Archive for November, 2021

Gone, Baby, Gone Redux

Sunday, November 21st, 2021

59’s aren’t the rarest of the 335’s just the most sought after and valuable. 58’s are twice as rare but some folks are put off by the unbound early ones and others by the shallow neck angle that often requires a shaved bridge.

I published a similar post last March but it is so relevant that I felt compelled to update it and re-post.

I wonder if it occurs to most of us just how rare dot neck 335’s are. When you consider the thousands and thousands of early Stratocasters, it’s a wonder that 58-61 dot necks don’t cost two or three times what they sell for. This has been made crystal clear lately during the recent “pandemic surge” that has cleaned out dealer inventories over the past year. Consider this: Until today, I haven’t had a 59 sunburst 335 in stock for almost 3 months. I usually have two or three of them at all times. Today, there are none on the market. There weren’t any yesterday either. In fact, in the past 6 months, there have been perhaps 4 of them for sale.

My take is that they didn’t go anywhere. They simply ran out. Let’s look at the shipping totals for dot necks. The chart tells the story

These numbers are stunningly low. There are probably at least 5 times as many Stratocasters or probably even more in any given year. It’s hard to know as Fender doesn’t publish the figures.

There were only 521 sunburst 59’s shipped. I’m sure a fair number of those didn’t survive the 60 odd years since then. Refinishes, headstock breaks, major mods and any number of other misfortunes could have befallen a fair number of them. Even if only 10% are beyond redemption, that’s still a rare guitar. Rather have a 58? If you want a bound neck 58, I’m guessing there were only around 125 of them made. A 60 is even rarer than a 59 and a red 60 is crazy rare with only 21 shipped. It isn’t until 63 that the number of 335’s shipped surpasses 1000 and by then, dots were gone.

Here’s a little perspective. In 1794, the US government started making silver dollars. They released 1800 of them. That’s more than three times as many as there are 59 sunburst dot necks. Now, granted, these dollars have had an extra 165 years to get lost or destroyed but the most recent sale of a 1794 dollar is far beyond what any guitar has ever sold for. How much, you ask? $10,016,875 and that was ten years ago. You can buy half of the 59’s ever made for that price. It’s a little silly to compare apples and oranges but collectors are often a little silly. In the coin world rarity often rules while in the guitar world desirability rules. Epiphone Sheratons are a great example. There were 71 blonde 335’s made in 1959 and a collector grade example will cost you around $140,000. A Sheraton is, essentially, a fancy 335 (or slightly less fancy 355) made by the same workers in the same factory on the same assembly line. There were only nine shipped. A blonde 59 Sheraton, if you can find one, might cost you $30,000. I sold the only one I ever had for $20,000 a few years ago.

Want something closer to apples and apples? There are 7 known red 59 dot neck 335’s. Only 4 are stop tails (and one of those has a factory Varitone). So, what’s a collector grade stop tail red 59 worth? I don’t know because there hasn’t been one on the market in years. I’ll estimate $125,000. Is it worth more than one of the 1959 blondes? No. but it should be. I sold the one with the Varitone recently for a little more than half that. It’s one of a kind but not as desirable as it would be without the Varitone. Again, desirability trumps rarity.

What will prove interesting is what will happen to the prices of 59 (and other year) dot necks going forward. The record for a 59 sunburst (not a major celebrity guitar-those have their own set of rules) is somewhere around $65,000. But the longer we go with none of them coming to market, the higher the price is going to be. Count on it. And blonde 59’s? Of the 71 made, most of them are already in major collections. Don’t expect many to come up for sale until their owners die or decide to liquidate their collection. A sunburst 59 ES-335 is one of five guitars that I consider essential in any serious collection. The others are a 54-57 Strat, a black guard Telecaster, a 58-60 Les Paul and a pre war Martin D-28. The rarest of these holy grails is the 59 335. The D-28 is about even. You already know which one is the most expensive.

58-60 Bursts are, in general, the most expensive guitar out there. Recently, the 58 Explorer has challenged the LP as the leader. There are 643 59 bursts. There are 37 Explorers. There are 71 blonde 59 ES-335’s. A collector grade 59 blonde 335 will cost you around $140K. An Explorer will be $500000 or more. A 59 Les Paul can be $250K or $600K.