Four Stunning Vintage Gibson ES-335 Guitars in 2019: #3 from 1960!

John Shults

Posted on November 21 2020

1960 Gibson ES-335 guitar

You can check out the first two posts in this series here: 1962 Gibson ES-335TDC and 1961 Gibson ES-335TDC!

It's possible that the only true secret to finding amazing vintage guitars in the wild is perseverance. It would be much easier to have some kind of secret honey hole that no one else knows about or a method that no one has previously thought of. There have been times when one method is more successful than others but they've always declined in usefulness over time. The only guitar hunting secret that hasn't changed since I started looking for them in 2009 is perseverance. 

I'm always a Gibson guitar buyer, but I'm especially looking for Gibson electric guitars from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. You can contact me here to sell a Gibson guitar

In 2012, I was working full time in a completely different industry and building the inventory for True Vintage Guitar in my spare time. I was out on the internet exploring the back corners of every website I could find mentioning vintage guitars. I came across someone posting about a 1961 Gibson ES-335 that her husband received as a birthday gift brand new. I reached out to them and we emailed back and forth a few times. They weren't quite ready to sell but I enjoyed checking out a super clean vintage Gibson ES-335.

Vintage 1960 Gibson ES-335, Sunburst

Fast forward to 2019 I've been full time with True Vintage Guitar for about 5 years. I was looking through my email inbox for another email about an ES-335. I came across the emails we had previously exchanged about the '61 ES-335. I reached back out about it on a whim and found that they were ready to sell! The were retired and downsizing everything. They lived in Pekin, Il which was only about a 10 hour drive. I decided to look for other vintage guitars on my way and film the whole process. You can watch that video here!

It turns out that the 1961 Gibson ES-335 is actually more correctly described as being from 1960. Bold claim?? Maybe, but here's why I make it: all its features are known for being on Gibson guitars from 1960. The only thing that doesn't date to 1960 is the serial number which is listed as having shipped from the Gibson factory in the first week or two of 1961. That means that this guitar was made in 1960.

The ES-335 model was an upper tier instrument from Gibson which means that from its introduction in 1958 until early 1961, it received both an "A" prefix serial number as well as a factory order number. The letter preceding the FON on this ES-335 was "R" indicating that it was made in 1960. 

The potentiometer codes are also a great way to date a vintage Gibson electric guitar. This example was quite interesting in that it had Mallory brand potentiometers with late 1959 date codes and Nylon shafts! All solder on the guitar appeared to be original and showed no evidence of having been disturbed. 

The most interesting part of this guitar was the neck pickup. It exhibited some very unique features including original slot bobbin to baseplate screws, never had a "PATENT APPLIED FOR" sticker, and was out of phase from the bridge pickup in the middle position. 

Original Patent Applied for humbucking pickups, PAF pickups, 1960 Gibson ES-335

Unique features abound on this killer clean 1960 Gibson ES-335. The original owner, Joe, took excellent care of it. He told me that he received it as a gift for his birthday in 1961 and played it sparingly. It never needed repair and he never modified it. He was sad to see it go but excited to be realizing his investment after so many years. 

The next owner, a professional guitarist turned collector, was thrilled when he received it. He agreed it was an excellent example of the model and loved all the interesting features. He's known for writing an extremely popular song used in all the Rocky movies :)


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