You will find the MADE IN JAPAN stamp on the heel of every guitar's neck, without variation.
On Stratocasters and bass guitars, you will find the serial number just below this stamp, also on the heel of the neck.
A 1974 strat has a serial number that does not start with an "S" prefix. no serial sticker in the neck pocket or in the body cavities.
From about 1975 or so, the serial numbers have the S prefix If your strat has a 1976 decal, it is most likely a 76. The switch does feel like an older switch when switching. It was around that time that the 5-way switch was offered stock, I thought that '77 was the first year officially, so I could believe that it might be on some '76 models also.
Dateing SRV Stratocaster- I have a SRV Strat- serial number is SE 927010 - can anyone help me date that number? As far as dating an instrument, your true best bet is to send an e-mail with as much information as you have to: [email protected]