Archive for August, 2010

She Comes in Colors

Friday, August 6th, 2010

Talk about rare. This is called Argentine Grey, although it's neither Argentine nor is it grey. This one's from Gruhn Guitars site and I would buy it tomorrow if I had the money available. I think it's uber cool (where's the umlaut when you need it)..

It’s always a lot of fun to compare the variations in Gibson’s color palette especially when it comes to sunbursts (we’re such nerds) and it occurred to me that I’ve never done a post about the various finishes that Gibson used over the years. I’m still concentrating on the “Golden Era” of 1958 to 1969 but will eventually get to the more modern versions of the ES-335. There are just so many different models and colors, it’s going to take me a long time to gather the information on them.  In 1958, when the ES-335 was introduced, there were 2 finishes available: natural and sunburst. The standard issue sunburst has undergone some interesting changes over the years and probably merits its own post but it’s pretty arcane stuff. Take a spin over Tom H’s ES-335 site to get a look at how these subtle differences manifested themselves. He loves this stuff.  In 1960, I believe, a different sunburst called Argentine Grey appeared-I’ve seen 2 of them. It’s a very interesting color but wasn’t popular and may have been a custom order. I believe it is mentioned in an early brochure, however. The ES-355 was available in red from its very beginnings and I know the gentleman who owns the very first one. It is not the typical red but a more orangey red which could be a result of fading or a different dye (the red is an aniline dye thats rubbed into the wood, not a paint or stain). The red 335s and 345s were officially introduced in early 1960 although there are rumors of some manufactured in 1959 and at least one is documented as a custom order. I thought I owned one of them for awhile but later identified it as probably a 61. In fact my screen name on some of the guitar forums (fora?) in red59dot. I believe there is even a late 58 in red. Gibson discontinued the natural finish when red was officially introduced and with only 2 years of manufacture, there’s a good reason why the naturals are worth so much-there aren’t a whole lot of them. Good examples of natural dot necks  approached the $100,000 level at the peak of the market and asking prices still routinely hit the $80K level. Whether any of them actually sell at those numbers is information that I’m not privy to. As the 60’s moved toward the great guitar boom years, the red ES-335 became the most mainstream, selling in larger numbers than any other. And who can deny that there’s nothing quite like a big ol’ red ES-335 up there in the lights hanging off the lead player. It’s a cultural icon-almost. Alvin Lee, Eric Clapton, Elvin Bishop (345) and a lot of other well known players in the 60’s played red ES’s. In 1965, as far as I can tell, Gibson introduced a cherryburst version. My most recent guitar “The Mexican” is a stop tail version of this color-the only one I’ve ever seen and probably one of the earliest in existence. The color became much more popular by the late 60’s. In fact, the very first ES 335 that I ever played was this color. That was in 1966 when I was 14 and I couldn’t afford one. During the period between 1958 and 1969 some interesting custom builds start to appear. On Tom H’s 335 site, there’s an EB2 (ES bodied bass) in black from 1958 and I’m sure there are others in black that have been custom ordered over the years but it has always been a custom order color. Pelham blue appeared sometime in 1966 as a custom option and a few have emerged. My 67 Trini Lopez is an example. A color called Sparkling Burgundy was a Gibson option (not a custom) from 1967 (I think) until perhaps the early 70’s. It wasn’t terribly popular and it tends to fade badly, winding up a kind of bronze color. For some reason, people still don’t like the color-including me. I’ve never seen a white ES from the 60’s but there are probably some out there. Certainly Alex Lifeson’s (Rush) 355 is a well known example even though it is a 70’s guitar. So I think that about covers it. If anyone knows of another ES 335/345/355 color that I missed, post a comment and I’ll add it.

Here's a really rare on-a 12 string ES-335 in (mostly) unfaded Sparkling Burgundy from the Rumble Seat Music site

Pelham Blue-The ol' Blue Trini. there are PB 335s as well but not a lot of them.

How cool is this? A factory black EB-2 from 1958. From

New Feature: Ebay ES of the Week

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

1959 ES 335 Bone Stock with the correct and probably original case. Reserve Auction on Ebay ending August 5th

If I don’t periodically come up with some new ideas, I’m going to run out of things to write about. There’s a lot to know about these guitars but it isn’t unlimited and this seemed like a good idea. Here’s the concept: Every week-probably in the middle of the week since most listings begin on the weekend and end on the weekend-I’ll pick one ES 335. 345 or 355 or variant that’s listed on Ebay and evaluate it. This will be my opinion and not a suggestion that you should buy it or not. You’ll have to decide that for yourself. Also, it will never be for sale by me and I will not know or have anything to do with the seller. I don’t get a commission or a fee or anything like that. Since Ebay seems to be the largest marketplace for guitars, it makes sense to start your search for your 335 there anyway. Dealers are obviously another viable avenue-especially at the high end where if you get burned, you get burned big time. I have a rule-if the guitar costs over $10,000 and it’s listed on Ebay, I either go see it in person or I ask for an approval period-usually 48 hours. Any seller with nothing to hide should allow you that. You can even specify that you will return it only if it is not as described if the seller is hesitant to do so. Again, to be clear, these aren’t my guitars and I have no financial interest in any of them. The Ebay ES of the week will be a guitar I find interesting. I will comment on the price at times but never make a recommendation that you buy it. If I love it, I’ll say so. If I think it’s a good deal, I’ll say so. If I think it’s overpriced, I’ll say that too. Or not. It’s not my intention to sell someone else’s guitar nor is it my intention to keep you from buying it. It is my intention to educate you and educate you I will. So, for week one, we’ll start with a beauty. This is a 59 ES 335 “dot” neck. This is perhaps the most desirable of all the 335s. I’m partial to 58s and 64s but these are very popular which is why Gibson reissues them over and over again. It’s a reserve auction and, with high end guitars, the seller-who is a dealer- may just be trying to advertise what he has with no intention of selling it on Ebay. That’s typical for the very high dollar guitars like Les Paul ‘bursts and a bit less usual for guitars priced lower. There is another 59 on Ebay right now at $25,000 but it isn’t as attractive and is missing some very expensive parts-like the pickguard and pickup covers. But let’s concentrate on this one. Beautiful figured top and back and spectacular aging (the natural way). It will probably need the bridge replaced as the seller says it’s sagging. That’s metal fatigue and is not fixable as far as I know. Save the saddles. A correct bridge isn’t cheap but they’re pretty common.  You can probably find one in the $500 range. The only real negative that I see is the fingerboard and frets. They show considerable wear and will need some attention. There are some significant divots in the rosewood and a good bit of fret wear. Think about how much it will cost you to get this guitar into top playing condition with a fret job-or maybe you’ll get by with a dressing and, if they bother you, fixing the divots. I’m a fairly heavy handed player and fingerboard divots translate into sharp notes for me. I don’t think you’ll find a prettier 59 although you will find examples in better condition but they will command a large premium and you might be afraid to play it.  The finish is fairly heavily checked which I don’t find to be a negative and the sunburst pattern is very pleasing with a nice amount of fade. The pickups both read in the 8K range which many find to be a sweet spot for PAFs (I don’t totally agree). The seller doesn’t specify if the pickups are black bobbin, white or zebra. That would be a good question to ask since the value (but not the tone) of the guitar can be affected by that. If he tells you he won’t remove the cover (which he shouldn’t) tell him he doesn’t have to. Just take out one screw on the back behind the slug bobbin and one from the front on the screw head one. He’ll be able to see the color without messing with the covers. This guitar, at the top of the market would have easily approached $50K but those days have been and gone, at least for now. If a 59 is what you want and you can afford it, the price may depend on how much you want it. A friend and 335 expert thinks $30K or more. I think I would bail out at just under $30K unless the pickups are zebra or double whites-then I might go a couple of thousand higher. Again, that’s just me. So, if this one tickles your fancy and you’ve got the dosh, then it may be worth your consideration. Not to sound like a broken record, but this is my opinion. If you buy it and it turns out to be less than you had hoped, please don’t come after me. I only know what I can see in the photos. Here’s a link

The back has gorgeous figuring. Note the checking. That's not a bad thing.

Here's the negative. This guitar has played by someone who never heard of a nail clipper, I guess. The frets might just need a dressing but if you play with a heavy hand like I do, all those ruts and grooves will translate into sharp notes when you play.

Business or Pleasure?

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

I put this shot here only because I like to start my posts with a photo. This is another angle on "The Mexican"-an early 65 ES 335 so named because that's where it spent the last 45 years or so. It is not currently for sale nor has it ever been by me, contrary to the opinion of a certain reader from Western Europe. Once I have it in my hands, however, I will do a post about it because I've never seen another like it.

In the last post I did something I’ve never done before and got blasted for it on the Les Paul Forum.  I mentioned that a guitar might be for sale. In my last post where I talk about my adventure with that ’66 ES 345, I mention that you might want to keep an eye on the “For Sale” section if you’re interested in the guitar. Well that apparently set off an alarm with one of my fellow LPF members and reader of this blog. OK, fair enough. Because I link to this site with every posting I leave on the Les Paul Forum (and Gear Page for that matter), I won’t again  mention guitars that I have for sale as being for sale. They still may be for sale, but I just won’t mention that fact. You’ll just have to go to the “For Sale” folder on your own.  I try to keep my prices in line with the market and if I get a great deal, I’ll do the same for you.  That doesn’t mean I’m not making a profit-it simply means that I won’t overpay for guitars and you shouldn’t either but there is always going to be a difference between cost and retail. If it bothers you that this blog is also a business, then perhaps you should find another source for your information. I love unusual examples and will continue to post about them whether I own them (like “The Mexican”) or not (like the 67 Mahogany 355). That’s the fun part. A lot of folks on the guitar forums are quick to criticize both guitars and people. It can turn into a bit of a feeding frenzy-especially when the originality of a guitar is called into question. But that can be a good thing too. I posted on the Les Paul Forum that I thought the 66 ES 345 might be a refin and I was told, by members that I trust and admire, that they did not believe it was and gave me good reasons why they felt that way. Kind of a reverse feeding frenzy, if you will.  That’s good for me, as a buyer and seller and that’s good for you if you ever buy a guitar from me. At least you know it’s been checked out by me and a large number of knowledgeable individuals with no “dog in this fight”, so to speak. So, I’ll continue on as I have with the single exception of mentioning that a guitar is for sale in a post. You’ll have to go to the “For Sale” page for that. I won’t be posting guitars for sale all over the home page and putting links to the ads in the posts. They will remain as uncommercial as they have been in the past. Thank you all for reading. Without an audience, I’m just typing words on a page.