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vintage ES 335 questions

sharky

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Jan 25, 2012
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Hey together,

while looking for a vintage Gold Top some vintage ES 335 crossed my way. I immediately remembered, how much i liked Alvin Lee and of course how much i like B.B. King and the great tone of his ES.

But since i am more or less clueless about those, i have a few questions i would like to ask to you experts here.

First about the price ranges: browsing the usual suspects the prices to me seem to be all over the place and there is no more or less exact guideline for me to be recognized.

I would like to look for a 1960 or 1961. Original as possible, no Bigsby, no mods in an all over good condition. Which price range should i expect? Are cherry models more expensive than a sunburst?

Secondly: since i am anything but no expert at all, what are the thing to look after? Sure, going to a dealer with a good reputation should be the first step but they can tell me a lot if they like to. So, what can i look after on my own? Is the SN a serious indicator or do i need to take a dentist's mirror and spy through the f-holes into the guitar's body, check pots etc.? How can the guitar be judged by the size of the neck? Dotneck has to be there, correct?

So, kindly asking for your appreciated advice
 
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sharky

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i was reading a little bit more about this guitar and it's specs now and found this page: http://home.provide.net/~cfh/es335.html

for the questioned years it is written as follows:

Late 1960 ES-335 specs: Shorter pickguard that does not extend past bridge pickup, "chrome top reflector" volume/tone knobs, neck size gets a very thin back shape (neck back shape actually started to change about mid-1960).

1961 ES-335 specs: Natural finish no longer available, Serial number now pressed into the back of the peghead between the D and G tuners, in addition to being on the orange Gibson label in the bass "f" hole. Switch tip changes from amber to a white color, strap buttons now metal instead of plastic

would that mean, that if the SN is pressed into the back of the peghead between the D and G tuners, it can not be a 1960 ES 335?
 

Dire Wolf

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60 was last year ser # not impressed on headstock; so the orange label better be there. If you're looking for a 60, best features are ones from 59 that transitioned over to 60, i.e. the long guard, bonnet knobs, and bigger neck. Check Tom's and Charlie's sites for EXC information on the 58-64 335s. Cherry Red vs Sunburst is a preference thing; I personally like the reds, but if a straight 60 with 59 features comes along, color is secondary.
 

Emperor-TK

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There's a lot to discuss here. I second checking out those two web sites before you buy. Why did you decide on a '60 or a '61? Usually these guitars are roughly segregated into '58-'60 (fat wide neck) or '61-'63 (thinner wide neck) or '64 (medium fat, narrower neck). Also the '58-'60's will have long magnet PAF's, while the others have short magnet PAF's (or the pat # equivalent).

Have you considered a 345 or 355 too? They can be about 30% to 40% cheaper than an equivalent 335. Regarding the stereo varitone, if you get a pre 1962 guitar, then the varitone doesn't effect the sound in bypass. Regarding the stereo, you can get a stereo to mono cord and have out-of phase in the middle position or use a stereo cord and plug into two amp inputs and have in phase or out of phase depending on the amp. Also, if you like a thinner neck, long magnet PAF's can be found on 345s up to 1962, since the gold pickups were used less than nickel. I have a '61 345 with an original zebra PAF in it.

Rough prices for a '60-'61:
ES335 - $14K to $22K
ES 345/355 - $9K to $18K

Charlie goes into detail on es-335.org about what things drop the value and by how much (refins, refrets, neck breaks, bigsby holes, etc.)
 

OKGuitar

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It seems that "fake" dot necks are starting to show up in the usual places. No '60 should have a serial number on the headstock. There are more profiles than the usual "59" necks and "60" necks. There is a wonderful transitional neck that started in late 59 and extended well into 60 that is medium chunky and not dissimilar to a 64 (which is generally regarded as the "best" profile since 59).
There is also a fair amount of variation during the later "dot neck" years. I had a 61 that was .79 at the first fret which is really thin and another that was .84 which is medium. 5/100" is a big difference and it helps to play the guitar in question especially since what you want is well north of $20,000. You won't easily find a 60 in red-they're very rare (only 21 of them). Plenty of red 61s. The 61 will cost a few thousand less than a long guard 60 but you will still be well into the over $20K range if you want one with a stop and no mods. You could easily hit $30K if you want a 60 with 59 features (long guard, bonnet knobs and bigger neck). In order to find something at the lower end that Chris mentions in the above post, you'll have to accept some issues. You won't easily find a $14K dot neck with an original stop and no issues. Good luck-there's a lot to know before you drop that kind of green on a guitar. Feel free to check out my site and email me with questions about any 335 you find that you might be interested in.
 

sharky

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thank you, guys, valuable informations for me already.

I'm not stuck on a 60 or a 61. It's only that those two were offered to me. But, referring to your information, the so called 60 is not a 60 at all. It has the shorter pickguard and a pressed in SN. It has the orange label inside the body right beneath the bass side f-hole but i do not know, what the SN is, but i will try to find out. Also the strap buttons are made of metal and not plastic, the toggle switch button is white. So more than just one indicator that someone is either not aware of what he is offering, or is trying to tell me, amateur as i am, things that are -diplomatically said- not the complete truth

A 61 would be kind of charming for me, so we both, the ES and me would turn to 51 years of age this year and that is a thought i like much.

Man, lots of sharks swimming in this pool, right? NPI with my nick


edit: veeeeeery informative and educating site you have there, OKguitar. I really do appreciate the efforts, certain people do on things, they wholeheartly love and then share it with the other lovers of it, that -like me- otherwise would be more or less helplessly left to the sharks out there.
 
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Aloha_Mark

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Other than the pickups, what makes the 1958-1964 ES-335's part of the golden era, and the 1965 - 1968 part of the also-ran era? There seems to be a 2 to 1 difference in prices, and sometimes a 20:1 ratio.
 

MikeSlub

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Other than the pickups, what makes the 1958-1964 ES-335's part of the golden era, and the 1965 - 1968 part of the also-ran era? There seems to be a 2 to 1 difference in prices, and sometimes a 20:1 ratio.

Neck width narrowed, went to trapeze tailpiece, and the pickups changed. :hank

The 1958 thru 1964 models are the classics!

2012%20ES%20335%20Collection%204.jpg
 

OKGuitar

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First off, I don't think I'd call them "also rans"-(those were the 70s) The differences between the so called Golden Era and the later 60's 335s are: nut width, the trapeze tailpiece, the pickups and, to some extent, build quality. 65-68s can be absolutely wonderful guitars but if you can't play a on a neck with a 1 9/16" nut, it doesn't matter how great it sounds. I don't believe the trapeze changes the tone much but certainly doesn't look as good to my eye. The pickups...no PAFs or early pat #s on mid 65-68 (335s anyway). They often have pre T tops (even in 68) which are excellent pickups but most will tell you the early pat#s with the purple windings (same as a PAF) are "better" than the later ones. If you don't mind the neck on a mid 65-68, they can be a tremendous bargain and can sound just great. The early 65s with the big 64 neck (and sometimes early pat# pickups-look for nickel covers) are perhaps the best deal of all. Not having a stoptail could save you $7000 or even more considering a no issue 64 stop will cost you $15K+ but an early 65 trap will be closer to $8K. Finally, if you look at the shipping totals, the guitar boom that began in 64 caused Gibson to build 5 times as many 335s in 67 than they built in 63. Many would agree that the build quality took a back seat to expediency and profits during this period.
 

Emperor-TK

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Since we're on the topic of post '64 ES's, I thought I'd bring up one of my sleepers. I have a '69 ES-340 that's one of my favorites in my collection. There seems to be something about '69 where things got a little back on track. I can't explain why, but the guitar has full blown mouse ears. I traced my bodies and it lines up perfect with my '59 (I should post that in another thread....) It also has a fat neck (although still the 1 9/16" nut). The neck is 0.87" at the first fret, going up to 1.11" at the 15th (my '59 is only 0.96" there). There is no volute, and it has a beautiful aged natural finish that any '59 TDN would be jealous of. Also, the top laminate is birch, not maple, which actually looks stunning on a natural ES guitar, yet not out of place (like a strong flame maple does IMHO).
 

sharky

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Neck width narrowed, went to trapeze tailpiece, and the pickups changed. :hank

The 1958 thru 1964 models are the classics!

2012%20ES%20335%20Collection%204.jpg

wow, Mike, nice collection. BTW, are all pictured guitars owned by yourself or did you once own them?
 

MikeSlub

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wow, Mike, nice collection. BTW, are all pictured guitars owned by yourself or did you once own them?

Those are in the MikeSlub vault. '58, '59, '59, '60, '61, '63, and '64. :hank
 
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Aloha_Mark

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That is a great looking collection, Mike. It must have been some quest, finding each year. Which one was the last piece of the puzzle, and which was the hardest to track down?
 

sharky

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Man, i am already pushing furniture in my mind and order wall hangers as well to decorate my livingroom with this variety of beauty. Even my daughter, who has no relationship to guitars at all, is enthusiastic about the optical effect these guitars would have on our home, but she dislikes the cherry one but she will not be asked.
 

MikeSlub

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That is a great looking collection, Mike. It must have been some quest, finding each year. Which one was the last piece of the puzzle, and which was the hardest to track down?

The last piece purchased was the '63 cherry (near mint, tone to die for) from an awesome LP Forum member.

Acquired over several years, and in a strange sort of way while I was looking, they found me! The ones that emptied my wallet the most were the blonde '59 with bigsby and the blonde '60 stoptail. :hank
 
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