Early 1960 Dot Necks

This 60 is in the A335xx range and had a very 64 like medium chunky neck-not the wide flat neck we all expect on a 60. A lot of 1960 ES-335s have a "transitional" neck. So do some 59's.

Most Gibsons “suffer” from the “59” phenomenon. Never heard of it? It’s when anything Gibson from 59 gets it’s value jacked up simply because it’s from that magical year that defines the “top” of the “Golden Era”. Too bad I don’t get paid by the quotation mark.  I don’t disagree that 59 is as valid as any year for being the pinnacle of Gibson’s march to greatness, although you could make an argument for 58 what with the introduction of the burst, the V, The Explorer and the 335/355. In any case, the 59 commands a premium and it’s a pretty big one. A 59 stoptail 335 in excellent condition is going to cost you $35K to $40K. You might find one with an issue or two down around $30K but they have become hard to source. Bigsby 59’s are also up there. $25K plus is typical. Of course, there are still the dreamers  on Ebay looking for $35K for a Bigsby 59. As you probably know, Gibson didn’t really have a “model” year like a car does. They made some changes on January 1 but mostly they transitioned in any changes over a period of time. The transition from typical 59 features to typical 60 features took place over a number of months. The first thing to change was the neck profile but it changed in stages. The big fat 59 neck that has become the big selling point didn’t last until December 31, 1959. The necks started getting slimmer, according to what I’ve seen, sometime in the late Fall. Certainly by December a kind of  “medium chunky” transitional neck was in place. I had three December 59’s at the same time not long ago and two of them had medium necks and one had a chunky neck. I’ve had two early 60 ES-335’s recently as well and both had the transitional neck. They also had the other “59” features that everyone seems to want. Both had bonnet knobs and single ring tuners. Both these things are easy to change too, so you never really know whether they left the factory that way. The way I see it is that if it’s an early 60 serial and a medium rather than the flat neck, it isn’t unreasonable for the knobs and tuners to be 59 spec. What is early though? The first serial in 1960 is A32286. I’ve seen 59 specs well into the A33xxx range and single ring tuners into the A34xxx range. I’m not certain when the necks got flat but I had A343xx and it had a flat neck and I recently had A335xx and it had the medium transitional neck. I don’t see more than 3 or 4 60’s a year so this is still research in progress. The larger point here is that you can get a killer dot neck for a lot less than a 58 or 59 without spending $35000. The early 60 neck is kind of like a 64, the pickups are the same as a 59 (and often double whites or zebras) and it sure looks just like a 59. So, if you have your heart set on a 59 but your wallet says maybe I should get a 60 or 61, take a look at the serial number and ask a lot of questions. Clearly, the neck is the big issue here seeing as you can change the tuners and knobs if you absolutely must. You’ll be able to afford the real ones with all the money you saved. Who knows you might like the transitional neck even better than the big 59. I sure do.

3 Responses to “Early 1960 Dot Necks”

  1. RAB says:

    Charlie, right-on comments as usual! Yes, early 1960 model ES guitars can be a good bargain. I had an “early features” ’60 ES-335 that was a great looking, playing and sounding guitar and was obtained an an excellent “price-point” (see I like quotation marks as much as you do!) Also, folks obsessed with certain year Gibson guitars based on presumed attributes (including neck profile, long vs. short magnet PAFs, etc) should really be open to giving other model years a chance…first, as you point out, Gibson transitioned features and attributes across a span of months. Secondly, these guitars had many hand-done assembly-steps (including neck profiling) so they can differ significantly from one guitar to the next within a model year. Finally, a guitar playing experience is based on many, sometimes subtle factors that make up the whole musical “enchilada” (to use a highly technical term!)

  2. Arlan says:

    Hi Charlie,

    About how much difference in price would you expect to see between “comparable” 1959 vs. 1960 335?

    Let’s say they are both in very good (not excellent, not mint) condition.

    Say they’re both sunburst, no vibrato.

    Just curious what that premium might really be.


  3. cgelber says:

    The big difference is often the size of the neck. The big neck 59’s command a bigger premium. There are a lot of 59’s with smaller necks that are 100% identical to an early 60. There are 60 ES-335s with necks that are considerably larger than some 59’s. Because of this, you can’t really make a general rule. I think part of the difference in price has to do with the “cachet” of 59 being the pinnacle of Gibson’s “Golden Era” which is open to debate. In a perfect non hype driven world, there would be no difference at all between a 59 and a 60 if all the features were the same but by the time you start figuring the difference between reflector knobs vs bonnets and big necks vs smaller necks and roll marks of the truss cover vs no roll marks, it becomes a bit too academic. The real world difference is probably and average of 10%-15% but that really compares a big neck 59 to a small neck later 60. A big neck 59 compared to a big neck early 60 should cost about the same. In general, I price early 60 335’s the same as 59’s. There is nothing inferior about a 60. They didn’t decide on January 1 1960 to start making their guitars differently.

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