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Why do my MIJ 1996 P-basses have different pickups?


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I have two MIJ Fender Precision 50th Anniversary 1996 P-basses, one (Blue Bass) has a V+6 digit serial, and the other has a U+6 digit (Red Bass). I've had them for around 15 years, and recently I removed the necks to take a peek. Photos are attached. I now know the blue bass is a 62 reissue and the red bass is a 57. But - the original pickups that these basses came with are different, one has a magnet fixed to the bottom which seems to be unusual. I’m wondering if one pup is Japanese and one American? If so, which is which?

I even found a 1996 Fender Japan brochure here - Fender Japan Electric Guitars Catalog 1996 but it hasn’t helped. I'm pretty sure both bodies are Basswood so I was expecting both pickups to be Japanese but as they’re not identical I’m not so sure now.

If anyone can shed some light I’d be grateful.

Blue 1_resize.jpg

Blue 2_resize.jpg

Blue 3_resize.jpg

Red 1_resize.jpg

Red 2_resize.jpg

Red 3_resize.jpg

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I think i might know the answer, tho I might be wrong.

The difference is that the ones on the red bass are probably of ceramic, bar magnet construction, whereas the blue bass pickups are probably more expensive alnico pole pieces.

I have a MIJ strat from 1994, with ceramic, bar magnet pickups in neck and middle - like yours, the pole pieces are bright and shiny, with a magnet on the underside of the pickup which serves to magnetise all the metal pole pieces.

The strat's after-market bridge pickup however looks like the one on your blue bass - it has greyer, less shiny pole pieces, which are usually individual alnico magnets.

As i understand it, the ceramic bar pickups are a cheaper way of producing pickups, with the alnicos being closer to the real deal.

It's entirely possible that for the 50th anniversary blue model, they pushed the boat out a bit and went for the more costly pickups, with the red bass having the regular generic ones.

FWIW, the cheaper ceramic ones on my strat sound decent enough tho!

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You've said you've owned them for 15 years, so they were seven years old when you got them.  How do you know what the previous owner did?  Maybe they changed one of the pickups, maybe both, maybe neither.

The things that jump out for me is the heat-shrink on the red bass (the '57) pickup; I wouldn't think that Fender would issue a bass with that flaw, unless it was part of the spec, but hey ho.  Also the basses are effectively copies/reissues of two different periods, so perhaps the blue one (the '62) comes with the earthing/shielding plate and the red (the '57) doesn't.

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@NancyJohnson I was curious about this - I found this discussion https://forums.fender.com/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=104873 - if you read down to "58", its stated that brass plates started in the 58 model and thus would not be present in his 57 model above (if they are trying for historical accuracy of course) - I've seen them on seventies models, but no later

Edited by Geek99
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