The Power of the Sticker

This 1964 ES-345 has a secret.

I recently was offered a very, very nice stop tail 1964 ES-345 as a partial trade for my favorite 64 ES-335. This appeared to be a no issue guitar and, since I love the 64 neck, seemed right up my alley. There aren’t very many 64 345s and even fewer stop tails. They just don’t come up that often. But there was a dilemma that had no easy solution. The stickers were missing from the pickups. We can be reasonably assured that they weren’t PAFs since by 64, only the big hollowbody gold hardware guitars had the occasional PAF (see..Myths). The solder from the pickups to the 3 way (not the pots on a stereo 345) was virgin to my eye but the wiring to the pots and jack was questionable. So, was it possible that whoever had this guitar in the past had pulled the original pickups and was deceptive enough to replace the 3 way with a vintage switch making the solder look virgin going to the 3 way. BTW, there are folks who can solder so well that guys like me (and you, I’ll bet) can’t tell the difference. I, unfortunately, am a bit of a klutz with the heat. Anyway, the pickups were sealed and I didn’t want to open them up if I didn’t have to. Tell me, is an early 60’s pickup without a sticker a short magnet PAF or a Patent number? Interesting dilemma since the pickups are 100% identical.  If only the sticker distinguishes them what can we make of one without a sticker?  So, I was back to what is under those covers. If we can assume the pickups were original-which the previous owner insists they are, then they are, for all intents and purposes, PAFs. In 64, the pickup should be a short magnet, purple winding, double black lead PAF style bobbin pickup. If it wasn’t original it could be anything from a fake to a T-top, to a later patent number. Upon closer inspection I was becoming more and more skeptical. I had heard of plenty of guitars that didn’t have their stickers-355s are notorious for this during the transition from PAF to patent number. There is, I might add, no sign that a label had ever been present on these pickups. So, what to do? If there had been absolutely no sign that anyone had ever done any

No sign of any sticker anywhere. "L" marks on the feet. Everything looks straight but is it?

work on the guitar, I might have left them alone-a virgin harness is good enough for me to prove that the pickups are legit. But there were signs that perhaps the jack had been changed, so I asked the current owner (who actually wasn’t even the owner yet as he was involved in another trade to get this 345) if I could pull one of the covers. Why only one? The wear pattern on both covers was identical and the fact they both had no sticker convinced me that they were the same. The owner said to go ahead and open one. I don’t like doing that since it usually devalues the pickup but in this case, it was the only way to ascertain what the pickup was. If it was what I hoped it was, it would actually raise the value. So, I carefully heated the cover near the solder and popped the cover using a thin blade to break the solder before it had completely liquefied. To be honest, I was half expecting a T-top. I just had a bad feeling about this for no good reason. And there it was. The best of all possible outcomes-a double black wire, purple winding pickup. One more time-is it a PAF or a patent number? I think the absence of the PAF sticker defaults it to a patent number but think about it. If you were a buyer and somebody had two identical 345s-one with sealed pickups and no stickers and another with one open pickup and one sealed and no stickers, which one do you buy? I buy the open one because there is no certainty without opening one of them. So, why not buy the sealed one and open one of those? What would you have to lose? You would still wind up with one open pickup with no sticker. Simple. You might end up with an opened T-top (or fake)  instead of an honest to God PAF/Patent #.

It can be hard to tell the red windings from the purple in a flash photo but these are the purple ones-more brown really. The red ones are very coppery looking. Note the double black lead wires. They were changed a year later to one white and one black.

4 Responses to “The Power of the Sticker”

  1. Swisskit says:

    Thank you. I think you may have just solved a mystery for me.

    I was told my ’63 ES-355 was a ‘transition model’ as one pickup had a sticker and the other did not … from your article it sounds like they could well be two PAF’s’

  2. OK Guitars says:

    The point is, of course, that the pickup is the pickup. The sticker is only there to identify it. If it can be accurately identified without the sticker, then it really doesn’t matter which sticker it doesn’t have. It’s kind of like “I’ll have a coffee without cream. Sorry, we’re all out of cream, you’ll have to have it without milk.” The pickup still is, as they say, what it is.

  3. Swisskit says:

    Thanks – in your experience, have you seen many instruments with a mixture of PAF and non-PAF ?

  4. OK Guitars says:

    Plenty of them. It’s common from 62 to 63. It seems intentional in 63 as there are so many. I guess they wanted to get rid of the old stickers. back then people didn’t remove the pickups to check. Nobody cared. Nobody had ever used the term PAF because they were just pickups.

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