Squier is a second-line brand of the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. It produces models mostly derived from the Fender line of products but at lower cost, and are marketed similarly in providing high quality instruments at affordable prices for novice players.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s Fender was facing competition from lower priced Japanese made guitars. The lower priced Fender guitars were made in America and could not compete with the Japanese made Fender copies lower prices. In the early 1980s, Japanese labor and production costs were much lower than in America and to compete with the Japanese made guitars, Fender decided to move the lower priced Fender guitar production from America to Japan.
Fender were also losing sales in Japan to Japanese guitar brands such as Tōkai and Greco, so the establishment of Fender Japan would benefit Fender in Japan as well as overseas. Fender began negotiations with several Japanese musical instrument distributors and reached an agreement with Yamano Gakki and Kanda Shokai to establish Fender Japan. Yamano Gakki are also known for once being part of Epiphone Japan. Kanda Shokai own the Greco brand name and one of the conditions of the Fender Japan agreement was that Kanda Shokai cease production of its own Greco Fender copies.
This arrangement benefited Fender because it removed the Greco Fender copies which were selling at much lower prices than the American made Fenders in Japan and also benefited Kanda Shokai because it could now distribute Japanese made Fender branded guitars in Japan. Further negotiations between Fender and guitar factories were done. Tokai was seriously considered to start building the first Japanese made Fenders but after a breakdown in negotiations FujiGen Gakki was chosen instead
The first Fender Japan guitars produced were the Squier JV series. These were very accurate reproductions of classic 1950s and 1960s Fender guitar models. Soon after a second series followed and these were called the SQ series as seen from the prefix to their serial numbers. They were generally reproductions of 1970s models with the main difference being that they had Japanese made pickups whereas the initial JV series used Fender American made pickups. Over time the Squier series has slowly evolved to include original model designs and production has moved from Japan to various other Asian countries such as Korea and China.
When initially launched in Europe in the early 1980s the Squier range offered classic reproductions of Fender's most popular models: '57 and '62 Stratocasters, '57 and '62 Precision Basses, '52 Telecasters and '62 Jazz Bass. These were made in the FujiGen Gakki factory in Japan - then also used by Ibanez - using original factory blueprints. These early Squiers are referred to as "JV Squiers" due to those two letters being the prefix on the serial number stamped on the neck plate that stand for "Japanese Vintage". Initial shipments to Europe had Fender's logo in large script on the headstock with a small "Squier Series" decal but quickly this gave way to a large Squier logo with a small "by Fender" decal. These early JVs are extremely accurate reproductions of the classic models and are highly sought by guitar collectors, especially in Europe.
The early JV Squiers often used neck and body parts that were originally meant for Greco Fender copies Kanda Shokai had to cease Greco Fender copy production as part of its agreement with Fender to not compete with the Fender Japan guitars and unused Greco neck and body parts were used by FujiGen for some of the Fender JV Squiers. The early JV squiers often had USA pickups installed such as the X-1 single coil pickup which were used on the USA made "Fender Lead II", "Strat" and the "Dan Smith Stratocaster" models.
There are also original and distinct editions of existing Fender guitar designs like the Fender Stratocaster and Fender Telecaster, such editions being the Hello Kitty Stratocaster with pink finish and fingerboard inlays and the Hello Kitty logo, the OBEY Graphics series of Stratocasters and Telecasters with custom hand-painted bodies or the Avril Lavigne and Eric Clapton editions.
USA Squiers were made for less than a year spanning 1989 and 1990 before production of Squiers went back to Mexico. This was a period when Made in Japan Squiers had stopped and then they moved Squiers to Mexico, but there was a fire in the Mexican factory which disrupted things for a few months in which Fender USA made the Squiers.
KC/KV: KC (Korean Cor-Tek (Cort)) and KV (Korean Saehan(Sunghan)), the serial number prefix is followed by a 2 number year.
KC and KV serial number prefixes are usually used on Crafted in Korea Squiers. S/E: The S and E serial number prefix Korean Squiers are from the late 1980s/early 1990s. S = Samick, E = Young Chang, E letter serial numbers were used on Young Chang's Fenix brand guitars . The first number following the serial number prefix is the year.
There were also Korean Squier serials with no serial number prefix and 6 or 7 numbers and the first number is the year.
CY: C = China, Y = Yako (Taiwan), the serial number prefix is followed by a 2 number year.
CY serials are usually used on Crafted in China Squiers. Some Chinese made Gretsch guitars also have a CY serial number.
Miscellaneous Chinese serials: CD, CT, CJ, NC: C = China, the first number following the serial number prefix is the year. Probably made by Yako (Taiwan).
Some Squiers that are sold only in the Chinese and Asian markets are made by Axl in China.
IS: I = Indonesia, S = Samick, the serial number prefix is followed by a 2 number year.