Best Buys

Big neck 65's are always a good deal. Even better as Gibson keeps raising their prices. I've had a few that will hold their own again a 58-59 dot neck.

Big neck 65’s are always a good deal. Even better as Gibson keeps raising their prices. I’ve had a few that will hold their own against a 58-59 dot neck.

It has always surprised me you can pay $40,000 for a great old vintage 59 335 that plays great, sounds great and will probably hold its value for some time and, at the same time, you can pay under $10,000 for an early 65 that will hold its own in playability and in tone. And really, what’s the big difference? Mostly the tailpiece. The other changes are actually pretty minimal.

The construction of a 59 is a little different-the neck set is shallower and the body is a bit thinner. Do these changes make a difference? Maybe but not a significant difference. There are some who feel the shallower neck angle makes for better tone but the shallowest neck angle is a 58 and, while they are held in high regard, they don’t reach often the lofty prices of a 59. The thinner body is only marginally thinner and most folks don’t even notice it. Then theres the cutout under the bridge pickup that was supposed to make it easier to install the harness (which it does by a lot). Does that change the tone appreciably? It seems to change the acoustic properties slightly but it really doesn’t change much once its plugged in-at least not to my ears. It does knock off an ounce or two of weight if that’s any consolation.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a 59 and I understand the great desire of most collectors to have one but if playing (and having some money in the bank to pay your mortgage) is more important than having the one everybody wants (complete with bragging rights), then an early 65 is a great deal. With Memphis 335’s rising in price north of $6000 (sticker price, anyway), the 65 starts looking like a smarter buy. The pickups in an early 65 (nickel covers) will be the same as PAF’s. later 65’s usually have the poly coated windings which are still good pickups.

There’s another guitar out there that should cost more than it does. Consider the early Epiphone Sheratons. The construction of the early ones is identical to a 355 and the electronics are always mono. Mono 355’s are not cheap. early Sheratons generally are. They are rare, for sure but I don’t think you could pay more than $12,000 for one unless it’s a blonde. I’ve had at least 4 or 5 early ones in sunburst-all in the $10K-$12K range with one of the best necks ever carved (big vee). The later ones with the mini hum buckers can be had for even less. The nut stayed wide well into 65 and some 66’s have at least 1 5/8″ nuts. The profile gets very thin-like the 355’s but the playability and tone are usually excellent. The Sheraton was a very expensive guitar in its day and was not very popular probably because of the price. There were only a few hundred made per year. That brings me to the blonde ones.

Recently, I acquired a 1964 Sheraton in factory blonde (only 400 numbers from Claptons 335!!!). Imagine a blonde 64 mono ES-355. That would probably be a $25000 guitar or close to it if it existed. They made 18 Sheratons¬†in blonde in 64. That makes it rare. It has one PAF and one patent number mini hum bucker. The tone is quite wonderful-like a PAF with more mid and a little less bottom. The neck is a lot like a 61-62 ES-355-wide and thin. Why is this guitar so undervalued by collectors? Mini hums? Long, sort of ugly headstock? Fancy inlays? I dunno but it’s a deal.

Great deals don’t stay great deals forever. There was a time not long ago that a 68 gold top was a cheap compromise for the buyers who wanted a 50’s gold top. Now a 68 is a big collector guitar and the early 69’s are getting up there as well. The larger point is to judge a guitar on its merits, not on its price or the demand for it. Granted, the demand often has a lot to do with the quality but there are definitely quality guitars out there, at reasonable prices, that low demand has kept affordable. Play one and see for yourself.

Why don't these cost more. A 64 355 mono is a $12000 guitar in red. A blonde would be twice that if you could find one (none officially exist).  Rivieras can be a deal too but they are not easy to find with a wide nut.

Why don’t these cost more? A 64 355 mono is a $12000 guitar in red. A blonde would be twice that if you could find one (none officially exist). Sheratons are perhaps the best deal out there for a semi hollow 60’s guitar. Rivieras can be a deal too but they are not easy to find with a wide nut.

2 Responses to “Best Buys”

  1. RAB says:

    Charlie, true points as always! I compared my nephew’s early ’65 to a ’62 335 I owned and it more than held its own! And you know I am a big Epi fan! I had a blonde ’62 Sheraton that was gorgeous…too nice to gig so I sold it. My third ’62 Riviera is a “to the grave” fiddle for me. The PAFs are amazing and I gig it a lot!

  2. Grahame says:

    I bought a brand new Gibson 335 which had a potentiometer fault. Namely, no sound until the dial went past 4. The brand new replacement guitar had old rusty strings on and was not sent up. They gave the new replacement guitar to a guitar technician who raised the bridge and put some new strings on. However,the G string buzzes from the 15th to 21st fret. I therefore, took the truss rod cover off and examined the truss rod. The actual truss rod nut had been filed down showing the steel rod thread. This was done so that the truss rod cover would fit flush with the head stock. Therefore, they had put a truss rod in at an off centre angle, which is a major fault. This guitar RRP costs ¬£2300 and was bought brand new from Denmark street London. I have email the store but, they have not back to me and Gibson referred me back to their promotional website. I can only suggest that if you are interested in buying a Gibson, then it is advisable to have it thoroughly checked out (electrics and build quality). Gibson’s build quality for me has gone back to the 1970’s.

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