The Smart Money

I should have named this one "Jarlsberg" . I've never seen a guitar with more holes in it. Refinished but pretty much original, if I recall. This, my friends, is a player. And it sounded as good as any.

When you deal with such a tiny segment of the vintage market it allows you to see a snapshot of the whole market. We’ll take Les Paul Standards out of the conversation since they march to their own drummer. What I’m talking about is how to play the vintage market for maximum fun and for maximum value. The last post should have given you a pretty good idea of the market as of August 2012 but there are some general factors that will always be the same. A mint guitar will always command a premium and will always be the best investment you can make whether at the top of the market or the bottom. They fall the least during a pullback and they rise the most during an upswing. But they come with an additional price on top of the high price they already command. Call it the “mint tax”.  You can read about it here. Then there is the great middle ground where you’ll find the great bulk of vintage 335s/345s and 355s. Those are the well cared for examples that have an issue or two. Changed tuners is the most common. Player wear, refret, changed pot or removed pickup covers and missing stickers all fall into this category. These are guitars that can be very expensive when in great condition and, in most cases, can be played without fear of turning a mint guitar into an average one. After all, that’s how mint guitars become players. They were all mint once upon a time. They get played. Interestingly, these one or two issue guitars are the hardest to sell. The fussy collector doesn’t want it because it won’t lead the market nor will it give him (or her) the bragging rights that go with it. And don’t diminish bragging rights. Read any guitar forum and see who the “bull goose loony” is. He’s the guy with the best guitars. You know who you are and it’s a position of some status, to be sure. Only the well known pro players get more respect. Who doesn’t like a little respect from one’s peers?  That takes me to the pieces that sell in a minute or less. These are the players. The guitars from the Golden Era that don’t cost much more than the current crop of Historics, special “artist” models” and “anniversary” editions that Gibson throws out there for the aficionados (and suckers depending on the model). These are guitars with unfixable issues that just won’t go away no matter how much dough you sink into your guitar. These are guitars that are refinished, have headstock repairs, Bigsby, or worse, Maestro holes, holes from coil taps, multiple tuner replacements, changed hardware and a whole host of other atrocities that render them “players”. Pssst…I’ll let you in on a secret. They sound every bit as good, in most cases, as the mint ones or the “average” ones. They sometimes sound better. This assumes that the pickups are still in it and the electronics are still more or less stock. They may sound just as good with changed pickups too, but I wouldn’t make that a blanket statement. They can be gigged without too much fear of theft or damage and you can turn around and sell them for exactly what you paid in this market.  Half price or less. As a dealer, I buy up a lot of these, although I tend to stay away from headstock cracks (I hate surprises). Refins? Bring ’em on-I’ll buy every one you find. The second (or maybe third) best 335 I ever had was a refin. Removed Bigsbys? OK, so there are 6 extra holes. Close your eyes when you play-you’ll look more intense and you won’t see all the holes. I had an ES-335 that had 29 extra holes. Twenty nine!! And a refin. How do you even get that many holes in a guitar? Easy. Two different trems (10 holes),  an armrest (5 holes), and backpad (8 holes) and a set of Grovers for an additional 6. That’s how. It was a 64 ES-335, I believe. It played absolutely great and sounded as good as my everyday player. I think I sold it for $5500. A lot of money for a guitar but not a lot for a 64 ES-335.

5 Responses to “The Smart Money”

  1. olleandro says:

    Great article. Exactly what I want!

  2. Cliff says:

    Great article indeed.

    I simply can’t afford collector quality so the only hope I will ever have is a “player’s grade” guitar and that would be fine with me.

  3. ty millsaps says:

    thanx for info and pics!…I own a ’62 cherry!near mint(looks new)due to headstock break!left in giveway Gibson chipboard case for 30+ yrs.!it could breathe!…gits shouldn’t be left in cases long term!…again thanx for site and God Bless!

  4. Georg Kobler says:

    I have a 355 Stereo with this Ebony Block lyra .I think bj.62. Ser.No.84031

  5. okguitars says:

    That serial number was used in 62, 63 and 64, so I can’t tell you without seeing photos. Even then, 62’s and early 63’s are really similar.
    I know of another 355 with the ebony block and it is a 62.

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