1963 Gibson ES-355 Stereo Electric Guitar

Value (2011) | $11,000 Retail
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GUEST:
I think it was about 1998, we purchased it in a pawn shop in El Paso, Texas, We don't know who the musician was that owned it first, but we were told it was a local country-western musician.

APPRAISER:
Mm-hmm.

GUEST:
And he passed it down to his nephew, and his nephew would take it into the pawn shop every now and then, and one time he just didn't go back to retrieve it. And so we purchased it.

APPRAISER:
Do you recall how much you paid for it?

GUEST:
Yes, $550.

APPRAISER:
This guitar was made in 1963.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
It's a Gibson ES-355.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
And it was one of Gibson's most expensive electric guitars at the time. It cost over $500 when new.

GUEST:
Really, mm-hmm.

APPRAISER:
And it had all the latest electronic bells and whistles that Gibson could get together. It was called a stereo. You had to use a stereo cord

GUEST:
Mm-hmm.

APPRAISER:
and run it through either two amplifiers or through one of Gibson's special stereo amplifiers, and that meant that the signal from one pickup went out the left speaker, and the signal from another pickup went out the right speaker.

GUEST:
Mm-hmm.

APPRAISER:
Very high tech in 1963. They went on to become famous primarily because of two artists that used them extensively. Both Chuck Berry and B.B. King used Gibson GS-355. So it was highly desirable. The only downside is that as time went on, guitarists decided that the stereo was kind of a funky attribute that they didn't want to use. So a lot of people took out the varitone switch, which admittedly doesn't really add much. This sideways vibrato doesn't work nearly as well as the Bigsby vibratos, and so a lot of people would take that off and put on another vibrato or drill holes in the top and put a stop tail piece to make it more like what they wanted in the late '60s, early '70s.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
And so for the collector that wants one in its original condition, they're hard to find. The red finish is the most desirable. You could get it in the sunburst finish later on, but this is considered the classic Gibson thin, hollow body electric guitar. So today, this guitar, either at auction or in a specialty retail guitar shop, would probably sell for about $11,000.

GUEST:
Quite a good investment.

APPRAISER:
Definitely.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Gryphon Stringed Instruments
Palo Alto, CA
Appraised value (2011)
$11,000 Retail
Event
El Paso, TX (June 18, 2011)
Period
20th Century
Material
Wood

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