Sticker Blues


No sign of a sticker here. But really, is it the sticker that tells you everything? Not by a longshot. Look at the feet-the "L" tooling marks have to be there.

I don’t know of another seemingly insignificant piece of plastic that carries more weight than a PAF sticker. Even if you can authenticate the pickup 5 different ways, to most, it’s still not truly a PAF without that little piece of plastic film. If the pickup is from, say, 1962 and it says “patent applied for” it’s worth $1500-$2000. If it says “patent # 2737842, then it’s worth $800-$1200 even though its the exact same pickup (well into 1964, anyway when they changed the windings). If the sticker is missing, then you have to convince everyone that you aren’t lying. It’s kind of exhausting, actually. It’s well documented that a lot of pickups-especially in 64-didn’t get stickers. A lot of stickers simply fall off over 50 or so years. And while I understand the collectors mindset, I don’t always understand the mindset of the player. The collector will pay a premium for everything to be exactly as it left the factory. In fact, I’ll go a step further and say the collector wants everything to be as it should have been when it left the factory. That means no anomalies. No one off weirdness like heel stingers or custom hardware (like nickel on a 345). There are many, many documented non-standard things that show up on these guitars and I don’t blame the collectors for shunning anything that will call the authenticity of their guitar into question. The collector is paying a premium for exactly that. Authenticity. But once a guitar leaves the collectors realm through changed parts, mods or missing stickers, ya gotta lighten up a bit and use your ears as well as your eyes. I recently purchased a 64 that had no stickers on the pickups.  The covers were gone and I had to decide whether the pickups were original, correct or something else. Truthfully, the stickers alone aren’t enough to authenticate a pickup anyway. There are some very good fakes (and some really crappy ones). So, we look at other indicators. The L shaped tooling marks, the double shiny black lead wires, the not too neat square in the circle, the slight warp to the bobbins, even the screws that hold the pickup together. Granted, if the covers are intact, you’re limited in what you can ascertain-so it’s actually a bit of an advantage if the covers have already been off. I still look at the solder joints on the harness but that can be inconclusive as well. If they look tampered with, then you go to the next step. Are the wires the right length? Do the pickups sound right? Are the covers worn in a similar pattern? There’s a lot of amateur sleuthing going on and pickups are the prime suspect more often than not being the most expensive component on a PAF equipped guitar. I like to ask the question-is a non stickered pickup in an early block neck an unstickered PAF or an unstickered patent number?  They are the same, of course. I believe a missing sticker affects the value of a guitar-no question about it. You should spend less if the stickers are missing. But you should never assume that a pickup isn’t a PAF or patent number only because a sticker is missing. Nor should you assume a pickup is a PAF just because it has a sticker.

If the cover is off, look at the windings. They should be brownish purple. Or perhaps purplish brown. The "square in the circle" hole should be a little ratty looking. And both lead wires-the ones at the end of the pickup under the paper tape-should be black. No exceptions.

One Response to “Sticker Blues”

  1. Mike M says:

    My 64 has one with the sticker and one without. Both still sound simply beautiful.

Leave a Reply

Optionally add an image (JPEG only)