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Top Dollar-Block Neck 335 Edition

 

This beauty of a 62 sold for what I consider to be top dollar in today's block neck market. That would be $20,000. It was about as mint as they get.

This beauty of a 62 sold for what I consider to be top dollar in today’s block neck market. That would be $20,000. It was about as mint as they get.

I sell a lot of ES guitars. I’m on track to sell close to 100 this year-nearly all from 1958 to 1965. I sold around 75 of them last year and about the same number the year before. That’s a lot of 335’s, 345’s and 355’s. This gives me an unusual level of insight into the marketplace for these guitars. Clearly, there is a range for any guitar from any year. Aspects like configuration (stop tail/Bigsby/Custom Made), originality and condition are the big factors but there is something else. That something else could be described as overreaching, greed or,perhaps, ignorance. You’ve all seen guitars listed for ridiculously high prices. You probably scoff and say “that’s a ridiculously high price.” And you should. But these prices cause something of a ripple effect in what should be a relatively predictable and stable marketplace.

Go to Ebay and see what the asking prices are for an early (62-64) block neck. Wait, I’ll save you the effort—the bottom is $12000 for a 64 with a few changed parts and Bigsby holes to $100,000 for, well, I’m sure you know which one that is. $12K is not an unreasonable price for  64 with original paint, no repairs and original electronics. $100K? You decide. What’s really interesting to me and what caused me to write this post is the number of stop tail block necks that are in excellent condition that are priced higher than I’ve ever gotten for that model and year.  And it’s not just a few There’s a 63 for $38K, a 64 for $25K, a 63 for $24,900, a 62 for $24,500, a 64 for $24K, a 63 for $22,900, and a 64 for $21,900. There are dealers and individual sellers in there and most of these guitars have been listed week after week.

Here’s the buried lead (lede?). The MOST I’ve ever gotten for a block neck 335 with a stop tail is $20,000 (post 2008). That covers all 62-64 blocks except the blonde 63 I sold last year.   That’s at least 100 guitars. The range has been $7000 for a 64 with a not very good headstock repair to $20,000 for a dead mint 62 with PAFs. Truthfully, if I can’t get $21,900 to $38K for a block neck 335, then, in all likelihood,  neither can you unless you get really lucky. Are the sellers waiting for a billionaire who doesn’t really care about what things cost? I’ve sold guitars to billionaires and they negotiate harder than your average starving musician. Perhaps this is how they became billionaires or how they stay that way. Are they waiting for the sucker who doesn’t do his due diligence? Maybe. Are they simply kidding themselves? Some clearly are. I understand that you can put your guitar out there for any price you want. It isn’t really any of my business except when it is.

When another dealer or an individual asks thousands more than the current market rate, he potentially affects all buyers. Here’s how. Grandpa dies and his 62 ES-335 has been in the closet since 1975. The family wants to sell it quickly and for a reasonable and fair price. They do some research-they check Ebay and maybe Gbase to see what the asking prices look like and they see these. Then they call a dealer or two and are told that the value is perhaps half to 2/3’s of those big asking prices. They often feel like the dealers are trying to cheat them and they simply perpetuate the problem by putting Grandpa’s pride and joy up on Ebay for a stupid high price. I tell Grandpa’s family to check the completed listings on Ebay as part of their research. That’s a good start except that some sellers have taken to showing their guitar as “sold” at a very high price and then it turns up for sale again (often at a slightly lower price) a few weeks later. That messes up the research but not as much as the “ambitious” prices asked by so many sellers.

The other side of the equation is that these prices make my prices look pretty compelling. The problem is that I can’t keep my prices reasonable and fair if I can’t buy the guitars at true (and fair) market prices. I understand that a rising market can be good for me and good for owners but the market isn’t rising that much-in fact, it’s pretty stable. It’s getting back to being a standoff where the buyers won’t buy and the sellers won’t sell. And that hurts everybody. There’s nothing wrong with asking top dollar for your near mint beauty. But there is something wrong with asking 20% to 500% more than top dollar.

This 64, which as a terrific player had, if I'm recalling correctly, 29 filled holes in the body. I believe there were 12 on the back from a back pad, at least six on the headstock from different tuners. A few on the bass bout from an armrest and a few more under the bridge from it being repositioned. I sometimes figure on $1000 per hole off the top dollar price but, clearly, that doesn't always work. I would have had to pay you to take this one.  I don't remember what it sold for.

This 64, which was a terrific player had, if I’m recalling correctly, 29 (nicely) filled holes in the body. I believe there were 12 on the back from a back pad, at least six on the headstock from different tuners. A few on the bass bout from an armrest and a few more under the bridge from it being repositioned. I sometimes figure on $1000 per hole off the top dollar price but, clearly, that doesn’t always work. I would have had to pay you to take this one. I don’t remember what it sold for.

5 Responses to “Top Dollar-Block Neck 335 Edition”

  1. James says:

    I guess you can try to take it all in with a smile. I inquired about an ES350 once that was offered at the bargain price of only $20,000 and no it was not owned by Chuck Berry himself. On the flip side, I was told to “seriously consider” an offer of $3,000 for a 59 blonde es175D that was completely original and close to mint. It’s hard to negotiate with an “expert” that learned everything they know about vintage pricing only yesterday on the internet.

  2. RAB says:

    I recently paid top dollar for a near mint, ’63 Sunburst 335, factory stop tailpiece. I was willing to pay a premium for a no-issue guitar especially because it had a large neck profile which was the main attribute I was looking for. The guitar has one PAF and one patent number pickup, original solder joints. The additional $2-3K I paid won’t mean that much a couple years from now as I intend on keeping this axe for a long time!

  3. cgelber says:

    Roger makes a good point and that is paying a premium for a particular guitar that you know you want and that you want that day. I do that with parts all the time. The “top dollar” figure is not a firm number. There are often circumstances that will allow you to feel OK about a purchase that might be a bit more than you wanted to spend. And he’s also right about the fact that he won’t care if the guitar turns out to be “the one.”
    If you’re going to pay top dollar, make sure there is a return policy. Nobody wants to pay top dollar for a guitar they don’t love.

  4. RAB says:

    Charlie, right on. Make sure the seller will allow a complete refund if the instrument is returned in “as-sent” condition within the allowable approval period. Read the fine print to ensure the seller doesn’t charge “re-stocking” fees (which can be substantial) or any other monkey business!

  5. RAB says:

    I wanted to clarify my above comments about instrument returns are about other sellers, not Charlie. Charlie is one of the most upstanding and reasonable dealers I know and have dealt with!

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