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Archive for January, 2021

Bubble, Puppies, Part 2

Sunday, January 17th, 2021

Bubble Puppy. 1969.

Nice outfits.

I can’t believe nobody gets the reference. I’ve had emails asking me what I mean by the title and the first line of the last post. Here’s the explanation, although I’m a little annoyed that I have to explain it…The guitar market is close to being in a bubble. That’s the bubble part. Most of you who read this blog are younger than I am, so I can certainly refer to most of you as “puppies”. OK, that was easy. But wait. There’s more. There was a band out of Texas-a one hit wonder, really, called Bubble Puppy in the late 60’s. Their one hit (and hence the opening line of my last post) was called “Hot Smoke and Sasafrass” (sp) a line they lifted from the 60’s sitcom, The Beverly Hillbillies¬†where Granny said, “Hot smoke and sassafras, Jethro, can’t you do anything right?” You could have simply googled it, ya know. OK, more stuff to talk about.

Nothing like a red ES-345. The 59’s are crazy rare (9 known) but a 60 is pretty common. Find an early 60 and it will have the guaranteed to fade “watermelon” red finish. But look out, 345’s are up. Way up. Make offers and don’t overpay.

ES-345’s have been, for as long as I’ve been a vintage dealer, the best deal in vintage Gibsons. You could get a 345 for half the price of a similar year 335 and it is every bit as good. Don’t like the stereo and the Varitone? Easy fix for around $400. The ceiling on a stop tail 59 ES-345 had been hovering around $20,000 for years. When folks became more aware of the early “first rack” 345’s, the $20K barrier broke and only the hundred or so first racks broke into the low $20K range. Red 59’s are crazy rare and don’t count here. A stop tail 60 345 was in the mid to high teens and a 61-64 hovered around $14K. Bigsby’s were 15-20% less. As block necks started creeping up, the 345’s followed. I’m seeing Bigsby 345’s over $20K. I’m seeing 60’s and 61’s pushing $30K. That’s nearly double what they were just a couple of years ago. I’m looking at asking prices since I don’t know what everybody else is actually selling them for. I’ve considered 345’s underpriced for many years and I’m happy they are getting some respect but I think they’ve overshot the mark. If I have to pay inflated prices, then you will have to as well. It is my hope that there won’t be the standoff between stubborn sellers and savvy buyers that can really hurt the market. I believe that if you’re spending $20K on a 345, it had better not have a Bigsby (or the “snakebite). Seriously, if a 62 335 is trying to be a $25,000 guitar, then a 62 345 isn’t likely to be a $20,000 guitar. There is a Bigsby 62 listed for $20K. There is a red 60 (with a snakebite) listed for $27500. Makes that 59 stop tail listed at $26K look like a deal. Blonde 345’s are so rare, it’s impossible to track them. They only made 50 of them and you can expect them to be in the $50K-$90K range if you can find one.

Finally, let’s take a look at ES-355’s. Monos have entered the bubble for sure. Last year, I sold a few mono 59’s and 60’s in the mid to upper $20K range. Until recently, mono 355’s have been undervalued but not any more. Now, if you can find any, expect to pay $30K or more. I haven’t seen many collector grade monos for a while. A lot of 355’s have a sideways trem and that keeps the prices a bit lower than a same year Bigsby. Stereo 355’s can still be found at fairly reasonable prices. I sold a stereo 62 for under $15K in 2020 and I see them holding in the mid to upper teens. I don’t like a Maestro on an ES guitar very much but you can still find a 64 Maestro equipped 355 for under $15K. That’s starting to look like a deal. And don’t overlook 65’s. A lot of them have the big neck like a 64. I even had a 66 last year with a wide nut. Unusual but not unheard of. Find yourself a big neck 65 for under $10K (they’re out there) and you’ve bought a great guitar for half what a similarly configured 335 might cost you. If you can manage the slim neck, a later 60’s 355 can be a great deal-you aren’t likely to get t-tops until 69. The 66 I had last year had one purple winding patent and one orange wound patent. Forget about blonde 355’s. I know of less than 10.

Mono 355’s are still one of my favorite guitars but they have gotten rather pricey and it’s no surprise. They didn’t make all that many (no more than a few hundred a year). Stereo 355’s can still be a relative bargain, especially those with a sideways trem (good candidate to convert to stop tail-no holes in the top).

Bubble, Puppies.

Tuesday, January 12th, 2021
2020 was the year of the block neck. After at least 4 or 5 flat years, folks decided that maybe a dot neck wasn’t the be-all, end-all 335. I would look for a 62 with PAFs but the big 64 neck is a crowd pleaser as well.

Hot smoke and sassafras, it’s 2021 and not a moment too soon. What happens right out of the blocks? Never mind. Let’s do the 335 year ender. 2020 was strange all around. I expected the market to flatten out or even take a big hit but no. Everybody decided to buy a guitar and the asking prices went up. And then they went up some more. But those are asking prices and folks can ask anything they want for any guitar they want. Still, prices for many 335’s are up and some folks are calling it a bubble but I’m not so sure.

The big story is the block necks. Early in 2020, a clean collector grade 62-64 ES-335 was a $20,000-$23,000 guitar. A player stop tail was in the high teens. Now, I’m seeing asking prices creep into the mid $30K range. That’s a crazy big jump but I’m pretty sure nobody is getting that much. I sold a lot of block necks this year and none of them hit $25K. The way I see it, if I can’t get more than $25K for a 62 ES-335, then neither can you without some crazy luck. But make no mistake, block necks are most definitely up after a few years of being flat. That’s a good thing mostly. The problem is the standoff that occurs when individual sellers start seeing big asks from others and figure that must be what they’re worth and they start asking high prices as well. That makes it hard for dealers like me to source good examples at a reasonable wholesale price. If I have to pay big bucks, the you have to pay bigger bucks. Sorry, that’s just business.

What makes it even more difficult is he fact that folks seem to feel that any 335 from 62-64 has about the same value. 64’s are easier to sell because of the bigger neck but a 62 with PAFs is worth more. Reds are easier to sell but sunbursts are rarer. A sunburst 64 is a wonderful guitar but man, they are not quick sellers. Thanks, Eric. Bigsby versions have crept up well beyond the $15K-$16K we saw last year. The Bigsby asks are approaching, and in some cases, surpassing $20K. That’s also a big jump.

A bunch of overpriced block necks does not, however, a bubble make. I pay a lot of attention to the guitars that are listed and the overpriced examples are sitting and that, to me, is good. When they start selling at these currently inflated prices, then I’ll call it a bubble. Right now, it’s just optimism. Or greed. I’ll keep trying to sell them at fair prices but if I can’t get them at reasonable prices, I will eventually have to give in to the would be bubble and pay more. That means you pay more too. I’d rather you didn’t.

What about the dot necks? Beyond that, where are the dot necks? As of today, I know of two 58’s and two 59’s on the market. Mostly, the dots haven’t moved much but because they’ve gotten so hard to source, the prices are poised to rise. There are 61 dots out there and they have taken a similar jump in asking prices to the block necks. Last year, a collector grade stop tail 61 was a $25K guitar. Now, $30K is a typical ask and I’ve seen more than one break $35K (ask). In my mind, if a 61 stop is a $30K guitar, then a $50K ’59 isn’t far off. The two on the market now (one is mine) are just over $40K but neither is at the top of the range due to condition. Both are collector grade but neither is stunningly clean. Watch this space. Dots and blondes aren’t done running up.

Finally, let’s take a quick look at 65-69 335’s. Big neck 65’s are way up but they were undervalued in the past. I have no problem seeing them approach $15K but once the wide nut is gone, so is the value. Yes, a 65 will likely have better pickups than a 69 but I’ve seen plenty of 68’s with pre T tops. To me, a late 65, 66, 67 and 68 are pretty much the same. 69’s? Not so much. If you buy a 69, try to find one with the long neck tenon. Most don’t have it. Also, if there’s no dot in the “i” in the Gibson logo and the seller tells you it’s a 65, 66, 67 or 68, run away. 99.9% of the time, it isn’t. Like 62-64 blocks, asking prices on narrow nut 65’s through 69’s are way up. They are approaching $10K but that, I believe, is just wishful thinking. There are tons of them out there and plenty of well priced examples in the $6K-$7500 range. I still don’t see 65-69’s as investments but, then again, I don’t generally buy or sell 65-69 335’s. Especially not at the current asking prices.

We’ll look at 345’s and 355’s in my next post.

Where did all the dot necks go? Not long ago, I would have 8 to 10 of them in stock at all times. Now I’m lucky if I have 4 of them. Do the collectors have all of them by now? I sure hope not/.

Year Ender Part One

Friday, January 1st, 2021

2020 is the year I had to say goodbye to my little shop. I was sad to leave and actually it was, in a way, good luck. It had nothing to do with Covid 19, I simply lost my lease at the exact “right” time. I hope to open again, possibly in the same railcar or possibly in a new location.

If there was ever a year that needed to end, it’s 2020. Lots of terrible stuff happened. People died. Lots of them. People lost their jobs. Lots of them. People are hungry. Lots of them. I had to close my shop. I had to stay home. There were some good things though. They were massively overshadowed by the bad things but there were some good things. We learned how to live with less. Less shopping, less socializing, less eating out, less toilet paper. Early in the pandemic, I made some predictions. I said that folks would spend more time playing their guitars but I also said that the market was going to suffer. All the logic in the world said that. Less money for discretionary spending. Better things to do than buy guitars (and amps). And fear. Fear that it was the end of the world as we know it. People don’t buy guitars at the end of the world. Except they did. Lots of them.

Yes, folks bought a lot of guitars. It’s counterintuitive until you really think about it. What makes a guitar player feel good? Playing. But gigs went to zero and even just playing with your friends went to zero. Social distancing and masks don’t make for a very productive jam. The other thing that makes us all feel good is buying a “new” guitar or amp. And did I mention that folks bought a lot of guitars (and amps). So what did folks buy? Guitars from $3000 to $10000 flew off the shelf. Guitars I’ve had for years that were not real mainstream…guitars I bought because they were fun, not because they were great investments or popular sellers. Guild Thunderbird, Mosrite Ventures, Rickenbacker Hoffs, Kalamazoo Epiphones and a number of others. Fun guitars…decent guitars but not the ones you make your living off of as a dealer. Fun. That’s a big part of what was missing in the lives of many of us. While we all worried about our health and the health of our friends and families and how to get food without getting sick and how to work from home, we felt too harried to have fun. We were also bored. Worried, scared and bored. But the Fedex man was still working and there’s nothing like a new guitar or amp to elevate your depressed mood.

Did I hear the word amp? I closed my shop in April and, at that time I had 28 amps in stock (that I had to haul into storage). I gave away a couple of silverface Twin Reverbs to local players because they were simply too heavy for me to carry but I hauled two big Marshall cabinets down the steps and into my little hybrid car. I pulled the speakers to lighten the load but it was still a struggle. Today, on January 1, I have 6 amps left. Most of the amps I sold in 2019 were sold out of my shop and folks loaded them into their cars and drove off. No shipping involved. In 2020, I learned how much I hate to ship amps but I shipped around 20 of them. I think the amp market heated up for the same reason as the guitars but there is a difference. You can buy a great toy for yourself (and often a great investment) for under $1000 and rarely more than $10000 (I don’t buy Dumbles). I even bought myself an old Vox solid state (Buckingham) for $400 simply for the nostalgia of having an amp similar to the one I had when I was 14. All I have to do is plug in a ’62 330 or a ’61 Epiphone Wilshire (two guitars I had in my teens) and, suddenly, I have hair again (and zits). In my mind, anyway.

In my next year end/New Years post, we’ll take a look at what 335’s did in 2020. It’s not what I expected.

This was the year of the “fun” guitar and a year for amps (that’s a piggy back AC-30 in the background). Here’s the best little P90 guitar ever made (’61 Epiphone Wilshire) and a little piece of OK Guitars nostalgia. I had one of these when I was 14 and you can still find them for around $5K-$6K for the 60-63’s and half that for the mini humbucker version of 64-68.