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Why is it So Hard to Date these Guitars?

 

High Position "flowerpot" 59

 

Someone once said “it’s harder to date a 335 than it is to date a cheerleader”.  Actually, that was me. Mostly, these are hard to date because Gibson kept re-using the serial numbers over and over again. You can get a pretty accurate date for a 335 using the serial number up until around 1964 but then it all just goes straight to hell.  I talked about this is an earlier post, so I won’t get into the details other than to say the serial number is merely a starting point. The rest requires some detective skills.  There are 3 distinct body shapes used by Gibson from 1958 to 1975 or so. There are 3 different placements of the “flowerpot” inlay (although the first one only lasted through 1958). There are little f-holes (58-67) and big f-holes (68 on). The brightwork is another key-if its nickel (which has a greenish cast and gets very dull with age) the it’s no later than early 65. If it’s chrome (bluish cast stays pretty shiny) then its 65 or later (up until the reissues of the 80s). The ABR-1 bridge is another tell. If it has a patent number, then its probably 65 or later, although I’ve seen a nickel patent number bridge on a 64 and a chrome non patent number on a 66. Also, you can change a bridge pretty easily so don’t use it as a positive ID. The knobs changed in late 66 from the “bonnet” or “tophat” to the Fender amp-like “witch hat” knobs. So, if your guitar has witch hats, it’s from 66 or later. Again, these can be changed so it’s just part of the evidence required to date the guitar. The pickups can be helpful-PAFs mean 58-63 on 335s and as late as 65 on 345 and 355 models. Patent number with nickel covers can be 62-early 65. Pat number with chrome, 65-69 and T-top with chrome 66 on. Big overlaps here which make the pickups alone a less than reliable indicator. Nut width: 1 11/16″ nut from 58 to early 65. 1 9/16″ from 65 through the 70’s although larger necks show up in 68 and 69 for some reason. Tuners went through many changes as well but that’s going to require an entire post. Fretboards? Brazilian rosewood until early 66 or so, then Indian. Tailpieces? Trapeze or Stop? The center block (65) changed and so did the bridge saddles (63-64). And the pickguard twice (60 and 66) and the truss rod cover. Even the logo changed a few times. Notice in the photos that not only is the inlay in a differentlocation but the logo is different as well. It’s a lot of minutiae but it’s sort of fun. Anyway, the larger point here is that there is no single element that   will precisely date your 335 but taken together, all of these things can get you very close-even to the month in some cases. Or you can just ask me.

Low Position "flowerpot" 68

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