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Internet Guitar Police

I actually bought this one-advertised as a 64 or 65 ES-355. It turned out to have been re-necked in 69 or 70. Probably should have kept it anyway. It’s still a pretty cool guitar but I paid for one that was all original and this one wasn’t.

I spend a pretty fair amount of my time looking for the next guitar I’m going to buy (and sell). I search the obvious places like Reverb and Gbase and Ebay and Craigslist and I find lots of nice guitars-more often than not overpriced but some very nice guitars. I make offers, I ask questions, I do my homework in the hope that what I’m buying is actually what I’m getting. Sometimes, it can be pretty tricky like when Grandma is selling her long deceased husband’s guitar and has no idea what it is or when it was made. I try to be of assistance and I can almost always tell most of what I need to know from a few photos. But it’s always a crapshoot. I can’t really ask Grandma to break out the screwdrivers and check the PAF stickers for me or get me pot codes. So, you take your chances and try to minimize the risk any way you can. But I’m at a big advantage when it comes to 335’s and the like. I know what every year looks like pretty much at a glance. I can tell a real PAF from a fake at twenty paces and usually a repro tailpiece or bridge without having to turn it over. But what can you do if you haven’t seen enough 335’s to make an informed decision? Well, you can always ask me and, better yet,  you can get a return commitment so if something isn’t right, you can return it. But Grandma just wants to get paid and be done with it. I would never ask a seller for a return policy if it’s a non player selling a guitar he or she knows nothing about. But, every once in a while, I do something else and I’m always really hesitant to do it and I don’t do it that often. Sounds ominous, right? On occasion and not very often and only when the crime is so egregious, I can’t stand it…I am the internet guitar police. I admit it. Guilty with an explanation.

OK, so what does that mean? It means I see a guitar that’s listed as something it clearly isn’t and I feel compelled (that’s right compelled) to call out the seller and set him straight. Arrogant? I try not to be. Know it all? Well, you’re reading my stuff so I know more than you do (until you’ve read it all and then you can take over for me). It always feels like a really obnoxious thing to do but if I save some poor buyer from paying the price of a 62 for a 66 or buying a Chinese fake that’s breathlessly listed as “Gibson ES-345 Mono / Stop Tail 1967 Natural RARE!, then I think I’ve done some measurable good. The reason I decided to establish this blog in the first place was because so many listings were wrong about the year of the 335 they were selling. There are some very legitimate reasons for getting it wrong. They used the same serial numbers over and over from 65 to 69, sometimes as many as four times. And, even to the trained eye, a 65 doesn’t look all that different from a 67. I can point out about a dozen differences but they aren’t obvious to anyone who hasn’t studied them. So, I understand the difficulty and I generally don’t write to you to tell you that you have the year wrong, especially when the values aren’t all that different (like between a 66 and a 68). But if you tell me the PAFs on your Grandaddy’s 58 are original and I can see they are fakes, somebody is going to get hurt.

I’ve been called all kinds of names. “Dot neck snob” is a recent one. “Douchebag asshole” is another. “Know it all scumbag” and the like. On the other hand, I get as many as twenty emails a week asking me if the 335 being considered by you and not being sold by me is everything the seller says it is and is it a good deal? I answer every one of them. I want folks to get what they pay for. My offering up free advice is good business. Being nice and helpful is good business. Making sure a buyer has a good first experience with a 335 can often mean that same buyer will be coming to me later when it’s time to spend some very serious money on their next 335 (or the one after that). Happens all the time and I’m grateful for it. The other side of that is when I have to tell a 335 owner that the 62 he bought for $20,000 has fake PAFs and a repro tailpiece. “But the dealer told me it was 100% original…” or “but the seller said he bought it new and it was never worked on…” People forget. People lie. People get burned by the last seller and simply perpetuate the lies.

So there it is. I am the internet guitar police. Or I should say The Internet Guitar Police. Or at least for 335’s, 345’s and 355’s. I’ve mentioned before that around 90% of the guitars I get have an undisclosed issue that can’t be seen in photos. It’s usually something pretty minor and it’s usually not out of dishonesty-it’s out of a lack knowledge and of good information. That’s why I’m here. To help. Take down my badge number and know this… I’m watching.

This is the guitar that started me writing this blog. It was represented as a red 59. It had a cut center block (started in 61) and a few other oddities that caused me to go on my (now 8 year) crusade against misrepresented ES models.

9 Responses to “Internet Guitar Police”

  1. Love to read all your articles . Very good as always. You master the rare craft of being very informative AND often funny both at the same time. And I always learn a lot. I can understand that you feel compelled to correct a seller who gives misinformation. Even if he might not know he´s wrong, he should be happy to learn from you. I did. And I still often read your great obituary about B.B. King from May 2015 again and again.
    Greetings from Germany !

  2. Arthur Forni says:

    Just wanted to say that I am grateful I stumbled across your blog one day. You have always been very helpful and nice with me.

    Thanks for all your work !

  3. Ted Mottor says:

    To steal a phrase often meant for members of our military…thank you for your service. : )

  4. RAB says:

    Three cheers for Charlie’s kind spirit and good work in the vintage guitar realm. Too rare and far between. There are a number of vintage guitar dealers out there who are purposefully misleading or “forgetful”. One of my favorite stories is when I was helping our band’s bass player buy a nice slab board Jazz Bass. We selected a ‘62 Olympic White example represented by the dealer as 100% original and in excelent condition. Paid close to the asking price. I knew within 30 seconds after opening the case something was seriously wrong. The headstock had a nasty crack in it that wasn’t well repaired. I called and spoke to the dealer and was incredulous to hear his response! “I didn’t mention the crack and repair because it didn’t affect the playability of the instrument.” Maybe so but it certainly affected the value of the bass, no? The asshole didn’t even offer to pay return shipping! Caveat Emptor! Or buy from Charlie!

  5. Dick Banks says:

    Great article Charlie!
    Why would anyone be a collector of ANYTHING at the $20,000 price point, and NOT be an expert on that which they are collecting? Isn’t that part of the joy?
    I’m not a collector of 335s–mine is a player, but I love reading about them, and looking at them. It’s good enough for me to know that there are collectors out there that keep these beautiful instruments alive.
    But if I were to buy a vintage instrument, Grandma would need to let me lift the pickups, or I’d simply thank her for her time and live to trade another day.

  6. okguitars says:

    When I buy from Grandma, I usually pick up the guitar in person so I can go through it before I buy. I’ve taken a lot of chances over the years buying from photos. You win some and you lose some. Hopefully you win more than you lose.

  7. RAB says:

    For sure! I was pleasantly surprised when I got my ‘62 Riviera years ago. Upon opening the case the guitar was much nicer (near mint!) versus how the dealer had described it…

  8. davess23 says:

    Glad you’re on watch, Charlie. i recall how gracious and helpful you were a few years ago when I asked your help in evaluating the ’68 335 that’s now my favorite guitar. Pretty far cry from a “douchebag asshole”, if you ask me.

  9. RAB says:

    Always a pleasure working with Charlie. Many other Vintage dealers not so much…

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