Archive for February, 2024

Year Ender 2023-Part 2

Saturday, February 24th, 2024

It’s been a bit of a rough patch for 345’s since they surged big time during Covid. They have dropped back and the market is at a bit of a stand off. 59’s are strong but the rest seem to sit unless really well priced.

The second part of my year ender generally deals with 345’s and 355’s and this year is no different. Last year it almost looked like 345’s were going to catch up to 335’s in value. They surged ahead and sold like there was no tomorrow. And that may have been the impetus-during Covid, folks might have felt like there was no tomorrow and if there was, it didn’t look all that good. No tomorrow? Better buy stuff that makes you happy today. I think that’s what happened.

It couldn’t last. These guitars were bound to hit resistance and, sure enough, they did. Those sellers on Reverb who think they are going to get $40,000 for a 1960 or 61 ES-345 are going to be disappointed. I don’t think they will get even $25,000 and probably not even that. During Covid, I sold a 59 for $40K. That is the highest I’ve ever gotten for a non blonde or black 345 and that was a pre first rack prototype. The good news is that 345’s are, once again, a relative bargain. Most folks convert to 335 and never look back. It’s such a popular mod that it doesn’t diminish the value at all (especially if the original stereo harness and Varitone are included). There are very few mods to vintage guitars that don’t hurt the value. I think a 60-64 ES-345 in the high teens or low 20’s is a good buy. Keep your eyes open. Later ones have settled a bit as well but, as you all know, I don’t pay a lot of attention to 65-69 and I pay no attention at all to the 70’s.

Stereo 355’s didn’t really run up like the 345’s did during Covid. Probably because they all have a vibrato of some sort and that makes for a less desirable (or at least less popular) model. Big neck 59’s are rare (they went to the slimmer neck mid year in 59) and still can command a premium and stop tails are so rare, it’s hard to quantify the price trend. If yu want a stop tail, prepare to pay what the seller wants or wait a long time for another. I only know of about a dozen to 15 of them from 58-64. Bigsby versions always command a fair bit more than sideways (great for stop tail conversions) or Maestros. 99% of them are red so any color other than red is going to cost you some big dollars (especially black or blonde).

Mono 355’s have become kind of rare. I used to see a few dozen come up for sale every year but lately, they seem to be the Bigfoot of the guitar world. Today, there are just three for sale that I can find. 59’s are, as usual leading the charge. A mono 59 can command $40K if it’s clean. And that makes sense given what a 59 335 is selling for (as much as $90K for a collector grade sunburst). I’m not sure anybody is getting $90K but I know of at least two in the mid 80K range. If you don’t mind playing a guitar with a Bigsby, mono 355’s are a great choice. It’s just a fancy 335-the fancy bits used to double the price back in the day. Now they nearly cut it in half. The bargain 355-mono or stereo-are the 61-64’s. And look closely at 65’s and even some 66’s. There are wide nut versions out there from those years.

The market hasn’t really acknowledged that the “Covid Surge” is over. Folks have a hard time accepting a flattened or declining market. Most of it just leveled off but 345’s have softened and the sooner the seller acknowledge that, the sooner they will start selling again and maybe even start to run back up. They can’t appreciate of they sit on the market for months at inflated asking prices. The over all vintage market has picked up considerably after a very slow Summer, Fall and Holiday season. But January was excellent and February has shaped up pretty well too.

Clean, mono 355’s have gotten kind of scarce and the prices are quite strong for them, especially early 59’s. This one is a 60 and sold for a very high price because it was virtually brand freaking new.

Year Ender 2023 Part 1

Thursday, February 1st, 2024

2023 is the year that sunburst big neck 59’s broke $80,000. They have become so hard to find that they haven’t rolled back like the rest of the 335’s. It’s also the year that two more red 59’s turned up (I bought both of them). They both sold well into six figures (and were both Bigsby’s)

I know the folks who have posted their 335’s to sell on Reverb haven’t gotten the message yet but it will sink in eventually, I hope. After the nearly breathtaking appreciation that occurred during Covid, the 335 market has dropped back a bit. A rather sizable number of sellers seem to think that, because the market ran up 20% or more during Covid, that it would continue to do so pretty much forever. It doesn’t work that way. Guitars are subject to economic fluctuations just like the stock market, the housing market and even the food prices at your local Stop and Shop. To make matters even more complicated, some years have dropped back more than others.

Predictably (in a market that is now pretty unpredictable), 59’s led the way up with collector/museum grade sunbursts selling very quickly at over $80,000. But for that money, it had better be a 9+, preferably with a thin top and double whites. It has gotten so hard to find 59’s that they have been completely unaffected by the recent softening of 335 prices. An average 59 with perhaps changed tuners might be in the $65K-$70K range. A Bigsby or ex-Bigsby, around the same range. Late 58’s are still strong in the mid $70’s for clean ones but early 58’s are a tough sell. Maybe the huge price realized on Mark Knopfler’s blonde unbound 58 will goose the price a bit.

That brings us to 60 and 61 (and early 62 dots). I can’t explain why they have fallen back as much as they have-maybe because they ran up very quickly into unheard of prices. At their peak, folks were asking $65K or more for a stop tail sunburst 60. I had a few over the past year and they didn’t sell anywhere near that. I expect the price to settle in the $45K to $50K range for clean ones. 61’s are even worse. 61’s were stuck in the $25K range for a very long time but shot up to over $40K or more during Covid. Good luck getting anywhere near that right now. A clean stop tail 61 is a mid $30K guitar again with some nice examples dropping back into the high $20’s. Look out for the truss rod stress crack on 61’s. About 20 to 30% of them have it. It’s not like a cracked headstock as there is little stress down the middle of the back of the neck but stabilizing it is still a good idea. Knock off at least $5K for it but don’t necessarily reject them out of hand. Properly repaired, it should never be a problem unless you overtighten the truss rod. 61’s have always been the “bargain” dot neck and I think that $25K for a stop tail PAF 335 with some issues is a pretty good deal. Just be aware that the oh so slim neck is fragile. 62 dots are fairly rare but follow the 61 price wise unless equipped with pat #’s rather than PAFs.

That brings us to block necks from 62 to 64. These ran up just like the dots to never before seen prices during Covid. I never thought I’d see a $40,000 1964 but that’s about where they peaked. I didn’t get $40K for one but I got close for a near mint stop tail in red (yes, reds and sunbursts are worth the same but reds are easier to sell). A clean stop tail 64 (as well as a pat# equipped 63) should now be selling in the $28,000 to $30,000 range. If PAFs (rare for a 64), add $4,000 or so. Bigsby’s are still a 15% to 20% deduction if they are the correct B7. Same goes for stop tails with the “snake bite” holes from the B7. So, what about 62’s? 62’s follow their own set of rules because there is a lot of variation in them. You have blade necks and medium necks. You have dots and blocks. You have PAFs, patent #’s and one of each. I would look for a medium (.82 and .92 depth) neck with PAFs. That neck profile will almost certainly be a block neck. The dots are usually slim like a 61. A medium neck 62 with PAFs might cost you $32K-$34K if it’s a 9 or better with no issues. It will also probably be a great guitar. 62 is the sleeper year. They can be right up there with the best of the dot necks.

This post is always a bit of a loose guideline because the market changes quickly and there are always examples that are either stunningly clean that command a premium or stunningly worn or modded that drive the prices way down. If you see a 335 that you like,. do some comparison shopping. In a falling or softening market, look at the dealer prices. Dealers usually catch on to price changes a lot faster than individual sellers. I’ll also add, as a caution, that you should look at every part with a critical eye. I’ve said this about a zillion times…fully 95% of the 58 to 64 ES guitars I buy have an undisclosed issue (that I always fix, if possible and always disclose). In general, it’s not that folks are dishonest, it’s that they don’t know what correct parts look like. With a 58 to 64 nickel stop tailpiece selling for $3000, it’s no wonder they get scavenged. Do your homework and feel free to shoot me an email and ask what I think. I’m always happy to help you get the 335 you want even if you buy it from someone other than me.

64’s (especially red ones) briefly got into the $40,000 range during Covid but have dropped back into the lower to mid $30’s if it’s a 9 condition or better with no issues at all. It’s still (along with a 59 sunburst) the easiest ES-335 to sell.