Archive for February, 2013

Gravity: Threat or Menace?

Monday, February 25th, 2013


Funny. It also applies to guitars and it's not usually that funny.

A favorite T-shirt among 80’s geeks was “Gravity: it’s not just a good idea, it’s the Law.” Funny. But gravity can wreak havoc on a guitar that sits under the bed for too long. You know that bookshelf you had in your college dorm room that you built out of cinder blocks and plywood? Do you remember what it looked like after four (or five) years of college. Yep. It sagged in the middle. Wood is not a stable substance. It has all kinds of imperfections that make it a less than ideal foil for constant forces like gravity. I inspected close to 100 vintage 335s, 345s and 355s in the past year and what struck me more than anything else was the number of them that had neck issues. Most of them weren’t major but all of them needed attention. A little tweak to the truss rod is to be expected in any guitar that has sat unplayed for any length of time but sometimes its more than that. The typical resting place for a “forgotten” guitar is under a bed, lying on its back. If it’s strung to pitch it will have two sets of forces working on it. The strings will try to pull the ends of the neck upward, while gravity pulls everything downward. If the upward force of the strings “wins”, you end up with a bow and a usually easy fix. That’s what the truss rod is for. If the guitar is not tuned to pitch or if the strings are missing and it lies on its back for years on end-decades, even-then you’re looking at some potential trouble. Gravity pulls the neck downward except where it sits in the neck rest. Result? A back bow or a hump at the fret where the neck rested-usually around the 9th. If the truss was already tightened when the guitar was put away, you may be able to adjust some of it out. If the truss was loose, you have a problem that the truss won’t fix. All is not lost. There are other remedies. A well known luthier/repair guru told me “you don’t play the fingerboard, you play the frets.” A fret level may take care of the problem entirely. It very often does and is neither invasive nor expensive. A moderate back bow will require other measures. A fret job-what they call a “compression refret”  can remedy this. It’s kind of technical, so I’m not going to go into a detailed explanation. A good luthier will know if that alone will cure what ails your guitar. If he says it won’t, then the next remedy is often planing the fingerboard to compensate for gravity’s wrath. Nobody wants to start taking wood away from their precious Brazilian board nor do they want to thin out the markers or the neck binding but that’s the collateral damage. There are luthiers who are adept at steaming or heating a neck to remove a bow or twist but it can be dicey. Wood is pretty forgiving but its also fickle. If you reshape the neck by heating, there is no guarantee its going to stay reshaped. I had some neck work done on a favorite acoustic of mine and it took a full year before the repair was deemed stable enough. They kept heating and the neck kept moving back to it’s distorted posture. The larger point is that you need to inspect the neck carefully before you buy. Most sellers don’t really know what to look for so when  you ask them if the neck is straight, you get the exact same answer every time. Yes. No one is going to say “Oh, yeah, the neck has a rise at the ninth fret and a back bow all the way to the nut.” ES-335s are no worse than any other set neck guitar-in fact they are generally pretty good. The 60-62 “wide flat” necks are prone to bows and twists because there just isn’t much wood there-less wood equals less stability. Remember those shelves? If you had made them thicker they would have sagged less. All 335’s that sit in a case for a long time are prone to the rise where the neck sits on the neck rest and all of them are prone to the rise that occurs where the neck meets the body which I wrote about some months ago. Most are caused by gravity and time. A neck problem is rarely a deal breaker but it is a serious consideration when negotiating a price. Decide with your hands and your ears. Sighting down the neck might show you a hump or a dip but if the guitar plays well, chances are someone has already compensated for it, probably with a fret level. If it doesn’t play well, you can walk away or you can use your approval period (if you can get one) to take it to your local luthier for an expert opinion. Show the seller what you see and then start negotiating. UPDATE: The question as to how to counter the forces of gravity has been posed. The answer is you can’t but I would suggest that, if you don’t play your guitars often, to store them upright. I lean mine against a wall in a closet (in their cases). I would say that storing them flat on their backs under a bed is perhaps the worst choice. I leave mine tuned to pitch but then I don’t ever leave a guitar unplayed for more than a few weeks.

The guitar closet at my house. This is pretty much the whole collection. You can see a few 335s and 345s in their cases, the Taylor 12 string and my tweed Tremolux (with a custom 2-10" baffle)and "El Grande"-a 54 Supro Spectator.


All the Screws That’s Fit

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Starting at the top left-pickup height adjustment (4), pickup pole screws (12), bridge pickup ring (4), neck pickup ring (4), bobbin (8). Lower row starting at left: pickguard (2), truss cover (2) and tuner (12)

The real 335 geeks (like me) get all obsessive over the small details. when I get a “new” guitar, the first thing I do -if only for a minute or two-is play it. Then I take it apart. I pay a lot of attention to the screws because they can tell you a lot. If any of them are not right, then you know that someone has been in there. You just don’t know to what extent. Screws don’t get changed by themselves and the factory was relatively consistent in the type of screws they used for each function that requires them. Let’s take a quick inventory of all the screws and then I’ll describe each one and talk about whatever variation there is. There are two pickguard screws-both phillips, both countersunk oval head and both the same size. They are nickel plated on a 335 and gold plated on a 345 and 355. This will be true of all the screws on the guitars except for the pickup surround screws and the pickup bobbin screws. There are eight pickup surround screws-4 short and 4 long. They are flathead wood screws and are almost always phillips and are always black. Occasionally, especially in 1958 and 1959, the neck pickup will have slotted screws. The bridge pickup will have long screws on all four corners and the neck pickup should have short screws on all four corners. These screws tend to strip out fairly easily so it isn’t unusual to find a couple of long screws in the neck pickup. I don’t think Gibson put them there, however. There are two screws in the truss rod cover. They are round head, phillips  wood screws and are the same length. There are 12 tuner screws-all the same round head wood screws but there seems to be some variation in the screw type. From 58-65, they appear to all be phillips round head although slotted screws show up on earlier Gibsons. My 53 J-200 has slotted tuner screws. They are almost always threaded all the way to the head but I keep seeing tuner screws that have a section of the shaft non threaded. I believe Gibson used both.  There are two height adjustment screws in each pickup ring and they are round head machine screws that are threaded from head to end. They, of course, each have a spring and they are threaded into the bottom plate of the pickup. Next, there are the six pickup pole screws on one of the bobbins for each pickup. These are slotted fillister head machine screws. A fillister head is a screw head with flat sides and a slightly rounded top. They are nickel plated on 335s up until 1965 when they switched to chrome. Generally, if the pickup has a chrome cover, the pole screws will be chrome plated. I have seen nickel screws in a chrome plated pickup cover but never the reverse. Flip the pickups over and you’ll find four round head nickel or brass phillips screws on each, holding the bobbins in place. The earlier PAFs have nickel, later brass. You start finding slot heads in the mid to late 60’s and these usually indicate T-top pickups. If you find slot heads on a 65 or earlier, I would question the pickup. Finally, each strap button has a screw holding it in place. These are countersunk oval head phillips wood screws and are usually the same size. The screw that holds the strap button at the butt end is sometimes slightly longer than the one at the base of the neck. If the screws on your 335, 345 or 355 don’t correspond to what I’ve found, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Nobody deducts much value for a wrong screw and most folks don’t ever check. Besides, correct screws are available from all the usual sources.

And two more I forgot in the other photo. The strap button screws. They should be the same although, I've seen a longer one at the butt end.

More Ebay Follies

Monday, February 18th, 2013

A beauty right?. Sometimes, however, you have to look a little closer and call on your inner Sherlock Holmes. A little simple deductive reasoning goes a long way. Read on.

I used to to moan about poorly described-or misdescribed ES models on Ebay a lot. I thought I was performing a public service of sorts. You know, keep the nice folks from buying some piece of crap being sold as something it isn’t. Noble, right? Well, I don’t do it much any more because it was driving me a little nuts. As a dealer, I take a lot of pride in the accuracy (and completeness) of my descriptions. When I see another dealer miss the boat on a listing, it kind of bugs me. Individual sellers? Not so much-they aren’t expected to be experts and caveat emptor certainly applies. Anybody who buys a guitar sight unseen from an individual seller is taking a gamble-I do it all the time (so you don’t have to). But when a dealer gets it wrong-even if he offers you a return period, it rankles. I’m not talking about stuff that’s overpriced-there’s plenty of that and people asking “ambitious” prices is common and expected. Dealers too. It’s pretty easy to research the going rates for any vintage guitar. But, unless you’ve owned a lot of these or you memorize everything I’ve written, there are some small “tells” that you just might not notice. I don’t even notice them at first glance. Take the guitar in the photo up top. It looks stunning and I was interested right off the bat. I read through the description and was disappointed (especially at that price) to see that it had suffered a headstock crack and was repaired. The smart buyer takes that into consideration and moves on, which is what I did. But I went back this morning to look more closely just to see how good (or bad) the repair was. I buy “player” grade guitars all the time and maybe I could make a deal. Everything looked really excellent until I got to the photo of the headstock. The logo is very wrong. No dot in the “i” and the script looks wrong as well. The texture of the holly headstock doesn’t seem right either. Did the repair include a “new” headstock overlay? It doesn’t look like a reneck from what I can see at the tenon. Maybe it’s just a poor repaint of the face of the headstock. I can’t tell from the photos but I can tell that something isn’t right. At $15K, that should be disclosed. They do state that 

If I didn’t tell you, you’d never know.

Maybe not…if you’re blind. It’s not my intention to make the dealer look bad. It is, however, my intention to get them to pay more attention to the small details that make the difference between getting a great guitar at a fair price and getting a three legged dog for the same price. I miss stuff all the time when I’m in buying mode – remember the blonde ES-355 that turned out to have been renecked? I’m still kicking myself for that. When you’re buying from the widows and orphans, it’s not really fair to ask them to pull the pickups and evaluate the truss rod. But when you’re buying from a dealer, they are supposed to have done all the homework for you. Finally, if I list a guitar and you-as a dealer or an individual, see something I’ve missed, tell me. It will save me a lot of aggravation in the long run and I’ll respect you in the morning. Really.

This is the face of the headstock of the guitar at the top. What's wrong with this picture? I see at least 2 and maybe 3 things that tell me something is amiss.


Epiphany Part III

Friday, February 15th, 2013

They called this "sunburst" Royal Tan. It looks to me like they were trying to use up the old red dye that they discontinued because it faded. There's that awful Trem-o-Tone. The distance from the bridge to the tailpiece is too far causing the break angle to be really shallow. Go ahead, use it. I dare ya. This beauty belongs to my most loyal reader Roger B. who also has a stoptail 63 ES-355 that I covet badly.

There’s more to the Epiphone line than just the high end Sheraton. The E-360TD, better known as the Riviera was, essentially an ES-335 with different pickups. My very first semi-hollow guitar was an Epiphone Riviera. Actually, it wasn’t even mine, it belonged to my band’s bass player but I played it at every gig for at least a year. I’m pretty sure it was a 66-the neck was pretty slim and it had the standard trapeze tailpiece – not the earlier “frequensator”.  Gibson, once it acquired Epiphone in 1957, wanted to keep the Epiphone line somewhat distinct so as not compete with themselves, so, to distinguish the Riviera from the ES-335, they used the smaller mini humbuckers. There are also a lot of variations because it was Gibson’s intention to use up all the Epiphone parts and then continue to build the guitars using their own parts. So, you see frequensators in the early days and you might even see oval fret markers. Early on, the fret markers were changed to little parallelograms and they remained until Gibson shipped Epiphone production Asia and changed the line completely. They must have had a lot frequensator tailpieces tailpieces lying around because you see them well into the mid to late 60’s even though standard chrome Gibson trapezes show up with some regularity as well.  The finishes on the early ones were different as well. The sunburst in the early examples was a kind of faded red to yellow called “Royal Tan”. Red wasn’t available until 66. The more usual sunburst showed up around that time as well. Sometime around mid 64, I think, the headstock changed from the Gibson-like “short” version to the much reviled “long” version. It is kind of ugly and kind of dumb. The long headstock Riviera wouldn’t fit in the standard 335 case, so longer cases had to be added to accommodate it. Oops. Tuners were usually metal button Klusons, first in nickel and later chrome. Knobs and bridges were Gibson parts and followed approximately the same timeline for changes. The pickguard was distinctly different from the 335s and sported the “slash C” or “e” logo that remians on Epiphones today. The Riviera was available with the mostly useless “Trem-o-tone” tailpiece which has a very shallow break angle and a justifiable reputation for not staying in tune. It works better on the solid body Epis but not much. Of course, the mini humbuckers were there from the beginning-I’ve never seen NY pickups on a Riviera probably because they were used up before the line was introduced as a 62 model in late 61. Mini humbuckers can be really great pickups-I think they get maligned sometimes and I’ve found them to be pretty decent.  Body construction is identical to a 335 with the centerblock and laminate construction. Like a 335, the early ones have a solid maple block while the later ones have a notch cut to make installation of the wiring harness less of an effort. So, why are they so much cheaper than a comparable year ES-335? I think the biggest reason is the pickups. Given a choice of ’62’s, pretty much everyone would take the Gibson with PAFs and a stoptail. No stops available on Epiphones. But, once you hit ’65, the argument becomes a lot less compelling, while the price difference remains. You can find no issue mid to late 60’s Rivieras well under $4K. With an issue or two, you can be down in the $2500 range. That’s a lot of guitar for a reasonable price. You have to be able to deal with the narrow nut-just like you do on a mid 60’s 335 but an extra grand or two in your pocket might make that easier.

This looks like a 66 and its missing it's distinctive pickguard logo. I kind of like it in red (what a surprise). They must have had a lot of frequensators left over from the NY Epi era. Note also that the ears changed from rounded to pointy just like 335s.

Here's the same Riviera that's up top with the Trem-o-Tone removed and a frequensator added. Big improvement visually and, according Roger, the owner, big improvement in tone.

Epiphany Part II

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

These aren't mini humbuckers. They are single coils and they don't sound like P90s. Maybe a little like 50's DeArmonds. They are long on midrange and have decent highs. The lows are mellow. They call them NY pickups because they were from the NY era at Epiphone. Not for the metalhead.

What the heck does this guitar sound like? I’ve been playing for the past 90 minutes and it just keeps surprising me. Many of you know what a huge Beatles fan I am, so when I sit down to put a guitar through its paces, I often play Beatles tunes. You can get close on a 335 to certain Beatles tones-like Paperback Writer (done on a SG) and quite a number of “middle” Beatles (Pre Sgt. Pepper). But you can’t often nail it. Granted, some of that has to do with the amp and I don’t have a Vox but I was playing “I Feel Fine” on the Sheraton and, whaddya know, it was spot on. You need punchy mids and not a lot of anything else to get that tone. This guitar has punchy mids. I tried “You Never Give Me Your Money”-the guitar solo and the highs just weren’t there. I tried “The Night Before” and nailed it again. Mids again (and some reverb). The little descending riff in “Help” sounded pretty darn close too. I’m not an expert on what song was played on which guitar but I’m starting to think this guitar is sorta kinda Gretsch-like. I know, a Gent is full hollow and has humbuckers. I can tell you this much-it doesn’t sound like a 335. It airier, if that’s a word. It’s definitely more acoustic sound probably as a result of the “frequensator”.  It can mimic a Casino, in some ways. I think it’s one part the single coils and perhaps two parts the trapeze tailpiece that gives it a somewhat similar tone but these pickups don’t really sound that much like P90’s unless you count the hum. Closer to a single coil DeArmond like Guild and Gretsch both used in the late 50’s. The neck pickup is very mellow sounding-probably good for jazz if I knew how to play it. The Sheraton really shines in the middle position and the bridge pickup position. But there is another element that has just blown me away. I generally play a 64 335 because of the neck. It’s not too big and not too small. You know the rest. I don’t play 59’s because there is just too much neck for my little hands and, while I don’t mind the wide flat neck of a 60-62, it isn’t my favorite. The neck on this Sheraton is not like any Gibson neck. I’ve played all the Gibson hollow bodies, all the solids and a zillion semis and there is plenty of range in the neck carves but none of them have a vee profile that I’ve found. OK, some early acoustics have it. My little 57 Fender DuoSonic has a vee neck and I really like playing it. I’ve played a couple of 50’s Teles and Strats with a big vee and this neck is pretty close if memory serves. It’s kind of rounded at the lower frets but the vee becomes more and more evident as you move toward the 12th fret. Very comfortable to play even with my small hands. The neck profile is worth the price of admission here. By late 1961, the 5 piece vee neck was gone from the Sheraton and the wide flat one piece Gibson neck was in its place. That means there were less than 100 Sheratons made with this neck. While they are hard to find and not inexpensive when you do find one, an early Sheraton is a treat. Not terribly versatile but how many of you own only one guitar that does it all. Next, I’ll talk about the other Epiphone semi-the Riviera.

Epiphany, Part 1

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

1959 Epiphone Sheraton just arrived and is a very, very cool guitar. Perhaps a little more dignified than you deserve. Sounds great. Plays great. Class ax.

When I was 13 or so, I really got into guitars. It was 1965 and local bands had gotten to be a very big thing. I, of course, was in one and we looked up to the high school kids with their “professional” guitars and big Fender amps. There was a pretty decent variety of guitars among the locals-mostly Jazzmasters and Strats. Harmonys were big with the younger kids and Gibsons were nowhere to be seen because they were just too expensive. One local player had a red Epiphone Crestwood-probably a 62 with the symmetrical cutaways and that guitar really appealed to me. It still does, perhaps for it’s unusual perfect symmetry (like another guitar I kind of like) or maybe because nobody else had one. Later, I had borrowed an Epi Wilshire from a friend and I recall my oldest brother Ben looking at the headstock and calling it an “Epiphany”. I didn’t know what it meant and he told me to go look it up, so I did: epiph·a·ny , i-ˈpi-fə-nē: 1) : a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential  nature or meaning of something (2) : an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking (3) : an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure. OK, I didn’t think it quite fit at the time but now, 47 years later, I kind of do. The Sheraton I picked up today was a bit of an epiphany.  The Epiphone Company has a long and interesting history but that’s for another day. The era that I’m really interested in is the period from 1958, when Gibson acquired the defunct company through 1968 when they gave the name to their Asian import line. Epiphone was known mainly for their big hollow body jazz boxes and their upright basses. They never had a thinline semi in their line. It was only Gibson acquired Epiphone that the top of the line Sheraton and, much later,  the very 335 like Riviera came into being.

"I'll be back..." Oh, sorry, it's The Frequensator, not the Terminator.

Epiphone wasn’t seen as a lowline Gibson by the folks who were running the company at the beginning of Gibson’s stewardship. The early Kalamazoo Epiphones were excellent guitars and are still held in high regard. The solids have a, well, solid reputation. The semis take a bit of a back seat to the Gibsons mainly because of the pickups. But we’ll get to that. Today, I acquired a 59 Sheraton. There are only 46 of them which explains why you don’t see them very often. It’s closest to a mono 355 and yet it isn’t. The 355 is a bit of a “lady in red” or, to put it more simply, “a ten dollar floozy”. It’s a bit too tarted up in its red finish and ebony board and 7 ply bindings. It’s got a little too much bling and not enough class. Where the 355 is a bit of a streetwalker, the Sheraton is more like the ladies on “Downton Abbey”. Perhaps not the sexiest bunch but certainly the most elegant. The Sheraton is a very classy guitar. The two piece inlays are multi-hued abalone over mother of pearl. The neck is a five piece laminate. The smaller pickups are a more subtle kind of bling as opposed to the full size gold plated humbuckers on the 355. No Big ol’ Bigsby on this Sheraton. It has an elegantly understated trapeze with the unfortunate name,  “The Frequensator”. This Sheraton is a rare 59, one of only 46 made. It has the single coil “New York” pickups, leftovers from the Epi factory and the “New York” neck. Most 59’s I’ve seen have “carousel” knobs which look, not surprisingly, like a carousel tent. This one has reflectors which would make it a late 59 (or they were changed). The neck profile is Vee shaped and it’s huge. Bigger than a 59 335 and with an entirely different feel-more like a giant Telecaster or Strat from the vee era (56-57). The trapeze tailpiece makes it a bit more acoustic sounding and the pickups are a bit more mellow than the usual PAF you would find on the Gibsons of the era. I love this guitar. It plays wonderfully and has a beautiful harmonics. It is not as versatile as a humbucker equipped 335 but it makes some noises that even a 335 can’t make. The body shape is Mickey Mouse ear Gibson all the way but the body depth is noticeably thinner-like a 58-59 335. Crank it up and it will shout the blues and dial it back and it will be your jazzer (well, not the way I play). It won’t play surf. It won’t do rock and roll the way a 335 will. It just isn’t nasty enough. But then, neither are the ladies on “Downton Abbey.”


Check out these gorgeous inlays. No cheap plastic here. The colors are much more vibrant in real life.

Drivin’ That Train

Friday, February 8th, 2013


Well, ya can't tell by looking but these pickups are out of magnetic phase. Gibson did this on purpose in all their stereo guitars. Did anybody ever play this one?

I’m not an engineer but as long as I’m driving this train, I’ll take a stab at some scientific stuff that is pretty well misunderstood. The issue is out of phase pickups-particularly on stereo guitars like 345s and stereo 355s. I’ll try to keep this simple which shouldn’t be hard because I really don’t totally understand the science anyway. There are two kinds of phase to consider-electronic and magnetic. When two sound producing elements feeding the same source (amp) are out of phase, the result is subtractive rather than additive. Simpler? Instead of hearing the sum of the signal, you hear the difference. That means the parts of the two signals that are alike will cancel each other out. That’s why when your pickups are out of phase, only the middle position is affected. The individual pickups, working alone, have no phase issue because there aren’t two sources. Simple, right? Same goes for speakers in an amp with more than one speaker. If they are out of phase, one speaker is pulsing outward while the other in pulsing inward. The result is less than the sum of the parts (because it isn’t). But it gets more complicated with pickups because there are two different types of phase to consider. Magnetic phase and electronic phase. As with speakers, if you solder one speaker correctly but you solder the ground wire to the “hot” terminal on the other (and the hot wire to the ground terminal), your speakers will be out of phase. With vintage pickups, it’s a little harder to do because the ground wire is the braid and the hot wire is the strand. I learned about electronic phase from my years in video. If an audio cable from one channel was out of phase with the wire from another and the same signal was present on both channels, the sound would be thin and reedy with pots channels open but full with only one open. But electronic phase isn’t really the usual problem with a stereo guitar. The problem here is the magnets. Gibson intentionally configured the magnets to be out of phase, although I’m not entirely certain why (help me out here, anybody). Inside a humbucker pickup, there are two coils wired in phase with each other sitting above a magnet. This means that the one coil sits on the magnets South pole and the other coil is sitting on its North Pole. Normally, the magnets of both pickups are going in the same direction-each has the “north” pole going in the same direction. In a 345 or stereo 355, one magnet is north pole over the slug coil  and the other is south pole over the slug coil. This is why simply turning the pickup around by 180 degrees doesn’t work. You would have to turn it upside down. With a stereo output the pickups would be going to separate channels so even if both pickups are active, the don’t “sum” because they aren’t being processed by the same amp (or channel). When you use a mixdown cable or simple swap out the jack for a mono one, you get the difference which is that thin reedy tone that some folks like (Peter Green was famous for this). You can’t fix this with the wires or the pickup positions, you have to physically remove one magnet and flip it over top to bottom, like a pancake and reinsert it. This requires removing a cover which is never advised. It doesn’t matter which pickup because phase is relative (both can be south pole up or north pole up). I read a post on a guitar forum that said that a player got around the phase issue using a Fender blackface amp using both channels. He stated that since the two channels are out of phase-which they are-that the out of phase pickup problem was rectified. UPDATED: I didn’t think that would work but I was told that it actually does but it doesn’t address the larger problem which is folks who want their 345 to be mono and in phase and feeding a single input.  I still suggest that a 345 is at its best when using its stereo circuit. Wanna take out the Varitone? Go ahead but there are lot of cool things you can do with a stereo guitar, especially if you’re into pedals.

Here are a couple of PAF magnets. The N pole has been marked. Here, the N poles are facing the same way, so if these were in the pickups, the pickups would be in phase. Also note that the magnets stick together because the S pole of one is adjacent to the N pole of the other. Opposites attract. I f your magnets aren't marked (and they won't be) that's how you tell if they are in phase. It doesn't matter which end is N or S only that they are pointing in the same direction to be in phase.


Monday, February 4th, 2013

This guitar (with its crappy photos) sold for $13,100 or so. It's major issue was player wear and the need for a refret. Not a bad deal for an original stoptail 64 on Ebay. It was listed as a 63.

Just when I think I begin to understand the vintage guitar buyer, something happens that completely baffles me. This week, it happened more than once. The first odd thing was the apparent sale of a “near mint” 64 ES-335 on Ebay for $28000. I could see a dead mint 64 going that high-after all, how many can there be? But a near mint one should be under $20K. 1 percenters with more money than brains? Could be. Or perhaps it didn’t really sell for that amount and the original amount shows up in the Ebay completed listing. I dunno, just seems a lot of money for a 64. That’s not the one that completely baffles me, however. I get the idea that a 100% guitar in extraordinary condition can command a premium. What I don’t get is a guitar that was listed on Gbase for weeks and weeks and weeks at around $6000 with a lot of missing finish at the neck join, two filled holes by the bridge posts, a Nashville bridge and the wrong (chrome) pickup covers. There were no photos of the backs of the pickups, so there was no way to know if they are the original patent numbers or set of chrome covered t-tops. The fact that the wires were cut and spliced doesn’t bode well. If the previous owner just changed the covers as the listing says, then there was no reason to cut and splice the wires. Just sayin’. So, the guitar sells for $12,400 or so. Interestingly, a 64 (listed a 63) sells for a little over $13K with none of the issues of the one I just described. The only issue with the $13000 one was player wear and perhaps the need for a refret. There is no comparison. The $13000 was a good enough deal that I bid it to $12,500. I bid on the other guitar as well but only up to what I though it was worth which was $5800. I had the opportunity to buy it a month ago for $6000 and change and I turned it down because of the issues. Had I known some sucker would pay $12400 for it, I might have reconsidered. But I’m not looking for suckers. I probably would have priced the guitar at that price point after I had made sure the correct pickups were on it (which could cost $2000 for a pair of nickel patent numbers) and a correct wire ABR-1. Now, the buyer gets to take his chances. This is why I don’t buy a lot of guitars off of Ebay. My experience has been that 75% of the time, something isn’t right. Sometimes, it’s little like a changed bridge or an extra ground wire in the harness. Other times it’s an undisclosed repair or crack or changed pickups or something else you just can’t see in the photos. If you’re the guy that just spent $12,400 for that 63 form the UK, I suggest you carefully inspect those pickups and make sure they are correct. I also suggest you take a look at the neck pickup cavity to make sure the neck isn’t going to fall off (or has been replaced). That, to me, was a scary guitar. It should have scared you a little too.

This one, with its very professional photos sold for $700 less. It has a moved bridge the wrong bridge, the wrong pickup covers and possibly changed pickups. As if that wasn't enough, it had some scary finish damage at the heel.