Neglected Stepchild No More

Here's a real nice 59 I had last year. Watch out for repro bridges, knobs and switch tips as folks are scavenging them for their reissue Les Pauls (and others). There are a couple thousand 59's out there. Get one before the price gets any higher.

Here’s a real nice 59 I had last year. Watch out for repro bridges, knobs and switch tips as folks are scavenging them for their reissue Les Pauls (and others). There are a couple thousand 59’s out there. Get one before the price gets any higher.

I don’t make a lot of predictions about the ES market (although I make a whole lot of observations-not the same thing). Here is the prediction: The early (dot neck) ES-330’s are going to get mighty popular mighty fast. They are the best vintage deal on the planet if you ask me. While the ES-335 market has been kind of flat lately, the ES-330 market has been inching up for the past year or so. The popularity of the relatively new reissue ES-330 has fueled this resurgence to a degree. With the sticker price of the reissue pushing 5 grand and a street price of around $3400, you might want to consider a vintage ES-330. That, I believe is part of the reason the 330 market is so strong. I can’t think of another instance where the vintage price and the reissue price are neck and neck (that’s a joke). I’ve written about 335’s in such fine detail that you probably know the width of the pickguard bevel by now. I haven’t really covered the 330 to anywhere near the same degree. So, now’s a good time to start. It’s pretty simple, really , because the 330 follows the 335 in many respects. While the 335 started in 58, the 330 didn’t follow until 59. The 59 ES-330, like the 335, came in sunburst (on the front anyway) and natural. No (official) reds until ’60. Dot necks followed pretty closely as well making the transition to block in 62. Neck sizes, while not wildly consistent followed a similar timeline with the big necks being the rule in 59, transitional necks at the beginning of 60 and flatter necks by late 60 and continuing until late 63. Tuners follow a similar pattern as well. While the buttons didn’t change (like single to double ring on a 335), the tuners did go from single line to double line in late 64 and into 65. Mickey Mouse ears? You bet– from 59 until mid 63 when they went to the pointy ones just like the 335. But there are things about the 330 that follow their own path. While pickup covers changed on the 335 from nickel to chrome in 1965, the covers on the 330 changed from black plastic to nickel plated in 63 and then to chrome at some point in 65. The rest of the hardware went from nickel to chrome following the same timeline as the 355. The biggest change occurred in 1968. On the original 59-67 ES-330’s, the neck joined the body at the 15th fret. In ’68, they changed them so that they joined at the 19th fret-like all 335’s do. This improved playability but the “long neck” 330’s tend to be a bit unstable at the neck join. This isn’t the case with 335’s because the neck is attached securely to the center block but on a 330, there is no center block and the neck attaches at the heel like any hollow body and gains some of its strength from the length of fingerboard that overlaps the body. Less fingerboard on top of the body means less glue and a less stable join. It’s not like the necks fall off or anything, they just seem a little “whippy”-they tend to move when you stress them (so don’t stress them). Because there are so many shared parts between a 335 and a 330, these less expensive guitars tend to get scavenged for their bridges. So, if you’re buying one, make sure the bridge hasn’t been swapped out. The tuners get swapped out as well. Even though the buttons are different, a set of single line Klusons with the buttons removed are still worth a lot of money. early hard cases tend to disappear as well. More later on these.

This is a 68 "long neck" ES-330. OK, the neck isn't any longer, it just joins the body at the 19th instead of the 15th fret. That's just what folks call 'em.

This is a 68 “long neck” ES-330. OK, the neck isn’t any longer, it just joins the body at the 19th instead of the 15th fret. That’s just what folks call ’em.


8 Responses to “Neglected Stepchild No More”

  1. RAB says:

    Boo-tee-full sunburst on that 59er 330! About the best slide guitar tone I ever heard was when I jammed with a guy playing a sunburst dot neck 330 through a wide panel 1950’s tweed Fender Pro Amp! Juicy!

  2. Nelson Checkoway says:

    Hi Charlie – What’s your take on the comparative values – guitar-wise and money-wise – among the trapeze, Bigsby, and lyre Vibrola on an ES-330? The Vibrola is intriguing – works nice on SGs and FBs – and they’re the stock unit on later 60s 345-355s. Have you played the 330 with the Vibrola unit? Thoughts as to tone, etc. Impact on price or potential appreciation? Would love to hear your views on this. Thanks, NEelson

  3. cgelber says:

    I don’t like a Vibrola on a 335 or a 330-the break angle is very shallow (although its worse on a 335) and that causes some problems. It also doesn’t look that good to my eye from a design standpoint. I think it works on an SG and FB. I don’t mind a Bigsby on a 330 at all. I prefer the B7 but the smaller B3 works pretty well on them as well. I still prefer the trapeze on a 330-the fewer things screwed into the top, the more acoustic tone you’ll get.

  4. Nelson Checkoway says:

    Thanks, Charlie – very sound views (pun intended!) -N

  5. Rod says:

    I remember being quite surprised when I first saw a 19th fret joint 330. Long neck is, as you say, not really right but at least it’s better than the idiots who refer to them as ‘long scale’!

  6. cgelber says:

    True enough. I had a long email discussion about this with a reader and it all comes down to what you measure as “the neck”

  7. Paul Rodriguez says:

    I played a Cherry ’62 today that had what I think was a black archtop bridge on it. It had blocks but black pickups, and the headstock had a stinger on the back. I wasn’t able to get a picture but the bridge looked just like the ebony archtop bridges you see on Google. Could it be original?

  8. cgelber says:

    I doubt the bridge was original. Someone probably wanted to use that type of bridge and swapped it out. I would bet that there are two holes under it from the ABR-1 posts. The stinger certainly could be original though.

Leave a Reply

Optionally add an image (JPEG only)