Amp Dating

Fender made thousands of Vibro Champs between 1964 and 1982.  The exact number has not been determined.  However, the date a particular Vibro Champ was made can be determined through a variety of sources.

Cabinet Sticker

By far the most reliable way to date your amp is to look for the month/date code stamped on the tube layout sticker on the inside of the cabinet. Vibro Champs made prior to by 1968 have this feature.  Months and years were assigned the letter codes below:

Code Year Code Month
N 1964 A January
O 1965 B February
P 1966 C March
Q 1967 D April
E May
F June
G July
H August
I September
J October
K November
L December

Serial Number

The serial number on the back also gives clues to the age of the amp:

A00100 to A02000 – 1964
A01200 to A08100 – 1965
A08100 to A17000 – 1966
A16000 to A21000 – 1967
A20000 to A26000 – 1968
A25000 to A28000 – 1969
A28000 to A29000 – 1970
A29000 to A32000 – 1971
A32000 to A35000 – 1972
A33000 to A39000 – 1973
A39000 to A42000 – 1974
A42000 to A51000 – 1975
A51000 to A53000 – 1976
A6 + 5-digits – 1976
A7 + 5-digits – 1977
A8 + 5-digits – 1978
A9 + 5-digits – 1979
F9 + 5-digits – 1979, 1980
F0 + 5-digits – 1980
F1 + 5-digits – 1981
F2 + 5-digits – 1982

Export models had serial numbers that started with a “B” rather than with an “A”.

Transformer / Speaker / Pot Codes

American-made electronic components of that era usually have codes to indicate manufacturer and date of production.  These are usually in the form of a six-digit number with the following formatting scheme:

MMMYWW

The first three digits represent the manufacturer code, the next digit represents the year of production and the last two digits represent the week of production.  Thus as an example 606452 is a transformer code: 606 tells us it is a Schumacher transformer made in either 1964 or 1974 and and it was built on the last week of December.  If the transformer was read from a silverface VibroChamp we can deduce it was made in 1974 – almost… Remember that this is when the transformer was manufactured.  However it’s unlikely that the transformer found its way immediately into production, so it’s a pretty sure bet that the Vibro Champ this was read from is at its earliest a 1975.  It could be that another transformer reads 606602 which would make that component a 1976 make, thus the earliest the amp could be is a 1976.  In the absence of other dating techniques the latest component code will represent the earliest date of manufacture.
Other Dating Techniques

If neither the serial number nor component codes are available, and you only have frontal view of the amplifier there are still ways to date a Vibro Champ though the exact manufacturing date might not be as precise:

  • If it is a blackface whose faceplate reads Fender Electric Instrument Co. then it is a 1964
  • If it is a blackface whose faceplate reads Fender Musical Instruments then it is a 1965-1967
  • If it is a silverface and the grill has an aluminum surround, the it was made in 1967-1969
  • If it is a silverface and it has a tailed logo, no aluminum surround, reads “Vibro Champ -Amp” then it is a 1970-1971
  • If it is a silverface and it has a tailed logo, no aluminum surround, reads “Vibro Champ” no “-Amp” then it is a 1972
  • If it is a silverface with a non-tailed logo then it is a 1973-1976
  • If it is a silverface with a non-tailed logo with a “Made in USA” then it is a 1976-1981
  • If it is a blackface with a non-tailed logo with a “Made in USA” then it is a 1981-1982

57 Responses to Amp Dating

  1. seblo says:

    Hello I have a 1967-vibro champ how is the best cleaner for them, because my amp its very dirty, it sounds great

  2. Mr.Rock says:

    A985682
    Love this little Amp. Bought it for 250 DM(German Marks), about 125 €..
    New OT. Now I can put either a 6V6 or a 6L6 into it. Also a 8 Ohm Out. Ready to hook up with a 4X12. From Clean to ultragain, all possible with pedals. A Joy to play and record.

  3. John Tangeman says:

    I walked into a pawn shop in 1982 when I was in the 9th grade and bought A27386 for $65 of my own money. Thanks to this site, I now know it’s a 1969. It is a bit molested (by me) in that it has an old but decent replacement speaker and not original tubes. I play a 1971 Les Paul Custom through a Harmonix Holy Grail reverb pedal and the thing kind of cranks out there in the garage with my kids playing bass and drums. We suck. But thanks for this site!

  4. Taj Vida says:

    Vibro Champ
    A 49441
    Redondo Beach, CA

  5. Ron Wetherall says:

    1969 Vibro Champ Amp with drip edge aluminum frame, original Oxford 8″ alnico.
    Serial # A 25955 which indicates 1968, but output transformer is 606-9-10.

    Sounds great but I plan to replace speaker and 2 prong plug, that’s all though.

  6. Monte Hinson says:

    I have transformer that I cannot identify. Woodward Schumacher 125A32A 606422 with Fender stamped at top. Can you shed some light and tell me what it was used for?

    • vcadmin says:

      If this is from a Vibro Champ you have a Schumacher transformer made on the last week of May (Memorial Day week!) of 1964 or 1974. I can’t identify the 125A32A code; it doesn’t match the standard transformer models that Fender used on the Vibro Champ. The “Fender” stamped on top is not what I’ve seen on VC’s, so I’m guessing it argues for a later date, perhaps maybe 1984 off a different amp?

  7. Marc Delort says:

    I need help. I purchased a vibro champ and was told it was a 1964. paid $700. after getting it home and finding this website I now believe maybe I have been scammed. The front plate reads Fender Electric Instrument Co. however the chassis serial number is A23048 which would make it a 1968. More confusion from the transformer codes. Small one is 022905. Big one is 022772. Can anyone help me identify this amp. Tube sticker is present but there is no letter on it or it faded off. Thanks.

    • vcadmin says:

      Hmm… The “Fender Electric Instrument Co” is correct, so that would be hard to fake. What does the black sticker at the back of the chassis read? If it’s a ’64 it should not read “Fender Musical Instruments”.

      Also, the transformers codes above are actually model codes. There should be other ones also on them as well. What do these read?

      • Marc Delort says:

        the sticker on back does say Fender Musical Instruments. The other numbers you asked for are: small transformer 8316807. Large transformer 8316809. Thank you for your help.

        • vcadmin says:

          Those transformer codes look right. These are for Better Coil and Transformers (starts with number 831). These look to have been made around Feb of 1968, so that makes the chassis & internal components a 1968.

          Regarding the cabinet, does it have an aluminum surround around the front? Late 60′s Vibro Champs were the only ones that had these.

          Also regarding the cabinet, what does the sticker read? Does it read “Fender Musical Instruments” or “Fender Electric Instrument Co”? I’m trying to determine if the cabinet is a ’64.

          • Marc Delort says:

            it does not have the aluminum surround on the front grill. As a matter of fact the baffle board is made of particle board and is falling apart. someone had used JB weld to try and repair it but, I just ordered a new one from mojotone. Hope it comes soon. The large sticker on the back of the chassis says Fender Musical Instruments. The tube chart says Fender musical instruments as well but says its made in Santa Ana, California. It also has the UL listed stamp on it. Hope this helps.

          • vcadmin says:

            Yeah, it does. The sticker should have read Fullerton, not Santa Anna, if it was made in ’64. Note that the baffles have always been plywood/particle board because you want stiffness there.

            OK, so here’s what we know: the chassis is from a 1968, the “Santa Anna” cabinet is from at least 1966. My guess is the cabinet is from 1968, as well. Here’s how you can tell if it isn’t from before the mid 1970′s: can you remove the baffle? Meaning, can you slide it out? After around 1975 Fender cheapened their construction and started gluing-in the baffles. Not even Superman can remove it without cracking/damaging the baffle.

          • Marc Delort says:

            The baffle is held in place with 4 screws. you can remove them and take the baffle out. So with all your help I believe what I have is a 68 vibro champ made to look like a 1964 by the change in grill and the front plate. I have seen on ebay people selling them so it is possible to fake just about any amp unless you know what to look for. Thank you for all your help. I will take pictures and post them to your site as well as registering my amp. Thank You So Much.

          • vcadmin says:

            What’s really strange about your amp is that the price differential between an early blackface and a “drip edge” late-60′s Vibro Champ isn’t all that much. The late 60′s silverface amps sound pretty much the same as blackfaces and have the better cabinet construction of the blackface amps. Note: in the 70′s the voltages went up and the cabs went to glue-on rabbit jointed and then also to particle board.

            So, I’m at sort of at a loss why anyone would go through the trouble to convert a better-made and better-sound amp to an older just-as-good amp. The price differential, maybe $150, doesn’t seem worth the trouble, considering you have to find a knock-off plate and then tear the amp apart. I’m thinking that a somewhat more reasonable scenario is that someone had a bunch of old Vibro Champs lying around in pieces and when they reassembled them, they assembled the wrong chassis and cabinet.

            Here’s how to maybe tell if the front plate is real or a knockoff: it should be made of metal and if look at it directly with the light reflecting off the lettering you should be able to the impressions of the letters reflected. The face plates I believe were silk screened at the time. My understanding is that this differs from the lettering of the 2nd generation blackfaces (early 80′s) where the lettering was not silk screened. (Any early 80′s VC owners, please verify this last statement!)

  8. Mike says:

    *1965 “Vibro-champ Amp” (Blackface)
    serial# A 06336
    Pwr xfrmr: 606-5-40 , 1965 40th week
    Out xfrmer: 606-7-35 , 1967 35th week
    Ink Stamped Chassis Date Code: 4165 , 1965 41st week
    approx build date: Late Sept -to- Early Oct 1965
    “Fender Musical Instruments” , “Design & Patent 64″ (front panel)
    power cord w 2-prong black plug

    2002 eBay find, came to me as chassis only, currently sits in a Musicmaster cabinet w 12″ speaker (1971 Eminence Alnico magnet) and a proper tailed Logo.

    *1974 “Vibro Champ”
    serial# 40766 (no “A”)
    Pwr xfrmr: 606-4-11 , 1974 11th week
    Out xfrmer: 606-3-20 , 1973 20th week
    approx build date: mid 1974
    non-tailed Logo
    “Fender Musical Instruments” (front panel)
    “Fender Musical Instruments, CBS Musical Instruments, Fullerton, CA” (rear)
    “Fullerton, CA” (tube chart)
    non-removeable baffle , brown thread grill cloth
    power cord w 3-prong Red plug

    2004 ebay find, both V-Champs alive and kicking in Houston, TX

  9. Fernando Jorge says:

    ok.

  10. Fernando Jorge says:

    Hello, I am writing from Portugal. My VIBRO CHAMP has No. 40881, and I think it is 1974.
    Is rigorously clean, original, and play very well!

    Fernando Jorge
    ANADIA – PORTUGAL

  11. Tom T says:

    I got my silverface (stamped A820798 and currently in Westfield, New York) from a very cool guy I used to be in bands with back in the early 1990s. Guitar was his second love, in truth he was a GREAT bassist and as such had little use for the amp.
    I’ll send some photos soon. He let his cats use it as a scratching pad in his garage so that the damn thing is shredded, wood and all. Near as I can tell it’s all original and since he was born and lived his entire life in the South Bay area of Los Angeles, the amp only had to travel a few miles from Fullerton.
    There is NOTHING in the world like an American Tele played through a Champ.

  12. Ryan says:

    I have a 79 vibro champ I was going to sell. The buyer was hoping for one that was older. I love the amp. Don’t really want to let it go. What’s the big difference between 79s and earlier models?

    • vcadmin says:

      In general the older the Vibro Champ is, the more “desirable” (a relative term) it is. Note: the main things that make a Vibro Champ special did not change in any of the years: all-tube, hand -wired, 5W single ended.

      In the late 60′s with the UA Labs certification the wiring was changed from cloth-covered to plastic.
      In the mid 1970′s the cabinet construction changed from finger-joint/removable baffles to rabbet joint/glued in baffles.
      Sometime after the mid 70′s the cabinet material was changed from from solid pine to marine plywood/particle board.

      Note: the construction specs don’t really say much about how an amp actually sounds. After 30-40 years components will drift. Also transformers have inherent variability due to sourcing from different manufacturers. So you can’t really tell from the age of the amp how good it will sound…and tone is what it’s all about in the end.

  13. Steve Chandler says:

    I’m the original owner of a ’64 Vibro Champ Amp – no logo on the front, stamped ‘NK’, but the serial number is A01273. It looks like it’s in the range of A00100 – A02000, which you give for 1964, but you also have A01200 – A08100 for 1965, so I’m curious which one is correct. Everything is original, including the 2-prong, ungrounded cord/plug, but some tubes were replaced a year ago. I still use it to jam with a string band on Wednesday nights in a small town in central Colorado.

    With 2014 being the 50th Anniversary of the initial runs of the Vibro Champ, do you have any thoughts on what my amp might be worth?

    thanks,

    • vcadmin says:

      Congratulations on your amp! Not many folks at all can claim single-ownership of a vintage Vibro Champ!

      Regarding the overlapping serial number ranges, unfortunately Fender was sort of loose with their numbers back then. If you look at the number sequences on the Database Registry page you’ll see that there can be some variability in the serial number vs. 2-letter the manufacture code date.

      On what the amp is worth, it’s hard to say not knowing the condition, tone, etc. However it being a single-owner amp and with a 50th anniversary coming up the amp would probably fetch more than the usual blackface price of approx. the $500-$750 range. If you have the sales receipt or have pictures of you with the amp in the 1960′s, this will likely increase the sales value because it can prove single ownership.

  14. Roger says:

    I bought a Fender vibro champ amp in May of 1964, still have it and enjoy using it today. I now have a Grandson who enjoys it. It was made in Fullerton California.

  15. Christopher Karow says:

    Is it true that some early black face models did not have the Fender logo?

  16. Michael Bauer says:

    I just acquired an amazing Silverface Vibro Champ. From what I see above, it has all the indicators of a 1972 (No aluminum surround, tailed logo, “Vibro Champ” but not “Amp”. The serial number on the chassis, however, is A37265, which dates it to 1973. So I have a tie. I’m guessing serial number wins, but is there anything else that would break the tie.

    Fantastic little amp! Why didn’t I find one of these decades ago?

    • Michael Bauer says:

      I just noticed James’ post below. We either bought the same amp, or identical twins. Mine still has the RCA tubes as well!

      • Michael Bauer says:

        I was able to date the output transformer of mine to September of 1973, and the power transformer to the 27th week of 1973, so that settles it. It looks like it was likely assembled in September, 1973.

        I want to say “thanks” for this great website. What a terrific resource!

  17. David says:

    Hello. I’ve recently acquired a Vibro Champ. My boss gave it to me in exchange for some help around his house. It’s a silver face with (I think) a serial number of B 64968. This would make it an export, and if so what year? The plate on the back says it was manufactured in Fullerton, California and also says “Made In The USA”.

  18. james says:

    Hi i just purchased a Fender VC the tag inside does not have any dates or date code. on the back of the chassy i have the A 37*** that would make it a 73? but the front FENDER logo has a tail. the guy i got it from says its a 73 as far as he know and is the 2nd owner ..still has RCA tubes in it …do you think this is a 73?

  19. J Hami says:

    I have a vibro champ that has a serial number of B 65364. That would make it an export from 76? Mine is in pretty descent condition and sounds good. What do you think a ball park figure would be for what its worth?

    • vcadmin says:

      Yup, it’s a ’76. In general it’s hard to pin a value on an amp, since prices vary due to condition, sound, supply & demand and location. I’ve seen 70′s silverfaces fetch between $350 and $550 but that’s a rough ball-park estimate. Good sounding ones and ones in excellent/mint could fetch more.

      BTW, if you could post you city/state we can register your amp here on the site.

  20. Adam says:

    I just bought a new Vibro Champ with the number engraved on the back reading 39724, which would set it made in 1974. There is no A or B on the back of the amp. Is this normal? Am I looking in the right place (back upper right)?

    It sounds incredible, strange serial number or not! Thanks!

    • vcadmin says:

      Seems that around ’74 Fender made some batches without the letter “A’ prefix in the serial number. Looks like you got yourself one of those!

      Adam, if you could post your amp’s location we’ll register it here at vibrochamp.org.

  21. Putz says:

    I just bought one without sticker inside cab and the stamp on the metal starts with b65699, so it’s from 65′ and an export? Does that mean it comes from
    overseas?

    • vcadmin says:

      I’ve seen the “B’s” possibly used for export models. Note: whether or not a particular amp was actually exported outside the country is another matter(!).

      You can tell if the power transformer (the bigger of the two) is USA original or if it was replaced. The original non-export transformer should start with either a “6064″, “6065″ or “6066″ (most likely 6066).

      BTW, the serial number 65699 indicates it was made in 1976. The amp should be a “silverface”, meaning the control plate is made of shiny metal.

      Hope this helps!

      • Putz says:

        Yes it is a silver face, thanks!

      • Putz says:

        Also, I coughed up three bills for this and it’s pretty beat up with a made in Taiwan speaker and new tubes, how did I do with my deal? and if you don’t mind answering one more question, there’s a crackle at high volumes but its not persistent, could it be the cone? Thanks

        • vcadmin says:

          Three bills for a hand-wired amp? Not bad!

          At high volumes the cone wouldn’t crackle if it had a problem. You’d hear speaker excursion (i.e “farting out”).

          When you turn up the volume all the way up do you hear any crackles? If the main pre-amp tube is starting to fail you typically hear hear pops, crackles and noise. Here’s a way to tell if it’s your pre-amp tube: swap it with its neighbor. If the crackling goes away then you now you’ve got a bad tube.

          • Putz says:

            I tried swapping the preamp speaker with its neighbor and still the same. I’ll need to get a speaker and tubes I think, I posted on the general discussions page in regard to the eminence 820H. I wonder if you’ve heard anything about it?

  22. Patrick Greenlee III says:

    “If it is a silvercase and the grill has an aluminum surround, the it was made in 1967-1969″ Do you mean “silverface” instead of “silvercase”? And are the broncos the same as far as the cosmetic changes/year?

  23. mohammad says:

    the back i see the digit 40857 .. what year is it ? .. idont see a serial number in my amp’s cabinet

  24. werner says:

    I’ve got an AA764 here for repair, is tha made in January 64?

    • vcadmin says:

      No, the AA764 on the sticker is the number Fender designated for the Vibro Champ circuit. The serial number is stamped on the metal on the top right of the chassis. Check out our Amp Dating link at the top menu for help dating your Vibro Champ.

  25. Glenn Dunnington says:

    Hello – I am looking to buy a VC (for harmonica) and It looks like the serial number is A 23048 – but it has a black face. According to you dating page and the serial number it is 1968 – and should be silverface – but it has a black face. How could that be? Does it make a difference?

    Thank you – Glenn

    • vcadmin says:

      The amp *should* be a silverface but Fender didn’t always follow their published specs. My guess is that it’s an early ’68 with a left-over blackface faceplate. There are examples on this site of Fender not making clean transitions, for example in 1965 they changed the company name to “Fender Musical Instruments” but at least one person has a 1965 model that reads with the older “Fender Electric Instrument Co.”.

      You’ll be better able to tell when the amp was made if you look at the transformer codes to see when they were made.

      BTW, the 1967 and 1968 silverface amps are considered to be electronically identical to their 1967 and before blackface counterparts.

      • Chris F says:

        I too have a ’65 that has conflicts. It was built in December of ’65. The backplate of the amp chassis reads “Fender Electric Instrument Co.”, reported to be a separator for pre and post-CBS amps. My tube map says “Fender Musical Instruments”, as does the blackface-plate. I don’t think that when they made these amps they realized how special they really are, or how coveted they would become.
        As far as components, I don’t know too much about such things, but for Pete’s sake, if the thing sounds good, why worry about the kind of faceplate it has, or what it looks like? These amps were made for only one purpose: To sound good!
        To fuss over looks is akin to all those idiots in the classic musclecar world who trailer their cars to shows. Balderdash, I say! Just like any good musclecar is made to be driven & not just seen, every good tube amp is made to be heard and not put in a curio cabinet as a museum piece.
        I believe that the moment when we confuse the primary purpose of the object, that is the very moment we become too purist!
        I love my amp, but I’d never put it’s looks before it’s tone. Info for posterity is good. We need to know the details, as long as we don’t get caught by them. Happy tones!

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