) font.

Even though not listed any price list or documentation there appears to be at least one batch in a very nice baby-blue color. During the early days of the Affinity, the pricelist shows the same colors over and over, but this color is never on the list.

(The tele in the picture above has been modified into a Nashville-configuration. Click to enlarge)

Affinities from this era though do have some issues; different angle of the bridge pickup, far from perfect ferrule drilling location (usually close, but sometimes it is really bad). But for China it was still early days of large-scale guitar production on a world-wide scale, and all in all, the quality was pretty good. The odd angle seems to be more or less constant up until around 2006.

(Click to enlarge)

In 1998 the model remained largely the same with the serial number changed to the back of the headstock.

One year later (in 1999) we see the thinner body and the top-load bridge for the Affinity being introduced, with production started in 1998.

PriceList1999

The 1998 and 1999 Affinity can be found with a "CY" serial prefix. They appear to be a continuation of the other Yako-made Affinity teles. These seem to be thinner with a top load body like the description above. But there are also 1998 and 1999 models with the "CD"serial prefix, with a top load body (for CD99) with 6 barrel-bridges (instead of block saddles). The CD98 seems to be full thickness string through. It's unclear if these are Yako-produced or not. In fact, not much is known about this “CD” Affinity.

(Click to enlarge)

Before we can continue the Affinity story, let's introduce the Squier Standard Telecaster.

The Standard

1999 is the year where the history of the Modern “Standard” begins. Although uncertain, it appears these are the first guitars Fenders buys in Indonesia. It is also the first year where the “Standard” designation is put on the headstock. The “TELECASTER” name is visible in a thin font.

PriceList1999 2

The 1999 price list mentions a “top-load” bridge, while in fact, it was a dual-load bridge: both top load an string-through is possible, and the string ferrules were installed.

The 1999 new Standard telecaster has the following features:

  • 21 Fret Maple Fretboard
  • 6 Barrel String-Through Bridge (but also capable of top-load stringing)
  • Sealed Tuners
  • Black/Gold decal, to contrast it with the cheaper Affinity.
  • Features the “Standard” name on the Headstock (for the first time)
  • Ceramic Pickups
  • metal rectangle jack plate (not plastic as on the Affinity)
  • As they were made in Indonesia by Cor-tek, they had the IC-prefix.

(Click to enlarge)

In 2000 the Standard started another transformation. During the year there are three different versions of the Squier Standard Telecaster.

One difference can be found in the “TELECASTER”-part of the decal. The 1999 and earliest 2000-version of the Standard telecaster has the “thin” font for the word “TELECASTER”. The second and third version from 2000 (and all years since then) have the “thick” font.

(Click to enlarge)

Another difference is the bridge itself. The 1999 and two versions in 2000 (version 1 and 3) have a 6 barrel bridge. The second version from 2000 and versions from 2001 onwards have block saddles.

(Click to enlarge)

In 2001 the transformation got finalized, and this resulted in a Squier Standard, that really could be called a “Standard” telecaster.

  • The metal jack plate was swapped for a cup.
  • The pickups got replaced with alnico-versions (the best sounding pickups in any single coil Squier tele IMHO.
  • The 6 barrel-saddles were replaced with block saddles.
  • From this point on the Standard had a 22-fret rosewood fretboard (instead of a 21-fret maple fretboard)
  • This version remained pretty much the same until the rosewood fretboard was replaced with an Indian Laurel version around 2018.


So in essence we have these versions of the Squier Standard Telecaster:
Standard Versions

Because of the limited time the 1999/2000 Indonesian Standard was produced, the following colors are rather rare:

  • 519 British Racing Green
  • 577 Frost Red
  • 591 Galactic Purple


The “regular” colors are far more common:

  • 506 Black
  • 507 Vintage Blonde
  • 532 Brown Sunburst (Fairly common even though it was only produced for this short period on the Standard Telecaster.)


In 2001 new colors were release, a few colors were only available for a few years, and are more or less rare:

  • 500 3-Color Sunburst
  • 546 Sherwood Green Metallic
  • 593 Purple Metallic

When these colors were discontinued a very seventies looking color was introduced: 592 Walnut Satin (2004-2006).

The other colors remained for much longer:
• 507 Vintage Blonde
• 509 Candy Apple Red
• 537 Antique Burst (tortoise pickguard) (introduced in 2004)
• 565 Black Metallic

It's somewhat surprising how short a time that the maple fretboard Standard was made in Indonesia. The first were produced in 1999, and during the year 2000, the model was completely changed. This seems a bit odd. So was the Indonesian Standard tele not selling enough units? Was that the reason for the maple vs rosewood fretboard swap between the Standard & Affinity?

Back to the Affinity

Somewhere in 2000 the Affinity got a maple fretboard (without skunk stripe). The hexagonal tuners remain in place, and all seem to have a serial number prefix of "CY".

(Click to enlarge)

The Affinity got another makeover in 2001. The hex tuners were replaced with seal tuners. By comparing to the Affinity Strat from 2001, there is proof that sometime during this year the switch was made. In the pictures below both hexagonal and sealed tuners were found in on Affinity Strats with a 2001 serial number. Only an image of with sealed tuners could be found in 2001 for the Affinity Tele.



(Click to enlarge)

As stated earlier the Affinity telecaster had an odd angle for the bridge pickup. This was certainly still the case in 2003, 2004, 2005 respectively as seen in the image below. Around 2006/2007 the odd angle ”problem” was rectified.

(Click to enlarge)

An oddball Affinity tele, or a happy coincidence?

A 2000 Affinity was located in a pawn shop. No big deal, you might say, but this one is a mix of features, similarities and contradictions:

  • It is made in Indonesia. At this point in time, the Affinity tele is made in China, and the “first” (obviously not!) Indonesian Affinity telecaster is from 2012 (pack Affinity).
  • Just like the 2000 Affinity strat with rosewood fretboard (which was also made in Indonesia), this Affinity telecaster has 21 frets, a rosewood fretboard, and hexagonal tuners. It also has the typical distance between the 12th fret markers for the Indonesian production at that time.
  • Contrary to other 2000 Affinity telecaster this guitar has a dual load (top-load and string-through) bridge, and flush string ferrules. In fact it is the exact same bridge as on the Standard, with 6 barrels and a regular angle for the bridge pickup (unlike the regular Affinity at that time)
  • This guitar has two butterfly string trees (just like the Standard, but unlike the Affinity)
  • The neck has a skunk stripe (again like the maple fretboard Standard, but unlike the Affinity of the time and unlike the rosewood fretboard Standard)
  • This Affinity has (just like the standard) a jack cup.
  • The nut size is 41.9mm, this should be wider than the nut size of a 2000 Chinese Affinity, but I have no reference material to compare this with.
  • This guitar has the typical thinner body of the Affinity. (unlike the Standard)
  • The color is “baltic blue”, and there are pictures of other 2000 Affinity teles of the same color in the top-load version, so the Affinity was made in this color both in China AND in Indonesia. Other pictures have shown a black tele made in Indonesia in 2000 as well. So this is not an isolated case.
  • This telecaster is very similar to the 2012-2017 pack Affinity.




(Click to enlarge)

Same Guitar Two Countries?

Here are few hypotheses about why Fender made the Affinity tele in Indonesia as well as in China (These are all personal opinion):

  • It would be very unlikely that this would have been done to make things cheaper. If anything, this one was actually more expensive to produce (due to better hardware, more hardware, and more expensive labor costs). So I’m assuming this was done to “solve” something.
  • At some point in 2000, the decision was made to make alterations to the standard. This resulted in the standard we know from 2001 on wards. In 2000 the production line was changed gradually from one model to another. We’ve seen the change from 21 to 22 frets in one step, and then from a maple to a rosewood fretboard in another step. The only thing that was changed back and forth was the bridge.
  • Many of these Squier bridges being sold brand new even 15 years later. I’m assuming that either Fender had a contract for a specific number of bridges, or that the stock was so large that they decided to – temporarily – make a whole batch of Affinity teles with that bridge, so the new bridges could be used for the Squier Standard Tele.
  • Another possibility might be that there might have been problems during the production in China and that production moved to Indonesia temporarily.
  • Since 2001 was the year were changes in Affinity telecaster production were introduced, There might have been a temporary change of production to Indonesia to allow for adjusting everything in the Chinese Factory. (maple neck, sealed tuners). This would also account for the fact that BOTH the Indonesian and the Chinese versions from 2001 are rather rare.

Conclusion

We have a very rich backstory for the Japanese Squiers, the move to Korea (including the “plywood”backstory, production in Mexico, temporary production in the USA). While the Affinity is quite possibly one of the highest selling Fender series guitars worldwide there isn't much information published about their history. The hope is this article has helped to fill in some of these gaps.

The early years of the history of the “modern” Standard and Affinity teles is more complicated than one would think. In this article, many small differences and oddities have been uncovered. No doubt this will cause many more questions to be asked.

If anyone would like to add additional information, you can add comments below or to the original thread on Squier-Talk.

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