Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina

Talk about rare. This is called Argentine Grey, although it's neither Argentine nor is it grey. This one was at Gruhn Guitars for quite a long time. It eventually sold and I bought it from the owner. It's a fairly early 60. Check out the burst in the rim.

Dan Erlewine wrote a column not too long ago in Vintage Guitar Magazine about what he calls the “rule of two” where an unusual guitar shows up at his shop and, after not seeing one for awhile, another shows up at the same time. I remember this partly because the ES-350 that showed up first was my ’58. I had a similar experience this week with a slightly different twist. I received an email

This is an L series acoustic from the early 30s. They called this Argentine Grey. It's a bit different than the 345 but still it isn't Argentine nor is it grey.

asking me about an “Argentine Grey” ES-330. No one really gives this unusual color much thought. Then, two days later, I get an email from a dealer asking if I would be interested in an Argentine Grey ES-345. I had seen 2 of them over the years and never really took to the color all that much. I don’t know that much about Argentine Grey but it was apparently around for a long time-going back as far as the 1930’s when it was used on acoustics. As you can see in the photo, Argentine Grey is simply a different kind of sunburst. Where the usual “tobacco” sunburst that Gibson uses has a red element-in fact the black part is really a very dense dark red, Argentine Grey goes from black to yellow with the transition appearing to be brown rather than red. Some extremely faded sunbursts take on a similar but not identical tonal palette. But then look at the sides. The sides of the usual sunburst are brown. No bursting-just brown. But the AG sides go from black to yellow and back again as you go around the rim of the body. When I first saw the color, I called it a “lazy man’s” sunburst since it looked very simple to do but upon closer scrutiny, it appears that it takes a bit more time and effort to execute than your garden variety sunburst, largely due to the extra work required to do the sides. While perhaps not as rare as Pelham Blue or black or even white, AG is pretty rare. It also doesn’t seem to command much of a premium over the cost of a red or sunburst example. I’m sure if Eric Clapton played an AG, the prices would be astronomical. But, as it stands, it’s a relatively inexpensive way to get an ES that your friends won’t have. While perhaps not as cheap as the ugly stepchild they call “Sparkling Burgundy” it is distinctive enough and cheap enough to merit a second look. So, I bought it. I think it’s interesting that the vintage price guides (which, I think, are often waaay off-usually too high) agree that a blonde ES 335 or 345 commands double the price of a sunburst or red but an AG 345 is just another 345. There were 50 blonde 345’s shipped. I don’t know how many AGs were shipped but I’m guessing it is less than 50-most of them in 1960. I will call the nice folks at Gibson Customer Service once I have the serial number and see if it was part of a larger run. As you can see in the ledger page below there were a few of them made on March 23 1960. I’d be interested to hear from readers who have one of these rarities-particularly a 335. I think these might look pretty cool with nickel hardware. The 330 sure looks good with the black covers.

Here's a '60 ES-330 in AG. It is from the collection of Mike Slubowski, a very knowledgeable guitar guy and a very nice person, too. Thanks Mike. He also has a 345 in AG.

9 Responses to “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina”

  1. Anthony Lener says:

    I absolutely love this website! Your writing is interesting and funny, and your knowledge and love for the 335 family of guitars is obvious from the articles.
    I really really like this Argentine Grey color, and 345’s are my favorite Gibson guitar.
    To me, this finish is Gibsons Antigua-a little odd, very unique, and you either love it or you don’t.
    Also, I think by “Argentine”, they meant silver, not the country, as in “silvery grey”.
    That’s just my guess, because something about this finish reminds me of the later Silverburst finish.
    Anthony Lener

  2. Anthony Lener says:

    By the way, the reason I’m guessing that they meant “silver”, is because in European heraldry (crests and shields and so forth), silver was called “argent”.
    Thanks again!

  3. cgelber says:

    I agree with your interpretation but what about the grey?

  4. Anthony Lener says:

    About the grey, an honest answer: I don’t know. It’s a little confusing…
    Here’s a question I’ve always wondered about, at Gibson, anyway: who (or how) did they choose and name their finish options?
    At Fender, it’s easy enough, because their top guys in the 60’s were a small crew, Freddy Tavares, Leo himself, etc. But Gibson, I know no names other than Ted McCarty, but he was more of a “guest designer”.

  5. Anthony Lener says:

    I realize I didn’t really answer what you asked me, “what about the grey?”. Since it isn’t really silver either, I’m not getting the name “Argentine Grey” (“silvery grey” in my estimation) at all. Which is why I wonder who comes up with the names and why.
    Again about Fender, I do know that their 60s Duco finishes were Cadillac colors under different names.

  6. cgelber says:

    Actually, he was a bit more than a “guest designer”. He was president of the company. He is credited with the design of the ES-335 (and the tune-o-matic bridge).

  7. Anthony Lener says:

    I didn’t realize that, and I gladly stand corrected!
    I had no idea that he designed the 335, what an accomplishment.
    Sir, once again I must tell you how glad I am to have found your website, I truly enjoy it.

  8. Anthony Lener says:

    I just found out (by looking it up) that I was confusing Mr. McCarty for Ray Dietrich, the car designer he hired to design the Firebird. Wow, did I have that backwards!
    Thanks again,

  9. Anthony Lener says:

    Sir, interesting development-
    I did a little research, and found out that there is a fox called the South American Gray Fox. One of the countries it’s found in is Argentina. It has a reddish brown head, and a silvery gray coat on the body…is it possible that this is where the name Argentine Grey comes from?
    Anthony Lener

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