Market Wrap 2015, Part 1

Bigsby 345's had a tough year. That makes them the great bargain going forward. PAF guitars for under $10K WooHoo.

Bigsby 345’s had a tough year. That makes them the great bargain going forward. PAF guitars for under $10K WooHoo.

Well, the doom sayers have it wrong again. There are folks who predict the vintage market will fall apart any minute because the only people buying vintage guitars are really old (like 50 or, gasp, even 60). 2015 was a very strong year for sales over all and, for some models and years, approaching 2007-2008 in values. While the doom sayers are largely correct about who buys the guitars, the market for younger buyers is expanding all the time. I get twenty somethings in my shop all the time and they love the old stuff. Even if they can’t afford it today, my feeling is that they’ll be back as soon as they can afford it. The older Gen Xer’s have already started buying the high end stuff and that bodes well for the market going forward. So what sold in 2015 and what didn’t?

Blondes were hot. It’s gotten so hard to find them that when a good one comes up in the market, everyone takes notice. I’ve heard predictions of the $100,000 ES-335 being imminent (in fact there is a 59 on the market for that price but it hasn’t sold). I know of a 59 that sold for $95000 this year as well. The blonde 59 ES-355 that emerged earlier in the year changed hands for some serious money as well, although I don’t know the exact amount. Rumor has it that it was in the $90K range but that’s rumor. As far as I know, no blonde 345’s emerged this year at all-there are only 50 of them.

In a recent post on the Les Paul Forum about a certain black 59 ES-345 (that happens to be mine), Joe Bonamassa made the prophetic statement that “black is the new blonde”. And perhaps he is right. Three black 345’s have emerged recently. One is a late 59 or early 60 Bigsby, the other two are “first rack” ’59 stop tails. One has an added Bigsby, the other is stop tail only. There are so few of these its really hard to put a price on them. Big price aside, everybody seems to love a black ES probably thanks to the black 59 ES-355 played by a certain Mr. Richards. It is a market phenomenon that when the prices get high enough, the rare stuff comes out from under the bed.

Speaking of 345’s, this was not their year. 59’s, especially early ones (black VT ring, big neck) have been strong and other 59’s have been stable but later ones have really languished. Bigsby 345’s from 1960 and later are, at least for now, dead. I’m sure they will come back but these guitars were well into the $12K range not long ago and now I’m seeing them for $8000 and even less. The big dealers are Ebay sellers are still holding out hope that they can get $15K for a Bigsby and $20K for a stop tail but that’s wishful thinking unless the guitar is dead mint. I sold a 9.0 stop tail no issue (converted to mono) 1961 for $10,500 and it took me a year to sell.  That makes them the bargain going forward. These are great guitars and are a deal and then some under $10K considering what the new stuff is going for.

355 Monos had a great year. I can’t keep them around-especially 59’s. They are wonderful guitars and have crept up in value all year. A really clean mono 355 has certainly hit the $20K mark (and lots of the 59-61’s have double white PAFs). 355 stereos are stronger than 345’s but they haven’t got the “easy sell” liquidity of a mono. They also don’t have the big price. These, like the Bigsby 345’s are a great deal in ES’s right now. Liquidity is important. A valuable guitar isn’t all that valuable if it’s time to sell and there’s no market for it. Tried to sell a big archtop lately? Big numbers, no buyers.

This is getting long so we’ll split it into two parts. Next, we’ll look back at 2015 for 335’s. Dots were hot. Blocks, not so much.

Joe Bonamassa says "black is the new blonde" and I think he might be on to something. Watch black guitars in 2016. They will be smoking' hot.

Joe Bonamassa says “black is the new blonde” and I think he might be on to something. Watch black guitars in 2016. They will be smokin’ hot.

5 Responses to “Market Wrap 2015, Part 1”

  1. RAB says:

    Charlie, interesting! I am glad to hear the young (or, should I say younger) folk are becoming interested in the vintage ES models we cherish…I could likely make a reasonable profit on my small stable of vintage guitars and amps but they ain’t on the chopping block at the moment!

  2. Andrewish says:

    Vintage pieces and prices aside, alltho it is all very intersting! I’m slightly interested in your opinion on something… Am Iworng in thinking that the only guiatrs that actually look good in black (moreso than they do in any other colour) are Les Paul Customs? I’m not just talking ES guiatrs, I man all models of guitar. I have a Fender telecaster in black, and i often find myself wishing it was another more interesting colour (I bought it b/c of it’s quality and it’s as old as i am, not teh colour).

    The ES-345 you posted reminded of this fact, as it defintely looks better in other colours! A LOT better. But I get that, as a collectors piece, black is valuable, but it’s still not attactive. It isn’t the worst colour to paint a guitar (snot yellow or dayglow orange anyone?), but neither is it the best.

    I used to like some black Fenders but then I got more into all this guiatr nonsens and found out about all the custom colours, black suddenly seemed boring. On A Gibson (outside of LPC’s) it almost always seems… Wrong. Your love on Blondes tells me that you definately favour the subtle finish. Thoughts? Opinions?

  3. cgelber says:

    I’ll take the stop tail 355, please. (I know, pry it from your cold, dead hands)…

  4. cgelber says:

    There is some truth to what you say although its all in the eye of the beholder. I like black ES’s although there are colors I don’t like (white) and guitars that don’t look good in black (like Teles).
    A white Strat is a great looking guitar. A white LP is not. A white SG is. An ice blue Firebird is a great combination but an ice blue ES 335 would be weird.

  5. Dave K says:

    Charlie’s right about 60s 345s being a great buy. Just bought a 63 345 sunburst bigsby with 1 pat and 1 PAF, stereo and VT intact, with a couple of minor non-original parts and some player wear but pretty good overall condition. Its 8 numbers away from the one recently sold on the OK Guitars website. Paid £5k which by UK standards is a great buy for a serious gigging guitar. Get them before everyone realises what great value that is for a brilliant vintage 3**.

Leave a Reply

Optionally add an image (JPEG only)