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My Guitar Has Issues (The Doctor is IN)

A black ES-345 from 1963 that has almost no original parts other than the guard and the truss rod cover. What's it worth and is it worth owning?

I get a lot of emails. Many of them ask me how much a particular 335 or 345 is worth. Most readers are disappointed with the numbers because they go to Gbase and see the big dealers putting stupid, unrealistic prices on the same guitar and I have to gently talk them down from their dollar sign induced euphoria. With reputable dealers putting prices of $30,000 on a 59 345 OR $55,000 on a ’60 dot neck, it’s time for another reality check.  As if it isn’t tough enough to convince them of the real world value of the model and year that they have, most of them also have issues that seriously affect the value in the downward direction. I recently acquired a guitar with a boatload of issues. I had planned to fix most of the issues and resell it but after playing it, I figured it was really good just the way it was and I didn’t want to potentially make it worse. It’s the guitar in the photo. It’s a 1963 ES-345 with all sorts of wrong parts and issues. Dating it was pretty easy what with the Mickey Mouse ears, high headstock inlay position, wide bevel pickguard and TRC and a 1 11/16″ nut. The 1963 serial number didn’t hurt. If this was an average NO ISSUE stoptail 1963 ES 345 that was all original I would probably put a price of around $13,000 on it. So first, the issues. It was refinished black-nicely done but still a refin. It had chrome Grovers, a chrome Nashville bridge with redrilled posts and a chrome stoptail that had also been slightly moved. The PAFs/Pat# pickups were gone. The harness is vintage but from the 70’s. The bridge pickup is a 15K “Dirty Fingers” and the neck pickup is a hand made PAF copy (8K), nicely done by a friend of mine. OK. What’s left that is original? Not much. Old wood. Pickguard and truss rod cover. So, how do I go about evaluating this one? Conventional wisdom says knock off 50% for a refinished guitar. That drops us right down to $6500. What I usually do next is add up what it will cost to put everything back to it’s original configuration.  A set of gold  Klusons $350. a pair of gold patent number pickups $1500, a 63 harness $250, wire ABR1 in gold $175, set of correct knobs $150, Varitone chokes $85 (the switch is still there) and a gold lightweight stop tail $450. Each price I’ve put on the components is a real world price that I have paid within the past year for that item. That comes out to $2960 which gets subtracted from the $6500. That puts us at $3540. The parts we would be taking off have some value-not much but let’s call it $400. The pickups are probably worth $250 (I paid $200 for the neck pickup and it was almost unused and a double white Dirty Fingers has to be worth $50 to someone-it sounds pretty good, to be honest). The Grovers maybe $50, The aluminum stop tail $65 and everything else, another $50. So we add in another $465 so we’re back up to almost $4,000. It’s going to cost you some money to rewire it as a 345 and stuff that harness in, so we’ll say $150. That leaves us at $3850. Easy, no? Well there are other factors that aren’t so easily quantified. What about the quality of the refin (pro, on this one), what about “mojo” that quality of player wear that so many folks seem willing to pay in excess of $1,000 for, and what about playability? If it plays and sounds like crap, then how do we factor that in? If it plays brilliantly, what about that? Simple-if it plays like crap, it’s worthless to me and I stay away. So, call this the “clinical” approach but the truth is, it kind of works. The guitar was sold to a friend who has a mint ’63 ES-335 that he plays at home (and very carefully). He wanted a guitar that played just like it but that he could take out of the house and be a bit more reckless with it. That’s why they call these things “players”.  He plans on keeping it just the way it is and not bringing it back and I have to agree with him. It plays wonderfully and sounds excellent, if not quite like a “normal” 335 due to that 15K bridge pickup that’s pretty nasty. I think if I have a choice for a player between a used Historic or a refinished, great playing “Golden Era” 335 or 345 I’m going to go for the refin hands down.

6 Responses to “My Guitar Has Issues (The Doctor is IN)”

  1. Clifford Baril says:

    I have a Gibson ES355TDC Purchased in app. 1964. It is all original but I need a pick guard for it. Can you help me.
    Clifford Baril
    2821 E Calle Castano
    Kingman AZ 86409
    PH: 928-692-7332.
    Thank You

  2. OK Guitars says:

    There’s a couple ways to solve your missing part issue. There’s the expensive way which is to scour the internet and the rare parts dealers for an original one. These are really hard to find because they tend to disintegrate over time. Expect to pay hundreds of dollars or more for it. Or go to These are good repro guards. By the way, there’s a 68 355 guard on Ebay right now for not too much money. I’d grab it.

  3. Eric Parker says:

    Charlie, I thought you sold that on ebay? I could swear I bid on it….almost snagged it to.

  4. OK Guitars says:

    That one was on Ebay but I made a deal just before the auction ended so I sold it to the “current high bidder” who is actually a recent Grammy winning engineer and a very good guy. You would have liked it. It had some nasty tones.

  5. swisskit says:

    After reading your recent article on ebay es-of-the-week and then re-reading ‘my guitar has issues’ … this ebay ’59 345 made me smile … “spray can paint job (including the serial no. label)”, “no original h/w (in fact no h/w at all is included)”, “lower f-hole cut out” .. “but a great workhorse guitar !”.. only $8,888 ! … unbelievable

    http://cgi.ebay.com/1959-GIBSON-ES-345-/120692226860?pt=Guitar&hash=item1c19d13b2c#ht_1294wt_1141

  6. OK Guitars says:

    I saw that too and you have to wonder what planet these people are on. I didn’t think the stripped 59 with the PAFs missing for $6,995 was much better. Someone needs to explain to them that, first, the bubble has burst and, second, the only guitars commanding “book” value are 100% original no issues guitars in extraordinary shape and usually with the original paperwork and tags. The cutout in the f-hole kills me. That “guitar” isn’t worth $1000. The neck and fingerboard are the only salvageable parts.

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