Just when you thought you’d finally got the hang of saving money, you could absolutely 100% rely on Fender to come up with something like this, and set you straight back to square one! The 1993 Fender Limited Edition Standard Stratocaster (also known in the UK as the ’93 USA Special Edition Strat), was an American made guitar with regular production line manufacture, but the appearance of a Custom Shop instrument. Of course, image having the importance that it does in the world of guitars, this concept quickly built a buzz around the ’93 Standard LE.
The way this beautiful 1993 Limited Edition Stratocaster was advertised to the UK public back in the day.
Shipped only during the course of 1993, limited to 400 units, and dripping with gold-plated hardware, pearloid scratchplate, etc, this behemoth of a Strat, definitely caught the eye on the guitar shop displays. But actually, take away all the cosmetic glamour, and this instrument was only really a set of Texas Special pickups away from the American Standard Stratocaster of the day.
Both body and neck were the same as those used on the ’93 USA Standard Strats, and other than the fact that it was gold-plated (and the neck plate had a special inscription), the metal hardware was the same too. This meant the fitting of a Fender USA fulcrum-type trem with two slot-head pivot posts, and whilst I was never a fan of this bridge cosmetically, it did look a lot better with gold plating and it certainly worked very well mechanically. USA Standard attributes such as the TBX tone controls were also present, and even the dual roller-type string trees were observed as features, but in gold rather than chrome, of course. The Limited Edition did, however, have vintage design strap buttons as opposed to the regular USA Standard lock-fit type.
One of the things I disliked about the USA Standard Strats of this era was their tendency to sound rather ‘cold’. Their pickups employed full-strength alnico pole-pieces, were not that generously wound, and with the guitar bodies often fairly weighty and ‘hi-fi’-sounding, the tone could lack midrange. Some Strat fans love that partially ‘scooped’ tone, but I prefer a small amount of ‘meat’ in the midrange. So for me, Fender’s switching of the Standard USA Strat pickups for a set of Texas Specials in the Limited Edition, was a major benefit. It also has to be remembered that when this Limited Edition Strat was introduced in ’93, the Texas Specials were not available as an accessory. In order to get the pickups, you needed to buy a Strat which had them fitted, and until this point, they’d only been available on Custom Shop products. Reviewers were heaping a lot of praise onto the then new Texas Special pickups too, so they were a definite selling point as regards this guitar.
The ’93 Limited/Special Edition came in a range of eight classic and modern finishes including Antique Burst (a typical Fender 3-tone sunburst, basically), Montego Black, Vintage White, Candy Green, Frost Red, Burgundy Mist, Ocean Turquoise and Midnight Purple. Buyers had the option of maple neck or rosewood fingerboard (each with a 9½ inch radius), but all the necks had the customary, pallid, standard satin finish.
ARE YOU SITTING DOWN?…
When you listened to all the hype about this ’93 Standard Limited Edition being a regular production guitar with a Custom Shop aura, you’d be forgiven for getting your hopes up regarding a relatively modest price. Sadly, however, the UK RRP ran comfortably into the four digits, at £1,060. Typical dealer discounting saw to it that the actual price to the consumer would be dragged back down into three-digit territory, but frankly, this Special Edition Strat was not going to be sonically or operationally superior to a Strat Plus Deluxe, which could be bought brand new in the shops for £649 in 1993. However, the Limited Edition’s full £1,060 retail price was less than a Custom Shop version would have cost – probably by about £300-£400. And if you looked at the economy of scale, the pricing of the ’93 Limited Edition became more logical. With a max of only 400 sales from which to recoup Fender’s entire additional outlay (including marketing, advertising, etc), you’d expect each individual guitar to carry a relatively high ‘exclusivity fee’ - pretty much by necessity.
But eventually, it all hinged on how much the consumer wanted the gold plating, and how much they wanted the Texas Specials. Texas Specials were good, if rather specialised pickups, but given the vast range of third party replacement units on the market by ’93, Fender couldn’t exactly be considered to have potential customers by the short and curlies.
TO BUY OR NOT TO BUY
A realist trying a '93 Limited Edition alongside a Strat Plus Deluxe would surely have taken the Plus Deluxe and then bought a Squier Silver Series with the ‘change’ – just for backup. But then, if no one was ever swayed by cosmetics, there’d be no such thing as a Les Paul Custom, the jewellery industry wouldn’t exist, and a lot of current pop stars would probably be working in call centres whilst the music industry was left to middle-aged intellectuals with beer bellies, talent, and nothing better to do with it. So inevitably, the 1993 Limited Edition Strat Standard was going to be the perfect guitar for many buyers, just based on its looks. It did genuinely have the appearance of a very impressive Custom Shop instrument, and it undercut the Custom Shop price tag. Collector appeal was also a big factor with that ‘1993’ exclusivity built in, and the fairly modest production total.
I suppose in the end, sales of the 1993 USA Strat Standard Limited Edition were down to circumstance. If you loved Strats, and you had the money sitting in the bank gathering dust, then walking into a guitar shop to see one of these beauties staring back at you was only likely to result in one outcome. You wouldn't be going home without it.
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