I get it. $14000 is a boatload of money for a guitar. The vast majority of players (as opposed to collectors) can’t really afford to spend that much. When I was a younger man, I could afford expensive guitars but didn’t buy them because there was always something else that needed buying (like a house, a car, a college education for my son, etc, etc, etc). I always had a few guitars but never anything that was worth more than a few thousand dollars. Then, of course, the vintage market went into bubble mode and all of a sudden, my old 64 was worth some big money. Now that the bubble has long since burst (or at least deflated a bit), the prices of some really nice guitars have become more affordable again. When you consider that a new Custom Shop ES-335 will cost you around $6000 (and be worth a lot less as soon as you walk out the door of the music store), then perhaps vintage has become a smart buy again. Let’s examine the vintage ES market for under $10,000. There are a lot of choices and they will sound every bit as good as the guitars that I described in part one of this post. They may have a few changed parts or a couple of holes that don’t belong there but these things don’t usually affect tone or playability. So, what’s good? If you don’t want a guitar with issues and you want the wide nut and big neck of a 59, then you should look at ES-335s from the first part of ’65 and ES-345s from late 63 through early 65. A no issue, bone stock big neck ’65 ES-335 will be identical to a 64 except for the tailpiece (trapeze except for a few very early 65′s that snuck through with stop tails) slightly different tuners (double line rather than single line Klusons) and probably a different truss rod cover (narrow bevel rather than wide). An all nickel hardware ’65 will cost you in the neighborhood of $8500-maybe less depending on condition. Don’t take the sellers word for it that the neck is a big one. The nut should measure 1 11/16″ and the depth at the first fret should be around .83″-.86″. The end point for the big necks is around serial number 340xxx. The latest one I’ve had has been 339738. There are thin necks with lower numbers, so pay attention. Want a stop tail and PAFs? It isn’t out of the question for less than $10,000. I sold a pretty nice ’60 ES-345 stop tail for $9000 recently. It had new tuners and a repro stop tail but it also had a zebra PAF in the bridge and a double black in the neck. It had a few extra holes by the end pin from a Bigsby B6 (the wrong one for a 345) but none in the top. It didn’t have a big neck but it was still a lot of guitar for not too much money. Another good example was a 63 ES-345 I had a few months ago. It had a nice big neck, patent number pickups, original Klusons and was originally a stop tail that had an added Bigsby. One of the pickups was missing its sticker but that was the only real issue. It sold for $7800. Right now ES-345′s except for 59′s and blondes are pretty soft and it’s a good time to grab one at a very fair price. There are still plenty of sellers who think a 60′s ES-345 is worth $15000 or more but they just aren’t selling. That’s why you see the same guitars week in and week out on Ebay. As vintage guitars approach the cost of new, they start looking awfully good. For my money, I’d pay $7800 for a 63 ES-345 with a few small issues long before I’ll pay $6000 to my local Guitar Center for a new Custom Shop ES-335. In part 3, I’ll talk about guitars with more and bigger issues that will drive the price even lower.
Archive for the ‘ES 335’ Category
There is a post on the Les Paul Forum asking what the best value is for a vintage ES given a budget of $14,000. First off, let me tell what you can eliminate and then my choices will make more sense. You can forget about a dot neck unless you don’t mind lots of issues. You can also forget about a no issue stop tail 64 or earlier block necks unless you get really lucky. No issue stop tails start at around $15K but minor issues can drop the price below that $14K threshold. Issues like Grovers (or Grover holes) or maybe removed pickup covers can drop the price to $12K to $14K making these guitars a pretty good deal if you’re a player. If you’re buying to enjoy and as an investment, save your money. Issues guitars are not terribly good investments although they will generally hold their value. If you must have PAFs, your options are still pretty good. Recently, the ES-345 market has gotten pretty soft and they are a relative bargain right now.
The best $14000 guitar right now? Again, my opinion, but if I had had $14K to spend on any ES, I’d buy a 59 ES-345 stop tail. I love the early 335′s with their big necks, long magnet PAFs and shallow neck angles. But 58 and 59′s are way out of this range-even Bigsby models. But 345′s aren’t. This one sold on Ebay last week for around $14,500. I know this guitar-I bought it from Heritage (auction house) a couple of years ago and sold it for $12500. It was re-sold this year at Arlington and showed up on Ebay a week later . All the great stuff you hear about 59 ES-335′s applies to 59 ES-345s. Same construction, same neck profile, same everything except the hardware is gold, the inlays are different and it has a stereo Varitone circuit. Take it out if you don’t like it (flip one pickup magnet) and you have a $14000 ’59 stop tail ES. If you really really want an unmodded, no issue 335 rather than a 345 in that range, then a Bigsby/Custom Made late 63 or 64 is the winner. A 62 or early 63 would be in the same range (and might even have 2 PAFs) but the thinner neck might be an issue for some in this fat neck crazed market. If you don’t want a Bigsby, take it off and put on a stop. It won’t change the value-you can simply put the Bigsby and plate back on. Finally, if you don’t mind a Bigsby, like an ebony board and you’re good with a red guitar, an early PAF equipped mono ES-355 can be a killer choice in that range. Yeah, you see them for $20K or more but they rarely, if ever, sell for those numbers. I sold a 59 recently for $15K with a zebra and a double white. The neck wasn’t a big fat 59 profile-it was closer to a 60 (ES-355′s went to the thinner neck earlier than the rest of the line). A ’60 mono 355 can be had for even less if you’re patient. So, in order of my personal preference, it goes like this: ’59 stop tail ES-345, ’63-64 ES-335 Bigsby/Custom Made and ’59/60 mono ES-355. I’d take any one of them at that price and be a happy camper. On the other hand, there are great ES’s to be had for a lot less. Next, I’ll tell you what you can get for under $10K.
Norlin, in case you haven’t heard, was an Ecuadorean cement and beer conglomerate that bought Gibson from CMI in 1969. To most, the sale signaled the end of decent guitars coming out of Kalamazoo. In fact, the conventional wisdom goes, there would never have been a vintage market if the big makers kept making high grade instruments instead of putting profits before quality. I’m not even certain that they’re beer and cement was all that good either. But, as my readers tell me loudly and often, there are exceptions. I’ve never disagreed with that – I’ve touted the early 80′s Norlin 335′s “dot reissues” again and again but rarely had anything nice to say about the 70′s (and that goes beyond guitars). I had a 79 blonde ES-335 on my Gbase site as a consignment for a very long time but until recently I never had it in my hands for more than a minute or two. I sold it recently and was able to spend a few hours of quality time with it while I set it up prior to shipping. I also went through it pretty carefully to see all the terrible 70′s things that Norlin did to my favorite guitar. There are a lot of things for a purist not to like on a late 70′s Norlin 335. The body shape is very strange. It appears to be smaller and more pinched at the waist with thinner horns. It is ungainly looking but perfectly functional-it just doesn’t look like a “real” 335. Norlin made a lot of changes to simplify the construction process in order to raise profits. They shortened the center block and did away with the mahogany ends. They started using three piece necks with the dreaded volute and eventually switched to maple necks. I haven’t studied 70′s 335s with anywhere near the same level of detail as I have the 50′s and 60′s models but I saw a few things in this ’79 that struck me. First, it played and sounded excellent. Certainly on a par with any early 80′s Norlin dot neck. The build quality was as good as any I’ve seen but that may be because this guitar might have been a custom order. It was unusual for a 79 in that it had no coil tap, it had a factory stop tail and the center block went the distance from end to end and was very neatly glued in place. Even 50′s 335′s usually have pretty messy glue inside. It had a big neck and a wide nut. The 70′s catalog says that the top ply of the top is birch and this sure looked like birch to me. Birch and maple are easy to confuse but this looked a lot like the wood used in most kitchen cabinets which is, in fact, birch. There were some things I didn’t like about it (but tone wasn’t one of them). I don’t like a Nashville bridge because they look wrong on a 335 but they do function just fine. It has horrible cheap tuners on it with metal buttons. It has a too large headstock. I never checked to see what pickups are on it but they sounded like t-tops. Given the price, the guitar was a deal for the eventual buyer. This 79 felt like a 60′s 335-except that it must have weighed close to 9 lbs. Weight is very often an issue in the 70′s, although I’m not certain why. So, while I tend to characterize 70′s 335′s as hit or miss with considerable emphasis on the latter, I really liked this one. So, there must be others and if the emails I get from all the readers who own them is any indication, there must be a lot more good ones than I realized. Who’da thunk?
The sunburst Les Pauls get all the glory. All over the internet, it’s ‘burst this and ‘burst that and this one is worth $400,000 and this one over here has ultra deep 3D flame and will walk your dog for you. Well, we have our own ‘burst with it’s own distinctive character and beauty. The sunburst finishes done by Gibson on the early 335′s are quite lovely and are often very distinctive from year to year. A sunburst finish is a very individual thing. Each one is a result of the personal taste of the man wielding the spray gun. I don’t know how many different workers shot the sunburst finishes but there are some wonderful variations both in color and design. Most of us have seen the sunburst on the very early Gibson acoustics with their broad black outer band and a very small inner burst of yellow. Well, some early 335s were reminiscent of this but the more recognizable yellow to red to (almost) black evolved in the early days. I don’t know too much about the process but I can at least make some observations about the results. The red used in the first sunburst 335′s is, almost certainly, the same red they used for the Les Pauls and therein lies much of the variation we see in the sunburst. Until mid 60, the red they used was subject to fading and 335′s fade as much as Les Pauls. So, more often than not, an early 335 will show rather minimal red in the transitions. I’ve owned a number of 58 and 59′s and most showed very little red. That’s not to say there aren’t early 335′s out there that show vibrant reds. It all depends on how much sunlight the guitars were subjected to. A few months in the window of your local guitar shop will kill the reds almost completely whereas a 335 that was bought before it hit the window and was kept in its case for 50 plus years will show a vibrant and rich red. Compare the front to the back and see if there isn’t more red in the back. This type of variation is environmental and has little to do with the individuals who created the finishes. But, the broad range of sunburst patterns has everything to do with them. This ’58 is one of my all time favorites and shows a lot more black than most.
Most early sunbursts show a much thinner band of black and less red as well-again probably due to fading. This pair of 59 345′s shows the range.
By the time the early 60′s rolled around, sunburst 335′s had gotten a lot less popular. They made 521 of them in 59 but only 266 in 1962. But red had taken off going from a mere handful (I know of 6) in 59 to over 600 in 1962. Then the guitar boom hit and the numbers went through the roof. Sunburst 335′s hit a peak in 1967 at 2596 shipped but the red ones still outsold the burst with 3122 units shipped. The split in 345′s was somewhat different with the sunburst maintaining its popularity vs the red through most of the 60′s. The sunburst of the early 60′s block necks wasn’t terribly different from the dot necks that preceded them. The only real notable difference was a more pronounced brown (as opposed to what appears as black) particularly in the ears. The pattern was largely the same and the reds in the finish tended to last a lot longer.
Notably, a change to the typical sunburst occurred sometime in the mid 60′s. The burst pattern became sort of “pear shaped” especially on the back. Here’s a ’65 “pear burst” and a 64 for comparison. Of course, the “cherry burst” showed up in 65 as well but that’s another story.
Have I mentioned that vintage guitar folks are a little nutty? I think I have. I’m referring to the almost universal dislike of the “walnut” finish that Gibson started offering in 1968. It’s pretty clear why the folks at Gibson added the brown stained walnut finish to the line. In 1968, perhaps the most coveted guitar on earth was the Gretsch Country Gentleman. George played one, so any Beatles obsessed kid had to play one. And the color? Well, you know the answer to that one. Walnut. Of course the guitars weren’t made from walnut, they were maple laminate stained brown and walnut is what they called it. So, Gibson saw the opportunity to perhaps grab a piece of that market and added the finish to the line and it proved relatively popular. They didn’t keep track of what was eventually called the ES-335TDW until 1970 and by 1971, it was the most popular color for 335′s outselling red and sunburst. In 1973, they sold 2012 TDWs as compared to 1793 reds and only 540 in sunburst. It was also cheap to produce. Probably even cheaper (and easier) than the red ones. Dark brown can hide a lot of flaws and allows a lot of room for error. In fact, Gibson used the same stain for the backs of the ES-330 sunbursts because they were too cheap to paint both the front and back in the more time consuming sunburst finish. Still, both the Gent and a walnut 335 were expensive guitars back then so it wasn’t the kids who were buying them (it was probably the parents). I wanted a Gent back in the 60′s and actually had a Gretsch Tennessean for a short time. I didn’t particularly like it and went back to my SG pretty quickly. I couldn’t afford a 335 or a Country Gentleman and my parents weren’t buying guitars for me as long as I was making money playing in a band (yeah, $100 a night for six of us). They also had eight other kids to buy stuff for but that’s a different story. Fast forward to the present and there are plenty of brown 335s out there from the 60′s and 70′s. They are cheap and some of them are probably quite good. There is nothing wrong with a 68 or early 69 335 if you can handle the narrow nut. Many 68′s still have pre T-top pickups and are quite well made. By mid 69, they had started cutting some corners and the neck tenon pretty much disappeared making the mid 69′s and later guitars less stable at the heel. 68′s sell pretty well and for decent prices especially for red and sunburst finishes. The brown ones? Not so much. Vintage folks don’t seem to like them very much, myself included. I see 335′s being sunburst, red or natural. I like them in black and my Pelham blue Trini was pretty awesome. But brown? Well, it’s so, I dunno, brown. I don’t buy a lot of later 60′s 335′s but I’ve played enough of them to know that they can really sound great. The same goes for the early 70′s-just try to play before you buy-there are some real dogs among the gems. So, if you can handle the brown, you can probably save yourself $1000 or more. You can always have it refinished.
Let me take off my guitar sellers hat and put on my guitar buyers hat. They are different, I assure you. As a buyer of vintage guitars, you have a fairly broad range of options. You can, of course, buy from a vintage dealer but all vintage dealers aren’t created equal. More on that later. Then there’s the usual open market venues like eBay and Craigslist. beyond that, you can go to guitar shows where there are, of course, plenty of dealers but also walk-ins who have their personal guitar to sell. You can also look in local newspapers but don’t hold your breath-the want ad is pretty much dead. You can get a great deal on a vintage 335 or the like from any of these places but, unless you’re buying from a reputable dealer with a return policy, you are taking a risk. Not necessarily a big risk but you’d better know what you’re looking for. The reason I started this blog-besides the obvious reason of getting you to buy a guitar from me, was to educate you so you don’t have to (buy from me, that is). That said, you might ask where I buy guitars. I buy them pretty much everywhere. I always like buying from a fellow dealer-there are fewer problems with authenticity, packing, shipping and, especially, changed parts. That’s not to say I don’t get guitars from dealers that aren’t as described. I do and more often than I’d like but I’ve never had a problem with a dealer taking back a guitar that wasn’t as described. Sure, they’ll grumble about it and try to get me to keep it but they are usually pretty good about it. Not so with private sellers. I ask a lot of questions. Questions that uneducated sellers can’t reasonably answer. Therein lies the big problem with buying from Craigslist and eBay. It’s not that the sellers are dishonest (although some are). The problem is that most sellers aren’t experts; in fact most of them don’t seem to know anything about the guitar they are selling other than what they can learn from a simple eBay search of the same model. Most sellers can get close on the year by using the serial number PDF that is available but since Gibson re-used so many serial numbers in the 60′s, they are left with a choice and they always pick the oldest year. I can’t tell you how many 68-69 335′s are advertised as 65′s. Fully 90% of the guitars I’ve bought through Ebay have some undisclosed issue that couldn’t be discerned from the photos. Most are pretty benign, like a changed bridge or replaced knobs but sometimes it’s serious. Necks with back bows, rewound pickups, headstock cracks and the like. These things don’t always photograph well and a seller with limited knowledge won’t know what to look for. Since most eBay guitars are overpriced anyway, I don’t buy very many that way. I don’t buy that many through Craigslist either and I’m even more careful than I am with eBay. At least with eBay purchases, you get some level of protection from Paypal. It’s not ideal but I’ve used the service and it has worked for me. Craigslist offers no protection at all. It’s caveat emptor and I’m really careful. Most times, I’m buying expensive guitars and it makes sense to go and see them in person and that’s what I normally do. Buying a guitar from an individual who, say, got the guitar from a deceased relative, isn’t a low risk operation and usually requires a trip. Buying from a player who knows his stuff is a little different and a little more trust is usually warranted. A phone call and a frank Q&A session can be pretty productive and I’ve bought a fair number of guitars from Craigslist without making the often long trip required to make the deal in person. Finally, a quick trip to Gbase or, if you’re in Europe, Vintage and Rare is a good place to start looking for a dealer selling the guitar you want. My advice? Ask a lot of questions, don’t over pay (check my prices to compare) and make absolutely sure there is a return policy. Just because you’re buying from a dealer doesn’t guarantee you that you’ll get the guitar you think you’re getting. The chances, however, are better that you will and that’s worth a few extra bucks.
The transitions that occurred during the life of the ES-335 (and 345′s and 355′s) were, more often than not, fairly benign. Changing from single ring tuners to double rings is pretty inconsequential but other changes were huge. They probably didn’t seem huge to anyone at the time they were made (except for perhaps Gibson’s bottom line) but today they loom very large. It’s January 1965 and there have been no major changes in the new model year guitars. Not yet, anyway. What followed in the late winter/early spring of 65 are perhaps the two biggest changes in the history of the model. They account for the huge drop in value from a vintage perspective but they were probably seen as no big deal or even improvements over the 64. With the appearance of The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in February of ’64, the guitar boom officially began. Sales at Gibson would more than quadruple in the years from ’64 to ’67 and they would be hard pressed to keep up with the demand. While 335′s were never a totally handmade guitar, the techniques of mass production, some of which were in place at Fender, were less established at Gibson. It takes a lot less time to bolt on a neck than it takes to glue one in place. The steps required to install a stop tailpiece are many-drill the holes, install the bushings, install the studs, install the tailpiece. The change to a trapeze tailpiece required drilling three holes and screwing in three screws. And yet, that change alone is one that collectors see as a turning point and the price of a trap tail 65 vs a stop tail 64 bears that out. The other major change was the nut width. In the mid 60′s, rock, in all it’s 60′s incarnations was generally played relatively fast. The guitar companies jumped on the concept of the “fast” neck. Thin meant fast and Fender led the way. Gibson, presumably to compete with Fender, changed the nut width from the usual 1 11/16″ to 1 5/8″ and quickly to 1 9/16″. The depth would slim down as well and by late ’65 the normal nut width was 1 9/16″ and the depth at the first fret was around .78″. The depth would vary from guitar to guitar and from year to year probably because the necks were still hand shaped but, in general, they were pretty small (they got bigger but not wider in 67). No one though much of it at the time. Those of us who were playing in the mid 60′s pretty much bought into the faster is better and thinner is faster concept. I remember my guitar teacher telling me (in ’64) not to get a Fender because the necks were too hard to play because the necks were so narrow. He was a Magnatone dealer and wanted to sell me one of their Strat like solid bodies which had wider nuts. I, of course, got a Fender. The point is that this change looms very large in the collectors mindset but really wasn’t much of a big deal at the time. The current trend toward big fat necks was largely a by product of the popularity of early Les Pauls touted by the early vintage community in the 80′s and 90′s. The “my neck is bigger than your neck” rivalry is still alive and well and I’m certain that plenty of players buy big fat neck guitars even though they’d probably play better on a thinner one. While these were the transitions that mattered, there were others that occurred in 65. The change from nickel hardware to chrome was a gradual change that started with the pickup covers and eventually (as stocks ran out) included bridges, tailpieces and lastly, the pickguard bracket. The change in the truss cover bevel happened at the beginning of 65 as well. So, lots of changes but really, only the end of the stop tail and the end of the 1 11/16″ nut were significant enough to be seen as the endpoint of the Golden Era.
The history of the 335 is full of transitions. That shouldn’t surprise anybody as any good product goes through refinements, improvements and alterations during it’s lifetime. Some make the product better, some make the product cheaper to manufacture and some make the product more “modern”. At some point, Gibson (and Fender and the rest of the big players of the era), placed a higher priority on making money than in making the best possible quality instrument in the world. Finding that point is pretty easy. This explains why some years are “better” than others. If you’re a 335 geek. like I am, the history is pretty interesting. The early 58 is a great guitar but it’s rather different from those that followed. The top is thinner and it tended to split, so in 59 they made it thicker. The neck was unbound and it seemed sort of low rent to some buyers, so they bound it. So, making it cheaper wasn’t the issue at that point. Making it nicer and more durable and more sellable seems to have been the motivation. Most 335 aficionados feel that the 59 is the pinnacle and it may be but it’s pretty subjective. It’s got a lot going for it–PAFs, big neck, great finishes and so on. So why did they change it again in 1960? They made the neck thinner and they changed the tuners. The tuner change from single ring to double ring is pretty much inconsequential. But the change in neck profile is, for now anyway, huge. The trend in recent years (and a lot of recent years at that) is for larger neck profiles but in 1960 and for many years that followed, it wasn’t the case. Thinner neck profiles were all the rage for quite a while and Gibson was simply keeping their product current (and competing with Fender). The advertising pitch was that a thin neck was a “faster” neck and, back then, “fast” was good. By 61 it was pretty thin but still wide at the nut. These guitars can be excellent and can sound wonderful but not for you if you want a big fat neck. The big change in 62 was to the block inlay and, again, Gibson was responding to the comments from customers. Many felt the dot markers were, like the unbound neck of 58, kind of down scale. So, Gibson switched to blocks (and probably raised the price). They also switched from PAFs to patent numbers but the pickup was the same (more or less). The guitar remained essentially the same through mid 63 when they changed the body shape and the neck profile. Body shape is subjective and the change was mostly a matter of practicality, not economics-the story is that the forms wore out and had to be replaced. There was also some talk about the arches on the cutaways being too extreme and causing some failures during manufacturing. The change to a more substantial neck profile was, I believe, in part, a response from customers and maybe, just maybe, they made the change because too many necks were warping or breaking. For us modern players, this makes the late 63 and the 64 very desirable because of the bigger necks. So, up to 64, Gibson wasn’t really trying make the guitars cheaper to build, they were trying to make them better. Then, in 1964, the guitar boom hit–read about it here. Suddenly, Gibson had more orders than it ever had before-thousands more- and they had to make some changes in order to keep up with the huge increase in demand. This required changes to the manufacturing process that would speed up the process and, in so doing, made the guitars cheaper to produce. It also marks the end of the so-called Golden Era and the end of the high priced “collectible” 335. More on this to come.
Fight of the century? Not exactly. Well, maybe last century. The most common mod done on vintage ES’s is changing out the tuners. This wasn’t some short lived fad like coil taps or phase switches, this was usually a matter of everyday function. Consider this: It’s the early 1970′s and you play, say, a ten year old ES-335 dot neck. You probably paid a couple hundred bucks for it used and you played in a band (everybody played in a band in the early 70′s). You probably had some real tuning issues at the time-more than likely caused by a binding nut or faulty intonation-but you blamed it on the tuners. But that’s a whole ‘nother story. So, what did you do? You changed the Klusons for Grovers (or, later, Schallers). We all know how that decreases the value of your $30,000 dot neck today but back then it made a certain amount of sense. Even then, it was clear that Grover was a superior tuner and it still is if you compare vintage Grovers to vintage Klusons. Klusons generally work just fine but they can be a little quirky-like when you have to tune past the proper pitch because it slips back on its own. Part of the problem with Klusons is that nobody ever took care of them. I’ve had 50 year old Klusons that have never experienced a single drop of oil. Grovers were sealed and rarely failed. They almost always worked smoother and more accurately than Klusons, so the change made perfect sense. OK, they were a little heavier but nobody was too worried about weight back then-we were young and indestructible. Besides 335′s aren’t all that heavy to begin with. Truthfully, I’m surprised more guitars weren’t switched. The big names were doing it too-Clapton’s 335 had a set of gold Grovers, Harrisons 64 SG had Grovers, Elvin Bishop’s “Red Dog” 345 had (and probably still has) Grovers. The list goes on and on. Most folks won’t argue the point of Grovers being a better tuner but vintage folks still want the original Klusons and no extra holes. If I were still a gigging musician, my player would have a set of Grovers on it but I wouldn’t take a set of Klusons off and make the mod on a vintage piece. The reason for that is obvious-a set of Grovers on a vintage guitar knocks off $1000 or more from the vintage value. Even if no new holes are drilled (Grovers can use the same screw hole as Klusons), you still have to enlarge the shaft hole and even though you can’t easily tell a good adaptor bushing from a correct vintage bushing without removing the tuners, the damage is done. There are, by the way, a lot of adaptor bushings that are obviously adaptors-don’t use those if you want your guitar to look original. I have also heard the argument that the guitar sounds better with Grovers-something about increased mass but I don’t really hear it. If you are considering a player grade vintage ES, the Grover mod shouldn’t scare you off. It simply makes the guitar a very slightly better guitar. A worse investment, I suppose, but usually a better player. Schallers were also a better tuner but they usually required another hole to be drilled and they had a very distinctly non-vintage look to them. Personally, I think they are ugly so I take them off whenever I get a guitar that has been modded with them. You get stuck with 6 extra holes but ugly is ugly. You can have ugly holes or ugly tuners. At least you can’t see the holes from the front.
Where did everybody go? My readership dropped by 40%, my guitar sales slipped to somewhere between slow and stop and my email volume was off by at least 30%. On top of that, the market (Ebay and dealers) is flooded with 335′s and 345′s. Block necks are everywhere and still wildly overpriced. It seems like we have another standoff between the sellers and the buyers. The buyers are not paying $12000 for a Bigsby block neck any more. The sellers still seem to think they can get anywhere from $13,500 to over $20K. Stoptail 335 block necks might fetch $15K but even that seems a bit of a stretch these past few months. The same inventory is listed week in and week out on Ebay and only a sucker makes a move on a $20,000 block neck unless its dead mint. I had a 63 ES-335 on Ebay recently–original stoptail with holes from an added Bigsby. Beautiful condition, too. I listed it on my site for $12500. No takers for four months. I listed it on Ebay for $11,500 and got no bids. Plenty of offers but no bids. I did sell it for a bit less and felt the buyer got a great deal (especially since I didn’t make a dime on it). It’s simple. The supply has outrun the demand for now. Sorry sellers but that’s the current reality, like it or not. There are brighter spots-the dot neck market (especially 58 and 59) is still very strong and the ES-330 dot neck market has kind of come alive this Summer. In fact, I sold more 330′s in August than I sold 335′s. The ES-345 market is no better. 59′s still fly out the door but later ones, especially Bigsby’s need to be priced well under $10K to garner much interest. When’s the last time you got an all original bone stock early 60′s ES-345 for under $8000? It’s been awhile. I like to move guitars not sit on them-when I buy a guitar, I’m not making an investment, I’m buying inventory. This might be your best buying opportunity since the bubble burst in ’08. The market has inched up in the past five years and I think sellers have again gotten greedy and this time, the guitar buying public isn’t buying into it. Of course, the Summer is pretty much over and folks are getting back from vacations and turning to the more important things in life (like adding to your guitar collection or getting that elusive “dream guitar”) so I expect a bit more demand. Like the housing market, it takes a really long time for the realities of a sagging market to sink in. Some dealers and sellers still think the prices of 2008 are current while others think the market has run up from there…”uhhh, gee, I’ve got this appraisal from Gruhn from 2007 and that was six years ago, so the guitar must be worth a lot more by now…” So, what do you (the buyer) do? You make yourself a great deal and get that guitar you’ve always wanted. Make an offer that fits your budget. And don’t worry about insulting the seller-he doesn’t mind insulting you with a ridiculous price. You can tell your wife that the prices haven’t been lower for that 64 335 since 2009 and that it’s probably a good investment again. If you don’t overpay, you can almost certainly get your money back and more in a few years and you get to play the guitar as much as you want. Think of it as free rent for as long as you possess it. Oh, and don’t break it.