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ES-345

The ES 345 is perhaps my favorite guitar of all time. A lot of folks don’t like the stereo wiring and the Varitone switch but those can be removed if you choose to do so. The fancier binding and the split parallelogram markers make for a very classy instrument. They usually cost less than the corresponding year’s 335 and yet, they are so much cooler. To me , anyway.

There's good news and bad news. Good news-original finish ES-345TDN. They only made 50 of them. Bad? Busted neck, two holes in the top and mostly changed parts. Stay tuned, this one is coming back.

There’s good news and bad news. Good news-original finish ES-345TDN. They only made 50 of them. Bad? Busted neck, two holes in the top and mostly changed parts. Stay tuned, this one is coming back.

Near mint very early 60 ES-345. This is a stunningly clean guitar. If it wasn't for a little chip in the back of the headstock, I'd be calling it mint. Even the gold is almost all there

Near mint very early 60 ES-345. This is a stunningly clean guitar. If it wasn’t for a little chip in the back of the headstock, I’d be calling it mint. Even the gold is almost all there

 I am dead certain that this is the very first black ES-345 made and maybe even the first black ES thinline. It is a first rack (short leg PAF and huge neck) and was shipped in April of 1959. It is awesome.

I am dead certain that this is the very first black ES-345 made and maybe even the first black ES thinline. It is a first rack (short leg PAF and huge neck) and was shipped in April of 1959. It is awesome.

Very unusual 66 ES-345. Look at those ears...M-I-C-K-E-Y you know the rest. Stranger things have come along but not many.

Very unusual 66 ES-345. Look at those ears…M-I-C-K-E-Y you know the rest. Stranger things have come along but not many.

Joe Bonamassa says "black is the new blonde" and I think he might be on to something. Watch black guitars in 2016. They will be smoking' hot.

Joe Bonamassa says “black is the new blonde” and I think he might be on to something. Watch black guitars in 2016. They will be smoking’ hot. Having two black 345s at once must be some kind of record.

**HOLD**As Bullwinkle used to say "three at once!" Yep, I've got three 59 ES-345's in the shop now and each is just a little different. This is the earliest with a chunky neck and the black VT ring. $18000

As Bullwinkle used to say “three at once!” Yep, I’ve got three 59 ES-345’s in the shop now and each is just a little different. This is the earliest with a chunky neck and the black VT ring.

It doesn't get much better than this. Rare 59 stop tail ES-345 TDN. Not good enough for you? How about sealed double white PAFs? Nicest 345 TDN I've ever seen.

It doesn’t get much better than this. Rare 59 stop tail ES-345 TDN. Not good enough for you? How about sealed double white PAFs? Nicest 345 TDN I’ve ever seen.

“First Rack” ES-345 (OK, maybe second). These are somewhat different than the later ones. Different bridge pickup rout and “short leg” pickup (sometimes). A297xx

Here’s another 59 ES 345 TDN. This one was refinished but was still stunning.

 

This mid 60's, probably a 66, ES-345  had been stop tailed and Schallered and was that funny Sparkling Burgundy color but it played great and was cheap.

This mid 60’s, probably a 66, ES-345 had been stop tailed and Schallered and was that funny Sparkling Burgundy color but it played great and was cheap.

Mint. Really. A 60 with a sideways that even smells new. Stunning. Even the case is mint.

I got this ’60 from an old gospel player in rural North Carolina.

Even when you beat the crap out of them for 40 years or more, they keep on keepin’ on. This is a well played ’63 that lives in California now. Yes, that’s the wrong Varitone ring. I changed it to a gold one before I sold it.

 

 

Just another photo of the three colors these came in?  Nope. They came in four colors and the one in the middle is called Argentine Grey. It’s different from the normal sunburst in that there is no red. They are all from 1960.

My first blonde ES-345. What can I say. She’s a beauty.

This ES-345 is an original stop tail from 1964. The near mint pieces never last long around here..

This 63 had a big fat neck and is a pretty rare bird. They made only around 100 something of them in sunburst that year

This stunning 1960 stoptail 345 was bought at auction by me. For me. It’s mine (for now).

Holy Virtuoso Polish, Batman! Can you say clean? This 61 looks like its never been played. Stay tuned. I hated to let this one go. Played great, too

Here’s one from a reader. It’s a very rare 59 RED ES 345. I only know of 4 in the world. One was mine for a while. This one has a factory Bigsby.

The finest ES-345 I’ve ever seen. It was mine for a minute or two. It’s an all original, near mint 1959 in RED. One of only 6 known to exist.

Top stripped and a whole bunch of plugged holes but double whites and a great player. Late 59.

1959 ES 345’s All from December 59

Really Nice ’60 345. I didn’t buy it because I thought it had been renecked.

I Owned this 66 a while back. It had very Mickey Mouse-ish ears for a 66

This is one of the 59s in the “Three Sisters” photo. I had this for a couple of years. This one was allegedly borrowed from its owner by Duane Allman which is why it’s usually referred to as “The Allman” Now owned by Hugh Hardy in Toronto

One of the finest 345s I’ve ever owned. Near mint with Mickey Mouse ears on a 66. How cool is that. This fiddle was polished more than it was played by its original and only owner (up until I got it)

57 Responses to “ES-345”

  1. Gary Clontz says:

    As a player for over 45 yrs, I’ve owned some nice guitars. Among them, two 335’s and a 345. My first was a mid 60’s sunburst 335 I bought used in 1975 from a Chicago music store for $500.00. I was told it was a 65′. It had a trapeze tailpiece. I had that changed to a stud. It had a chunky neck, not slim at all. But the nut width was narrow. It was stolen in 79′. I was in LA at the time and went to replace it. I found a shop with three old ones, two 345’s and a 355. I chose what I thought was the best of the 345’s. Mine was cherry red and completely stock. I was told it was a 1961. It had a very slim neck but seemed a bit wide at the nut. I liked that neck a lot. I was also told it was one of Ted Greene’s old guitars, which I can believe. Ted lived in the LA area and had, at one point, used these kind of guitars a lot. His first book, Chord Chemistry, shows Ted with a 355. He later went on to Tele’s. I paid $1,400.00 for that guitar. I had it for 13 yrs till I sold it for a small profit in 92′. Years later ( 2004 ) I bought a used 97′ 335 Dot RI for $1,500.00. I still have it and it’s a fine instrument IMO. It’s a flame, Antique/Tobacco Sunburst with Grover tuners, 60’s neck shape and Classic 57 pickups. I love everything about the guitar, except it seems slightly heavier than the other two. But that could just be old age creeping up. All my guitars were bought used as player guitars, as I played pro from 68′ to 82′. None were or are, mint, not even close. But all were fine guitars. I’d have to say, if I had to choose my fav, the 345 would be it. But the volume was a little weak from the varitone. Next would be my current 335. It’s only deficit is the weight. The first 335 was a nice guitar, but the fat, skinny width neck wasn’t that great. And it was a plain top, nothing special to look at.

    Thanks for this site and letting me share.

    Gary Anthony

  2. OK Guitars says:

    I. for one, am not a big fan of flame topped ES models. They seem to look “right” when they have little or no figuring. Every once in a while a really dazzling figured one comes up and everybody oohs and aahs but then they just go back to playing their plain tops. Like me.

  3. Ron says:

    I have one only with a Bigsby tremelo. Mine is sunburst. How would you suggest I sell it. I ordered it in 1964. I added a switch on the lower cutaway. Ron

  4. OK Guitars says:

    You could certainly sell it on Ebay. Or try The Gear Page. Or even Craigslist. Ifit has an added switch you can kiss the big premium that all original guitars command goodbye. I can almost guarantee that you’ll be seriously disappointed in the price you get for it. If you email me some photos, I can give you an idea of how much you might get. I probably wouldn’t be interested in buying it myself but, hey, you never know. Is it a 64 or a 65?

  5. Hello,

    I just found your site as a result of a conversation with a guitar repairman at a local guitar shop concerning a pair of Patent Number humbuckers I acquired. They appear to be around ’65 vintage pickups that were pulled from an ES-345.

    Here is a link on my site for the apparent ES-345 pickups

    Our discussion revolved around the fact that one of my Pickups does in fact have one of the magnets reversed. Being one with a bit of an electronics background, I know this makes the two pickups our of phase with each other.

    So here is my question, does the varitone circuit in an ES-345 somehow compensate for this apparent phase reversal.

    Any knowledgeable input on this would be greatly appreciated. thanks for your time, and a great site.

    — Mike

  6. OK Guitars says:

    The out of phase pickup is not “compensated for”. However, I’m not sure what the advantage of having them out of phase is. I’ve had stereo 345s with the pickups in phase and I don’t hear a difference. Those pickups are not from a 65, in my opinion. The fact that one of them has slotted screws leads me to believe its later. I don’t get a lot of post 64 guitars but I’ve never seen a slotted screw in any pickup earlier than 67. I keep hearing how T-tops came into being in 65 and I just have never seen any evidence of that. I’ve had at least 20 ’66 or later 335s and 345s and none of them had t-tops. Not all of them had opened pickups so I couldn’t be certain.

  7. Thanks for your input – I appreciate it. Since this guitar is a highly modified Melody Maker w/ humbuckers, I wired it up using the standard Les Paul wiring. When the guitar is played in the middle position, you can hear the distinctive out of phase / sort of flange sound you get when the two signals are out of phase.

    Other web sites seem to indicate that ES-345’s had one pickup magnet reversed, and these pups definitely have one magnet reversed. I’m just trying to get a handle on what is going on with them.

    Yes, I think you are right, these pickups are probably more like a late ’60’s pickup rather than a ’65.

    Again thanks for your input, and I appreciate your site – Keep up the great work!

    — Mike

  8. OK Guitars says:

    Thanks for reading me.

  9. Gene says:

    Wonderful website…wonderful service! I’m in the market to purchase a new ES 335. Any thoughts on the current matte versus gloss models, as far as the integrity of the instruments is concerned? The matte I’m exploring is a Custom and is $700 less than the cheapest gloss. Aside from the tuners, everything else seems comparable. Thank you in advance for your consideration and time.

    Cheers!

    Gene

  10. OK Guitars says:

    Play the guitars. The quality is in the playability and your ears. If the cheaper matte does it for you, then the search is over. If it doesn’t, then spend the extra money. Play more than one of each type-they are not all the same.

  11. Charley says:

    Hello! I’m really glad to have found this site! I have a 1964 ES 345TD, with the lyre tremelo. I am used to seeing these guitars with either a stop, trapeze, or Bigsby, but not the lyre; however, I have seen the lyre tremelo on the 355s. I hate to waste your time with my nostalgia, but this guitar means so much to me. My dad bought it used in 1966 (I’m told that back then, you were crazy to buy a Gibson – everybody who was “anybody” bought a Gretsch!!) for the exuberant price of $500. That was a lot of money for him back then. Have you seen a lot of the 345s with the lyre tremelo? Also, there are a couple of other interesting “unknowns” I have with this guitar. If you get the chance, respond to this, and I’ll be glad to email you some photos.

    Thanks!

    Charley

  12. OK Guitars says:

    There are plenty of ES-345s out there with the Lyre (Maestro). Granted, you seem to see 355s more frequently but the Maestro was used from 63 to well into the 70’s for 335s and 345s as well. While it’s not as common as the other tailpieces, there are still plenty of them out there, especially during the mid 60’s. I don’t personally like them-the string “break” angle across the bridge is very shallow and results in very minimal downward pressure on the bridge causing the strings to sometimes slip off the saddles if you bend a lot of notes. They also never seemed to look right to me on an ES.

  13. Richard says:

    It’s been a year at least i look at your website and wanted to thank you for all these infos you share with us !
    I have a question for you about 345 and varitone !
    I read several times that some people felt they took a blanket off their guitar tone, when removing the varitone but i was wondering if on top of the load that is removed from the pickups, by putting the circuit back to a simple 335 circuit , the fact that the varitone weight is removed from the inside of the guitar, changing its mass and then having a consequence on the guitar accoustic tone , might not be part of the reason the guitar tone changes without varitone ?
    I guess removing some mass might remove some low mids and let the high mids and highs spread more easily , isn’t it ?

  14. Richard says:

    As when replacing a heavy weight TP with a light weight one .

  15. Andro says:

    Hi everyone,

    Firstly, I realize that this forum is only about Gibson 335 /345 /355. But, I have one particular question because it has been very difficult for me to find a gold varitone ring. I own the Epiphone 345 (cherry) and would like to replace my black varitone ring with the gold one because i like it more. Does any of you know where i can buy it? I highly appreciate it if someone can answer my question. Many thanks for your help and advise

  16. cgelber says:

    Gold VT rings are really hard to find. You can get black ones fairly easily (Mallory still makes them) but I don’t know where to find a repro gold ring.

  17. Greg says:

    Hello, I was just reading through the comments and saw some questions regardng the pickup magnets. All Gibson stereo guitars had out-of-phase pickups. The reason they did this was so that when the guitar is plugged into both channels of a two-channel amp, it will sound good when both pickups are on. On a two-channel amp, the channels out of phase with each other, so the guitar has to compensate for this, otherwise it will sound very strange. If you rewire the guitar as a mono guitar you need to flip one magnet if you want it to sound like a mono guitar in the middle position. I have a ’61 345 stop tail. I rewired it as a mono guitar with a ’59 Les Paul configuration, but I kept the Vari-Tone functional by keeping it in the circuit, but connecting it to the output instead. This seems to allow the guitar to really “breathe” when the Vari-Tone is in the “off” position. The guitar sounds absolutely fantastic. Incidentally, it has short-magnet PAF’s. A lot of people claim that early stereo guitars with gold PAF’s usually have long-magnet PAF’s that were left over from the 50’s. That may be true on many guitars, but mine had shorties for what it’s worth.

  18. Rob says:

    Hi – great site, thank you. Are “modern” i.e. reissue 345s allowed here? I have a 2002 stop tail in cherry (?) red that I’d like to post pictures of and ask a couple of questions about. My only vintage credential is having owned a trapeze tailpiece 345 (i am told the year was 61) back in 1971. Bought it for £150 with money borrowed from a well-heeled friend and paid back at £3 a month. Those were the days my friend indeed . . .

  19. cgelber says:

    Sure. Every era is welcome. I just don’t know all that much about the new ones except as they relate to the old ones. Try me though. Send the photos and I’ll put one up on the page. okguitars@gmail.com

  20. pete matt says:

    Hi,I have a 345,according to the serial number it is a 67 or 68, it doesn’t have lake inside but it is rubber stamped, is unusual? The varitone was removed before I bought it,I installed a Big version, which was cheap and filled the hole!I am not over enamoured with it, do you have any feelings about them? I enjoy your site/blog very much.

  21. pete matt says:

    That should read Big D varitone!

  22. cgelber says:

    I’ve never tried one.

  23. cgelber says:

    Rubber stamp is very unusual-I’d be suspicious about the guitar’s authenticity. I’ve never tested aftermarket Varitones.

  24. Frank M says:

    Can you tell me was all the letters stand for – such as TD and TDN?

    Thanks

  25. cgelber says:

    “T” stands for thin line. “D” stands for dual pickup. “N”stands for natural (finish). “C” stands for cherry.

  26. West Coast Pete says:

    I used to have a 1961 ES 345 which had an inlay on the first fret. It was pretty unusual – I only ever saw one other like that. Serial # was 6918.
    What was the story with the additional inlay?
    Thanks for the info . . .
    Pete

  27. West Coast Pete says:

    btw – it was a great playing guitar that was tobacco sunburst. My daughter was going to college so either it or the cherry ’62 345 had to go. I liked the cherry one better . . .

  28. cgelber says:

    61 is the only year ES-345 that got the first fret inlay. ES-355’s have always had one and 175’s as well but somebody decided fairly early in 61 that it wasn’t necessary and it disappeared forever. I have a 61 345 in the 35xxx range and it doesn’t have one. One of these days I’ll figure out when the transition occurred.

  29. mitas says:

    Did vintage Gibson 345s only have a gold pickguard bracket or did some have silver? I’m trying to determine the color of the brack from Back to the Future. Marty’s was a 1958 but your 1960 is dead on. I guess very few changes if at all were made in those 2 years.

  30. Ric says:

    hi, sorry to bother you. but I was hoping you could help me.
    I’m looking at purchasing a 1964 cherry dot es345.
    the owner bought it new and does not play, he just collected them. so all his guitars are 9.5 condition.
    I already got his 1959 es125t…$1,500
    but I want his es 345….$4,000
    doing research, the 64 seems to be less desirable then the 63
    is the 64 a good buy for an investment? (its the only way I can talk my wife into letting me get it…lol)

  31. cgelber says:

    A 64 is a good investment at that price particularly. 63 and 64 345’s are about equal in terms of desirability. Stop tails are more desirable than Bigsby’s. It’s different for 335’s-64’s are more desirable than 63’s. You can thank Eric Clapton for that.

  32. Michael says:

    This is an oldie. A black 57 345 TD Stereo with “The Gibson” inlaid in MOP in the headstock. Gold everything, Varitone, It was stolen from me a long time ago, and I suspected it was stolen when I bought it. Just wondering if it has shown up anywhere. My first electric guitar that really put the rock & roll in my soul. I still play today with an Epi by Gibson strat style with two PAF’s. Thin neck, it’s red, and it rocks. Thanks for any info, Michael Stewart

  33. Don says:

    In 1968 I owned a Gibson which I believe was an ES 345 varitone stereo. The only difference between mine and all those I’ve seen recently is there were two female PL 55 jacks on the bottom edge and none on the body. As I’m looking for another of that exact guitar with a sunburst finish what model name and number should I be looking for? I can send a picture if it would help.

    Thanks,

    Don

  34. cgelber says:

    Good luck. The only ones I’ve seen in that configuration were reissue 345’s. If one left the factory that way in 68, it was a special order-probably with a mono jack and a stereo jack.

  35. Erik says:

    I am looking at 2002 re-issue. I am told one of the jacks will play mono, but I have read that playing a 345 in mono will be a dull sound compared to a 335. I have also read that playing w/both jacks in stereo will require two amps, or a single amp with w/2 input channels. Any insight on this one?

  36. cgelber says:

    That is not true with the newer 345s. The dull sound you refer to on the older ones is because the pickups are out of phase and simply mixing them down to mono will cause phase cancellation when both pickups are engaged. That is not the case with modern 345’s with two output jacks.

  37. frankm says:

    Hi. I have a question. I have a 2014 Memphis 1959 RI es-345. I noticed that when the pickup selector is in the middle position and I turn down on volume knob all the way I still have sound. This is unlike all other Gibsons I’ve ever played. I have 3 LP’s and a Nashville 59RI 335. With those if both pups are selected and one knob is turned down all the way the sound cuts out.

    Is this normal for a 345?

    I also noticed that when running both pickups if the knobs are set more than approx 1.5 digits apart then the pickup that is set higher dominates to the extent that there is no diff if the pickup selector is in the middle or if I just switch to that dominant pickup alone. So it’s a bit more difficult to get blended sounds. Is this also normal for a 345?

    Both of these situations exist no matter where the varitone is set.

    I emailed Gibson and they said that this is normal for guitars that have the varitone wiring. But I wanted to ask here because I figured I’d get answers few people who have experience with various 345’s. Thanks.

  38. cgelber says:

    None of mine do that but none of mine are recent either.

  39. John Picard says:

    Hey just got a ’62 ES 345 #782xx. Have a tried it into mono amp and also stereo Y cord into 2 amps to see what Gibson had in mind. Dunno if I’m ever gonna use those sounds, so MAY convert. How much do the guts (those two silver boxes) weigh? Guitar feels heavy… And I presume that the caps are in those big pots covers? What are the pots values and which caps are hiding inside? Haven’t taken it apart yet although the magnet has been flipped. 2 double black PAFs (mid 7s) and a really nice neck. Stop tailpiece, sunburst. Haven’t made up my mind, just considering options.

  40. cgelber says:

    The stereo guts choke and Varitone weigh around a half a pound. Converting will make a big difference in the weight. The caps are in the shielding can of the neck pickup and the tone pot of the bridge pickup (there is no can on that pot). They are disc type caps and are .022 mfd.
    Keep the original harness as intact as possible and just drop in a new one (or a vintage 335 harness if you prefer). That way the next owner has all the original parts and you won’t affect the value of the guitar in a significant way.

  41. cgelber says:

    There are no 58 ES-345’s.

  42. Andrew Gibbins says:

    Hi I have a 1965 345. Pretty much original with case. Is it of interest to you to buy

  43. cgelber says:

    If its an early 65 with the larger neck profile, I ‘d be interested. Send photos to me at okguitars@gmail.com
    Let me know the serial number as well as that will usually tell me which neck it has.

  44. francesco says:

    Hi guys
    I have this Gibson ES345 CCT 59
    What is the value?

  45. cgelber says:

    I need a photo and a year to assess. I’m not really that tuned into the newer models.

  46. Don N says:

    Hi there,
    I have a red 66 or 67 ES-345 with a factory bigsby. Serial number 097681. What can you tell me about its value, and so forth. Thank you

  47. cgelber says:

    It’s a 67. The value will depend on the condition and originality.
    It could be worth $4000-$6000 or more if mint.

  48. Chrisw says:

    Serial no says 1968. Has features of both 335 and 345 – fret markers etc. Custom Made plate on stop tail holes. Custom 345 plate on truss rod cover.
    Original case and hang tags etc.
    3 humbuckers is the big mystery. Never seen one with 3 before. Is in fantastic condition. Seems hardly played.
    Gibson can throw no light on it and say it may may be unique.
    Have tried many different forums but no further information has been forthcoming.
    Any views gratefully received.
    Thank you.

  49. cgelber says:

    well, for starters, it doesn’t look like a 68 body. It looks earlier. Bigsby is new(ish). Knobs say 66 or earlier. A better photo would help a lot as would a shot of the headstock-front and back. Gibson made no three pickup 345’s but its a pretty easy mod. The stop tail studs were probably added later along with the custom made plate because it is set significantly lower than a factory stop would be. Finish looks funky but, again, a better photo would tell me more.

  50. Peter says:

    Here’s a picture of my 1964 ES-345TD. I traded a ’59 Junior and R9 for her earlier this year. I was originally concerned about the authenticity of the Kluson tuners (single line, single ring) until I came across your website. She’s all original apart from a refret, and sadly without her original case… so I’ve just ordered one for her. Such a beautiful guitar.

It seems that she was originally bought by a pro down in the SW of England where she stayed for three decades. She was then sold, on a commission basis by Vintage & Rare in Denmark Street, London around 2000 to the previous owner, who had her refretted but never played her because she was too large to play comfortably.

    I initially thought of her as an ‘investment’ only, but she’s such a lovely guitar that she’s now a keeper.

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