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Archive for March, 2011

Original Solder Joint

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

OK, not a 335 but you get the point. This is not what original solder looks like.

When the collector market was in bubble mode and the prices were spiraling out of control, you started reading about “original solder joints”. A lot of guitar people found the entire concept to be dilettante overkill. I recall reading the posts in the various guitar forums ridiculing those who would insist that no guitar is collectible unless it had completely virgin solder joints. After all, how much could that really affect the value of a guitar? So, something broke and it was repaired. Big deal. Then, as fake versions of supposedly valuable collector guitars started emerging, the folks who scoffed, weren’t scoffing any more. This seems to have started with Fender stuff because it was so much easier to fake. Withe most of the electronics on the pickguard, it was easy to “create” a, say, 58 Strat out of a few authentic parts and a lot of scavenged parts-some vintage, some  not. Then, the folks making repro Gibson parts started getting really good at it-duplicating the original components down to the smallest detail and, in some cases, hiring the same people who made the original pieces. There are a hundred ways to fake a collectible piece now. If the stoptail is missing, just get an aged repro. If the PAFs are gone, why spend $2000 for the real thing when you can get a patent number with a fake sticker. Who’s gonna know? Well, at the same time the people making the fakes got really, really good at it, the people getting burned started becoming more demanding. They wanted guitars that were virtually untouched. No matter if it was simply a repaired solder joint-if it wasn’t original, then the guitar was considered second rate-a “player” to the high end buyer. But they had a point. It is pretty hard to fake an original solder joint. It can be done but not by many. With prices for dot necks in the $25,000-$50,000 range, it is almost a given that the electronics be untouched. The simple changing out of a pickup in the 70’s when everybody did it and the replacing of the original PAF from out of the case pocket calls the authenticity of the entire guitar into question. While this creates a “premium” market for those are examples that a totally untouched, it also devalues guitars that are 100% original but can’t prove it. The good news is that ES-335s, 345’s and 355’s are more likely to be untouched than almost any other guitar out there. They are especially difficult to work on electronically. The 335’s of the era didn’t have the cutout in the center block and getting the harness out the f-hole is no picnic. The 345’s and SV 355’s had the additional problem of having that huge varitone switch in there making it very hard to work on the harness outside the guitar. Not so hard to get it out but a bear to get back in. It’s like trying to put the toothpaste back into the tube.  So, I have to agree with the buyer who insists on every solder joint being untouched. There’s nothing wrong with a guitar that has had its pickups out and back in but there will always be the question of complete authenticity and thus a lowering of the price. This “premium” collectible that I mention is the strongest segment of the market today. It’s not enough to be 100% original any more. Now it has to be 100% untouched and that’s rare.

There's a reason why 345s and 355s get messed with less than most other guitars. First of all, you have to take off the shielding cans and put them back on and second, you have to stuff all that crap back into the guitar without ripping out the wires. And get it into its proper place. And then it doesn't work so you have to start over again. And then you realize that with the pots upside down how easy it is to solder the bridge pickup to the controls for the neck pickup. Then you tear out all your hair and spend the $200 to have an expert do it.