Find Another

They don’t get any rarer than “one of a kind”. This is the only known sunburst stop tail mono ES-355. It’s a 1959. There are a few other sunburst 355’s from the early 60’s but this is the only stop tail and the only 59 as far as I know.

You would think that after decades of buying and selling guitars that I would be jaded. Ho-hum, another blonde 59 335 (yawn)…Nope. I’ve written many times about the thrill of finding and ultimately buying a one of a kind vintage guitar. You know, the guitars that simply aren’t supposed to exist but, somehow, they do. Gibson and Fender both would custom make a guitar for you during the fifties and sixties. These custom orders usually took a very long time to get (a year or more) and were fairly expensive although I’ve never seen paperwork showing exactly what you might pay for a custom color or an unusual electronic configuration. The records kept by Gibson are notoriously poor so if you are lucky enough to find the ledger page that goes with the custom order you just paid stupid money for, it might show no sign that it was anything but a stock example. Early on in, say, 59, it was more likely that the ledger page would list the unusual characteristic of a special order and even show the name of the buyer or dealer it went to. By 61, that was pretty much gone and you only see the serial number, model, color and maybe if it had a Bigsby. Using the ledger page to prove your guitar is a special order is, more often than not, a fool’s errand.

I know of five black 59 ES-345’s. I’ve owned four of them. This one belonged to Geddy Lee for a while and now lives in the UK.

I love the one of a kind Gibsons and I almost always buy them when they come up. The average player/collector probably scratches his or her head and wonders why a sunburst, stop tail, mono ES-355 would be worth $125,000. Find another. (it’s the only one known). Why would a 1959 ES-345 in black be worth close to $200K? Find another (there are five of them and black is a hot color right now). There are 211 blonde 335’s from 58-60. There is one from 63 and one (a lefty) from 64 as far as we know. These rarities are all special orders. There are some other unique custom orders that I’ve found or heard of over the years. There’s a green burst 335. There are a few blonde 355’s-I’ve had a 60, a 62 and a 63. There are a couple of tenor (4 string) 345’s. There’s a lovely white ES-345 and a black 355 – both owned by Keith Richards. It goes on. If you have unlimited resources, you could probably put together a wonderful collection consisting only of special orders. There are lots of them and at the same time, they are rare as hen’s teeth.

I wish I could have afforded to keep many of them. I still have the blonde 63 ES-335 and the blonde 63 ES-355. The white ’65 ES-355 is gone as are the four black 59 ES-355’s I’ve owned. The sunburst mono stop tail 355 is gone. The blonde ebony block 62 ES-355 is also gone. There are lots more but if I think about these gems for too long, I will try to buy them back. I know where all of them are. Part of the appeal of collecting is the hunt and finding these often one of a kind special orders is great fun and very satisfying. Early in the internet era, I joined a few of the guitar forums (fora?) and used the screen name “red59dot”. I didn’t have one at the time and, in fact, I had never seen one but I was aware that a few existed. I knew about the one 58 but not a 59. I scoured the internet, magazines, newspapers and every other source I could find looking for that elusive example. I bought what was supposed to be a red 59 335 in 2001 but it turned out to be a fake. It was a 335 body but the neck was from an Epiphone with a cut down long headstock and a dot fingerboard added. The give away was a cut out in the center block under the bridge pickup which didn’t exist in 59. I eventually found 5 red 59 dot necks. It took decades but the hunt was great fun. In keeping with my “don’t fall in love” rule, I didn’t keep one for myself.

Near mint and simply stunning watermelon red 1959 dot neck 335. There are five or six of them. If there is one guitar I wish I had kept, it is this one. This ended up in California.

I recall another guitar that took me nearly five years to acquire. One of my readers wrote to me to tell me about his elderly guitar teacher’s beloved 1963 black ES-345. I made an offer immediately and was, of course, turned down. Every year for the next four or five years I made another offer (always higher). The teacher eventually passed away and the guitar was gifted to my reader. He didn’t want to sell it either as it had special sentimental value (and it was a great guitar). Eventually, the purchase price became compelling enough to make the sale happen and the hunt was over. I didn’t keep that one either. I’m a dealer, not a collector. If I was a collector, I would have an incredible collection (and I would be dead broke).

One of a kind 1963 ES-345 in factory black. Near mint and a wonderful player. Yes, it has f-holes they are just hard to see.

If you have an unusual (or unique) ES guitar from the 50’s or 60’s, let me know. If you want to sell it, I’ll probably buy it. If you don’t, I’d still like to see it and maybe write a post about it (with your permission). One more super rare one that I just acquired that is currently for sale. It is a 1963 ES-355 in factory blonde. I’ve owned a blonde 59/60, a blonde 62 and a blonde 63. Of course, Gibson didn’t make any blonde 355’s until they did.

I know of five blonde ES-335’s made before 1965. There are a few made in the late 60’s as well (I had a 68 a few years ago). I know of one 59, two 60’s, a 62 and this 63. Surprisingly, the sideways trem on this guitar works perfectly.

One Response to “Find Another”

  1. TJ Smith says:

    If I had millions of dollars…. Crazy how many of these rare beauties have passed through your hands. I doubt there is anyone out there who has bought & sold more ES guitars than you.

Leave a Reply

Optionally add an image (JPEG only)