Player Grade

What makes this PAF equipped 64 a player at half the price of a collector grade? Gibson replaced the neck with a fat 59 neck in 2006. Certainly not an investment piece but you can play the crap out of it.

It seems that a large percentage of 50’s and 60’s ES-335’s have been modified. I look at a lot of these guitars and pass on a large number of them-usually because the sellers want the same price that the big dealers are asking for a collector grade piece for a player grade piece. There is a “mint” ’63 that’s been listed on Ebay for a long time at $32,995. Seller calls it “high retail”. The seller has the right to ask any price he wants but what makes it difficult is that when Joe Average Guy wants to sell his beloved 335, he researches what to ask for it by, what else, looking at Ebay and Gbase. Most of you who read what I write know that many Ebay sellers and dealers alike are waiting for the sucker. And they wait. And wait. And wait. Meanwhile, the rest of us are trying to buy a nice 335 at a price that doesn’t require a home equity loan. Nearly every “mod” that affects the price of a 335, 345 or 355 doesn’t appreciably affect the tone or playability of that guitar. If you’re buying an investment, buy the one that has no mods and is as original as you can afford. If you just want to play it and maybe break even in the long run, buy a player. There are those who believe that changed tuners (Grovers/Schallers usually) affect tone but I don’t think so. You can always put Klusons back on-they make adaptor bushings that will allow them to fit properly. Extra holes don’t look so great, but they don’t affect the tone or playability. I had a refinished 64 ES-335 with 29 holes in it. 29. It had, at some point, a back pad, an arm rest, two different tailpieces and a repositioned bridge. It played great and it sounded great and it sold for around $6000-not much more than a new Historic. I guarantee that it will be worth at least that going forward. There are plenty of players who believe that a refinish hurts the tone. Not in my experience. Maybe a heavy poly finish would cause a problem but not a proper lacquer finish. Either finish cuts the price in half. Even if the refinish is superior to the original Gibson finish.  A poorly repaired neck break can affect the tone but a properly executed repair should not. It cuts the value in half but may allow you to afford an otherwise bone stock vintage dream guitar. Ask any woodworker-they’ll tell you the glue is stronger than the wood. Then there are the changed parts that don’t require new holes. Changed bridges, knobs, pick guards, harnesses and pickups can all be returned to stock without any more expense than the cost of the parts. When you consider the “gap” between a “player grade” and a “collector grade” 335 can be triple, think about why you want this guitar.  I would also suggest paying more attention to the neck. There is a surprisingly large number of 335’s, 345’s and 355’s that have neck issues especially the thinner 60-63’s. And especially those that have sat unplayed for decades. Nearly all of them can be repaired-in fact I’ve never had one that couldn’t be made totally playable. I believe playability is the most important aspect of any guitar. Tone doesn’t matter, if the guitar doesn’t play well.  A tone monster that frets out isn’t a tone monster. A mint guitar with a back bow isn’t a mint guitar. ASK and, if possible, play it before you buy it or buy it from a dealer with a return policy.

One Response to “Player Grade”

  1. RAB says:

    Right on Charlie, great advice on how to get vintage tone and vibe on the cheap!

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