Apparently I missed that day in class when everybody else learned that if you have a Gibson ES model built between 1965 and 1969 and the serial number on it is used over and over again, the guitar is always from the earliest possible year. If the guidebook shows a number was used in 65, 67 and 69, then the guitar is automatically a 65. It doesn’t matter that it has witch hat knobs (started in late 66) or big f-holes (68) or the more rounded cutaway horns (also 68). Dammit, it’s a 65 ‘cuz it’s this serial number and it says 65 right here in the official blue book. And it’s official-says it right there in the title. Really. That’s what I hear if I try to correct anyone (so I don’t). How about “were you there at the factory to see that no low inlay 335’s left Gibson in 65?” I’m surprised no one has said “vas you dere, Charlie?” OK, not even I’m old enough to remember radio comedian Jack Pearl’s Baron Munchausen character but you get my point. I wasn’t there but when you see a few hundred 65-68’s and they all show certain characteristics, it becomes pretty easy to tell them apart. I don’t expect every seller to be an expert but I do expect that if you don’t know with any certainty what year the guitar you’re selling was made, then say what it says in the book. It’s either a 65, 66 , 68 or whatever. I know, the value of a 65 is higher but insisting it’s a 65 when perhaps it isn’t makes you dishonest. I’ve had more than a few trade offers and sale offers presented to me as an earlier year and when I tell the seller/trader that his 65 is really a 69 (sorry, where’s the neck tenon?), they always say the same thing…”the guy (or dealer) I bought it from said…”
You really only need to know a few things. Inlay position-high in 65 and most of 66. Low in late 66 and later. Pick guard-wide bevel 65-66. Narrow 67 and later. F-holes-little 65-67. Big 68 and later. Knobs-Reflectors 65-late 66. Witch hats late 66 until 81. Pointy cutaways-late 63 until 67. We could talk about the pickups but if they are sealed, you can’t tell much. OK, let’s talk about them anyway.
The conventional wisdom is that T-tops started showing up in 1965, so everybody (so it seems) with a patent stickers T-top says its a 65. I’ve uncovered about a zillion pickups in 335’s and I’ve never (and I mean never) seen a T-top in a 65. In fact the last few 68’s I’ve gotten that have had open covers have had pre T-tops. I’ve seen t-tops in late 66 and later 335’s but, in general, they don’t become all that common until 68. The general assumption is that if the bobbin screws are slotted, it’s a t-top but that’s pretty accurate, although not 100%. It’s the other side of that theory that causes trouble-the idea that if the screws are Phillips, then it’s a pre t-top. Not true. Plenty of t-tops have Phillips screws. It’s simple, really. Unless you don’t know the year of the guitar the pickup came out of, don’t designate a year. I defy anyone to tell a 68 t-top from a later (stickered) one.
PAF’s aren’t immune from “date creep” either. Every covered PAF seems to have come from a 59. When uncovered, every long magnet PAF seems to have come from a 59. At least the value of a 60-61 PAF is the same as a 59 to most buyers. Again, unless you know what guitar it came out of, you don’t know for sure what year it is. Off center sticker? Conventional wisdom says short magnet. Not true. I’ve seen them in 59’s.
Tuners? Again, why it that all (or most all) double line Klusons get designated as 64’s? Yes, there are 64 335’s with double lines but they are pretty rare and very late in the year. Same syndrome, I think. A 64 tuner must be worth more than a 65, right? So, it’s a 64. Except it probably isn’t and it doesn’t make any difference in the value. By the way, I’ve never seen double line Klusons on a 64 345. So, don’t list your gold double lines as 64’s any more. Call them 65’s. No one will care and you’ll be more accurate.
OK, end of rant. I feel so much better now.