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Off the Cliff: ’64 to ’65

Here's a 65 with an original stoptail and all of the 64 features EXCEPT the narrow bevel truss. Nickel hardware, wide nut and, although I don't talk about it here, no cutout in the center block. Rare enough on a 64 but on a 65? This is the only 65 I've seen with the full center block. These can be a bargain if you can find one

One of the more frequent questions I get asked is why the value of ES 335s falls precipitously from 1964 to 1965. I’ve covered some of this but to some, the reasoning behind the drop seems less than clear. Contrary to popular belief, it had nothing to do with LBJ and his “Great Society”. The biggest reason, of course, is that we collectors are totally nuts and what we do makes sense only to another collector or aficionado. There are, essentially, 3 major differences between a 64 and a 65. And, true to form, Gibson “transitioned” the changes in. The biggest change, to me, and the biggest reason the guitars from 65 onward are worth so much less is the change from a 1 11/16″ nut to a 1 9/16″ nut. That’s a difference of 1/8″ which doesn’t seem like much until you actually try to play. Some folks have no trouble at all making the adjustment. Others just can’t do it. Most of us fall in the middle. But wait. What about the change from stop tail to trapeze? Doesn’t that make just as big a difference in value? You would think so but it doesn’t. You want proof? Look at the price of a 64 Bigsby (around $9000) and the price of a 65 Bigsby ($5000)-the figures are for average guitars. There’s still a big difference in price. There is no doubt that a stop tail commands a premium but it’s something you can change if you’re a player. Taking off a trapeze and having a stop properly installed will hurt the vintage value, no doubt about it, but it will also make your guitar sound better and sustain better, IMO. Conversely, you can’t make a narrow neck wider unless you want to put on a new neck. The differences between a trapeze and stoptail with regard to tone is for another time.  But, back to the 64-65 transition. There’s more. By late 64, most 335s still had nickel hardware. I’ve seen a chrome pickup cover on a 64 but not a chrome bridge or pickguard mount or stop tail. The first 65’s were identical to 64’s and most everyone who has an

Little skinny neck on a '65. Can you get your fingers in there to play an "A" chord? I can't. Thats a narrow bevel truss rod cover in case you were wondering what they look like.

early 65 calls it a 64 but there are some smaller elements that give it away-beyond the serial numbers, which, by the way, were still pretty accurate at that time. In early 65, before the stop tail disappeared and before the hardware turned to chrome, something else occurred and it seems to have occurred very close to the first of the year. The truss rod cover bevel got narrow (but not the pickguard bevel). I have never seen a narrow bevel on a 64. There may be a few but I haven’t seen them. Likewise, I’ve only seen one big bevel TRC on a 65 335. As one of my readers points out, they are somewhat more common on 345s which had the word “stereo” on them. So, its a good “tell”. But wait…there’s still more. At some point Gibson began to transition from PAF type pickups with enamel wire to PAF type pickups with poly coated wire. Supposedly it took place in ’62 but I’ve seen too many Pat# pickups on 63s and 64s with enamel wire to believe that. But by 65, the change seems to be complete. The poly wire Pat# is still a great pickup but it isn’t “the same as a PAF” as most sellers are fond of telling you.  Is that it? Let’s review: Stop tail changed to trap. Wide nut to narrow. Nickel hardware to chrome. Wide bevel TRC to narrow. Uh, oh. Still more. These, like the TRC make not a particle of difference to the tone but collectors want to see the earlier stuff on their transitional 64/65. Tuners went from single line to double line Klusons. The bridge went from type 2 (ABR-1 with wire) to type 3 (patent number with wire). Also makes almost no difference in tone, although the newer bridges are a little beefier and seem to wear better. Most of the changes don’t make a particle of difference and the transition year of 65 would be worth about the same as a 64 if only they had stuck with stop and the wider nut. There would have been so many more great guitars for us to run the values up on. But, you can still take advantage of the fact that early 65’s are virtually identical to 64’s. Keep an eye open for them. They can be a bargain. I found a stop tail 65 recently for $7500. It’s been a looong time since I found a stop tail 64 for that price.

Here's the wide nut. This happens to be a 58 but it's the same width as a 64 and an early 65. 1 11/16". That's a wide bevel TRC on there. What gives this away as a 58? You tell me. And it isn't the shrunken tuners.

10 Responses to “Off the Cliff: ’64 to ’65”

  1. Phil says:

    Actually I have found one 65 ES-335 with 64 specs but that one is priced $15k, so the usual price which is asked for a 64. I guess it needs some luck or a private person to sell a 65 es335 with 64 specs for a 65 price, because every dealer will price such a 65 like a 64…

    BTW: The 58 Neck has single-bell tuner buttons (as seen in the last picture) whereas a 65 neck must have double-ring tuner buttons (which was changed during 60-63).

  2. RB says:

    What gives this away as a ’58? Lack of neck binding.

  3. WL says:

    What gives it away as a 58 (or a 59) would be the “high” location of the TRC

  4. OK Guitars says:

    Nope. The high TRC position persisted through 59 as you note. But there is something else that makes it a “no doubt” 58 (and an early one at that)

  5. OK Guitars says:

    Absolutely right. Give this man a free 1958 ES 335 (well, someone give it to him. I don’t have one).

  6. OK Guitars says:

    True about the tuner buttons but what makes it a 58 rather than any other year is the lack of neck binding. Double ring tuner buttons showed up in 1960 and lasted into the 70’s. Also, I have an incoming 65 with some of the 64 features including the wide fingerboard. It isn’t a stop tail, however and it also isn’t anywhere near $15K.

  7. Thinline says:

    Regarding the wide bevel truss rod cover, my early ’65 factory stoptail 345 has the wide TRC. It was shipped the first week of April ’65 according to Gibson logs. It’s ’64ish black/yellow tobacco burst (many ’65 sunbursts seem to be lighter cherry burst?) and has every ’64 feature (wide neck, headstock angle angle etc.), except for tuners, 5 of which are double line Klusons – only one is single line and appears to be original. Do we see double line Klusons on late ’64s? If so, then I guess it would be complete ’64 specs – as late as April ’65.

  8. OK Guitars says:

    Yes-you will see them much more frequently on 345’s. I’m guessing they had a bin of the “stereo” ones that didn’t get used up nearly as quickly. Remember that 65 was the real start of the huge 60’s “guitar boom” which peaked in 67 and then fell off a cliff (haven’t I used that cliche somewhere else recently?). The 345 didn’t really participate in that boom to the same degree as the 335. It was never really perceived as a rockers guitar.

  9. Walter says:

    From this angle, This “off the cliff” 335 is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen! Outstanding! Probably sounds as good as it looks as well.

  10. OK Guitars says:

    That was my “guts” purchase. Who does this? An Ebay listing from Guadalajara, Mexico from a seller with no seller feedback and 1 buyer feedback of a $10 item. It didn’t sell the first time it was listed. So, I call the guy up and talk to him for awhile about guitars. His English was good enough to communicate with me and I was convinced he was completely legit, so I made him an offer. What you see is what showed up. No box, no packing, just a case with a guitar. I’m guessing that Customs unpacked it and didn’t repack it. It was held up for weeks because they thought mahogany was illegal to import-seriously. Bureaucrats.

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