Year Ender 2019, Part 2

The 59 ES-355 mono was the big winner in 2019. They were under $20K in 2018 and have jumped to the mid $20’s or even higher if equipped with double white PAFs (and lots of them are). Want a bargain? Buy a 60. It’s the same guitar. Most 59’s have a transitional neck, not the big one. If you find one with a stop tail, sell it to me, please.

So, 2019 was, in general, another pretty good year for some 335’s and a great year for others but what about the rest of the line? 2018 wasn’t so great for 345’s unless it had the number 1959 in front of it. 2019 was pretty much the same. If you are looking for a 59 ES-345 sunburst (reds are rare in 59) or a 59 ES-355 mono, you paid more in 2019 than you did in 2018. I expect that trend to continue into 2020. We can dig a little deeper into the 59 cachet in another post. Truth be told, I don’t know why a collector grade 59 335 sells for around $45,000 and a collector grade 59 345 sells for around half that. 355’s follow the same rules, although the mono version commands a bit more and that’s where we’ll begin.

The mono 355 market was really strong in 2019 and I believe will continue to be that way. One factor that keeps 355’s mono well below the same year 335 is the Bigsby, so keeping apples to apples, we’ll look at the mono 355 compared to a Bigsby 335. A collector grade Bigsby 59 335 will cost you around $32,000. The same year 355 mono will be in the mid $20’s. If you’re OK with a Bigsby, that’s a bargain. A year ago, mono 59’s were still under $20K, so that’s a pretty good uptick. Stop tail 355’s are so rare, they live in a world of their own (all were special order). But anything from 59 seems to live in that rarefied place. Mono 355’s from 60 to 64 also were strong in 2019 although I sold very few of them. I think folks who use a Bigsby are getting the message that a mono 355 is a great alternative to the much higher priced 335’s.

The market for 60-64 345’s and stereo 355’s was not strong in 2019 and it surprised me. It was so weak in 2018 that I thought it had to come up in 2019. It didn’t. Asking prices have outpaced sale prices by 20% or more and folks just aren’t buying. It isn’t the dealers leading the charge here, it’s the individual sellers. I know, dealers ask stupid prices too but when you make your living moving guitars, you have to move guitars. 59’s are strong. First rack 345’s are incredibly strong-I can’t keep them for even a week and with good reason. They are great guitars. But once you get to 1960, it all goes a bit south. Of course, the thin necks are a factor although most players I speak to don’t mind the smaller profiles. I sold a 61 PAF equipped stop tail 345 last year (after months on the market) for $11500. Out of the ten or so 345’s I sold last year that weren’t 59’s, all went below $15K except for a double white PAF 60 ES-355 and a double white equipped 60 345. Again, these were mostly collector grade or, at the very least, no issue or very minor issue guitars. I used to be a purist about converting stereo guitars to mono but not any more. It’s reversible and it’s your guitar. Do what you want to make it a guitar you will play. A new harness will cost you $150-$200 and the labor should be under $200. Don’t forget to flip one of the magnets-stereo Gibsons have out of phase pickups.

I think, going forward, the sellers asking stupid prices for post 59 345’s and stereo 355’s will keep the market flat and even cause it to drop. Simply asking too high a price will affect the market negatively as the inventory soars and the demand stays the same or even falls. With 62-64 block neck 335’s so high, buyers might turn to same year 345’s which could strengthen that market. As I mentioned in Part 1, block necks are pushing through the mid $20K range and 345’s are just sitting there waiting for the smart buyer to jump in at $12K-$15K. Once you’ve converted your 345 or stereo 355 to mono, you are playing the same guitar that your friend with the 335 plays. The difference is that you have an extra $10,000 in your pocket that you can spend on that big tweed Bassman you have your eye on. Or, you can buy something nice for your wife who lets you indulge your childhood fantasy of being a rock star.

A 64 ES-345 is everything a 64 335 is. Don’t like the stereo circuit or the Varitone? Take it out (and flip one of the magnets). With 64 335’s pushing $25K, a 64 345 at $10K less looks like a bargain to me. All years from 60-64, if priced correctly for the market, are a great deal if original and well cared for.

14 Responses to “Year Ender 2019, Part 2”

  1. RAB says:

    Good advice as always! I love the First Rack ‘59 345 you sold me with the new, mono wiring harness. Lighter and sounds wonderful. Original wiring harness safely nestled in the original brown case! Sorry, I sold you all the stop tail 355s I have!

  2. Collin says:

    ES-345s from the golden era are some of the best value vintage Gibsons around. Not sure it will stay that way in the short term (long term, all these guitars lose value, face it…).

    Recently I bought a PAF-equipped ’64 345 (not PAT, actual PAF stickers) in the mid-$7K range. Sure, Bigsby, stereo and varitone but I like all that stuff apart from Stereo. Same guitar as a 335 would be at least double that price, maybe more.

    The ES-355 stands a pretty good chance of maintaining popularity in the future, since an entire generation of guitarists grew up under the influence of Johnny Marr, Bernard Butler and Noel Gallagher – all 355 players – instead of Clapton. And there is enough hype about the 335 to maintain decent prices for years to come..

    But the 345 is an outlier. Nobody really famous in the rock genre is associated with the ES-345, and that’s always a factor when it comes to vintage guitars. They’re a bargain if you just want a great vintage guitar without the artist association tax…

  3. Rob says:

    Collin: There’s an old guy name of Elvin Bishop who’s been tearing it up since the mid ’60’s on a red 345. He used to play with a guy named Bloomfield who was pretty good on a Les Paul and Tele also.

  4. okguitars says:

    George Harrison had a 345 for a while. Justin Hayward (Moody Blues) played both a 335 and a 345 but not at the same time. Freddie King of course (not rock and roll but relevant). Bill Nelson (BeBop Deluxe), Pete Townshend had one. And, of course, Marty McFly who played one years before they were even made.

  5. RAB says:

    Charlie, ha, ha, right re the “Back to the Future” movie reference! IIRC Norm Harris, who was consulting on the film, recommended a period correct guitar like an ES-5 fat body. However the movie director wanted to feature a guitar with a Bigsby and in a flashy finish color!

  6. Rod Allcock says:

    Allegedly George’s 345 was lent to him by the Moody Blues after his Tennessean was destroyed when it fell out of the back of their van on a motorway (UK version of an Interstate). But this would be before the Justin Hayward period. Another famous (in the UK at least) 345 player was/is Tony Hicks of The Hollies. Don’t know if they made much of an impression in the US though. Still a nice thoughtful player.

  7. Collin says:

    Sorry guys, but all of these are a stretch. You can’t honestly point to a guitar that George Harrison owned for six months as being a guitar that he’s closely identified with.

    Elvin Bishop, Bill Nelson, Justin Hayward – these guys are footnotes in the history of rock. Not to disparage any of them, but these names aren’t exactly rising the tide on ES-345 values (or any other guitar, for that matter).

    Pete Townshend played a 345 for about a minute, before turning it into splinters!

    Freddie King might be the most visible and consistent 345 player, and it’s no surprise that Gibson released a Freddie King signature 345 (which is excellent, BTW).

    Oddly enough, that scene in Back to the Future not only started my obsession with red ES3x5 guitars, but it piqued my interest in playing guitar as a child. Massively influential scene, especially to those in my age group (I’m 36 years old). I’m not alone in this, either. Other guitar friends have also cited Marty McFly playing Chuck Berry as THE moment they wanted to pick up the instrument.

  8. EC says:

    This guy played a 345 with scalloped fretboard (hence the dots), but it doesn’t matter on what he plays, sounds still great at 78

  9. okguitars says:

    I forgot about Tony Hicks. For some reason I associate him with a Vox Phantom 12 that he “played” on “Shindig” or one of those Bandstand type of shows from the 60’s “Hullabaloo”, “Where the Action Is”, et al). “Look Through Any Window” was the song and it was the first time I heard The Hollies. I went out and bought the single the next day. That is the only time I ever did for a non Beatle record.

  10. Nelson Checkoway says:

    And then there is legendary rocker Jackson Maine whose well-worn Inverness Green custom color ES-345 lit up the big screen all last year. Who? Jackson is the name of the aging 70s rocker played by Bradley Cooper in “A Star is Born.” Oscar props for the oft-ignored middle child of the ES-3*5 family.

  11. leeds says:

    i’ve owned most of the great guitars, including fenders, a lovely burst, jazz guitars and all the es-3xx models, with an extraordinary dot neck. and i’ve played a 345 since the long-ago age of fifteen. so i believe i’m well qualified to opine that with respect to the es-345 (and 355): nothing to see here, folks. buy all the 335s you want. leave those heavy, unsightly and strangely wired 345s to me.

  12. RAB says:

    345; your best value in a vintage ES! Shhh…don’t tell anyone, K? :>)

  13. okguitars says:

    Hollywood seems to like the 345-don’t forget Marty McFly on a red 63. As a former film/TV guy (editor and director), I would choose a Bigsby 345 or 355 over a 335. I think it photographs better and has more going on to draw interest. I don’t think green is a good choice though. Looks more like olive green (like the Chris Cornell model) than Inverness. Inverness is brighter. The other question is why is it worn at the waist on the treble side? How do you wear out a guitar there? Also, the arm wear isn’t where his arm is. The art director probably told a props assistant to “make it look well played”

  14. Nelson Checkoway says:

    … oops we almost forgot Jorma!!

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