The Pickup Line Gold Version

This 61 ES-355 (I think it was this one anyway) mono had a pair of zebras. Late for zebras and late for long magnets but gold pickups don't follow the same rules.

To continue where I left off, the timeline for Gibson pickups that come in the guitars with gold hardware is different than that of the nickel hardware guitars. It’s simple enough, they sold fewer guitars with gold hardware so they used up the gold pickups more slowly. Then again, you would think that they would have made a proportional number of gold pickups so that they would have followed a similar timeline but no. That would be too easy. So, the gold pickups follow a somewhat different trajectory from long magnet PAF to t-top. The earliest gold PAF I’ve seen was in a 57 ES-5. I’m not sure whether it had a sticker or not but by 58, they certainly did. It seems that the nickel pickups went from long magnet to short magnet in mid 61. The gold ones seem to stay long magnet into 62. The last 62 ES-355 I had that I was able to check had long magnet PAFs. I’ve also seen 62’s with short magnets, so I will assume that the transition occurred sometime in 1962. That doesn’t mean you won’t find a long magnet later than 62. No one cared-the workers at Gibson went to a bin full of pickups and grabbed a couple of pickups. They didn’t care about DC resistance or magnet length or type. All they needed was a gold pair or a nickel pair (or an out of phase pair if they were building a stereo guitar). It’s the transition from PAF to patent number that is kind of squishy. You’ll read of PAFs showing up in gold hardware guitars as late as 1967 and I have no reason to doubt that it is possible. I just don’t see that many 67’s, so my experience here isn’t so useful. The latest PAF I’ve seen in a gold hardware guitar was in a 65 ES-355. But gold PAFs later than 63 are not common at all. I’ve seen at least 50 ’63 or later ES-345s and 355s and the vast majority of the pickups in them are patent numbers with enamel wire windings. In fact, I rarely see gold patent numbers with poly coated wire windings before 1966. Again, I don’t open pickups that have never been opened, so I don’t have as big a sample as I’d like. I’ve opened a fair number of gold 65 patent numbers and every last one had enamel windings. By 66, the norm seems to be the poly wire patent number but no T-tops in sight. Here’s where I need a little help. I can’t really tell you when t-tops showed up on gold hardware 345s and 355s because I never see any. I’ve had perhaps a half dozen 67’s and  68’s and they had pre T-tops. But then, you’ll find pre t-tops in a 335 with some frequency. One other interesting thing is the frequency of white and zebra bobbin pickups in 60 and 61 ES-345s and 355s. It seems the “sweet spot” for double whites in ES-335s is mid 59 to early 60. With the gold pickups, it extends well into 61 with zebras being a possibility well into 61. I haven’t seen double whites that late but I’ve seen a lot of zebras (herd of zebras?). If any body feels like checking their 67 or later pickups, I could use the research. Don’t open them is they are sealed but check to see if the bobbin screws (not the pole screws) are phillips or slotted. If it has Phillips the pickup can be either pre T-top ot T-top but slotted almost guarantees a T-top.

Hard to know what this is. The PAF looks authentic but no sticker and slotted screws on the other pickup looks like trouble. Could be a PAF with changed screws. Could be a t-top. Could be an early patent with changed screws. Gibson could have run out of philips screws that day. There was a discussion on one of the forums that postulated that the slotted screws denoted out of phase. I don't think so. I've seen at least a hundred stereo ES guitars from 59-64 and not one had slotted screws.

7 Responses to “The Pickup Line Gold Version”

  1. Danny says:

    A novice question: how can you tell if the pickups have been opened? do you have pics of those? I assume the solder would look different…?

  2. chuckNC says:

    I’m not sure my ’68 355 will be of any great help to you, Charlie, but I offer the info FWIW. When I bought the guitar it had a Shaw in the bridge and presumably a T-Top in the neck. Covers have been off previously but I’ve never pulled it off to look myself. Sounds like a T-Top and reads like a T-Top at 7.56. Has gold pole screws and phillps heads on the bottom. The seller told me it was a T-Top and I had no reason to think he didn’t know. BTW, the Shaw sounds pretty nice in combo with this neck pup, a little beefier than 2 T-Tops together would be.

  3. RAB says:

    My mid to late ’63 ES-355 stoptail mono (shipped 11-21-63) has a pair of gold patent # pups, I assume enamel windings. Covers never off so I am not going to look. It sounds really good! 7.8k ohms neck, 7.85k ohms bridge!

  4. Ollie Pickering says:

    I don’t know if my ’66 355 has enamel or poly wiring, i always assumed poly but i’m not opening virgin pickups just in case they might still have enamel by then. but I’m glad all the screws and clues say definitely not T-tops. I guess it’s a bit snobby but as I couldn’t afford one with PAF’s I really wanted PAT no.s. It sounds great to me and thats all that really matters but it’s still nice to have a guitar with all the “right” bits.

  5. Ollie Pickering says:

    Haha, just realised I’d written the same as RAB but with the enamel and poly swapped round!

  6. RAB says:

    Let’s hear it for vintage 355s! More bite than rosewood board ES models IMHO!

  7. Ollie Pickering says:

    Haha, yeah! when a thing such as a mono 355 exists I can’t inderstand why anyone would want a 335 at all! Beautiful guitars, especially the neck. None of those silly dots for me! 😉

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