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Archive for January, 2023

Year Ender 2022, Part 1

Thursday, January 5th, 2023

60 and 61 dot necks had a great year mostly because 58’s and 59’s have become so hard to find and have soared in value. An early 60 is the sleeper value right now.

With Covid 19 almost in the rear view mirror (for now anyway), the guitar market is slowly returning from the insanity that marked the Covid Era. It was almost a foregone conclusion that the huge runup we saw in 2021 couldn’t possibly sustain through another year. And it didn’t. But 2022 was far from a bust. Inflation reared its ugly head for the first time in decades and that showed up in the new guitar market more than the vintage market. The vintage market had run up so steeply from 2019 until early 2022 that nobody would have even noticed inflation. 9% inflation in the midst of a 20% market rise doesn’t raise many eyebrows. But now it has calmed down a bit but the big price increases have withstood nearly a full year of economic uncertainty. That tells me that vintage guitars are a smart investment (but I already knew that and so did you).

What struck me in the period from Spring of 2020 until early 2022 was the huge increase in the number of first time vintage buyers. We can easily chalk that up to the “stay at home” advice that almost everyone took to heart during the worst of the pandemic. Guitars that have sat in my inventory for years were suddenly out the door. These weren’t bad guitars, they were generally really good guitars that had a limited market. Guitars like Guild Thunderbirds and Aristocrats, Gretsch Duo Jets and Country Clubs, Gibson ES-175’s and even Fender Duo Sonics. The runup in price for a late 50’s or early 60’s ES-175 was truly remarkable. The reason for this? PAFs. The increase in value for a PAF in 2022 was nothing short of mind blowing. I could buy a pair of double whites in 2020 for $9000. Today, if you can even find a pair, you’re going to spend $16,000 to $18,000. While all of the ES models had a good year (although much of that price increase occurred in 2021), it was the PAF equipped ones that led the charge.

The ES-335 market was fairly level in 2022 and that was no surprise after the stunning runup in 2021. Asking prices can (and often are) still crazy high but the overpriced ones are sitting unsold. That didn’t happen last year. You can ask $65,995 for your 60 dot neck with the Bigsby holes but I don’t think you’ll get it. That said, 60 and 61 ES-335’s picked up the slack in the dot neck market caused by the lack of inventory of 58 and 59’s. Decent block necks, especially those with PAFs had a strong year and have held on to the 2021 increases. I think mid 30K’s for a Bigsby or Vibrola version is wishful thinking but they are out there. But so are the ones for $25K. Do your homework. That’s a big disparity. As always, ask about the parts. 95% of the guitars I buy (including those from dealers) have an undisclosed parts issue. It can be as small as a wrong screw or as big as a changed tailpiece (the most common changed part). Wide nut 65’s have been a bargain for years but they took off and held their price through 2022. Still excellent guitars but no longer the sleeper bargain they once were. ES-335’s from 66 to 69 have climbed steadily but have fallen back a little recently. It’s not surprising either when you consider that the number of 335’s made in 67 is something like 10 times the number made in 59.

What should you buy in 2023? Depends on how much you want to spend and whether you want an investment, a player or both. I think 58’s and 59’s are still worth the money. The burst market tells me that there is still plenty of room for 58’s and 59’s to move even higher, especially blondes. If you can find an early 60 (transitional neck), that may be the one to buy right now as it is exactly the same as a late 59. Failing that, a later 60 is still a great choice as a player or an investment. 61’s are tricky with that very slim neck so be careful. 62-64 block necks are high right now but find one with PAFs if you are looking for an investment. I know, the late PAF is the same as the early patent number but the perception in the marketplace will favor a PAF equipped block neck every time. They have been underpriced for a long time and have finally gotten their due after having been left in the dust by the dots. 65 through 68 335’s have gotten kind of pricey as well but there are so many of them that competition often allows you to find a real bargain. After 68, you need to do your homework. Quality and specs are all over the place from 69 onward.

Later (65 to 68) 335’s can still be found at very reasonable prices. Lots of them are overpriced but there are so many out there that a bargain shouldn’t be too hard to find. Do your homework. This rare black 68 wasn’t cheap but it was still affordable for a black 335. A black 59 will cost you $150K or more if you can find one. This 68 was well under $25K.