Guitar Boom Part 2: The ’66 ES-335


Here's a 66 with very rounded Mickey Mouse )almost ears. One of the big variables in 66 is the shape of the ears. Compare these to the one at the bottom which has what some call "fox" ears

OK, so Gibson made some big changes necessitated by the huge runup in guitar sales that occurred in early 64. Interestingly, these changes are largely responsible for the end of what we call “The Golden Era”. How do you otherwise explain the fact that a December 1964 ES-335 will cost you somewhere between $10,000 and $20,000 and a January 66, made just 13 months later will cost between $3000 and $5000? I’m purposely skipping 65 because the transition makes it impossible to generalize. What I mean is a big neck 65 with nickel parts is worth more than a big neck with chrome which is worth more than a skinny neck and so on. The 66’s are mostly the same both in features and value. Back to the question at hand. Let’s take a close look at the 66 ES-335. The biggest change is the neck profile. It’s a full 1/8″ narrower at the nut-and that’s a lot- and the profile is quite a bit shallower. It is still round rather than flat – the laws of geometry tell us that even with a depth equal to the depth of, say, a 62. it will feel more rounded because the neck is narrower. The other big change is the trapeze tailpiece replacing the stoptail. There were other changes worth noting: The fingerboard changed from Brazilian to Indian rosewood, the pickups, while still pre T-tops (and I know I’ll get an argument from someone) were the later type with poly coated wire. Tuners are double line Kluson rather than single and the truss rod cover has a narrow bevel. That seems like a lot but is it enough to justify the huge price discrepancy. There were some big changes by ’68 too but they aren’t really worth much (if any) less than a 66. Let’s look at what’s good about a 66 and why it’s a relative bargain. I don’t believe the trapeze really affects tone much and I don’t believe it affects sustain that much either. It looks kind of wrong and that isn’t inconsequential. The pickups and the construction of the guitar are more important in that regard and those things didn’t change much. The pickups are generally considered to be very good but not as “good” as the earlier ones which were identical to later PAFs. I agree with that assessment but they can still sound truly great. The only thing that changed, besides the covers, is the wire they wrapped the coil with. It went from enamel coated to poly coated and that changed the tone a bit. I think the big thing is the current trend toward larger necks. In some ways it’s like a “mine’s bigger than yours” thing. You hear folks actually bragging about how big the neck is on their guitars (“It’s a freakin’ baseball bat, dude”). That’s just sophomoric silliness. In other ways, it goes to playability. I like a wider nut on my guitars. The depth of the neck is of lesser importance to me but the extra space for “cowboy” chords is really appreciated. However, if you have no problem with the narrower nut-and Fender players probably have less of a problem than Gibson players, then the 66 is an awesome choice for a first foray into vintage. If you can’t play the narrow nut, then, by all means, don’t buy a 66. Most players will get used to it fairly quickly and if it was the only way I could get myself a vintage 335, then I would try to adapt. In fact, the first one I bought when I returned to the vintage fold in the 90’s was a 66 ES-345. I didn’t want to spend too much and I loved the guitar. It led me back to all this (blog, business and collection) and it was an excellent and not too expensive starting point. If you really hate the trapeze, look for one that’s been converted to a stop-especially one where they put the stop in the right place. It will diminish the collector value, to be sure, but it will look cooler and that’s worth something, isn’t it?

The ears on this one are short and pointy. There's a third type in 66 and a 4th.


4 Responses to “Guitar Boom Part 2: The ’66 ES-335”

  1. Murray says:


    Love your blog and the photos, but especially your humorous take on things. I read it whenever I can, since I own a vintage.

    I own a Gibson ES 335 TD, which I am pretty sure is a ’68. I bought it from Palomba Music in the Bronx in 1969 for $300! It was a lot of cash for a young kid then, but I’m sure it has appreciated. I’m one of those “old cool guys” who loves his ax…LOL

    I would love to send you some pix for your idea of what it is worth and to confirm the year.

    Once again, keep writing the blog I really enjoy it.



  2. OK Guitars says:

    Thanks for reading. Send a few photos to me at and I’ll pinpoint the year for you. Include the serial number-not that it means much during the era.

  3. moxie50 says:

    Thanks for highlighting the ’66, I now have read every post, even the ones before I discovered you, and mine is without a doubt a “66. I’m the guy with the really long emails, got mine back after 38 years. Just last week jammed with a group of guys that get togeter and play Beatles songs, first time playing with others since 1969, great fun, skinny neck or no!

  4. OK Guitars says:

    Playing Beatles songs is my main passion. I probably know George’s part for at least 80% of them by now. I do a mean “Hey Bulldog” break and a pretty good “I Feel Fine”. But I don’t have a Country Gent (and won’t).

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