Granddad’s ES-335 101

This might seem really obvious to you but think about if your Mom was trying to tell the difference between these two guitars. Not so obvious anymore, is it? Dot neck on the left is worth a lot more than the block neck on the right. It's the little markers on the neck that I'm talking about. The neck is the long skinny part pointing upward. You knew that, didn't you.

To my regular readers-this post is not for you. It’s for the people who have never seen a 335 before. Recently, I’ve received a whole lot of emails from folks selling Granddad’s or Uncle Bob’s old Gibson ES-335. I appreciate the fact that folks are comfortable coming to me to appraise, buy or consign their guitar. I also appreciate the fact that they often do their research before contacting me so that they better understand what they have. Except when they don’t. Generally, the first email I get doesn’t contain any photos, just some information based on what Granddad “always said” or information gleaned from various websites. Now, I understand that to the disinterested or casual observer, all these guitars pretty much look alike. I don’t expect any non player to even notice the difference between a block neck and a dot neck. I do expect them to be able to tell sunburst from red but beyond that, I expect nothing. I used to ask a lot of questions about stuff that might be obvious to most of you that is Greek (or geek) to a non player. Question: ” Can you look at the back of the headstock and tell me the number stamped there?” Answer: “What’s a headstock?” This past week I received a very nice email from a nice lady who inherited Granddad’s ES-335. She wrote me and told me it was a 59 and asked what I thought it might be worth. I made the assumption that someone had been able to identify it as a 59 and I gave her a fairly broad price range but I also asked her, in the same email, what color it was. I wanted her to know that if it was blonde, she could double those big numbers I had given her. I’m sure she was very excited to hear that Granddad had left her something of real value. She wrote back and told me it was red. I could have had one of two reactions. “OMG, I’ve found another red 59!” or “Uh, oh. Not a 59.” I went with the latter. I asked for some photos and she sent them along. I felt bad telling her that the guitar I had told her might be worth tens of thousands of dollars wasn’t a 59 but a 68. I know, how can you get it that wrong but, as I said, to a non player, a dot neck and a block neck look the same until someone points out the difference. The next thing that probably boggled her mind was the difference a few years can make in the value of a guitar. A 68 is worth about one tenth of a 59, give or take. That’s gotta seem totally nuts to someone outside of our little asylum. So, here’s a quick primer for those who don’t know a headstock from an f-hole. If you have a 335 and the little markers on the fingerboard (the thing with the frets) are little dots and you know the guitar is more than 50 years old, it’s a 58-early 62 and probably worth a lot of money perhaps $20,000 or a lot more. If the tailpiece (where the strumming end of the strings end) is a simple bar and the markers are small blocks and you know for certain the guitar is around 50 years old, you have a 62-early 65 and it’s worth $10K or more. If the tailpiece is a trapezoid shaped piece that attaches to the very bottom of the guitar, then it isn’t going to be a big payday. That makes it a 65 or later and the value might be as high as $8000 but is more likely a lot less. That’s the simplest way I can think of to get a non player into the ballpark. I know I’d be disappointed if I thought my inheritance was worth $30,000 and I found out it was worth $4000. Next time, I’ll withhold my judgement until I see a photo.

Stop tailpiece on the left, trapeze on the right. The tailpiece is the thing the strings go into -where they end (or start)/. The guitar on the left is worth more if it's original. Lots of players take the trapeze off and replace it with a stop tailpiece. Look for the screw holes on the rim of the guitar where the trapeze attaches to the body to see if the guitar had a different tailpiece at some point. The body is the part that...never mind.


One Response to “Granddad’s ES-335 101”

  1. RAB says:

    Charlie, great primer for the uninitiated! Interesting to think of even more basic lessons like a bass has 4 strings, a guitar is not “broken” if one or more strings are missing, etc.

Leave a Reply

Optionally add an image (JPEG only)