Bubble, Puppies, Part 2

Bubble Puppy. 1969.

Nice outfits.

I can’t believe nobody gets the reference. I’ve had emails asking me what I mean by the title and the first line of the last post. Here’s the explanation, although I’m a little annoyed that I have to explain it…The guitar market is close to being in a bubble. That’s the bubble part. Most of you who read this blog are younger than I am, so I can certainly refer to most of you as “puppies”. OK, that was easy. But wait. There’s more. There was a band out of Texas-a one hit wonder, really, called Bubble Puppy in the late 60’s. Their one hit (and hence the opening line of my last post) was called “Hot Smoke and Sasafrass” (sp) a line they lifted from the 60’s sitcom, The Beverly Hillbillies where Granny said, “Hot smoke and sassafras, Jethro, can’t you do anything right?” You could have simply googled it, ya know. OK, more stuff to talk about.

Nothing like a red ES-345. The 59’s are crazy rare (9 known) but a 60 is pretty common. Find an early 60 and it will have the guaranteed to fade “watermelon” red finish. But look out, 345’s are up. Way up. Make offers and don’t overpay.

ES-345’s have been, for as long as I’ve been a vintage dealer, the best deal in vintage Gibsons. You could get a 345 for half the price of a similar year 335 and it is every bit as good. Don’t like the stereo and the Varitone? Easy fix for around $400. The ceiling on a stop tail 59 ES-345 had been hovering around $20,000 for years. When folks became more aware of the early “first rack” 345’s, the $20K barrier broke and only the hundred or so first racks broke into the low $20K range. Red 59’s are crazy rare and don’t count here. A stop tail 60 345 was in the mid to high teens and a 61-64 hovered around $14K. Bigsby’s were 15-20% less. As block necks started creeping up, the 345’s followed. I’m seeing Bigsby 345’s over $20K. I’m seeing 60’s and 61’s pushing $30K. That’s nearly double what they were just a couple of years ago. I’m looking at asking prices since I don’t know what everybody else is actually selling them for. I’ve considered 345’s underpriced for many years and I’m happy they are getting some respect but I think they’ve overshot the mark. If I have to pay inflated prices, then you will have to as well. It is my hope that there won’t be the standoff between stubborn sellers and savvy buyers that can really hurt the market. I believe that if you’re spending $20K on a 345, it had better not have a Bigsby (or the “snakebite). Seriously, if a 62 335 is trying to be a $25,000 guitar, then a 62 345 isn’t likely to be a $20,000 guitar. There is a Bigsby 62 listed for $20K. There is a red 60 (with a snakebite) listed for $27500. Makes that 59 stop tail listed at $26K look like a deal. Blonde 345’s are so rare, it’s impossible to track them. They only made 50 of them and you can expect them to be in the $50K-$90K range if you can find one.

Finally, let’s take a look at ES-355’s. Monos have entered the bubble for sure. Last year, I sold a few mono 59’s and 60’s in the mid to upper $20K range. Until recently, mono 355’s have been undervalued but not any more. Now, if you can find any, expect to pay $30K or more. I haven’t seen many collector grade monos for a while. A lot of 355’s have a sideways trem and that keeps the prices a bit lower than a same year Bigsby. Stereo 355’s can still be found at fairly reasonable prices. I sold a stereo 62 for under $15K in 2020 and I see them holding in the mid to upper teens. I don’t like a Maestro on an ES guitar very much but you can still find a 64 Maestro equipped 355 for under $15K. That’s starting to look like a deal. And don’t overlook 65’s. A lot of them have the big neck like a 64. I even had a 66 last year with a wide nut. Unusual but not unheard of. Find yourself a big neck 65 for under $10K (they’re out there) and you’ve bought a great guitar for half what a similarly configured 335 might cost you. If you can manage the slim neck, a later 60’s 355 can be a great deal-you aren’t likely to get t-tops until 69. The 66 I had last year had one purple winding patent and one orange wound patent. Forget about blonde 355’s. I know of less than 10.

Mono 355’s are still one of my favorite guitars but they have gotten rather pricey and it’s no surprise. They didn’t make all that many (no more than a few hundred a year). Stereo 355’s can still be a relative bargain, especially those with a sideways trem (good candidate to convert to stop tail-no holes in the top).

2 Responses to “Bubble, Puppies, Part 2”

  1. RAB says:

    Charlie, I have to admit it, I also missed the Bubble Puppy reference! 10 demerits, ha, ha! Hmmm…345s and 355s on the way up, eh? I’m not surprised! Great guitars for less coin than their plainer but more expensive step sister the 335! Guess I could turn a nice profit on my ‘59 FR (First Rack) 345 but it won’t be for sale anytime soon. It’s in the kind of nice, original but used condition I like so I feel comfortable gigging it (when there are more gigs!) Best, RAB

  2. RAB says:

    Another shot of my ‘59 FR 345…kinda purty, huh?

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