Renecks. Not Rednecks.
I was just about to buy a 1961 ES-345 today from a nice gentleman in California. He and I were discussing the guitar and its history and he mentioned that the neck was thin. I said, “well, it’s a 61, it should have a thin neck” but then he said,”well, it isn’t real wide like a 59…” and I stopped in my tracks. A 61 is very bit as wide as a 59 and so I started looking a bit more closely at the photos. The owner said he had taken the guitar to Norman’s Rare Guitars-a very reputable dealer-and they went over it. Because of that, I felt it had to be what the owner said it was but when I looked more closely, I saw that the headstock inlay was in the lower position-like a 67. Well, if the guitar had been renecked in 67, it would have a neck that was very thin with a headstock that has the “flowerpot” inlay in the lower position. Sure enough, even though the photos were about 100×100 (thumbnails), I could see that the logo was in the lower position. There are other things to look for if you suspect a guitar has been renecked. If it’s done at the Gibson factory, they usually (and I stress usually) restamp the headstock with the same serial number that’s on the orange label except that they use a larger and/or bolder font. Now, if you have no other Gibson to compare it to, that doesn’t tell you very much. If the guitar is from the era when the serial numbers began with the letter “A” and there was no headstock serial, then it’s easy. In that case, there will be a serial number with its letter A right there on the back of the headstock. Size, in this instance, doesn’t matter. You can also take a peek in the neck pickup rout. Usually, there is very little glue in there and a small gap between the end of the tenon and the pocket that it sits in.
If it’s full of glue, it may be a reneck. If there is any appearance of residue from the old neck or its removal, it could be a reneck. These are not very good tells because it may have just been a sloppy job on the original neck. But if you have doubts because the neck feels wrong for the era or has the wrong logo or anything else that tips you off, it might help you decide to buy or pass. The next inevitable question is what a reneck does to the value of a vintage guitar. I guess that depends on a few things. If you’re a collector, it’s a dealbreaker. A renecked guitar has little or no collector value. If you’re a player and you like the way it feels and sounds, then pay a player price and be happy. In this case, the parts are pretty valuable but not worth what the seller wants for the guitar-the PAFs have been opened and since the guitar once had a Bigsby, the stop tail could be from a later guitar. It seems odd that the folks at Norman’s didn’t mention the possibility of a reneck to him. Most dealers are very quick to point out all the things that give them a good reason to pay you less money for your guitar. Is it possible that a ’61 has the lower position? Anything is possible at Gibson. Is it likely? I don’t think so. Until I get better photos, I’m going to have to pass on the purchase. Perhaps if it were a 64 neck on a 61 guitar, I would say OK-I love the neck. But a skinny 67 neck is not for me. I would have to say that a reneck like this-a 67 on a 61 would drop the value by at least 50%-keeping in mind that the intrinsic value of the PAFs and other original parts may raise that a bit. It would certainly be worth the value of its parts and then some. The question is how much is “then some”. In the case of a 67 neck on a 61 body? Not very much.