Making A Case for the 335

Here are 3 different Lifton Cases. the brown ones from the 50’s and early 60’s. The black from the early to late 60’s. You can see the badge on the open case.

The subject of ES-335 cases is a dull one. Cases just aren’t that interesting but they can be useful in identifying the era of the guitar in it. the problem is that it’s impossible to tell if a case is original. Oh, there are signs that will tell you it isn’t but none that will tell you it is. The best one is to look at the wear pattern-it should match the guitar in it and have no other wear. If you see wear from 2 different guitars, you can rest assured the case isn’t original. Look at where the strings hit the top and where the tuners hit the sides. The wear should be pretty well defined. But that isn’t what I’m writing about today. I’m going to try to identify all the cases used by Gibson during the 50’s and 60’s and try to make some sense of it. It’s particularly difficult to do this simply because in so many instances, the cases were provided by the music store and not by Gibson. While the shape of the ES-335 wasn’t common in 1958, by the time the end of the 60’s rolled around there were plenty of guitars “inspired by” the success of the 335 . In the early days, nearly all of the guitars were housed in brown Lifton cases with a hot pink interior. I’ve seen 2 different shapes-one with a more “hourglass” figure and the other, more common with a more subdued shape. I don’t know why the handles turn blue on these. There should be a Lifton “built like a fortress” tag on the case pocket. At some point in 1961, Lifton began making a black case with a yellow/orange interior. I’ve seen brown cases as late as 62. I’m sure they didn’t all get used up on Monday and the new ones arrived on Tuesday. Plenty of overlap as usual. The distinguishing mark of a Lifton, besides the badge, is the texture of the covering-a pebble grain, almost elephant grain that is distinctive. Liftons also often have a leather covered metal handle which the others don’t have. As the sales of 335s and their siblings went through the roof in the mid 60’s, more case makers came into play. I’m guessing Lifton couldn’t handle the increased demand. The Victoria Luggage Company of Los Angeles who worked with Fender early on stepped in and made a very similar case. Also black with a less orangey yellow interior, the Victoria case became very common in the mid 60’s. The vinyl covering was much finer with very little raised texture.

Victoria case. All the latches are the same on these. Fender also used these for their “inspired by” 335, the short lived Coronado line

If you have an early 60’s ES and it’s in a Victoria case, chances are it isn’t original. All of the latches on my Victoria case are the flip down type where you push a tab downward to lock the loop in place.  My 66 came in a Victoria, My 64 in a black Lifton. Another player, Ess and Ess of Brooklyn. NY showed up as a supplier in the mid 60’s as well. To complicate matters, their case was black with, you guessed it, a yellow/orange interior. What’s distinctive about the Ess and Ess cases that I’ve seen is that they have a spring loaded main catch while the others didn’t.  They also often had a catch on the back side of the case as well-you know the one you always forget to unlatch when you open the case. Neither my Lifton nor my Victoria cases have that feature.  There is a fourth case that shows up over and over again and I don’t know who the manufacturer is-I’ve always called them Gibson cases because they always have the Gibson badge. They are, once again, black vinyl covered with almost no grain and yellow/orange inside. They never have a manufacturers sticker inside like the other 3 usually have. They are a 5 latch case with the main latch being a flip down loop type and the other 4 are flip up loop types. This is the case that’s often identifiable by its broken handle. If you have one, you know what I mean. The “Gibson” case seems to be most common from 1963 on.  My ’65 ES 335-“The Mexican” came in a Gibson badged case (badges? we don’t need no stinkin’ badges) with a buffalo stenciled on it. Did they even have buffalo in Mexico (OK, purists, “bison”).

Ess and Ess with a ’65 cherryburst trap tail. Note the sprig loaded main latch. That’s how they do it in Brooklyn.

The “Gibson” case. Note the badge and the flip down latch. All the others flip up. These are most common in the mid 60’s to late 60’s

11 Responses to “Making A Case for the 335”

  1. Steve Rule says:

    Do you have or can you get a Lifton guitar case badge, sticker? Please let me know as I need one.

  2. OK Guitars says:

    Hi Steve
    Email me. I have one somewhere.

  3. Steve Rule says:

    Please let me know if you have the Lifton case badge. I want to buy one.
    Steve Rule

  4. Steve Rule says:

    Did my email about the Lifton badge get through to you? Please let me know.

  5. Steve Rule says:

    Hello Charlie,
    Do you have/can you recommend either a Lifton or Ess case for a Gibson J series jumbo?

  6. OK Guitars says:

    I would find a Lifton. They come up on Ebay occasionally. I’m not certain I’ve ever seen an Ess&Ess for a J series. There are other brands that Gibson used as well including Geib and Stone. All are high quality.

  7. maicol says:

    hi, have you got a spare lifton case sticker? i’ve relined mine and now i don’t have it anymore! let me know

  8. OK Guitars says:

    I had one but someone else beat you to it. I’ll look through the bottomless parts bin and see if I have another.

  9. Geoff Bell says:

    Hello, Steve and all the very best for 2015. At the risk of furthering the ongoing debate on the “dull” subject of guitar cases, I would like to know if you could assist me in identifying my particular case.
    Four latch identical to those shown on the “Gibson Case”.
    Yellow/Orange lining including three additional protective pads (same colour & look as if they come from the same era). These pads are glued to the case lining – 1 100x300mm on the underside at the point where the horns of the guitar rest. 2 100x100mm pads on the topside 1 corresponds with the location of the bridge, the other sits immediately over the case neck support.
    No identifying label or plate.
    The covering has quite a fine texture, however, it has matt a finish.
    Everything looks correct for the era which should be mid to late sixties and apart from the additional pads and lack of a label would appears to be close to Liftons from this era?

  10. cgelber says:

    Gibson cases from the 60’s are usually 5 latch. The only 4 latch I’ve seen from the era with a pad in the top is Ess & Ess. It would have a spring type latch by the handle. I have a 4 latch Lifton from 69 or 70 and that has no pads either. I have seen cases with pads added. Every case I’ve ever had from the 50’s and 60’s is a poor fit-the guitars move around in there, so I wouldn’t be surprised if folks added padding to keep their guitars from bouncing around.

  11. Geoff Bell says:

    Thanks for your reply, cgelber. I wonder if this case was made for another model or make guitar? I have seen 60’s cases advertised on ebay for Gibson L5’s with four latches, however, to add to the mystery, the internal dimensions are 16.5″ Wide by 46″ Long. These dimensions would seem none standard for an ES 335 – could this be a 12 string guitar case?

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