The ’65-’69 ES- 335 Market Right Now

Here's a nice '66 that you can have for just over $5000. But do you even need to spend that much? last week's Ebay ES of the Week went for around $4500.

It isn’t 2007 any more. W. isn’t the president, but we’re still at war. Lehmann Brothers does not exist any more and General Motors is largely owned by the government. In 2007, you could get a mortgage if you were breathing. Now, even if you have 75% equity in your home, you can’t get a dime out a bank. The New York Times costs $2 (and they wonder why no one buys it any more). The vintage guitar market is no longer at its peak and rising. I’m sorry, did you hear me I said THE VINTAGE GUITAR MARKET IS NO LONGER AT ITS PEAK. I know that. If you’re reading this, I hope you know it too-after all I’ve mentioned it before. Then why are there still 1965-1969 ES-335’s listed for as much as $10,000?  Did you not get the memo? You are listing your guitars over and over again on Ebay at ridiculous prices and no one is buying them. Do you think it’s because they don’t understand that your guitar is so wonderful that it transcends all trends and economic conditions? In fact, even at the top of the market, a ’65-69 wasn’t worth $10,000. It’s as if these sellers assumed that if it was worth $7500 then, it must be worth more than that now because these things always go up don’t they? Yeah, just like real estate.  The dealers are just as bad, by the way.  So let’s take a more realistic look at the market right now for the “affordable” vintage ES-335’s. By that I mean pre Norlin trapeze tail 335’s made from early 1965 (excluding the few stop tails made in the first few weeks) until some time in 1969 when the necks went to 3 piece and the tenon all but disappeared.

The overwhelming reason that these guitars are worth so much less than their predecessors is twofold. First, the necks got very small-especially at the nut. Now 1/8″ doesn’t seem like a lot but it made quite a difference in the playability of these guitars for most players. The nut went from 1 11/16″ to 1 9/16″ and that’s a big difference.  The other issue is the trapeze tailpiece. I don’t know what Gibson was thinking. The idea of a trapeze is to keep the strings off the top of the guitar so it can resonate unhindered by the stop posts or any other attachment. But the 335 isn’t a hollow body so the top doesn’t resonate the same way-the center block stops that from happening. The stop tail allows the string vibrations to resonate in the solid wood of the block much like a true solid body-like a Les Paul.  So, the guitars got the trap and never sounded the same. Hence the drop in value.

So, your ’65-69 isn’t worth $10,000 but a 64 is still worth $12,000 or much more. OK, then what is a 65-69 worth? It’s worth what folks will pay. Period. Always was and always will be. The truest measure of the market is an Ebay auction with no reserve-so let’s look at some recent results: Last weeks Ebay ES of the week finished at $4550. That was a ’66 wiith a removed trap and an added Bigsby. A nice guitar for a nice price.  Accordingly, it was a no reserve auction and just about the only 335 that sold. There was one other in the range-a bone stock ’69 that went for $5000 which I thought was high since it was a late 69 with no neck tenon. It likely went to someone who doesn’t know what a neck tenon is. ’69’s can be awful but they can also be every bit as good as a 65.  And those were the only 2 sales from the era. Not much of a market, is it?  Currently, there’s a ’67 for $10,000 listed, a 68 and a 69 lefty for around $8,000, a bunch of 66’s in the $5K-6K range, a 69 with a bid of $4200 (what is it about these 69’s?).  There’s a 67 at $3500 but it has a reserve (probably $8000 or something dumb like that).  There is only one 65-69 listed without a reserve this week and it’s a 66 that would be the Ebay ES-335 of the week but it can’t be because it’s mine. My money is where my mouth is. I’m left with one thought. These sellers all think their guitars are worth what they were worth in 2007 and this great “standoff” will continue until folks either have to sell or they decide that they actually want to sell. Right now, there is no such thing as a $10,000 trap tail 335. Nor is there an $8,000 trap tail 335. If there’s a dead mint one out there, you might get close but beyond that, you are looking at $3500-$5000 and that’s it. Really.

This baffles me. It's a 69 with the dreaded neck volute (see below) and it's got a bid of $4200. I would value this guitar at a lot less than that. And it's missing a pickup cover.

It has the little volute that appears only in 1969. The big one shows up shortly thereafter. If I had $4200 to spend on a 335, I don't think I'd be spending on a 69 with a volute.

16 Responses to “The ’65-’69 ES- 335 Market Right Now”

  1. Pete says:

    I love reading your blog. Great information! You’re a wealth of info on the LP Forum too. Please don’t take this as a criticism, but merely a suggestion. Splitting the text into some paragraphs would make this much easier to read for your readers.

  2. OK Guitars says:

    Good suggestion. I think I was sick the day they taught paragraph theory. Done.

  3. A thorough insight into The ’65-’69 ES- 335 Market Right Now | The Gibson ES-335 and ideas I will employ on my site. You’ve obviously taken some time on this. Well done!

  4. 335 Help says:

    Thanks for the informative article. It was very insightful. Question: I am considering a 1969 Gibson 335 serial #810000. It is a sunburst and is missing the original tuners. It has some dings and wear and comes with the original case. It doesn’t have the volute neck. What would you imagine a fair offer to be on this guitar? He is asking 4800 which I know is high. I’d love your opinion.

  5. OK Guitars says:

    Without seeing a photo I can only ballpark it. If it’s an early one with a one piece neck and long tenon, then probably in the $3500-$3900 range depending on condition. If it’s later with a 3 piece neck and the short tenon, I would insist on playing it first before I spent a dime.

  6. 355 Help says:

    Thanks for the reply. How can I tell if it is an early 69 or later one or whether or not it has the tenon? You can check out photos of the guitar at:

    I am considering spending about $3500 on this guitar and would really appreciate any advice on the purchase. Two concerns –

    1) if you look on the back of the guitar where the neck joins the body there is a line in the finish. Has the neck been removed? Is that just a finish crack? Any concerns?

    2) The tuners are obviously not original. However, I can find replacement period tuners that are true to the guitar.

    I’m look for any advice or opinions. I want the guitar to enjoy but I want to make a smart purchase that may be worth more than I paid.


  7. OK Guitars says:

    Email sent

  8. Rob says:


    Great site! Just got a ’65 335, my first Gibson. Orig case and p/ups, replaced tuners, trapeze traded for a stop tail, non-original bridge, and repaired neck damage. I understand it might have been $4-5k in clean condition, but how much of an impact does each of these factors have on a ’65 335?


  9. John says:

    I bought what is likely a ’69 or so 335. This one is a transparent cherry finish on the body with a dark mahogany colored neck. There’s also a bit of a finish ridge at the heel/neck joint. I’ve recently spied some other red/mahogany combos on the web. Was this a standard option? Any info or history on this would be welcome. BTW, my neck looks like a one piece with a minor volute. How might I gauge how long the neck tenon is or might be? Seems to have decent tone.

  10. OK Guitars says:

    Probably isn’t a long neck tenon. Look in the neck pickup cavity. If the neck extends well into the cavity, its a long tenon. If you don’t see the tenon at all, its a short. Doesn’t mean it can’t be a great guitar even if its short.

  11. Jim C says:

    Did you see the 1965 ES-335 listed on eBay right now for $2800 BIN? Seller says he’s owned it for 31 years but the finish looks stripped and the pickups have no covers. What are your thoughts on that guitar? Thanks – Jim C

  12. OK Guitars says:

    I’ve had a few emails about this one. Still not worth $2800 IMO. Close but no cigar.

  13. Charlie says:

    Regarding the comment in the article about these things being listed at $10,000 and more:
    Sometimes, the price of a valuable object is affected by the market conditions. So, a nice 335 could bring $10,000 if the market were larger. Age, condition, rarity and original quality, and original are the things that give anything value. Sure, there are outside factors, but those are the basics. I had a 54 LP I sold just before prices went haywire, for $7500. Two years later they were listing at close to $40K!! Today, they are in the $12,000 range, which is where they belong. Market conditions are always a side show that can derail your “investments”.

  14. OK Guitars says:

    That’s probably why they shouldn’t be treated as investments. The market is so small that it can be manipulated to a degree by a big dealer (which I’m not).

  15. harley benton says:

    If youre dumb enough to buy a guitar ( a picece of Wood)

    for 1000s of dollars be my STUPID guest hahaha

    you idiots………..

  16. cgelber says:

    How much did your car cost? (piece of metal)

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