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Don’t Ask, Don’t Know.

I really wanted this one. It didn't turn out to be all it was supposed to be. Sometimes, when you want something badly enough, you don't ask all the questions that need to be asked.

I’m guessing most everyone who has bought a guitar since the beginning of the internet has bought one that they have never seen, heard nor played. Buying stuff online has become the norm, especially buying things that are relatively rare and aren’t likely to be stocked on the shelves of your local Guitar Center. So, you ask a lot of questions. Has it been broken or repaired? Are the parts all original? How does it play? Is the neck straight? Is the finish original?  And so on. How specific do you get? How many questions do you ask?  You get real specific and you ask 100 questions if you need to. The problem is that doing that makes you more of a pest than a buyer especially when you’re buying from someone who doesn’t know a PAF from an ABR. I buy dozens of guitars every year from folks who neither play nor have any knowledge of guitars and they are almost always extremely helpful and will answer as best they can but I can’t expect these folks (some of whom are elderly) to start removing the pickups. And, not surprisingly, plenty of the guitars I buy from non players have undisclosed issues. It’s mostly changed parts but a lot of those can be seen in photos. That’s why I keep a big stash of vintage parts. But there are other issues that are harder to see-even for someone who really knows their stuff. Renecks and refinishes can be very hard to discern. So can misdating. I recently bought a guitar that I saw on Ebay that I wrote a post about. It was as rare as rare gets and I asked a zillion questions. I was mostly concerned with the originality of the finish-after all, how many blonde 65 ES-355s come along in a lifetime. This was the first I’d seen and only the third I knew of. So, I concentrated on the finish aspect. I honestly didn’t care if the bridge had been changed or the tuners were wrong-I’ve got all that stuff. I had a dozen photos and saw nothing that set off any alarms and yet, in less than 30 seconds after lifting the guitar from its case, I knew something was wrong. You see, I had no closeup of the headstock front. I had the back so I knew it wasn’t broken. I had a few good photos of the body which showed the correct pointy ear 65 body shape and an unambiguous serial number (unless it was a ’70 which seemed impossible with that body shape). So, I was pretty confident that this guitar was what the seller said it was. He had also bought it from a dealer whom he indicated was reputable. The seller clearly was confident that he had exactly what he said he had and I was not terribly concerned. Did I ask every possible question? Well I didn’t ask him to describe the Gibson logo. There was no dot over the “i”. Now, anything is possible at Gibson during the 60’s. While no dot was the norm starting in 1969, I can’t say that its impossible for someone to have cut a corner one Friday afternoon after a couple of highballs at lunch. So, it required more investigation. They reused the serial 175xxx in ’70 but  the body looked nothing like a 70. I went to check the pot codes. Hmmm-no shielding cans-bad sign. I could read only one and it was 1974. So, the harness had been messed with. No help. I’ve never seen a pointy ear 70’s ES-355. Reneck? Well, the clear coat was broken at the neck join but that isn’t unusual at all. Probably 30% of vintage 3×5’s have that. So, I went into the neck pickup rout to see what I could see. What I saw were shims, too much glue and clamp marks. That ‘s kind of the reneck trifecta. Any two of those things would be less than conclusive. Clamp marks are rare. Shims a little less so and tons of glue is pretty common. All three plus a broken clear coat (and a neck configuration that doesn’t match the era)? Reneck. What a disappointment. The dealer sold it to the owner as a 65 which it is. The dealer didn’t question (or disclose) the anomalous logo. I cannot, in any way, fault the seller. I suppose I can fault me for not asking to see a closeup of the front of the headstock or not asking: “Is there a dot over the “i” in Gibson? Next time I’ll ask. The bottom line here is that even if you think you know everything, you can still end up with a guitar that isn’t exactly what you thought it was. If you don’t ask the question, you never get the answer.

Pretty clean work-almost certainly factory but too many factors tell me it isn't the first neck to grace this beauty.

5 Responses to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Know.”

  1. Danny says:

    so what happens now?

  2. OK Guitars says:

    It goes back to the seller who was told by the dealer he purchased it from that it was a 65. Well, it is a 65 but the reneck wasn’t disclosed to him so he should have recourse with the dealer. To be fair, the dealer probably didn’t know either-the work is probably factory and perhaps the dealer didn’t know his Gibson logo history. Or perhaps he never looked “under the hood”. I don’t know how long he owned it for-the longer it is, the harder it is to get your money back no matter how egregious the error. That’s why it’s important to have the guitar looked at by someone who knows what he’s looking at before your approval period (if you bought from a dealer) or your return period (if the seller gave you one) is over. I’d say that this is a good reason to buy from a reputable dealer but, presumably, that’s what the owner did. On the other hand, I know who the dealer was and, well, I’ll keep my opinion to myself.

  3. RAB says:

    Wow, what a bummer! Too bad too on an uber rare git-tar! Glad you are able to reverse this deal!

  4. Graham says:

    You know exactly how much I fancied that one too C particularly as his asking figure tumbled over the weeks / months – Blondes!!! drive out common sense (me not you) – glad it didn’t end up all the way over here though as I doubt I’d have spotted the work – the logo maybe but what would I have done?? Hope it works out OK for you re. a return- g

  5. OK Guitars says:

    I thought of you when I first saw it but it was just too high. It played well but originality counts for a lot in the big prices these things make. Still a rare guitar with an original finish (the label said “TDN”) but, as I always say, the guitar asked more questions than it answered. Seller took it back very graciously.

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