The Apple and the Orange

The Allman back at my house a couple of years ago before its fret job and Varitonectomy and before it went to Canada. .

I got an email this morning asking me to compare a guitar for sale at a local music store and one that I have listed both on Ebay and Gbase. The guitar in question is the 59 ES-345 that I mentioned a couple of posts ago and the guitar I’m being asked to compare it to is one that I used to own (coincidentally) that has been known around the collectors universe as “The Allman”. Supposedly, according to an old friend of the late Duane, the guitar was loaned to him at some point during the 70’s. Not really relevant here since we aren’t really discussing provenance. The guitars are comparably priced (more or less-one is $13.9K and the other is $15.6K) but really are very different, hence the title “The Apple and the Orange”. I’ll call the one in Canada (“The Allman”) The Apple and I’ll call the one I have for sale The Orange. The Apple is the more expensive just so you know. The Apple has been modified-it has been Grovered, which requires enlarging the shaft holes and usually requires six additional little holes in the back of headstock. The Apple has been refretted and had its Varitone circuitry removed and has been converted to mono.. The Varitone ring is, as is normal for a late 59, gold. Other than that it’s a solid 8.0 condition 345. I should note that it has double white PAFs with unoriginal covers. The PAFs may have been rewired but probably not rewound. There are little notches cut out of the back of the pickup where the wire goes in. Finally, The Apple is a very late 59 and has a very 60ish neck profile. That is, in fact, why I sold it. The Orange is also a solid 8.0 condition 1959 ES-345. It has its original frets, its original tuners and no additional holes. The pickups are a zebra and a double black. The covers have been removed from the pickups but I can’t tell if they are original or not. The Varitone ring is black and the neck is the typical fat 59 profile. The Orange has also had its Varitone circuit removed and been converted to mono (335 wiring). It is very difficult to compare these 2 guitars, especially from a price standpoint. A lot depends on personal preference. For most buyers, however, there are some clear signs. Extra holes in a vintage guitar have NO effect on the tone or the playability but they wreak havoc on the collectibility. Back at the peak of the market, the differential between a guitar with extra holes in it and one that’s never been modded could reach 5 figures. Granted, when the holes are tuner holes, the differential is less than if someone put a coil tap between the volume controls or if there are Bigsby holes in the butt end and the top. So, from the standpoint of the husk, The Orange is the more valuable guitar. No one would dispute that. But, when you look at the components, you may think otherwise. At the market top, a pair of uncovered DW PAF’s could fetch $8,000 while a pair of covered blacks would fetch $4,000. Zebras are usually more or less the equal of DWs. So, there’s a differential there. One has Grovers which on their own don’t have a lot of collector value while the other has original 59 Klusons which can go for $500 or more. These are tangible differences that can be easily quantified. Here’s where it gets really tricky: The neck profile. If you want a 59 because it has that big fat neck, there is no comparison. You don’t go out and buy a guitar for this much money if the neck profile isn’t what you want. Period. In fact, if you’re OK with a 60’s slimmer profile, why pay the premium for a 59 when you can find a 60-62 PAF equipped 345 for a lot less than either guitar. This doesn’t take into consideration the bozos who still think they can get $17,000 for a ’62 ES-345 with a coil tap hole. Don’t get me wrong, I love double white PAFs but I also love the big neck on a 59. I can always buy a pair of white PAFs but I can’t make the neck of that guitar any larger and I can’t make the extra holes in the headstock go away. My opinion? The first and most important element in an investment grade vintage guitar is originality. The first and most important element in a player grade guitar is tone and playability. A DW PAF sounds the same as a black one but a fat neck doesn’t feel like a skinny one. If you’re a collector, you buy the one with no holes. If you’re a player, you buy the one that sounds good to you and feels good to you. The only other issue is what is the Duane Allman connection worth? To me, unless there’s a picture of him playing it, nothing.

The Orange. You can call it whatever you want.

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