The “Mint” Dilemma

This '60 345 had one teeny ding in the headstock and a little pitting in the gold on the trem. Other than that, it looked unplayed. The case was even better. Even the pull ribbon on the case pocket was not only intact but still looked ironed.

I’ve already done my rant about calling guitars mint or near mint or mint for their age and all the other silliness that the “m” word engenders. But there is another aspect to it that can be more than a bit vexing. You pay a serious premium for a mint guitar. It can be 50% or more over the cost of a “merely” excellent example. Collectors seem to gravitate toward the museum pieces and I can’t blame them. If I were a serious collector, I’d want one of everything in the best possible condition. One dot neck in each color, one block neck in each, one 345 and one 355. True mint is truly rare. Out of approximately 200 ES-335s, 345’s and 355’s I’ve had come through the OK corral, only 2 have been truly mint and perhaps another 5 or 6 approaching that status. Here’s the dilemma-and I’ve had to discuss it with every buyer who has asked for a mint piece: Are you going to play it? Gig it? Owning a museum quality guitar comes with another price. It won’t stay museum quality if you play it too much. The occasional hour here and there probably won’t make a difference over the course of a few years but, rest assured, no matter how careful you are, the condition won’t get any better. Donn’t get me wrong, I love buying mint examples. I’m always awed at the fact that something can be as old as I am and still look new. Mint cases even more so. But I don’t think I could own one. I play every guitar I own (I don’t actually own that many) and I play every guitar I sell. The mint and almost mint ones scare the crap out of me because so much value is tied up in the condition. All I need to do is forget to close the closet door and turn to my left and WHAM, it isn’t mint any more. Mint carries a responsibility, I suppose. Unless you have more money than you know what to do with, the reason you paid the premium for a mint guitar is to have the best example there is. If you don’t take very, very good care of it, it will cease to be that. So, not only do you have a responsibility to the guitar but perhaps a responsibility to your wallet and the next buyer. “It was mint when I got it” doesn’t mean much to the next guy once you’ve worn the frets down. On the other hand, it’s your guitar and you owe it nothing. So, play away and enjoy it. It was mint the day it was bought by the original owner 50 years ago and he probably rarely played it (which is why it’s still mint). Just don’t smack it into the closet door.


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