Dating mim strats
I've since bought a MIM that was better in all build quality aspects but had some part quality problems.It's much easier to swallow having to buy new pickups for a $300 guitar vs a $1000 guitar...
The pickups I can tell if they are good or not, because the guitar itself sounds bad.The Made-In-America ones are higher quality, both in parts and build. Fantastic w/sock pickups through a variety of amps. It is the discontinued metallic 'Midnight Blue', my all time favorite Fender color. Now a year and a half later, still loving the tele, plus, now I gotta girlfriend whose not an insane, bipolar psycho!!Made-In-Mexico ones are still Fender products, and quality instruments. Only change I made was straplocks and a matte black pickplate...looks ultra-retro on arctic white! I have an 1996 Standard MIM Strat ($350) and I have to be honest and tell you this guitar sounds cheap and it's miles away from every Fender Standard Strat MIA that I've tried.It's now a bit beaten-up looking and I've worn the frets low with use, and I love it.Many people compliment me on the great & smooth sound my guitar has, though different amps as jam sessions.It helps narrow things down, but in most cases is an inexact science.
Leo Fender never intended for his guitars to become collectors items.
The Highway-1 series Strats (basically an American-assembled MIM with 70's styling and a few other tricks) did a little of this (my H-1 has Greasebucket tone circuits which reduce the boominess you get when you roll off the tone), but usually when you buy an American Standard Strat you are getting exactly that.
This was true until 2006 or so, at least of build quality, when Fender MIA quality went to crap.
Like all huge manufacturers, there will be ups and downs. Got strat new on a straight across trade for a jazz bass.
Wood, electronics, pick-ups, basically all of the parts of the guitar can be different in Mexico and American made fenders, depending on model and build date. Upgraded p-ups to Carvin AP11s.....better quack than stock! Bought the tele on a whim cuz I was p/o'd at my then girlfriend!
I suspect this was about the time that marketing people took over management of the company.