I like to think I don’t miss much but sometimes I do. Maybe there’s a wire bridge on a guitar that should have a no wire or maybe a repro tailpiece that looks real even when I look closely. Actually, I miss stuff all the time-especially when I’m trying to buy guitars from widows and orphans. I hate to ask them to pull the pickups or even remove the bridge. But when buying a guitar in person, I shouldn’t miss anything. But I did this time.
I always feel a little bad for the seller when I start pulling his (Grandpa’s) guitar apart in front of him. Often, they have never turned a screw or even done more than strum a chord or two. The seller had disclosed a few issues and had also recalled that the pickups were zebras. I’ve heard that before only to find a pair of double blacks (“I could have sworn they were zebras!”). In one case, the seller insisted the original double whites were in there only to find that his scumbag luthier had swapped them out for DiMarzios when the guitar was in for a setup in the 80’s. In the case of the 59 I picked up this week, the seller was right. They were zebras all right. The covers were chrome and wrong but I pulled the bobbin screws and saw the white showing and that was that. I found a few other undisclosed issues but no dealbreakers and negotiated a fair price. End of story, right?
I got back to my shop and pulled off the chrome covers-I certainly wasn’t going to sell it with those and started rummaging around for a set of nickel ones. I had only one and I really wanted to get this guitar up on my site and on Gbase, so I just left the covers off and put it up that way. I took the “look…zebras” approach and thought nothing more of it. I’d get another cover and reshoot it later with its covers and leave up a shot with those zebras showing just to prove they were in there. Then I get an email from a regular reader.
“Hey…cool…reverse zebras.” Somehow I completely missed it. The guy said they were zebras, I saw the white bobbin from the back and I pulled the covers. Yep, zebras. Reverse zebras never entered my mind because they are so freaking rare. How rare? I’ve had 500 ES models and at perhaps 100 were from the era when whites and zebras were more common. Know how many reverse zebras I’ve seen? Three. Two on a first rack 345 and one on a ’60 ES-355 . I saw one on Ebay once but it looked like a fake to me since the seller disclosed that it might have been rewound. Something that occurred occasionally was to take a trashed double white and a double black and make two zebras out of it. One would be the usual slug coil zebra and the other would be a reverse. I had learned to pay very close attention to reverse zebras because most are fake-made from parts. I don’t know why they are so rare but they are.
I do think the premium paid for double whites and zebra PAF’s is a little silly but plenty of things that vintage collectors do are silly. And I love getting a set of double whites or zebras in a guitar. It’s like Christmas in July. It’s a little like the window dresser in “Kiss of the Spider Woman”. He insisted that there should be a Balenciaga scarf in the mannequin’s purse even though no one would see it because he would know it was in there (and “she” would have one in there). Even under the pickups covers, I know they are there. And I like that.