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Are We That Stupid?

Nice stuff but $15K???? Maybe if the pickups were whites I'd just say the seller was overreaching. This is maybe $6000 worth of stuff and I'm being really generous only 'cuz I'm a sucker for amber switch tips..

And by we, I include me. Granted, collectors and, to a lesser extent, vintage players are all a little nutty what with getting upset about a changed pickguard screw or the like. There has to be a limit and yet certain sellers will continue to exploit out potential nuttiness. But this Ebay auction is a little insulting. OK, I get original solder, really, I do-it proves a lot on a guitar but this Ebay sale has jumped the shark. The guy wants $15000 for a pair of (black) PAFs that are still soldered to their original harness. I quote:  Again, we’ve NEVER seen anything like this, and we (that means you, too!) may never see anything like this again. This is a rare chance to own a very, very rare and unique set of authentic 1959 Gibson PAF pickups, pots, input jack and 3-way switch, with original wiring harness and completely unsoldered. Don’t they mean completely soldered?  OK, that’s sort of rare because you can only get the harness out of a hollow body without unsoldering at least one pickup. But seriously, so what?  They still had to unsolder the ground wire. Where is that? Shouldn’t the ground wire still be attached to the harness?? In any case, the value of this particular setup is only valid for a hollow body because you’d have to unsolder a pickup to install it in anything else. Besides, how many hollow bodies with an intact 2 pickup harness are worth more than $15K? Not many. Second, if you bought this harness and installed it in your 59 Super 400 or other hollow body, it wouldn’t be original-it would have the harness from another guitar, so where is the value of originality in a case like this, unless you lie? How would I describe this “restoration” if I were a seller? 1959 Super 400 with a totally original never unsoldered harness unless you count the ground wire from a different guitar? That’ll bring ’em running. Wait. Let’s look at it another way. A 59 harness on a good day might be worth $800. A pair of black unopened PAFs, again, on a good day might be worth $4000. So the premium, in this instance,  for one solder joint (the neck pickup) is about $10,000. We are not that stupid. Not logical enough for you? Here’s another try: I bought an all original 61 dot neck with a repaired headstock  last year. It had its original PAFs and the original, intact harness. I think I sold it for $7500 (and not easily). Is this seller telling me I could have routed out the body to allow me to remove the neck pickup and harness without breaking the solder joint and sold the resulting unbroken harness for $15000 (and still had all the goodies left on the guitar)? What a dope I am. I could have made even more since the rout would have been under the guard and the headstock was repaired anyway.  The point is that sometimes you just have to let logic rear its head and think about what you are buying (or selling). I understand most of the collector nuttiness-I have to-I’d go out of business if I didn’t. I love the fact that the sticker on a PAF is worth $1000. I love the fact that an unstickered early patent number and an unstickered PAF are exactly the same but command different prices.  I love the fact that a white PAF is worth twice what a black PAF is worth. This is what makes these guitars so darn interesting. But, the day a single solder join is worth $10K is the day I hang up my truss rod wrench and say “I’ve had enough.” I’m not saying anything negative about the seller other than he’s being wildly optimistic about the value (and rarity) of his item. He has as much right to ask $15000 for a set of pickups and parts as I have to squawk about it. I’m sure the seller is just throwing it out there hoping to snag a sucker with more bucks than brains but c’mon. I think it’s insulting. Even to us nuts.

Well, look here. By cosmic coincidence, I'm parting out a 59 ES-175. So I pulled the harness in one piece just to make a point. NOT rare. Not worth $15K. I'm about to unsolder the pickups (sold) and thus lower the value of whats left by, what, $9K or $10K? That's putting your money where your mouth is. Anybody need a 59 harness? only $10,000. I'll throw in the pickup rings (which they didn't include). What the heck, you can have the rest of the 175 as well. Except maybe the switch tip.

9 Responses to “Are We That Stupid?”

  1. Chris W says:

    That would have been fair, but you have to knock off $2000 for each scratch on the stickers. ES-175s and ES-125s have a long history of being gutted for the pickups and harnesses. I like the new plan to tear apart 335s to get the unsoldered pickups out. I smell a new cottage industry.

  2. rob says:

    Maybe I’m stupid but how would one know whether these are black, zebra or double white PAFs without unsoldering the covers? And would they be worth more than $15K if the covers were gold? If double whites are worth twice as much as double blacks, maybe these are a bargain at half price if they are white.

  3. RAB says:

    Charlie, right-on comments as usual! Say, I have a container of gen-u-wine 1959 air I will sell for only $10K…oh, and I’ll throw in a matching 1959 dust bunny secured from a ’59 5-latch brown Les Paul case for free! Any takers? Ha, ha…

  4. OK Guitars says:

    Get out your routers, a $15000 harness is nothing to sneeze at. An extra rout (or is it route?) in the neck pickup cavity is the new “Bigsby beard”.

  5. OK Guitars says:

    Hey Rob not stupid-just need to know the trick…Two things you can do. First, if the pickups are still in the guitar, unscrew one of the pole piece screws and take a look. If its white plastic you see then its either a reverse zebra or, more likely, a double white (most zebras have a white slug coil and a black polepiece coil). If it turns out to be black, there’s still a chance of it being a zebra, so then pull the pickup out and unscrew one of the philips screws on the back under the slug coil. Shine a flashlight in there and if you see white, then it’s a zebra (unless the screw coil was white, then its a DW). If you already have the pickup out, then you can check both bobbins through the back. If they were double whites, then the price is just overly aggressive and not an insult. A sealed pair of whites and a harness could go for over $10K easily. Gold covers are generally worth less than nickel. Unopened white PAFs have gotten pretty scarce, so either is worth some serious coinage.

  6. Steve Newman says:

    AMEN Charlie! Great post and thanks for hitting the nail on the head about neurotic obsession on complete originality. Little things like original truss rod covers, pick guard screws, strap buttons and other minutiae have absolutely no bearing on the functionality, playability, or tone of the instrument, but are always “nit picking” points for some. I appreciate the collector/purist point of view of having a totally factory “original” instrument, but as soon as you change the factory installed strings, it’s not “original” any more, is it?

  7. OK Guitars says:

    That’s one of the points I always make to nutty buyers. There are “expendables” and there are “non-expendables”. Anything that can wear out under normal use and is replaceable without breaking a solder or glue joint is “expendable”.
    I just had a mint 58 (lefty!) with a collapsed ABR1. Does the fact that it will be replaced with a vintage correct one really make a particle of difference? Or would you (or the buyer) rather play it with a sagging bridge. Tuner buttons? Who cares-knock off a buck. It’s always nice when the worn out or broken original parts are included but really, who wants a bunch of rusty old strings (or frets) or crystallized tuner tips?

  8. RAB says:

    It’s amusing to “have some fun” with an anal obsessive buyer when they ask 6 million questions after being told a guitar is “all original”…all parts original? YUP. Any repairs or refinishing? NOPE…after about 5 minutes of this pointless banter I will say “You know, you are right…the guitar is not all original…” and wait for the stunned reaction…Then I note “It has non-original strings!” ha, ha…

  9. rob says:

    Speaking of original strings, George Gruhn has a 1940 Stromberg Master 400 for sale. One of those huge hunking 19″ acoustics that were de rigeur for big band rhythm comping. This one was used by Freddie Green and still has its strings from when Freddie hung it up for good. Since he died in 1987, those are some aged strings and may add to the value. Asking price? $90,000.

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