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Marital Bliss, 335 Style

For the price of 30 of these, you can have the guitar at the bottom. What's it gonna be--paper or wood?

It’s pretty hard to explain to your significant other that you want to spend $15000 on a guitar. Especially when you’ve already got a few in the closet. She (or he) didn’t bat an eye when you bought the Volvo for $40K. Perhaps she didn’t realize that the car will lose close to half its value the day you drive it off the lot. Or perhaps that after 5 years, it’ll be worth less than a third of what you paid. Buy hey,you needed a new car, you played the safety card and you got a nice car even though you wanted the BMW. Never mind you could have bought an old Volvo wagon like I drive (1997) and still had $35000 left over for guitars. That’s not really the point. The point is that a vintage guitar doesn’t have to cost you a nickel in the long run. We all know how high the market got during the “bubble” that ended in 2008 (unless you’re one of a few select dealers who didn’t get the memo, not to mention almost every Ebay seller). The vintage market is still fairly low but has shown signs of life lately. I can go out and buy a brand spankin’ new ES-335 dot or block Historic for around $4500. But I can also go out and find a pretty decent mid 60’s ES-335 for less than $1000 more and that is significant. In five years, the Historic will probably be worth $3500 if you decide to sell it. OK, that’s not so bad. But the 66-68 that you paid $5000 for is going to be worth at least that. Can I guarantee that? No, I can’t guarantee that I’ll be able to get out of bed tomorrow but I’d bet on it. Let’s go up the scale a bit. Let’s look at the 335 you really want. I’ll use a 64 as the example because they are so popular. You can get your hands on a 64 with minor issues for around $12000 for a Bigsby/Custom Made or a few thousand more for a stoptail. You can probably get a no issue stoptail 64 for around $18,000. At the top of the market, the Bigsby was closer to $18000 and the stop pushed past $25000. You still see them out there for as high as $32000 but they never sell anywhere near that. So, the loss since the top of the bubble has been around 25-30%. The good news is that they have not dropped any further since the bottom fell out and, in fact, I’ve seen an improvement of 10-15% in the past couple of years for 335s. But percentages are a funny thing-an increase of 10% from the bottom doesn’t make up a third of a 30% drop from the top. Do the math. Even so, a rising market tends to continue to rise (until it doesn’t)-the trend is upward as the economy improves. Most buyers of vintage 335’s are men in their 50’s. The kids are done or ┬ájust about done with college and you’re secure in your job. You’d love a 64 but you just can’t justify the expenditure. I know, it sounds like a sales pitch from the guy with the 335’s but it really is an investment. And it’s a lot more fun than 30 shares of Apple stock. As long as expensive new guitars continue to be inferior to the vintage ones we all love, vintage guitars will sell. So tell the wife (or the significant other) that you want to make an investment that you can enjoy for the rest of your life and maybe hand down to your children. An investment that is nearly as liquid as Apple shares and will give you a heck of a lot more pleasure than trying to play a stock certificate. I can never keep them in tune and they don’t sustain worth a damn.

This is a lot easier to play and will keep you company on a cold night. Let's see your stock certificate play the blues.

5 Responses to “Marital Bliss, 335 Style”

  1. rob says:

    Excellent post. Especially about guitars and cars. Comparing investments and purchases in hindsight can be sort of painful. I remember dropping thousands to buy used Porsches back in the ’70’s and ’80’s which I’d drive for a few years and then sell for a good bit less than I paid. If I still had them, I could have at least doubled my money by now. Of course they would have had to be maintained, insured, housed and not driven a whole lot. On the other hand, instead of spending $7,500 on a nice used Porsche in 1983, I could have bought 6-10 good original Gibson ES guitars. It doesn’t take a Stephen Hawking to figure out if I would have been better off with the guitars.

  2. RAB says:

    Charlie, right on! Life’s too short not to play a great vintage guitar, and, as the Blues tells us, “You can’t take it with you, that’s one thing for sure!”

  3. OK Guitars says:

    Hindsight is always 20/20. What can you buy today that you can enjoy and be assured of keeping your investment intact? I think investing isn’t always about profit-it’s also about maintaining principal.
    I don’t think 335s will double in value in ten years but I’m pretty certain they will hold up well. If you want to be a seer, you need to find the next big thing. And it won’t be 70’s 335s. Maybe 81-85.

  4. ty millsaps says:

    are they worth more with rusty screws and crud all over ’em!…seems so!..people should take care of instruments!…my ’62(broken headstock/ repaired/76695)Paf’s and nickel plate brass bridge pieces,tuners are as new!looks “brand new” from couple feet away and I’ve played it every day since ’93!….there is metal polish and cleaner that will not harm the metal and cleaners for the finish!….the kids though like the GI boot stomped look!…disgusting and abusive!…love the 335’s…found my 335’s brother and sister 76694/76696 in your site!…thanx!

  5. OK Guitars says:

    My usual buyers are 50+ and they mostly appreciate clean guitars. I almost never clean the metal parts but a swipe with Virtuoso Cleaner goes a long way in brightening up the finish on an old 335 that’s been neglected. The kids? The kids don’t really appreciate the 335. It just isn’t a hipster guitar.

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