Best 335 for Not Too Much Money

Well, that depends on what your definition of “not too much money” is but let’s assume you have around $4,000-which is about what a Gibson Historic ES 335 will cost you slightly used.  You could buy the Historic-they are great, great guitars and will serve you as well as a vintage one. If you buy into the “old wood” notion, then take a look at the late 60’s ES 335s-especially 1967-1969. These years were very well made, excellent sounding guitars-the best  of them will rival any other year but there are some tradeoffs that keep these years (and 65-66 as well) from being as desirable or expensive as the earlier ES models.  First and foremost is the neck shape. Somebody (probably at Fender) got it into their head that a skiniier neck was a “faster” neck. Fingerboards went from 1 11/16″ wide to 1 9/16″ wide in mid 65 and stayed that way
pretty much through the rest of the 60s. The depth of the neck got very slim as well reaching its thinnest in 67 and creeping back up in 68. I’ve found at least one 68 with a pretty big neck and a wider board so they are out there.  But most are what we not so endearingly call “pencil necks”.  If you can play one of these comfortably, then you can save some big bucks and still have a killer sounding vintage instrument. The pickups changed at some point as well from the red/orange wire on a “PAF” type bobbin to the T-Top variety. Both have the same patent # sticker but the t tops usually are held together by slotted screws rather than philips screws (the gold screws on the bottom of the pickup-not the polepiece screws on the top). There is no way to be 100% certain without taking off the covers. Don’t. Buyers like it when the covers still have their original solder. If they’ve already been opened up and show new solder, then go ahead and take a look. The good news is that both are very good sounding pickups. I’ve seen non t-tops as late as 1968 and perhaps they go even later than that. I’ve seen T-tops as early as 67 and have heard of them showing up in late 66. Nothing at Gibson ever happens overnight.  My Blue Trini Lopez is a 67 and has the narrow neck and a pair of killer non T-tops. I can play it but I’m not as comfortable as I am with a 64 or a 59.  You should be able to find one of these for around $4000. There are plenty of them listed WAY higher on Ebay but, if you pay attention, these don’t ever sell. Look for a no reserve auction and at least you know you’ll be getting the guitar for its true market value.  If you’re a player and not a collector, then condition doesn’t really count as long as its stable and playable. If you don’t mind a neck repair, you can play vintage for real cheap. I’ve had a few and I’ve had good luck with them. Just don’t expect them to grow in value like a mint example will. More on this later. That’s a 67 below-note the trapeze tailpiece.

3 Responses to “Best 335 for Not Too Much Money”

  1. Eric says:

    What if you have less than $4,000 to spend? Say around $2,000 to $3,000? This blog has me jonesing for an ES-335. Any suggestions? Btw, I’m not interested in collecting, just playing…for now (I’m afraid if I continue to read this blog, I may become a collector as well).

  2. OK Guitars says:

    The best choice if you have less than $3000 to spend is a 335 from 1981 through 1985.These were very well made and were called the “Dot Reissue”. there are some little details to look for and I’ll put up a post about these this week. I’ve been meaning to do that subject anyway and a detailed explanation of why these are such a good buy right now is worth writing about. Look for it tomorrow or Tuesday.

  3. Eric says:

    @OK Guitars

    Awesome. Looking forward to it. Thanks again.

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