Dot Neck v Block Neck

Does anybody really care that much about whether their ES 335 has a dot neck or a block neck? There seems to be a certain cachet that places the dot neck above all others as the most desirable 335.  There is a certain elegant simplicity to the dot neck that is very appealing today. It wasn’t always so. Dots are probably the cheapest inlay that a guitar maker can obtain. They are usually found at the bottom of the guitar manufacturer’s line. Granted, the 335 was the bottom of the new semi hollow line in 1958 but it was not a cheap guitar-not by any means.  And that was part of the problem. It seems that some players complained to Gibson about the 335 being too plain for the price.  Easy solution-just buy the 345 with its split parallelograms or the 355 with its big pearl blocks. But the 345 was a stereo guitar with a Varitone circuit and not everyone wanted that. The 355 had an ebony neck and came standard with a Bigsby (or later the sideways trem or the Maestro) and not everyone wanted that either. So, the 335 was the bottom and a real workingman’s guitar. In case you’re wondering the other “thinlines” weren’t semi hollow-they were hollow, including the ES-330. After a little over 4 years of dot necks, Gibson got the memo and changed the inlays to small blocks.  At the time, it probably didn’t send dot neck owners running to the guitar shop (or music store in those days) to trade in their dots for blocks. But it may have made the guitar a bit more appealing and, sure enough sales rose steadily during the block neck era until the boom ended (see the post about the 70’s).  The popularity of the dot today-both in vintage and in reissues is, in part due to the uncluttered simplicity of the dot neck 335. The other part of it is the size of the neck which may be the biggest reason certain years are more popular than others. In fact, in the case of the 1965 ES 335, an early 65 can command triple the price of a later one. We’ll look at that phenomenon over the weekend. Maybe.

4 Responses to “Dot Neck v Block Neck”

  1. Eric says:

    Granted, I’m not knowledgeable about vintage ES-335s at all (or vintage guitars in general), but I find it that interesting that most prefer the dot inlay. I personally really like the small block inlay. Also, a lot of “famous” ES’s have the blocks – Clapton’s, Larry Carlton’s, Alvin Lee’s. Interested on hearing more on this…

  2. cgelber says:

    You make a good point but remember when Clapton, Carlton and Lee (and Albert and BB King and Duane Allman and Keith Richards and a ton of others) were playing these guitars, they weren’t vintage-they were more or less current. In 1964, when Clapton bought his ES 335, I don’t think he spent a nanosecond considering anything but how the guitar sounded. And a 64 ES-335 in the hands of Eric Clapton is going to sound awfully good. One of the reasons the dot neck is more valuable is because of the early humbuckers. The PAF pickup is revered among collectors and even though it is exactly the same as the early Patent #; that little sticker adds thousands to the price tag. I think the late PAF and early Patent # pickups sound best but there are many who thing the early ones sound better. Of course there are block necks with PAFs (62-63) but they are less popular not because they have blocks but because the neck profile is so thin and that is currently out of favor. So, the only way to get a big fat profile and PAFs is to get a 58-59 dot-hence, their collectibility. A 60 and 61 will be less desirable because of the thin neck and the 62-63 will be less desirable still because the neck continued to get thinner and the Patent # pickups were being phased in. In late 63, the neck got bigger again and that’s why the 64 bumps up again in value. The fact that EC played a 64 only enhances its allure. If it were all just about the fingerboards, then I think the block necks would be more popular.

  3. Eric says:


    Wow – great explanation. Thanks for enlightening me.

  4. joe says:

    I have a 65 es 335 with an original dot neck with the wider profile what’s with that

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