One-Off Gibsons. Ya Gotta Love this Stuff.

Elvis with his J-200 with custom inlays and custom pickguard.

One of the things I love about Gibsons is that they made so many one offs and oddball versions of the same guitar.  I suppose it’s because they considered themselves kind of a “Guitar Maker to the Stars” . They pretty much invented the “artist signature model”. Who else made something like that in the 50s?  The Les Paul, The Barney Kessel, The Trini Lopez, The Tal Farlow, The Johnny Smith and probably one or 2 I’m forgetting about.  Gretsch did it early on with the Chet Atkins models but Fender didn’t really get around to it until much later. Now there are literally dozens: Clapton, Alvin Lee, Elliot Easton, Jimi Hendrix…even Kiefer Sutherland has his name on a Gibson. Even more bizarre is that they have artists models that are named after other artists. The Les Paul Billy Gibbons? The Les Paul Mike Bloomfield? Eventually there will be a Gibson Les Paul Jimmy Page Joe Blow model once Joe Blow starts playing a LPJP and gets famous.

Phil and Don with their Black J-185s with double guards and star inlays. They had another pair with white double guards

Gibson would make one offs long before the concept of the Custom Shop existed. Gibson made quite a few artists custom guitars to a particular artists specifications. Elvis’ J-200 is perhaps one of the best known, of course his had custom inlays. The Everly Brothers had custom black J-185s with double pickguards and star inlays.  Some one offs aren’t built for the stars and are sometimes labeled “prototype” or no serial number at all.  Here’s one I’ve never seen until now. I was doing my daily 335 search on Ebay and came across this. A mahogany ES-355.  It appears to be and is listed as a 67. The construction appears to be stock-it isn’t made from solid mahogany, it is, like all 335s/345s and 355s, made of plywood. The top layer is maple on production guitars but not this one.  The red stained mahogany looks very cool and it gives the guitar an even more “formal” look-kind of a guitar in a deep red tuxedo. It probably wouldn’t look good on you (or me for that matter) but it looks great on a 355.  The listing says it may have been an experiment by Gibson to see if it was a viable alternative to maple plywood. I think that’s a pretty likely scenario. I don’t know what the price of mahogany plywood was like in 1967 but today, it’s quite a bit cheaper than maple. Cheap mahogany plywood shows up everywhere it seems in building materials but not so frequently on guitars. I would be very interested to see if it sounds any different and will probably email the seller to get an opinion. As far as the price goes, it’s really hard to assess a one off guitar’s value. It’s rarity doesn’t really count for much, unfortunately. The seller has a buy it now of just under $8000. That’s around double what a 67 ES-355 SV is worth. I would price a normal stereo 67 in similar condition at $4000-4500 give or take. I just think having the only one would be sort of cool. Unfortunately, the necks on these are really narrow-this one looks like it could be 1.5″.  I think if it was 1 5/8″ or larger, I wouldn’t hesitate to make an offer. I’ve actually never owned a 355 and I have no excuse for that since I really like ebony fingerboards. I have owned at least 3 SG Customs which have the same fingerboard and inlays and liked all of them.

1967 One Off ES-355SV constructed from Mahogany plywood rather than the usual maple plywood. It is currently listed on Ebay (not by me)

One Response to “One-Off Gibsons. Ya Gotta Love this Stuff.”

  1. TonyF says:

    Cool looking guitar. Interesting the old style reflector knobs
    instead of witchhat knobs…wonder if those are original.

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