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Bang for Your Buck, Part 2

This '65 sold for around $8000 a while back. This is from the Spring of 65 with a big 64 sized neck (but the shallower 14 degree peg head angle). The hardware is chrome but it sure sounded a lot like a 64 and for a lot less money. The nickel hardware 65's with the 17 degree peg head angle will go for a little more.

This ’65 sold for around $8000 a while back. This is from the Spring of 65 with a big 64 sized neck (but the shallower 14 degree peg head angle). The hardware is chrome but it sure sounded a lot like a 64 and for a lot less money. The nickel hardware 65’s with the 17 degree peg head angle will go for a little more.

I get it. $14000 is a boatload of money for a guitar. The vast majority of players (as opposed to collectors) can’t really afford to spend that much. When I was a younger man, I could afford expensive guitars but didn’t buy them because there was always something else that needed buying (like a house, a car, a college education for my son, etc, etc, etc). I always had a few guitars but never anything that was worth more than a few thousand dollars. Then, of course, the vintage market went into bubble mode and all of a sudden, my old 64 was worth some big money. Now that the bubble has long since burst (or at least deflated a bit), the prices of some really nice guitars have become more affordable again. When you consider that a new Custom Shop ES-335 will cost you around $6000 (and be worth a lot less as soon as you walk out the door of the music store), then perhaps vintage has become a smart buy again. Let’s examine the vintage ES market for under $10,000. There are a lot of choices and they will sound every bit as good as the guitars that I described in part one of this post. They may have a few changed parts or a couple of holes that don’t belong there but these things don’t usually affect tone or playability. So, what’s good? If you don’t want a guitar with issues and you want the wide nut and big neck of a 59, then you should look at ES-335s from the first part of ’65 and ES-345s from late 63 through early 65. A no issue, bone stock big neck ’65 ES-335 will be identical to a 64 except for the tailpiece (trapeze except for a few very early 65’s that snuck through with stop tails) slightly different tuners (double line rather than single line Klusons) and probably a different truss rod cover (narrow bevel rather than wide). An all nickel hardware ’65 will cost you in the neighborhood of $8500-maybe less depending on condition. Don’t take the sellers word for it that the neck is a big one. The nut should measure 1 11/16″ and the depth at the first fret should be around .83″-.86″. The end point for the big necks is around serial number 340xxx. The latest one I’ve had has been 339738. There are thin necks with lower numbers, so pay attention. Want a stop tail and PAFs? It isn’t out of the question for less than $10,000. I sold a pretty nice ’60 ES-345 stop tail for $9000 recently. It had new tuners and a repro stop tail but it also had a zebra PAF in the bridge and a double black in the neck. It had a few extra holes by the end pin from a Bigsby B6 (the wrong one for a 345) but none in the top. It didn’t have a big neck but it was still a lot of guitar for not too much money. Another good example was a 63 ES-345 I had a few months ago. It had a nice big neck, patent number pickups, original Klusons and was originally a stop tail that had an added Bigsby. One of the pickups was missing its sticker but that was the only real issue. It sold for $7800. Right now ES-345’s except for 59’s and blondes are pretty soft and it’s a good time to grab one at a very fair price. There are still plenty of sellers who think a 60’s ES-345 is worth $15000 or more but they just aren’t selling. That’s why you see the same guitars week in and week out on Ebay. As vintage guitars approach the cost of new, they start looking awfully good. For my money, I’d pay $7800 for a 63 ES-345 with a few small issues long before I’ll pay $6000 to my local Guitar Center for a new Custom Shop ES-335. In part 3, I’ll talk about guitars with more and bigger issues that will drive the price even lower.

Pretty nice '60 ES-345 for $9000. Watermelon red, zebra PAF (with the cover). I needed to find some missing parts for it (like a VT ring) but all of the parts are out there if you're patient. The gold Varitone ring is a particularly tough part to find (but I found one before it shipped)

Pretty nice ’60 ES-345 for $9000. Watermelon red, zebra PAF (with the cover). I needed to find some missing parts for it (like a VT ring) but all of the parts are out there if you’re patient. The gold Varitone ring is a particularly tough part to find (but I found one before it shipped)

9 Responses to “Bang for Your Buck, Part 2”

  1. RAB says:

    Super advice…my nephew loves his big-neck, early ’65 ES-335…it has a mixture of chrome and nickel parts and sounds and plays as good as most dotneck 335s I’ve played…a lovely “ice tea” sunburst finish to-boot!

  2. Rod says:

    Not sure what to make of this at all. Why do collectors collect? Is it just for the act of possessing the article? My own instruments are played regularly although all the ‘collectable’ instruments have issues to the extent that you would not be interested in them. But they are still superb sounding and playing and have the indefinable ‘rightness’ that new guitars, no matter how perfect, do not possess. Yes, I would dearly love to own one of your 58s, but it would be no use to me in practical terms as there would undoubtedly be things about it I would want to alter, which would then destroy the intrinsic value. So I will stick with my issue laden guitars which are at least more affordable and, in the UK at least, much easier to find. Recently bought an issue laden 64 345 for £1650, about $2300, and am delighted with it.

  3. cgelber says:

    What would you possibly want to alter in a 58???Maybe swap out the bridge but beyond that I don’t see any way to improve 58’s as players. They are expensive but when the time comes to re-sell, no ES holds it s value better than a dot neck.

  4. RAB says:

    More power to you…better an issues-laden vintage guitar than a less soulful new fiddle! For many of us there is a special joy and mojo playing a Gibson as close to how it left Gibson’s Parsons Street, Kalamazoo, MI factory during the Golden 1958-64 era! Happy Thanksgiving y’all!

  5. Rod says:

    I was specifically thinking of things like tracks on pots which have a tendency not only to wear and go noisy (which can USUALLY be fixed) but also seem to change their values over the years. I like my pots to work well and have a smooth taper. With a no issue guitar you are stuck with whatever is there.

  6. cgelber says:

    Then simply swap out the entire harness and keep the original in the case. That way you can put it back when its time to sell (or not) and not compromise the value too much-especially if you document the work with good photos. That way you can prove the originality of the pickups.

  7. Rod says:

    You are right as always Charlie but in the UK we don’t have access to the replacement harnesses and things like that that you do. Also, because of their relative scarcity, most 50s/60s American guitars have been played almost to death anyway with many changed parts already, although the owners will never admit this! For example, it is generally accepted that Fender only made a small percentage of guitars in custom colours in the 50s and 60s. Yet in the UK at least, maybe upwards of 40% of vintage Fenders are custom colour, all claiming to be original finish!

  8. Massimiliano says:

    If the lovely ’65 is the one sold by Gary’s Classic Guitars, because it looks exactly the same, it is mine and I just can say it sound like heaven, with fine playability
    the colour is really cherry.
    ciao

  9. cgelber says:

    Nope. Gary never had that one.

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