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.
Fender, under the ownership of CBS, acquired the Squier brand name in the mid to late 1960s when it bought a USA based string making firm, but it lay dormant for many years. Before the Fender Squier series were introduced in 1982, Fender were making lower priced guitars such as the Fender Lead series at their Fullerton California plant. Until the introduction of the Fender Squier series, Fender had never produced lower priced guitars based on their main Stratocaster and Telecaster designs and had always used different model designs for their lower priced guitars.
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 Guitars and Greco guitars, 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 Orville by Gibson. 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 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 Initial 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 Models designs and production has moved from Japan to various other Asian countries such as Korea and China.
Initial Squier JV series
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 have been a few Squier models that have been distinct enough in specification from standard Fender models to be notable, such as the Squier Super-Sonic, the Squier '51 (a design that hybridizes elements of the Stratocaster, Telecaster, and 1951 Fender Precision Bass), and the Squier Jagmaster (partially derived from the Fender Jazzmaster and Fender Jaguar). The Squier Bullet name, currently used for an inexpensive Stratocaster variant, was originally applied to an early '80s short-scale model which resembled a hybrid of a Strat and a Fender Mustang.
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.
As of 2007, Fender seems to be positioning Squier as both a budget brand (with the Bullet, Affinity, and Standard series of guitars and basses) and an alternate moniker, with some original models in the Squier lineup that are not found in Fender's own catalogue. Special editions of standard production models are not listed below.