1968. End of the Second Era.

A 68 is a relatively good value and what I consider to be the last of the great 335s. It still has the one piece neck and long tenon (gone by mid 69) and some even have pre T-tops-more than you would think. Big f-holes tell you its a 68 and not a 67. Knobs have been changed to the older type. Witch hats belong on an amp.

A while back, I wrote about the erroneous common belief that Gibson returned to the wide nut in 1968. They didn’t but the neck got a good bit larger everywhere else-at least when you compare it to mid 65 through 67. I’m currently in possession of a somewhat compromised 68 but, now that I’ve spent a little time with it, it has some surprising good points. 68 is a tricky year because there were a number of changes that are confusing. You start seeing a pantograph type logo but you also still see the conventional logo and you even begin to lose the dot on the “i” in the conventional logo. Gibson also enlarged the  f-holes If you’re trying to identify your guitar and the serial number is ambiguous (used up to 4 times), then the f-holes are your best guide. As far as aI can tell. the larger f-holes started showing up almost from the start in 68. The changes of 67 are all still evident-narrow bevel guard, witch hat knobs, lower flowerpot inlay on the headstock but the big f-holes will give away a 68 every time. It’s not so easy to tell if you only have a 68 in front of you but if you have anything earlier to compare it to, it’s pretty obvious. I’m not sure why the made this particular change since they stopped stuffing the harness in through the f-holes in the early 60’s when they cut a chunk out of the center block to make harness installation easier and faster. 1968 is also the year Gibson had the bright idea to offer a Gretsch Country Gent-like walnut finish. Gretsch was selling a lot of them thanks to George and Gibson, I guess, thought they could grab a share of the market by making a 335 in the same color. Although the shipping charts show the walnut starting in ’70, they really started in 68. Of course, Brazilian rosewood had disappeared during the mid 60’s as well and while you might find it on a 66, you aren’t likely to find it any later. My 68 has Indian. My 68 also appears to have pre T-tops. They have the Philips screws on the back which isn’t conclusive, but since the pickups are still sealed, I have no plans to open them up. I haven’t owned very many 68’s-this is only my third-but the other two had pre T-tops even though they are not as common as T-tops by this time. The guitar is nicely constructed and finished well even though Gibson had been struggling to keep up with demand and was just catching its breath by the time the market started its decline after peaking in 67. ES-335/345/355 production dropped from over 7250 in 67 to around 5000 in 68. That’s a 30% drop which is huge. Remember that’s the era that almost saw Fender discontinue the Stratocaster because sales dropped so precipitously from 66-68. Still 5000 ES 335/345/355’s is a  lot of guitars especially when compared to as recently as 64 when they only made about 2000. Quality had suffered a bit due to the boom but not that much-certainly not compared to what would happen the following year when they sold the company to Norlin. I consider the 68’s to be the last of the really good 335s, although it slopped over into early 69. The end of the long neck tenon, the three piece neck and the volute all made 69 a less than “golden” year. But 68 is still pretty darn good if you can handle the narrow nut-which, to be sure, is made more palatable by the bigger neck profile. Now, the one I just got has a headstock crack, so it falls outside of the price range of most 68s but you can figure that $4000-$5000 for a 335 and maybe $500-$1000 less for a 345 or 355.

1968 is also the year the less than desirable walnut version showed up. I am not a big fan of these.


One Response to “1968. End of the Second Era.”

  1. Peter says:

    Hi, I have recently found your website and I am enjoying your knowledge. Over the years I have owned 6 or 7 Gibson and 1 Epiphone semi acoustics mainly from the late sixties. I have a Gibson ’68 330 that I want to sell and if possible I would like your opinion of the value of guitars from this period.
    Peter from oz.

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