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Need Help Identifying 63' 355


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Hi everyone!

So I am currently living in Japan and went to a second hand shop in Hakodate and saw this beauty of a guitar. I decided to play it in the shop as there were a few amps kicking about and completely fell in love with it. Maybe emotions took over but I knew it was special and pretty much spent all my money on it. I picked it up for around $2500.

I've done quite a bit of research but I'm still not exactly sure what I've picked up. From what I gather it's a 63' ES-335 Figured Sunset Burst. I'm not sure if it's an original or reissue or fake! 

It doesn't have a serial number on the headstock but does inside the guitar. Inside it says 'Gibson: 63 355' 'Serial: A-43027'

Also I'm not sure if the case is the original or what as Custom Gibson Historic wasn't around until the 90'...unless it's a reissue and was made around that time.

It has also come with a load of documents that I will attach.

Thanks in advance for any help! 







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Hi Bridgen41,

Welcome to the forum. According to the 11th Edition Blue Book of Electric Guitars, Gibson Serialization what you have is a Historic Reissue but... according the the decoding it should be a '64 reissue that was made in 2003. Maybe they got the 3 and 4 mixed up on the serial number since it is listed as a '63-335 but also hand written, so human error might be involved.  An original 1963 would have a six digit serial number with no A to start. An A or B at the start indicates a historic reissue ES series. The first number after the A should be the last number of the reissue year. The next number should be the last number of the production year and the last three numbers indicate the production number. So, if I didn't see the label it would decode as a '64 reissue made in 2003. If they got the 3 and 4 reversed it would be a '63 reissue made in 2004. The case is proper for either of those years. I've had a few Custom Shop guitars with that style case ranging from 1997 to 2005. I also had some 2008 Custom Shop guitars with different cases. Not sure when they switched. 

What city does it say at the bottom of the orange label?  That would be a good clue. I have a 1969 ES-335 that says Kalamazoo, MI. I had a 2008 Custom Shop Larry Carlton ES-335 that says Memphis, TN. In 2003 or 2004 it would likely say Nashville, TN. Gibson opened the Memphis factory and moved ES production there around 2006, if I remember correctly. I sold my Larry Carlton a couple of years ago for $3500 but it was in perfect, collector quality condition. Yours looks like it was stored for a long time in a very humid environment. You should try to clean up or replace the oxidized hardware ASAP or it will likely get worse. The rusted screws likely will not clean up and will need to be replaced. The stop tail, bridge, pickup covers and tuning pegs are likely nickel plated. These should clean up nicely with Simichrome All-Metal polish. Not sure about Japan but Amazon sells a tube for about $10. 

All that said, if it plays and sounds good, that's all that really matters. If the hardware cleans up good, you probably got a decent deal, especially in Japan. Good luck,



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