My Favorite Year


My favorite would have to be a big neck MM ear, red, PAF 63. I haven't seen one since I had this one back in January of 2012.

I’m not sentimental. Just ask my wife. Big number birthdays and anniversaries? All the same to me. Did I shed a tear when the McDonald’s where I proposed was torn down? Uh, no (and that’s a really long story). Things like “birth year” guitars don’t really appeal to me, although it’s a pretty big deal with a lot of folks-especially those born during “good” guitar years. I predate the 335 by six years, so my birth year guitar would have to be something else. But, as I said, not sentimental. Apropos of nothing, the question I get asked all the time is “what is the best year for a 335?” My answer is usually in the form of another question. The best year for what? Playability? Tone? Investment? Looks? It’s all so subjective that I can only offer up an opinion. There are folks who believe that the ultra shallow neck angle of the 58-early 60’s has the best tone. There are folks who believe the long magnet PAF of 58-61 is the pinnacle of tone. The fat neck of the 58 and 59 are currently in vogue but that could change. I remember when thin necks were all the rage. Most agree that the big neck 64’s are pretty desirable even if they don’t have PAFs. If Mr. Clapton could make it sound like he did, then maybe you can too. There are folks who find the 65-67 narrow fingerboard very playable and get themselves some great guitars for a few bucks more than a reissue. I played a 64 ES-335 (red) for many years but as I got into the dealer thing, I ended up selling it because I had a customer who wanted a 64 badly enough to pry my player from my hands. My recent favorite has been a 58 unbound neck that is just spectacular. The neck is a little fat for me but the tone is superlative. The 58 is different. The top is 25% thinner than a 59 and 58’s tend to sound somewhat different than later ones. I’m sure you’ve heard the term “woody” applied to tone (and other stuff). The 58 top seems to vibrate a good bit more and all that woody goodness comes through. It’s not really “better” tone-it’s just a bit different and I like it a lot. Most will agree that the best year to invest in is a 59. These held their value fairly well through the crash and continue to be the most sought after 335s (and especially 345s and 355s) of them all. And with good reason. All around, the 59 is everything everybody seems to want. Great (often white) pickups, neck angle and size, spectacular sunburst and natural finishes and wonderful tone. For us red lovers, there are only about a half dozen red ’59 335s, perhaps the same number of red 345s but plenty of red 355s. A lot of dealers throw huge prices on 59’s and sometimes get them. It makes 59 a tough market to play in for most. They have become a bit scarce and while an early 60 can have all the features of a 59, it doesn’t command anywhere near the same price. Much as I love 58’s and 59’s, if I were to make a chart comparing the features and relative value of 58-64 ES-335’s, the unsung hero might be the mid 63. These have a unique set of features that make them special. Mid 63 is the moment that Gibson changed from Mickey Mouse ear cutaways to the pointier ones. It is also the moment that the necks got big again but not too big. They are the last gasp of the PAF equipped 335 as well. And they come in red. A Mickey Mouse ear, double PAF, big neck 63 is pretty rare but is worth looking for. I’ve had one this year and one last year. We all know that the early patent number pickup is the same as a PAF but value-wise and investment wise, they aren’t the same. A pointy ear 63-64 is great looking but the MM ears are preferred by most folks (including me). The neck profile is near perfect for me as are most 64’s. So, much as I love a dot neck 58 and much as I appreciate a 59, I have to say that my favorite of all is the mid 63. If you’re lucky enough to find one, hold onto it. I should have.

A 58 unbound 335 is neck and neck (get it?) with the 63. If I could play that huge neck better, it might be my fave.

5 Responses to “My Favorite Year”

  1. RAB says:

    Charlie, yes, 1963 is a very good year not just for Gibson’s ES models (I love the chunky neck profile and deep cherry red finish on my 355) but also for SG models including the last year for the revered SG/Les Pauls too!

  2. Eduardo says:

    I was looking at the picture of this gorgeous 58 and I just realized… The neck pickup on this one seems to be a bit higher than the ones with bound fingerboard.

    I might be wrong, but the scale on the unbound finishes just under the 22nd fret (as opposed to that almost 23rd fret on the bound ones) and the pickup is just under it. Also, at the distance to the bottom of the cutaway to the pickup ring seems smaller too…

    Just as the bridge pickup on that 63 seems closer to the bridge as well!

    If it’s true, I guess it make a slight difference in tone.

  3. OK Guitars says:

    Yes, there is quite a bit of variation through the years or even within the same year when it comes to placement of the pickups, the pick guard, the tailpiece, the truss cover and even the knobs.

  4. RAB says:

    Speaking of pickup placement anomalies, my ’62 Epi Riviera’s neck pup is a little farther “south” than it was supposed to be, necessitating a thin “boo-boo” black plastic strip between the pup ring and the end of the fingerboard! But I’ll keep the git-tar anyway!

  5. Joe Campagna says:

    Couldn’t agree more.My favorite…’63 2 stock PAFs..

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