This can be a tall order for someone less versed in guitar history, but we do have some resources here on Reverb to help you out.For starters, there's the Reverb Price Guide which has thousands of entries with pictures and details on various guitars and other gear.
There's A Brief History of the Stratocaster Part I and Part II that follows the evolution of the most popular Fender guitar of all.
Similarly, take a look at Behold the Jazzmaster for general timeline of the history of everyone's favorite offset guitar.
For Fender during the turning point era of the mid-'60s, check out Fender and the CBS Takeover.
So you need to figure out the year of production for your Fender guitar or bass. Fenders rank as the most frequently bought and sold instruments on Reverb, and finding a precise date of manufacture can be key to determining the value and specifics of an instrument.
The most important thing to keep in mind when dating a Fender is the highly modular nature of the designs.
Like Henry Ford, part of Leo Fender's genius was in optimizing the company's production efficiency.
His guitars were built en masse by an entire factory, not a single luthier toiling over one instrument at a time.
Features like bolt-on necks and pickups wired into the pickguard all helped the Fender factory churn out guitar after guitar, day after day.
This also means that various parts used on a particular guitar may have come from different points in time, so no single number can absolutely define when the instrument was built.
Instead, the best approach to dating a Fender is to combine indicators from the design of the instrument, the dates found on the neck and body, along with the serial number.
Perhaps the best place to start when dating your Fender is to get an approximate idea of the era based on the instrument's design and components.