I got some less than friendly replies to my Big Bang, Little Bucks post and I think I deserved it. The guitars I described were in the $5000 range but, with repairs or upgrades got up in the $6500 range. The problem is that I called this amount “Little Bucks”. It’s not. $5000 is a load of money for a guitar to many folks and, because I sell and write about some mighty expensive guitars, I sometimes lose sight of the fact that the air is a bit rarefied in the 58-64 years. So are the prices. A vintage guitar, for almost all of us, is a luxury. Nobody has to have a vintage piece. Eric Clapton’s ‘burst was only 7 years old when he played with Mayall & Co. The argument that they “just don’t make ‘em like they used to” doesn’t really apply any more. They (and I don’t mean Gibson, alone) make plenty of great guitars-some every bit as good as the ones I sell. I’ve made my point about “old wood” but you can still get a ton of tone out of a brand new or fairly new guitar that won’t cost you a years tuition at a major university. So, let’s look to see what you should buy if you have $3000 or less to spend and you want something old. I’m not going to talk about anything new because it isn’t my field. I’ve played a lot of the newer 335’s but you don’t need me to tell you which one to buy. Use your ears and your hands to figure out which one works for you. It’s a guitar, not an investment. Leave the investments to others if you don’t have the disposable income or assets to play that game. And ask them how they did on the guitars they bought in 2007-2008 when you get a chance. So, you have $3000 to spend on a guitar. Guitar Center has brand new 335’s for $2999. That’s the base model and it’s probably a pretty nice guitar although I haven’t played one. But you can get something vintage as well and it can be from the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s. It’s hard for old farts like me to believe but 1984 was almost 30 years ago. That makes those mid 80’s 335’s vintage. I particularly like the 81-85’s although the quality stays pretty much the same for the rest of the 80’s. Only the pickups change (and not for the better). The 81-85’s are the last of the Norlins and are quite good but they have also creeped up in price. You might find a blonde one under $3000-I have-but you’d be better off and so will your wallet if you look for another color. The black ones, although somewhat rare don’t seem to command a premium. I’ve seen a few under $2000. Reds and the somewhat dull sunbursts are easy to find in the $1800-$2400 range. They are generally well made and generally sound pretty good if a little dark. Change out the crappy harness with its 300K pots for a good one with 50-0K pots and it will brighten up. Make sure the Tim Shaw PAF reissues are still in there. I think they’re a little overrated but they are still good pickups. Some have big necks, some small, some three piece, some one piece…just make sure you know what you’re getting. Ask a lot of questions. Next choice-a ’68 or early 69 ES-345. It’s going to have a narrow nut and if you can’t play a guitar with a skinny little 1 9/16″ nut, don’t buy one. You can’t fix it. Look to see whether it has a long neck tenon. All the 68’s do and some 69’s do. Avoid the ones where you can’t see the neck tenon sticking most of the way through the neck pickup rout. If you are able to play it in person, you can consider a later 69 but make sure the neck is stable. Some aren’t. 335’s from these years are pretty much out of your budget unless they are refinished or have neck breaks but 345’s with some minor issues (like added stop tails and changed tuners and harnesses) still turn up on Ebay, The Gear Page and Craigslist for $3000 or less. If you get lucky a 335 might turn up that you can negotiate down to that level. I was gonna talk about the 70’s but I’m out of space. Another time.