Not long ago a collector asked me to find him a dot neck with a Bigsby. OK, no big deal, there are plenty of them-I see them all the time. I sent him some photos of the ones that were available-some had the pearl dots in the stud holes and another had the “Custom Made” plaque over the holes and another was currently set up as a stop tail with the Bigsby in the case. He rejected all of them because he wanted one that came from the factory as a “Bigsby Only”. No stud holes.
OK, I’ve seen a fair number of those over the years and I went to my archives to see how many Bigsby only dot necks I’ve had. Not many-I found only two out of dozens of 58-61 dots that have passed through here. There were a few block necks as well but most were 65 or later when no guitars got stud holes. Finding a 62-64 block with just a Bigsby isn’t all that easy either. I just did a search on Gbase and the only one I found is a 64 which is mine. Reverb had one-a 60 dot neck. Because these guitars are not the most sought after 335’s, I tend to ignore them but they are, in fact, rare birds. Now, I get it…rarity doesn’t matter that much in the world of vintage guitars. I had one of only three blonde Epiphone Sheratons made in 1959 and nobody really cared. I had one of only 11 blonde Byrdlands from 1961. Again, nobody really cared. They both sold for very reasonable prices. The difference here is that 335’s are very sought after, popular guitars. So, why so little love for the Bigsby only version?
I’ve always found it incomprehensible that a tremolo equipped (OK vibrato, if you want to be technically correct) Stratocaster is worth more and is more desirable than a hard tail. Similarly, SG’s have considerable value and virtually all of them have some sort of tremolo tailpiece. But a Bigsby (or worse, a Maestro or sideways) on a 335 knocks 15 to 25% off the value. Does this make sense? It would if nobody wanted anything but a stop tail but I get plenty of folks wanting to put a Bigsby on their vintage 335’s. I advise against it if the guitar has never had one because, uh, the value will drop like a stone. And it will drop by a percentage, not by a fixed number. Theoretically, if you really want a 59 with a Bigsby, you best find one that already has one because the value could drop by as much as $10,000.
Fortunately, there are plenty with both studs and a Bigsby that will cost you less than a stop tail. That one gives you set up options that are attractive. But if you use a Bigsby and you have no plans of converting to a stop tail at some point, you will do well to seek out a Bigsby only 335. There is a simplicity and clean look of a 335 with a Bigsby and no plaque or other cover for the stud holes. I’ve always liked the looks of the mono 355 with a Bigsby-all that clean space between the Bigsby and the bridge is attractive. And a Bigsby is a good unit. It’s no surprise that the design has been virtually the same for 60 years or more. They hold tune well if you don’t go nuts on them and they only add about 5 or 6 ounces to the overall weight (if you subtract the weight of a stop tail and studs-you gotta have something to hold the strings). So, if you want something rare and unusual, look for one these beauties. The price won’t ruin your marriage and playability will surprise you.