RSS

1963: A Good Year for the ES-335

Here's a real nice and relatively rare 63 Mickey Mouse eared ES-335 from Tom H.s site. This one has one PAF and one patent number pickup which is not unusual in early 63.

On occasion, I write about specific ES years that I like and it occurs to me that I’ve never written about one of the best and most interesting-1963. I was 11 then and it was a year of big turning points-for me, for the 335 and for the USA. The Dodgers beat the Yankees four straight in The World Series, The Beatles released their first album in the UK, Lawrence of Arabia got Best Picture, TAB was launched by Coca Cola, Martin Luther KIng delivers his “I have a dream” speech and, if you were there, you know where you were-JFK was assassinated. For me, besides the great disappointment of the Yankees losing, I was in the fifth grade and was discovering what girls were for. I was not yet a guitar player. Gibson, however was making some changes. The early 63’s still had their Mickey Mouse ears and PAF’s but by the end of the year, both would be gone. The neck was wide and flat at the start but got bigger and fatter by the end of the year. The red ones were much more popular than the sunbursts by an even larger margin than the year before with 807 red 335s shipped and only 349 sunbursts which explains why you don’t see very many of them. But while the 335 was getting more popular, the 345 was slipping with 117 sunbursts and 161 red ones. There are only 163 ES-355s from 1963 and they are all red (according to Gibson). There’s a lot to like about the early block neck 335’s and the 63’s are among the best. I prefer the neck on the late 63 to all others except the 64, which is the same. Tuners were always single line double ring Klusons on the 335s but the 345s could still be single ring. The bridges could be wired or unwired and the saddles were mostly if not all nylon-apparently after some complaints about string breakage from the metal saddles. So, there are lots of different shapes and equipment complements on the 63’s but they all sound great. I’ve never played a bad one and since the early Patent number pickups are identical to PAFs except for the sticker, they all have that great PAF tone but with a bit more more consistency due to improved manufacturing techniques. It is not unusual, in ’63, to find one PAF and one patent number pickup as Gibson used up their stock of old stickers. The pickups were made side by side but I expect that the workers were told to use up the PAF stickers by using one per guitar. Interestingly, the PAF guitars go for a good bit more money than the non PAF and that’s a good thing to know. Because they are the exact same pickup, you can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars by buying a 63 with Patent number pickups. Same pickup-different price. If I had my choice of any 63, I guess I’d go for a Mickey Mouse ear, fat neck, metal saddle wired bridge and PAFs. Why PAFs after what I just said? Because I’m a sucker for their mystique just like most other Gibson aficionados. But if price was an issue, I’d go right for the patent numbers. The very last 63’s are identical to the the 64 and, with their pointy ears and fat necks, are one of the best incarnations of the 335 on the planet. It’s a fact that a 63 often sells for less than a 64 and there are a couple of reasons for that. The biggest reason is a man named Eric Clapton who famously played a 64. The other

Here's another 63. This one has the pointy ears and has a maestro and "Custom Made" plaque. I don't like Maestros on 335s. They look bad enough on an SG but they look completely out of place on a 335. You wanna whammy on your 335? Get one with a Bigsby or even a sideways. At least they look like they belong.

reason is that so many of the 63’s have that very flat neck that has fallen out of favor these days-even though my old guitar teacher, Mr. Orsini of Schenectady, NY hated thin necks. He hated Fenders because the necks were too narrow but loved his old Gibson L5 with the wide flat neck. And so, he was very upset when I showed up with a Fender Duo Sonic in 1964. Currently, a good player grade 63 can be found for around $10,000-$12,000 usually with a Bigsby or Bigsby holes at that price. Clean, 100% original examples aren’t too much higher right now but were once well over $20,000 and approaching $30,000. The dealers are still asking stupid high prices but they might be more negotiable now because they have to sell guitars if they want to eat. Ebay prices are all over the place with most folks hoping for 2007 prices and not selling.

7 Responses to “1963: A Good Year for the ES-335”

  1. OK Guitars says:

    I probably have to format the blog differently for mobile users. I’m reasonably sure someone makes a plugin for that and I’ll look for it. i’m still patting myself on the back for actually getting this site up and running. I still haven’t figured out the Search Engine thing. I’ll see what I can do for my many mobile users (maybe 3 by now and counting).

  2. hi!This was a really brilliant blog!
    I come from itlay, I was luck to search your Topics in digg
    Also I obtain much in your theme really thanks very much i will come later

  3. Tyler says:

    So, nerdy question: Did Gibson start using the reflector top knobs in late 1960? Or was it an inconsistent thing?

    -T

  4. OK Guitars says:

    There is always a transitional period with Gibson. So, as I understand it, they started using the reflector knobs in mid 1960 or thereabouts. They phased them in over the course of the year and by the end of 1960, that’s all they were using. There are no records of when these things took place. You can only observe and draw conclusions from what you see.

  5. Jon Dear says:

    1. Nut width 1 5/8″ which started in ’65?

    2. PAF labelled pickups, which stopped after ’63? (Correct font. I’m a typographer, I’d say its a Geometric Sans of some sort. Looks like your example, with filled in counters). And they have the “l” shaped tooling marks described on the site.

    3. Nickel ABR-1 bridge (wire retainer missing) and nickel bolts, but a Chrome stop tailpiece with nickel bolts, so maybe fitted later?

    4. There are three screw holes arranged in a triangle around the metal strap connector at the base of the guitar, which looks like something was attached there at one time, floating bridge?

    5. There are also 3 faint circular marks arranged in an L shape, in the surface on the front, just below the chrome stopbar bridge, which looks like it may have had a trapeze tailpiece fitted at one point, or at least something which pressed into the body there.

    6. Tune-o-matic bridge with nylon saddles.

    7. Peghead angle measures 14 degrees, which I’ve read is ’67.

    8. Double-ring tulip Kluson tuners.

    9. Looking at the position of the “crown” on the headstock, the base of the crown aligns with the middle tuners, which matches pics I’ve seen of the 1963 models, rather than the lower positioned ’67 models, where the crown is more centred across the middle tuners.

    10. I can’t tell if its Brazilian or Indian rosewood. Changed to Indian in ’66.

    11. Matches the “Mickey Mouse ears” of late ’63 images I’ve seen.

    12. 2 Volume and 2 Tone black with chrome cap knobs, ended in ’64?

    13. Black pebble grain case (Gibson badge missing) and a blue velvet, plush lined interior.

  6. Jon Dear says:

    Hi

    Great blog. I’m trying to date my block inlaid Cherry Red 335 TDC. Gibson’s site says the serial no is either ’63 or ’67, 103093. Here’s what I can sleuth so far:

    1. Nut width 1 5/8″ which started in ’65?

    2. PAF labelled pickups, which stopped after ’63? (Correct font. I’m a typographer, I’d say its a Geometric Sans of some sort. Looks like your example, with filled in counters). And they have the “l” shaped tooling marks described on the site.

    3. Nickel ABR-1 bridge (wire retainer missing) and nickel bolts, but a Chrome stop tailpiece with nickel bolts, so maybe fitted later?

    4. There are three screw holes arranged in a triangle around the metal strap connector at the base of the guitar, which looks like something was attached there at one time, floating bridge?

    5. There are also 3 faint circular marks arranged in an L shape, in the surface on the front, just below the chrome stopbar bridge, which looks like it may have had a trapeze tailpiece fitted at one point, or at least something which pressed into the body there.

    6. Tune-o-matic bridge with nylon saddles.

    7. Peghead angle measures 14 degrees, which I’ve read is ’67.

    8. Double-ring tulip Kluson tuners.

    9. Looking at the position of the “crown” on the headstock, the base of the crown aligns with the middle tuners, which matches pics I’ve seen of the 1963 models, rather than the lower positioned ’67 models, where the crown is more centred across the middle tuners.

    10. I can’t tell if its Brazilian or Indian rosewood. Changed to Indian in ’66.

    11. Matches the “Mickey Mouse ears” of late ’63 images I’ve seen.

    12. 2 Volume and 2 Tone black with chrome cap knobs, ended in ’64?

    13. Black pebble grain case (Gibson badge missing) and a blue velvet, plush lined interior.

  7. OK Guitars says:

    Hi Jon
    Best thing to do is send me a photo. The most important element that eliminates 63 is the peghead angle. No 63’s have it. The three screw holes by the endpin tell me it had a trapeze, so again. no ’63. When you say PAF labeled, do they actually say “Patent Applied For” or does it say Patent # XXXXXX”? People tend to call all stickered pickups PAFs. If they say “Patent Applied For” you are a lucky man. They ended in 63. Mickey Mouse ears are not a good indicator because they show periodically as late as 1967. I’m not sure why that would be but I have a 66 345 in the sold archives that is a dead on MM ear guitar. Nylon saddles is correct for 63 and 67. Flowerpot/crown position is consistent with guitars through late 66 and even early 67. Not sure about the L shaped circular marks. Double ring tuners are correct from 60-69, so that doesn’t help. Does it say Kluson on one line ore two? That’s makes a difference because single line Klusons were gone by 65. V and controls are easily and often changed, so they don’t tell me much. The reflector black knobs ended in late 66 not ’64. Blue velvet case is not original unless its a dealer supplied Epiphone case. Finally, the nut width, which I left for last is ambiguous because I’ve seen 1 5/8″ on a ’66. Nearly all, if not all ’63’s have a nut width of 1 11/16″. I’m guessing you may have a 65 or 66. Serial numbers are all but useless. Send a photo to me at okguitars@gmail.com

Leave a Reply

Optionally add an image (JPEG only)