Pet Peeves Ebay Edition

How do I know that this is a 65 and not a 66,67, 68. Lots of ways leaving zero doubt even without seeing the serial number. Read on.

How do I know that this is a 65 and not a 66,67, 68. Lots of ways leaving zero doubt even without seeing the serial number. Read on.

Apparently I missed that day in class when everybody else learned that if you have a Gibson ES model built between 1965 and 1969 and the serial number on it is used over and over again, the guitar is always from the earliest possible year. If the guidebook shows a number was used in 65, 67 and 69, then the guitar is automatically a 65. It doesn’t matter that it has witch hat knobs (started in late 66) or big f-holes (68) or the more rounded cutaway horns (also 68). Dammit, it’s a 65 ‘cuz it’s this serial number and it says 65 right here in the official blue book. And it’s official-says it right there in the title. Really. That’s what I hear if I try to correct anyone (so I don’t). How about “were you there at the factory to see that no low inlay 335’s left Gibson in 65?”  I’m surprised no one has said “vas you dere, Charlie?” OK, not even I’m old enough to remember radio comedian Jack Pearl’s Baron Munchausen character but you get my point. I wasn’t there but when you see a few hundred 65-68’s and they all show certain characteristics, it becomes pretty easy to tell them apart. I don’t expect every seller to be an expert but I do expect that if you don’t know with any certainty what year the guitar you’re selling was made, then say what it says in the book. It’s either a 65, 66 , 68 or whatever. I know, the value of a 65 is higher but insisting it’s a 65 when perhaps it isn’t makes you dishonest. I’ve had more than a few trade offers and sale offers presented to me as an earlier year and when I tell the seller/trader that his 65 is really a 69 (sorry, where’s the neck tenon?), they always say the same thing…”the guy (or dealer) I bought it from said…”

You really only need to know a few things. Inlay position-high in 65 and most of 66. Low in late 66 and later. Pick guard-wide bevel 65-66. Narrow 67 and later. F-holes-little 65-67. Big 68 and later. Knobs-Reflectors 65-late 66. Witch hats late 66 until 81. Pointy cutaways-late 63 until 67. We could talk about the pickups but if they are sealed, you can’t tell much. OK, let’s talk about them anyway.

The conventional wisdom is that T-tops started showing up in 1965, so everybody (so it seems) with a patent stickers T-top says its a 65. I’ve uncovered about a zillion pickups in 335’s and I’ve never (and I mean never) seen a T-top in a 65. In fact the last few 68’s I’ve gotten that have had open covers have had pre T-tops. I’ve seen t-tops in late 66 and later 335’s but, in general, they don’t become all that common until 68. The general assumption is that if the bobbin screws are slotted, it’s a t-top but that’s pretty accurate, although not 100%. It’s the other side of that theory that causes trouble-the idea that if the screws are Phillips, then it’s a pre t-top. Not true. Plenty of t-tops have Phillips screws. It’s simple, really. Unless you don’t know the year of the guitar the pickup came out of, don’t designate a year. I defy anyone to tell a 68 t-top from a later (stickered) one.

PAF’s aren’t immune from “date creep” either. Every covered PAF seems to have come from a 59. When uncovered, every long magnet PAF seems to have come from a 59. At least the value of  a 60-61 PAF is the same as a 59 to most buyers. Again, unless you know what guitar it came out of, you don’t know for sure what year it is. Off center sticker? Conventional wisdom says short magnet. Not true. I’ve seen them in 59’s.

Tuners? Again, why it that all (or most all) double line Klusons get designated as 64’s? Yes, there are 64 335’s with double lines but they are pretty rare and very late in the year. Same syndrome, I think. A 64 tuner must be worth more than a 65, right? So, it’s a 64. Except it probably isn’t and it doesn’t make any difference in the value. By the way, I’ve never seen double line Klusons on a 64 345. So, don’t list your gold double lines as 64’s any more. Call them 65’s. No one will care and you’ll be more accurate.

OK, end of rant. I feel so much better now.

And this isn't a 65. Knobs can be changed but the size of the f-holes can't be. Big f-holes, low inlay, rounded ears says 68. Could be a real early 69 but it can't be a 65-66 or 67.

And this isn’t a 65. Knobs and guard can be changed but the size of the f-holes can’t be. Big f-holes, low inlay, rounded ears says 68. Could be a real early 69 but it can’t be a 65-66 or 67.

13 Responses to “Pet Peeves Ebay Edition”

  1. moxie 50 says:

    Yeaaah-Later 335 stuff–I love it. My ’66, bought new for Christmas of 1966, was probably in the store (The Music Box, Libertyville, Il., now LONG gone) by summer or early fall and displays everything you you mention for non-“later” ’66s. I LOVE my narrow neck, such that I only wish I could find an acoustic with that neck. Don’t think it will ever happen, even 1 5/8″ is rare.

  2. RAB says:

    Right on Charlie! Yes, not every Gibson can be a ’59 or even a’65!

  3. Rod says:

    Trouble is the iffy end of the market has got it fixed in everyone’s mind that old = good. The older the better. And most punters don’t realise that even in 59 there were good guitars and bad guitars.

  4. chuckNC says:

    A lot of good info in one little space. As Artie Johnson would have said, ‘verrrry innntersting.”

    Putting the word out in places like this, the LPF, the Gibson Forum, etc. can only help bring a day of greater enlightenment. In the meantime there are some overpriced ’66-’69 ES’s that are only going to sell to buyers who haven’t done their research. Frustratingly, these completed transactions will continue to destabilze pricing. No matter, it’s still better to know what you’re offering on.

  5. Steve Newman says:

    Excellent post, Charlie! A load of great info…..I think it’s time for you to write the definitive book on 335 history and the variations and overlaps of features along the timeline. Agree with Rod in that there are good, bad, and great guitars from all the “Golden Era” years of production and beyond. An old bad guitar is still a bad guitar…. too bad some (“59 for example) have been turned into “legends” without being judged on their own merits as individual instruments. Please keep passing along your wealth of knowledge.

  6. Frank says:

    Yes, Charlie should write the ES Bible, who else…
    Including the list of serials/guitars like the werners list fpr fenders!!!

  7. RAB says:

    True about bad guitars potentially being found in every era. However, I must say most Golden Era (1958-64) Gibson and Epiphone ES models I’ve played have been great or very good…not the same can be said of, say 1970 or 1980 examples!

  8. Steve Newman says:

    Right you are, RAB about the ratio of good/great guitars to bad instruments being much higher in the Golden Era timeline. Fewer total guitars made by more experienced craftsmen with potentially higher quality woods with more time to assemble them has to lead to overall higher quality, with fewer duds slipping out the door. But have seen some early ’60’s ES with serious flaws like bridges installed in the wrong place or pickup routes off center. Thankfully very few! Still probably Gibson’s finest hour as in overall production during the Golden Era period. All bets off from Norlin period until late ’90’s.

  9. James says:

    Recently a salvager won an auction of mine on eBay. The guitar was an all original ’74 355. Charlie actually helped me figure out a price that was appropriate, the guitar had some “issues”.
    The buyer is a vintage parts dealer so I decided to follow them on eBay. You’d be amazed how much my Guitars parts aged in just two weeks time.

  10. cgelber says:

    I wouldn’t be amazed. I’m constantly tempted to write to Ebay sellers to tell them their parts aren’t what they say they are. But I don’t. caveat emptor.

  11. Dick Banks says:


    Yes, you see this kind of thing on the “Pawn Stars” type shows. If it says “Buffalo Bill” on the handle, the By God is has to be Buffalo Bill’s Gun, and worth $millions. Nobody ever wants to admit that the ES-335 they have isn’t the year they want to be.

  12. Brian says:

    Would love to see a more in-depth comparison of the wide and thin F hole – I just can’t see it myself……

  13. okguitars says:

    I think I wrote a post about this a few years ago. Do a search for big f hole. I’ll see if I can find a photo to post that shows both. It isn’t obvious unless you have a big one next to a small one.

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