Archive for May, 2011

What’s Rare Got to do With it?

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

"The Watermelon" as I called it is the oldest red 345 known. It is one of four known to exist and yet it commanded only a slight premium over the common sunburst 59s

One of the things that seems to drive prices when it comes to collectibles is rarity. In general, rare coins are worth more than common coins. Rare stamps? Same deal. Cracker Jack prizes? Lunch boxes? You bet. Vintage guitars? Uh, no. Not really. Most collectors know that 58-59 and 60 Les Pauls are the most valuable electric guitars on the planet but they are not particularly rare.  There are more 59 ‘bursts than there are 59 335’s. And yet, the ‘burst is worth ten times as much. Rarity between models is pretty much irrelevant. But what happens when you look at rarity within a particular model line? Let’s say a sunburst 59 ES-335 is worth $35,000 for a nice one. They made

How's this for rare? The 1964 Greenburst from Rumble Seat Music's collection. I'm guessing there isn't another like it. I'm also guessing most of us would rather have a blonde one.

some 521 of them and they are rarer than a 59 ‘burst. But, if you’re lucky enough to find a blondie, then it’s going to be worth a lot more. All other things being equal, I would say that a blonde 59 is worth one and a half times as much or around $50,000. But, something else happens when you look at 345s. In 1959, there were 449 sunburst 335s made and 32 blondes. According to Gibson, there were no red ones. There were also no red 59 ES 335’s according to Gibson. I know of four red 59 ES-345s (I owned one of them for a while) and 3 red 59 ES-335s. So, which is worth more…the red ones or the blonde ones?  You would think the red ones but no, it’s the blondes. A blonde 59 ES-345 is a very rare bird and I know of one on the market for $85,000. I will be listing another in the next couple of days (for a lot less). But consider that I listed my red one on Ebay for $25,000 and it got NO bids. Zip. Zilch. Nada. It was almost mint and had a pair of zebra PAFs and still…no bids. Want my theory? Well, even if you don’t, I’m giving it to you. The reason the very rare red 335s and 345s come in so far below the blondes is that over the life of the line, reds are pretty common. Why should I pay $40,000 for a red ’59 when I can get a ’60 for around half that? Over the course of the “Golden Era”, which I consider 59 through early 65 for 345s, there are a little over 1,000 red ones. There are only 50…count’em, 50 blondes. The “Golden Era” for 335s is 58-64 but there are 209 of them. Is a blonde 345 worth more than a blonde 335? It’s 4 times as rare. The answer is no and I’m not sure why. I guess that 335s are more than 4 times as popular as 345s. I’ll take this one step further. I know of 3 sunburst 355s. They don’t command a premium that is commensurate with their rarity but come up with a black one and woo hoo, you’ve hit the jackpot. I don’t know how many black ones there are but I know Keith Richards has one of them and that alone is enough to kick up the price into the stratosphere (not the Stratosphere). Sometimes it’s kind of futile to try to force order into the vintage guitar universe. This is one of those times. Some things just don’t make rational sense and we still have to accept the it’s “just the way it is.”

Here's one of those 50 blondies. This one is a transitional 59 into 60 so it still has most of the 59 features and a 60 serial number. There are only 18 '60's. Check it out in the "For Sale" section. I'm lucky enough to be consigning this one for the owner.

One Year Later

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Actually, I missed my one year anniversary by a couple of weeks but this is as good a time as any to take a look back over the past year and a hundred and sixty something posts. First of all, thanks to the folks who actually take the time to read what I write. Your time spent reading is as valuable as my time spent writing and I appreciate your loyalty and frequent visits. I’m still able to answer every email I get which either says something about how much free time I have or perhaps how few emails I get. I won’t say which. It’s you, the readers who have kept my little guitar business thriving as well. At least half the guitars I get are from readers who had a 335 or 345 in the closet that belonged to a family member. You keep finding them and I’ll keep paying a fair price. Through the magic of Google analytics, I can tell you about how the site has grown since the first post on April 12, 2010. I started using analytics on May 7, 2010 and we had 13 visitors that day. Seven were from New York which may have been me checking on the site. Five visits were from Westport, CT which had to have been me. Finally, there was one visit from Oberlin Ohio. Gee, I have a son who was at college at Oberlin last year. Coincidence? I don’t think so. So, basically I had no visitors outside of the immediate family. Since then, the site has had 28,878 visits from 12,598 different readers in 93 countries. That should tell you a lot about just how far and wide the lovers of 335’s are flung. We are very popular in Thailand and we have a few readers in Iran. I would say we are popular in Serbia but I know that at least a hundred visits out of 134 are from my friend Andreja in Belgrade who, by the way, knows almost as much as I do about these guitars. New York City is home to the largest number of readers with Chicago right behind it. It’s either because there are so many blues players in Chi or the fact that I have 4 brothers and a dozen or so nieces and nephews there. The most visitors in a single day was Wednesday, February 9th 2011 when 215 people showed up. So keep on coming and I’ll keep on coming up with new stuff to write about these great guitars. If I start repeating some things, it’s only because there are only so many parts to write about. I still haven’t written about the players or the way to get some of those great tones the players get. There’s lots more to write about and I never know what I’m going to write about until I sit down to write. There is no master list of topics. I, of course, welcome suggestions and one of these days, I’ll find a broken 335 that I can take apart and analyze from the inside out. That should be fun. If you have one that your ex-wife smashed over something hard (like your head) let me know. We’ll work something out. I did see one at the Philly show last fall that had been beaten repeatedly against a kitchen countertop but it was still playable and the seller wanted 8 grand for it. I don’t think he got it, however. So, not to be any more long winded than usual, I’m going to stop before I hit six hundred words. Again, thanks for reading and coming back again and again. If there’s some aspect of the 335/345/355 you want me to cover, let me know. I’m sure I’ve missed plenty.