The Best 58-65 ES Value?

62 ES-355 mono Sideways. Thousands less than a 335 and classy as white tie and tails. Sounds pretty much the same too.

I’ve written a few posts where I talk about great deals in 335s and their ilk. There was a time when Trini Lopez Standards were a tremendous deal but that seems to have gone away. Funny, at the peak of the market, Trinis were neglected and a nickel hardware 64-65 could be had for around $4000 and a later one for just under $3K. No more. The market caught up and now you can pay $7000 or more for a wide nut Trini. So, what’s the new mary jane? Well, what’s old is new and I think it’s the mono 355. And not because I have a couple to sell either-although in the interest of full disclosure, that is true. ES-345s and stereo 355s have always lagged well behind the 335 in price both with collectors and players.  Folks like to cite the “simplicity of the design” of the 335 and I can buy that, but I think “simplicity” is code for the fact that they don’t like the stereo wiring (too complicated-which it isn’t) and they don’t like the Varitone. We’ve covered the Varitone as nauseam and I’ll leave it alone. I don’t think “simplicity” means single top binding, less fancy headstock and rosewood vs ebony. I do think the trem only configuration is part of the problem, however. But tell me this….Why is a mono ES-355 worth so much less than a Bigsby equipped ES-335? Let’s look at real sales. I sold a 64 mono 355 for $9000. I’ve sold Bigsby 335s for $13,000. I sold a near mint sideways trem 62 mono ES-355 for $12,000. I sold a near mint sideways 62 ES-335 for close to $15K. I have a 59 ES-355 mono with a zebra and a double white PAF listed for $15K. The last Bigsby 59 ES-335 with whites or zeebs I had sold for over $25K. So what are you having to endure when you buy a mono 355 instead of a Bigsby 335? Well, you don’t get a “Custom Made” plaque and inserts. Good point. But unless you were going to set the 335 up as a stoptail, who cares. The plaque looks kind of dopey anyway. The ebony board is a substantive difference but I don’t see it as being that big a deal. I like the ebony board because its more durable. You aren’t going to find a lot of divots in the board of a 355. I like the big block markers, I like the 7 ply binding on top and I love red guitars, I don’t mind the bigger fancier headstock and I don’t mind gold hardware. I’d put any 355 mono up against any same year Bigsby or sideways equipped 335-have you close your eyes and tell me which is which.  You might feel the ebony and you might, if you have a great set of ears, hear the ebony. You’ll appreciate the Grovers if your 355 has them. You’ll also appreciate the somewhat better wood the 355s often got. One other thing-don’t dismiss the 65 ES-355 mono. There aren’t a whole lot of them but nearly every one I’ve seen has at least a 1 5/8″ nut which is a nice bonus. They also almost always have the really early patent number pickups which are the same as a later PAF. All things being equal, I’d have to say I’ll take a 335 over a 355 mostly because I prefer a stoptail. But if you presented me with a mono stoptail 355 and a same year stoptail  335, I’d be tempted to take the 355. But, given the rarity of a 355 stop, they’d probably be close in value anyway. But if you presented me with a Bigsby 355 along with a couple of grand and a Bigsby 335, I’d take the 355 and the money. Or door number three. No, two.

If this late '60 mono 355 was a 335, it would cost you close to $20K. It sure sounds like a 335 and it has the solid center block unlike a 345 or a stereo 355 (and some monos) That also means it has bumblebee or black beauty caps instead of those little ceramic disc things that fit inside the shielding cans on a stereo version.

9 Responses to “The Best 58-65 ES Value?”

  1. RAB says:

    As they like to say on the Les Paul Forum, +1 on the positive 355 comments. To me a 355 “cuts” through the mix a little better than a comparable 335 but, as Charlie notes, the difference is subtle. I’m gigging my ’63 355 mono stop tailpiece a lot and loving the tones and playability!

  2. olleandro says:

    Hi Charlie. I’m new to the site and pretty much read every post in one sitting. I thought I knew a fair bit about 335’s but boy was I wrong. Anyway I’m from the U.K and will be looking for an old 355 next month so figure this will be the first place I come to. I’ve been especially interested in your posts about values and the way the market is, it’s even worse over here in the U.K, which is why I always search out guitars from the U.S. Your website has given me hope that I might be able to not only find a half decent 355 but afford it too!

    I’m sure I read on here somewhere (I can’t find it now) that you can help source guitars for people and I wondered if it would okay to E-mail you with a few details of what I’m after and if you know where it can be found. I’m not sure I want to go the EBay route anymore!

    Anyway, thanks for a great site, regards, Ollie

  3. Collin says:

    +1 on the mono 355s

    But…..the best deals out there are early Epiphone Rivieras. Sure, they have mini humbuckers, but they were made side-by-side with equivalent Gibsons, and go for about 25% of the price. Same great neck on the real early ones too.

  4. OK Guitars says:

    You’re right but find one earlier than 65. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an earlier one.

  5. OK Guitars says:

    Email me any time. Tell me what you’re looking for and I’ll find it. And thanks for reading.

  6. OK Guitars says:

    Yer killin’ me with that guitar. I’m still looking for a stop 355 mono.

  7. Collin says:

    I have a pre-65 Riviera, actually. It’s a ’64 in Iced Tea “Royal Tan.” incredible guitar and it has that 64 neck profile too.

    As for vintage Gibsons, can’t beat a 355 for value and the mono models are even better.

  8. OK Guitars says:

    Royal Tans are rare enough but a 64 Royal Tan Riviera has got to be a pretty unusual piece. I’m guessing its worth more than you think-especially if the neck is a typical wide nut 64. When I was a very young man I played a 64 Riviera that belonged to the bass player in my band. I played a 62 ES-330 at the time and it would feed back horribly on certain songs, so I would play his Riviera. That would have been during the Medieval years of 1966-69.

  9. RAB says:

    I had two early Rivieras (1962 and 1963; ’62 was the first year) and they were both fabulous guitars. Royal Tan finish, short headstock, mini-stickered PAF pickups, all nickel plating of course, large neck profile…both had Frequensators as opposed to the awful Epi Vibrola tailpieces. Great, great, very usable sound…hmmm…so why did I sell them? Musta been delusional y’all?!!

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