I’ve actually been asked to write on certain topics. I’m flattered to death that folks like my writing. My college English professors were very fond of the B- over C+ whatever that means. Maybe because I was writing about Elizabethan drama and not about guitars. Anyway, I’ve been asked a lot about the 345 market recently, probably because of the odd alignment of the stars in the 335 market. the 335 market has a built in brick wall and that is the difference between the dot neck and the block neck. While the block neck market right now is hot, hot, hot, the dot neck market is not (not, not). That’s because you can pick up a really good 62-64 for between $10K and $15K. It might have a Bigsby or Bigsby holes but you won’t touch a dot for under $20K no matter what’s wrong with it other than a broken neck or a refin (yet). The 345 market doesn’t have this hard and fast turning point and acts differently. We all know that the 335 was the lower end guitar but that it is the more popular (and therefore the more expensive) of the two. The 345 has, since the beginning of the vintage guitar boom, been a relative bargain since it can do everything a 335 can do and more. And it’s a prettier guitar (IMO, of course).
It got the better wood and perhaps a little more care by the builders. The 345 market has a break point too but it’s a lot later than the 335 break point. The 345’s from 59 through 64 are all excellent guitars. the differences in price are based on something a little more substantive than dots vs. blocks. The price differences of the 345 are based on usable elements like neck size and pickups as well as condition and originality. The great 59 neck and a pair of PAFs is going to command a premium over any other year. Period. It just is and always will be. 1959 is considered the pinnacle of Gibson “Golden Era” and the guitars I’ve owned from 59 bear this out. The only difference between a 59 and a 60 is the neck and the color of the Varitone ring.
But that thinner neck will save you $3K-$4K. Recently, a 59 ES 345 sold on Ebay for $13,100. It was in average condition with double black PAFs and a stop tail. I believe it had changed tuners as well. So, let’s price a no issues 59 with black PAFs at $14K. Ebay doesn’t lie-it is the best indicator of true market value in an open and competitive marketplace. That would make the top of the 59 range somewhere around $18K for one in great condition with double whites or zebras. Let’s ignore red and blonde 59’s because their rarity changes all the rules. A similarly equipped 60 will likely drop about $3000 at the low end and as much as $5000 at the top end. Blonde 60’s are still very rare but red 60’s are pretty common and would probably be on a par with sunbursts. By 61, the neck is awfully thin, the blondes are gone and the reds become the more common color. The neck size comes back a bit in 63 but not quite to the size of the vaunted 64 neck. It appears that the market makes almost no distinction between 61-64 stop tail 345’s. You should be able to get any one of these years for around $10-$12K for a stop tail with PAFs and around $8,000 for a Bigsby with patent number pickups. Just because there are sellers asking from $9400-$15400 for ES 345s -all from 1964 doesn’t mean they will sell. The likelihood is that they won’t. Let’s look at what’s listed right now. The $9400 one is a Bigsby only. No chance that it’s worth $9400. The one for $10,500 is in the UK and is also a Bigsby although there are no photos-won’t sell. The other 2 at around $15K look like near mint, excellent stop tail examples. They are both too high by at least $3000 and perhaps as much as $5,000. The only way to know for certain what a 345 is worth is to put one up in a no reserve auction, describe it accurately and completely and see where it goes. It won’t be going for $15,000 unless it’s a 59 with some really nice PAFs in zebra or white.