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66 or 67? Does it Matter?

Here's a pretty typical 66. I can't see all the details but it has the high inlay and top hat knobs and a wide bevel pickguard. Those three things together pretty much nail the year as a 66.

The differences between one year and the following year can be pretty confusing. That’s mostly because there are all kinds of overlapping features and also a lot of changes that took place during those years. Next, does it really make that much difference? Is a 66 worth more than a 67? The answer, which you hear from me more often than you would probably like to is “yes and no”. A lot of things are exactly the same. Both are likely to have all chrome hardware. You might find a 66 with a nickel pickguard bracket. Both have the skinny 1 9/16″ nut but the front to back profile can vary a good bit. The 67’s often seem to be a little thicker. Score one for the 67. The tuners are always double line double ring Klusons on both years. The TRC is always the narrow bevel type. Both are, of course, always trapeze or Bigsby equipped. The body shape is the pointy ear type although there are a couple of distinct variations of that shape. So, what’s different and why would I prefer a 66 to a 67? The pickups are the big question here. Gibson started phasing in the T-top pickup during this period but you rarely see a T-top on a 66. I’ve seen pre T-tops as late as 69 but a lot of 67’s seem to have them. Look for the slotted screws on the back. That’s a tell for T-tops although a philips can be used on either type. I prefer the pre T tops but both are good pickups. Score one for the 66. Another consistent difference is the pickguard. Most 66’s and few 67’s will have the wide bevel guard-the same one used from late 1960 until 67. It’s a much better look if you ask me and also, a pretty valuable part should you ever decide to part out your 66. If the guitar has a Brazilian rosewood fingerboard (swirly, not straight grain, distinctive smell) rather than Indian, it’s a 66. If it has Indian, it can be either. I don’t see that many 66’s but most of those I have had in hand have had Brazzy boards. Score another for the 66-although I defy anyone to hear the difference (don’t get me started).  The knobs were changed during late 66 from the great looking top hat reflectors to the Fender amp looking witch hats which I really don’t like. If the guitar has top hats, it’s not a 67 (unless they have been changed which is easy and not unusual). One of the best tells is the peghead inlay. While there are exceptions here and there, it’s a pretty consistent marker for 66-67. If the guitar has the higher inlay position, it is almost certainly a 66. If it has the low one, it’s either a late 66 or a 67. The bridges can be a little different too. Some 66’s have the old style ABR-1 in chrome while the majority have the patent number type which are slightly more robust (slightly heavier duty). All 67’s have the patent number type. When I’m dating a guitar, I always wonder where I went wrong and stopped dating women rather than guitars (OK, my wonderful wife had something to do with that but I had to make the joke). Once again. When I’m dating a guitar I use a process of elimination…if it has this, it can’t be this. If it has that, it must be this. It’s pretty simple, really. Transitions at Gibson don’t occur overnight and sometimes the most unreliable feature is the only thing that you can use to tell a 66 from a 67. That feature? The serial number, of course. Start with that. Not much help right?  But if you go through each of the features I’ve mentioned using an “if/then” approach, the year will emerge fairly clearly. Make yourself a little chart if it helps and check off the features your guitar has. It’s likely that once you’ve gone through the various features that your conclusion will match the year of the serial number. If it doesn’t, trust the features. As far as value goes, the 66’s seem to command a very small premium over the 67’s. Certainly less than $1000 for equal condition guitars. Probably more like $500. 66 and 67 ES-335s seem to be priced from around $3500 on up to as much as $8000.   IMO, there isn’t a 66 or 67 on this Earth worth $8,000. Find one with philips screws on the back of the pickups and a Brazilian board for $4000 and you’ll be a pickin and a grinnin’. The difference in price between 335s and 345s from 66-67 is slight. It’s really the early years that show that big discrepancy. That wasn’t too bad, was it? Wait’ll we look at the 64 to 65 transition. That one gives me a headache just anticipating it.

Uh, oh, this one's not so clear. It's got tophat knobs but those can be changed. It's got a small bevel guard but those can be changed too. Body shape looks a little like a 68 but its got little f-holes. It's got the lower inlay position which isn't a sure thing. Fortunately, it has a serial number that wasn't reused. If the serial begins with a zero, it's always a 67.

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