Take for instance, the 50s Classic Strat, and the '57 American Vintage Strat. How much difference is there in a) quality b) authenticity c) tonally?

And consider your answer for a player that is at most a couple year's experienced.

For either's price I'd assume the quality is topnotch.
Classic's are either mexican or jap made, quality control is not as good, having said that, they're still great, they're just "not as good" as the American vintage series which has more exact specs i think and better hardware.
Quote by Half_Full

My Gear:
-Epiphone Les Paul Standard plus -honeyburst with Duncan Jb/59
-Crate gt65
-Boss ME-50
Future gear:
-Vox AC30 cc2