Well Red

I found this early 60 ES-335 in red earlier this year but couldn't convince the owner to sell it. So I kept up the search

I found this early 60 ES-335 in red earlier this year but couldn’t convince the owner to sell it. So I kept up the search

Many of the rare ES model guitars that I write about are one offs or customs but there are production models that can be extremely rare as well. Blonde 345’s are a good example. The total number for 1959 and 1960 is just 50 units and they have sold for some really big bucks (over $80,000 or so I’m led to believe). I’ve had three of them and haven’t quite hit that number.  I’ve said more than once that rarity doesn’t  translate to value in many, many cases. Look at Byrdlands and other really low volume models. They just don’t command the big bucks that you would expect that kind of rarity to generate.

I just acquired a 1960 ES-335 in red. It doesn’t occur to many ES players and aficionados that a red 60 would be particularly rare. Red dot necks aren’t particularly rare-there are hundreds of them, right? Yes. But almost all of them are 61’s or early 62’s. Red wasn’t officially a 335 color until 1960, although one 1958 red 335 exists and perhaps 6 59’s have surfaced (I’ve had two). But what about a 1960 in red? Rare. Rarer than any other production 335. Rarer than a 58, 59 or 60 blonde 335.  Not as rare as a black one but black was a special order color, not a regular production color.

Why would you want a 60 in red over the much more common 61? After all, they made 420 of those and an average 61 can be acquired for around $20,000.  A near mint example will cost a few thousand more but the average price for a 61 is the same for red and sunburst and a lot less than a 60. They made about the same number of each. So, what’s the deal on a 60? Why would it command a premium over the much more common 61? What is different about it?

1960 was a pretty transitional year. The necks started out pretty big but became really slim (still wide) by the year end. The amber catalan switch tip disappeared at the end of the year as did the very desirable long pick guard. While red 335’s are über rare in 60, there were plenty of red 345’s and 355’s and most of them had that wonderful red that fades away over the years to a watermelon reddish pink or even orange. That also went away by the end of the year although a few 355’s with that finish lingered into 61. Single ring Klusons gave way to double rings and bonnet knobs were replaced by reflectors. In fact, an early 60 ES-335 is pretty much the same as a late 59. And a very late 60 is a whole lot like an early 61. So, here’s the point. If you want a watermelon red dot neck with a long guard and amber switch tip, you have a tough search. If you add together all of the red dot necks that ever existed with this color and configuration you would come up with around 28. If you want a big neck with that, you might find perhaps a dozen if you look long and hard enough.

I spent nearly ten years searching for a red 59 dot neck stop tail. I finally found a Bigsby version that had once had Schallers. Then I found a stop tail in Paris but it had a Varitone. I bought and sold both of them. Now, I’ve found a stop tail red 60 and managed to buy this one. It is almost the holy grail. If the neck was 4/100ths of an inch bigger, I’d be keeping it.

Later 60 but still a long guard, watermelon red and still stupid rare. Serial number is actually the FON on this one. Gibson did this for a short period in 1960.

Later 60 but still a long guard, watermelon red and still stupid rare. Serial number is actually the FON on this one. Gibson did this for a short period in 1960.




5 Responses to “Well Red”

  1. Rod says:

    I wonder how many buyers, actual and potential, really buy, say, a 1960 because they like the features or if they just become fixated with the idea of owning that, or any, 1960? Because people say they are good, or desirable? As you say Charlie, it seems that scarcity often has little to do with it. And, of course, although quality was on the whole a lot better back then, it stands to reason that SOME of a given year’s output will not be as good as the rest from a from a players viewpoint. But does this matter? How many people buy because of perceived merit rather than actual merit? And, let us not forget that a sale is a sale regardless of the buyer’s motivation.

  2. Rod says:

    Not sure why that came up twice! Sorry if I did it wrong.

  3. Steve Newman says:

    I think true collectors desire rarity over actual playability/sound/merit as an instrument….and they also want the absolute highest quality condition that they can find. 180 degrees away from that philosophy is the musician who aspires to a certain instrument and specific time window of manufacture because he/she feels that combination of specific features or characteristics produces a superior instrument (merit) regardless of condition, strictly as a quality tool to create music with. The more advanced in musicianship and experience, the more important those specific differences make to that individual player. Look at Larry Carlton’s famous 335, which to most experts has many “undesirable” features because of it’s year of manufacture. It started life with a trapeze tailpiece, had a stoptail added in the “wrong” (by factory standards) position, no PAF pickups, has a narrow nut width and shallower peghead angle, with Schaller replacement tuners. He now plays a second model that is basically identical. except for a darker sunburst, because he prefers the particular combination of features those guitars have for his creative musical efforts. He is certainly in the financial position to obtain the rarest, costliest ES 335’s ever created with all the
    features that generally are considered “best” or most desirable, but he uses what speaks to him personally. Personally, I find in my own playing that I tend to adapt to the differences in individual 335 instruments rather quickly, though I do like some specific hut widths because uf the shape of my hands. Then you will have speculators who want instruments that the market says will always bring the highest return on their investment, which is driven by “perceived” desirability of certain combinations of features, finish and year of manufacture, whether based in reality or not. The majority of people who own vintage 335’s probably have combinations of all of these different aspects mixed together in varying proportions.

  4. RAB says:

    Charlie, wow, you are on a roll recently! First the mono-stop ’59 355 and now this red beauty! Heartiest congrats! Happy Holidays dear blog readers! RAB

  5. Rab says:

    Rare and valuable is fun but I also like guitars that are, in someway unique or unusual. My ’63 Epi Wilshire isn’t particularly valuable but it is unique. It is one of the first batwing Wilshires with a number of prototype features. It also plays and sounds good, always a prerequisite for my “stable”. Epiphone (Gibson) only made about 40 Rivieras in 1962, first year of issue so I like that about my Riv. I could have had my ’56 LP conversion finished in sunburst but chose a more unique all cherry red finish..and my 1963 stoptail/mono 355 is not mint but is super rare and a great sounding fiddle. And so it goes…

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