Block Neck 60 ES-335?

Looks like a 62 but there is hidden weirdness going on.

Someone once said an ES-335 is harder to date than a cheerleader. Oh, yeah, that was me. Actually, there are a lot of factors that allow you to get a pretty good idea of when a particular 335 was made. At least until ’65. Then it gets progressively harder as you move into the early 70’s when it’s almost impossible. This one is a little baffling, so we’ll look a little more deeply into it. The guitar was sold to me as a 62 and I had no reason to doubt that it was, in fact, a 62. Serial number? 56xxx. That’s a 62. Serial is also on the back of the headstock. Block neck, of course, PAFs, no wire bridge, Mickey Mouse ears and so on. The only thing that struck me was the neck angle-it looked like a 58-60. It was so shallow that the bridge was sitting on the top of the guitar. There are shallow neck angles after 1960, so I really didn’t give it that much thought. The other odd thing was that there was darker red overspray at the neck join and at the butt end but no apparent repairs of any kind. A friend of mine and vintage dealer told me he thought the darker red was factory, probably hiding some flaw in the wood. I’ve seen that at the neck join plenty of times but only once on the rim where it was hiding a splice in the cutaway. There is no sign of any repair-there is some roughness in the glue on the binding but nothing to justify an overspray. The previous owner had owned the guitar since 1974, so if something was done it was done a long time ago. But that’s not the strange part. The 62 has become my regular player lately and today I was playing it and then switched to a 64 I had just picked up at Fedex. the body felt completely different so I put them side by side and sure enough the body on my “62” was more than 1/8″ thinner. The 64 measured 1.75″ thick and the 62 was 1.58. The “thin body” 335s were pretty much gone by late 60 so I thought I should investigate a bit more. I pulled the volume pot through the f-hole to read the code. It was, of course, a Centralab with those teeny little numbers on the side. I couldn’t read it but while I was peering in there something caught my eye. “Holy crap, is that a FON (factory order number)?” Sure enough it was and it started with “R” making it a 60 body. So what is a 60 body doing with a block neck and a 62 serial number? There are a couple of possible theories. In 62, when Gibson switched from dots to blocks, some folks got upset. Blocks were more upscale and some people who bought dot necks wanted Gibson to give them blocks. Gibson has acknowledged that some dot necks came back to the factory and were retrofitted with blocks. I doubt they changed the necks but they may have changed the fingerboards. They couldn’t simply change the markers because the dots at the 12th fret are wider than the block that would go there. Gibson also often renumbered guitars that were sent back to the factory. So, is it a 60 dot neck with a changed fingerboard? That doesn’t explain the dark lacquer but it could explain the 60 FON. Next theory (and I like this one) is that the body was made in 1960 but had some wood issues or finish issues and was set aside. Maybe someone screwed up the red finish and since red wasn’t very popular for 335’s in 60 (only 21 shipped), they didn’t really need it. But by 62, they were selling red ones more than 2 to 1 over sunburst (610 cherry to 266 sunburst) and maybe it was time to use those discarded red bodies. That would explain the dark overspray (to cover the flaws), the shallow neck angle, the block markers and, of course, the 60 FON. So, you can call it a 62 but the FONs don’t lie. It’s “really” a block neck ’60.

There you go. "R" means '60. I've never tried to decode the rest of the FON system. Maybe I should start writing them down and see if I can make sense of them.

5 Responses to “Block Neck 60 ES-335?”

  1. RAB says:

    Fascinating and of course just about any scenario is potentially possible from those wacky Kalamazoo folks! The FON looks different to me (thinner font and more spacing between characters) than typical but could just be the lighting or angle in the photo?

  2. OK Guitars says:

    Font and spacing look OK to me. It’s a very wide angle lens at kind of an extreme angle so it looks a little odd.

  3. Steve Newman says:

    Hey, Charlie; what an odd mystery! Definitely has the thinner body specs, shallow neck angle and tell-tale FON number to authenticate the earlier body. The lacquer question could just be carelessness with the spraygun when the original finish was applied. It is hard to see in your photo, but I don’t think the neck binding quite matches the yellowing (age related) of the rest of the binding on the guitar, especially at the end of the fingerboard, where there is no playing wear. My best guess is a newer block style fingerboard, or a distant second, a totally new neck, which was then serialized at the time of the replacement.

  4. Steve Newman says:

    PS. I know the owner of an all original early ’65 sunburst 335 with big, wide neck that came with 345 fretboard markers from the factory… some of Gibson’s “mistakes” made it to the dealers and out to the public.

  5. RAB says:

    a number of classic period ES models have surfaced with custom ordered features, E.G. 335 with 345 inlays or 335 with 355 ebony board and pearl block inlays…

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