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It was a Very Good Year

 

59 Dot neck in natural. It don't get much better than this. Thanks to Tom Hollyer at ES-335.net

 

Much as I like to write about arcana like stop tails and PAFs (it’s like another language!), I also like to write about the guitars themselves. Then I get to use terms like “tone for days” or is that “sustains for days” or “tone to da bone”. Anyway, pimply faced hyperbole aside, the 59 ES 335 was every bit of that and then some. Ask any Gibson aficionado-especially the Les Paul guys-what year was the pinnacle of Gibson’s Golden Era and most will say 1959. And with good reason. As far as 335s are concerned, a 59 has everything you could want in a 335, 345 or 355. Most of us like a big fat neck profile and the 59 has that in spades. The measurement at the first fret (depth) is usually in excess of .90 inch. The nut width is pretty consistent at 1 11/16″ which just about everybody likes. There is, however,  a pretty big variable in the overall profile since a lot of handwork went into these. Of the dozen or so 59s I’ve played and the 4 I’ve owned, no two were exactly alike but they were all great. Tone? You want tone? Long magnet PAFs while wildly inconsistent can be spectacular. A bad long magnet PAF is a rarity and some of the good ones are so packed with overtones and harmonics that you’ll swear there’s reverb when there isn’t. 59 was also the year that you find double whites under those covers-not that I advocate taking off the covers but it’s nice to know they’re in there. The 59 is, of course a dot neck which has it’s own special appeal. I use the screen name “Red59Dot” on some of the forums because I’ve been searching for that guitar for years. Gibson says it doesn’t exist but there are at least 2 that have been documented. I had one that was sold to me as a 59 but it turned out to be a later guitar that had a replaced fingerboard. It was still a great guitar but it wasn’t a red 59 dot. My search continues. The color choices in 59 were sunburst and natural. Most were sunburst-the shipping totals show 521 sunburst and 71 naturals. The totals for 345s were 446 sunburst and only 32 naturals. The 355 was only available in red. The 59s are big money guitars and rightfully so. The rare naturals have sold in the near $100,000 range at the top of the market. Natural 345s have approached $50,000. On the other end of the scale, you can get a 59 345 for around $10-12K if you’re willing to overlook a few issues (I’ve bought 2 in that range) and 355’s are the deal right now. There seem to be a lot of them in the marketplace with asking prices all over the place but I’ll bet they aren’t moving until they get to the $10-12K level. That’s a lot of guitar considering they were close to $20K not too long ago. And the sunburst dot neck 59? It’s still usually over $20K for one with minor issues and well above that for really excellent examples. The 59 dot neck is not for the faint of heart.

59 Dot neck in Sunburst. Also from ES-335.net. Note the long pickguard. They only did that from 58 to 60. I think they are very cool.

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