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Headscratcher ES-345

When the Gibson Sparkling Burgundy finish is unfaded, it's a very cool color-more like Candy Apple Red than "Burgundy". This one has a 65 serial number but has too many 66/67 features to actually be a 65.

Every once in a while I get a guitar or someone sends me a photo that breaks the rules-even the ones that seem pretty hard and fast. I bought this ES-345 at auction-sight unseen- and I knew it was a piece for the detective in me. There were a few things to consider. The guitar was sold as a 1965 which made sense. The serial number is 300xxx which is not an ambiguous or re-used number. Now, granted, the published lists are not 100% accurate but this has no other year  on either side of it either. The series before and the series after are all 65’s. The reused numbers don’t come in until 306xxx. But lets look more closely. I got it with top hat knobs which may or may not be original but it had no sign that there had been other knobs on it -there is sometimes a shadow from witch hats but this guitar has no fade so it’s tough to tell. The other thing is that the guitar is a custom color-the one everybody ignores-sparkling burgundy. It really isn’t burgundy at all-it’s really closer to a darkish candy apple red. I wondered about the finish being original but the guitar passes all my “refin” tests so I’m pretty certain it’s factory. SB guitars supposedly started in ’65, so that isn’t an issue. The pickguard is a narrow bevel. That says 67 or at least late 66 to me. But again, a pickguard can be changed. Tuners don’t help because it has Schallers. It’s been converted to a stop and has its trapeze holes which makes sense. Let’s look a little deeper. The pickups appear original as does the harness (it still has its shielding cans). One pickup has slotted screws so its probably a T-top. I’ve seen T-tops on a 66 but I don’t recall ever seeing them on a 65. There were some changes to the actual Varitone switch itself but I think it was pretty consistent from 65-67 which I’ve narrowed it down to. That leads me to the headstock inlay. I find this to be one of the better indicators. It’s in the low position which indicates late 66 or later. So, then I thought, could it have been renecked at the factory and repainted SB at that time.  Had it been renecked and not painted, it would be tough to do that without crapping up the seam at the neck join and it looks pretty good. But, if they renecked and repainted it in 67, then it would have a clean neck join but it wouldn’t have a narrow bevel guard. Also, when Gibson renecks a guitar, they usually restamp the headstock with a larger font. This one doesn’t appear to have been restamped. The SB paint is very thick-and it’s a 2 color process-a gold undercoat and a red transparent top coat, so had it been restamped, it would be obvious. I haven’t necessarily ruled out that it was refinished but unless it was originally SB, there are almost always remnants of red or sunburst in the cavities. There isn’t. And the bindings aren’t sanded smooth like they usually are on a refin. It is most certainly the Gibson color-not an outside imitation judging by the way it’s wearing on the back of the neck (orangey gold). My conclusion is that the serial number list is wrong. It’s a late 66/early 67. The inlay and the pickguard are the tells. It’s also a great playing great sounding 345. And pretty cool looking if you ask me. Your opinions are welcomed. Shortly after I published this post, I got an email from a reader who recently acquired an ES-355 that was also SB in color. His was also “supposed” to be a 65 based on the serial number but, on inspection, turned out to have mostly ’67 specs. I wonder if perhaps they painted a number of guitar bodies that were left over from 65 with their “new” color but didn’t get around to assembling them until late 66 or 67. SB guitars were never that popular.  That would explain the guard and T-top but not the headstock inlay.

This color always checks heavily. This is no different. Look how "red" it is. It looks like this in person.

5 Responses to “Headscratcher ES-345”

  1. RB says:

    Didn’t the ES-series guitar nut widths begin to shrink down, from 1-11/16″ to 1-9/16″ in ’65?

    Okay, so why doesn’t the “sparkling burgundy” red finish nudge up the price for vintage ES-series guitars, like say a “candy apple” red finish does for vintage Fender electrics?

    Does the guitar in your logo have a “sparkling burgundy” red finish?

  2. OK Guitars says:

    Yes, the nut widths did begin to shrink in 65 which doesn’t help with this guitar except to say that it’s not any earlier than 65-which we already knew since they didn’t make this color until then. I don’t really know why nobody seems to place this color at a premium. It is certainly rarer, especially in unfaded condition like this one. If it was Pelham Blue, folks would be wetting themselves. This is the only custom color that seems to be without a price premium of any note. I have seen a SB Trini Lopez go for high dollars but I think it went to someone who was completing a collection of all 4 Trini types. The guitar in my logo is a cherry 63 I sold earlier this year. There is a way you could have known that without knowing the color. The guitar in the logo has MM ears which went away (with a few exceptions) in 1963. Since SB wasintroduced until 65, that guitar couldn’t have been SB.

  3. Nick B says:

    I have a SB 345 from the sixties. Serial number appears to be 309853
    Orange label has long since faded so the stamped headstock is the only indication. I bought it in ’75 and it may very well have belonged to Mickey Baker at one time. It came with black tophats and a trapeze but I later changed in to a stop. The varitone did not have the gold ring which I added the same year I purchased it.

    In short mine fits the above captioned 345 in every detail. so I’m going to say 65 perhaps but 66 to 67 more likely.

  4. OK Guitars says:

    Serial number suggests either 65 or 67. Look at the headstock inlay (flowerpot). Is the bottom even with the A and B string posts or below them. If its even, its a 65. If its way below, its a 67.

  5. Nick B says:

    The flower pot center line is midway between the A&B strings. I think I can now put the issue to rest. Thanks

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