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Bang for Your Bucks (or Pounds or Euros)

This is the 345 that sold on Ebay for $14500 back when I had it. You can see the two nasty dings from the case lid falling on it (they were there when I got it, honest). Otherwise it was in great shape.

This is the 345 that sold on Ebay for $14500. This photo is from back when I had it. You can see the two nasty dings from the case lid falling on it (they were there when I got it, honest). Otherwise it was in great shape.

There is a post on the Les Paul Forum asking what the best value is for a vintage ES given a budget of $14,000. First off, let me tell what you can eliminate and then my choices will make more sense. You can forget about a dot neck unless you don’t mind lots of issues. You can also forget about a no issue stop tail 64 or earlier block necks unless you get really lucky. No issue stop tails start at around $15K but minor issues can drop the price below that $14K threshold. Issues like Grovers (or Grover holes) or maybe removed pickup covers can drop the price to $12K to $14K making these guitars a pretty good deal if you’re a player. If you’re buying to enjoy and as an investment, save your money. Issues guitars are not terribly good investments although they will generally hold their value. If you must have PAFs, your options are still pretty good. Recently, the ES-345 market has gotten pretty soft and they are a relative bargain right now.

The best $14000 guitar right now? Again, my opinion, but if I had had $14K to spend on any ES, I’d buy a 59 ES-345 stop tail. I love the early 335’s with their big necks, long magnet PAFs and shallow neck angles. But 58 and 59’s are way out of this range-even Bigsby models. But 345’s aren’t. This one sold on Ebay last week for around $14,500. I know this guitar-I bought it from Heritage (auction house) a couple of years ago and sold it for $12500. It was re-sold this year at Arlington and showed up on Ebay a week later . All the great stuff you hear about 59 ES-335’s applies to 59 ES-345s. Same construction, same neck profile, same everything except the hardware is gold, the inlays are different and it has a stereo Varitone circuit. Take it out if you don’t like it (flip one pickup magnet) and you have a $14000 ’59 stop tail ES. If you really really want an unmodded, no issue 335 rather than a 345 in that range, then a Bigsby/Custom Made late 63 or 64 is the winner. A 62 or early 63 would be in the same range (and might even have 2 PAFs) but the thinner neck might be an issue for some in this fat neck crazed market. If you don’t want a Bigsby, take it off and put on a stop. It won’t change the value-you can simply put the Bigsby and plate back on. Finally, if you don’t mind a Bigsby, like an ebony board and you’re good with a red guitar, an early PAF equipped mono ES-355 can be a killer choice in that range. Yeah, you see them for $20K or more but they rarely, if ever, sell for those numbers. I sold a 59 recently for $15K with a zebra and a double white. The neck wasn’t a big fat 59 profile-it was closer to a 60 (ES-355’s went to the thinner neck earlier than the rest of the line). A ’60 mono 355 can be had for even less if you’re patient. So, in order of my personal preference, it goes like this: ’59 stop tail ES-345, ’63-64 ES-335 Bigsby/Custom Made and ’59/60 mono ES-355. I’d take any one of them at that price and be a happy camper. On the other hand, there are great ES’s to be had for a lot less. Next, I’ll tell you what you can get for under $10K.

You can't beat a 64. I've logged more hours playing a 64 335 than all other guitars combined. Unfortunately, $14K won't get you a no issue stop tail but it'll get you one like this with a big ol' neck and no issues at all.

You can’t beat a 64. I’ve logged more hours playing a 64 335 than all other guitars combined. Unfortunately, $14K won’t get you a no issue stop tail but it’ll get you one like this with a big ol’ neck and no issues at all.

I sold this gorgeous 59 mono 355 with one white and one zebra for $15K earlier this year. Find one with black pickups and you should be under $14K.

I sold this gorgeous 59 mono 355 with one white and one zebra for $15K earlier this year. Find one with black pickups and you should be under $14K.

 

One Response to “Bang for Your Bucks (or Pounds or Euros)”

  1. RAB says:

    All the above recommendations are nice ES models at a “no need to mortgage the home” price! I still regret selling my super-early ’59 ES-345T (likely first rack, enormous neck profile, black Varitone ring, double-white neck PAF) but, ya know, I just HAD to have a dot neck 335! Long since sold the Dot and am quite happy with my ’63 355 mono/stop tailpiece and ’62 Riviera (don’t overlook the ’62-early ’64 Rivs and Sheratons with their PAF and patent sticker mini-buckers though they are hard to find and as a result can be pricey!)

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