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'68 Gibson ES335 TD- genuine?


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long time reader, first time poster.


i was wondering if some of the more worldly Gibson collectors here could steer me right about something;


i've been offered a good deal on a 1968 Es 335 TD, in black. on first inspection, it seems to check out- the serial no's on the the headstock and sticker correspond to '68. the thing that bugs me is the 'stereo' truss rod cover- surely if it was stereo, it would be a 355? and also, should the f holes have white binding? and the variotone has been removed- how damaging to the value of the gtr is this?


so what do you guys think? is it legit? and is there's anything i should be looking out for?


here are some pics to help the debate








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It is definitely a 335, a 355 has a block inlay at the first fret and larger blocks in general, a 345 has split parallelagram fretboard markers. The 335/345 does not have bound f-holes, only the 355. The serial number does check out to 1968, and it is certainally a Gibson.


It looks to me like it started out in life as a different color standard issue 335 (without stereo varitone). I suspect a big B.B. King fan at some time during the seveties painted it black (although it does say "black" on the label) and added the varitone circuit and "Stereo" TRC to try to make a 355 out of it (I doubt it is, or ever was, wired stereo).


But then again, it could have been a custom built special order 335 in black with stereo varitone, for neither was a standard option on any 335. In EITHER (or any) case, it has no "collector value" but might be a great "player" at the right price.

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  • 9 months later...

You can call Gibson and ask them to check their records. Sometimes they can help, sometimes not. They definately made black finish ES models in this era. I once had a black ES-175D all original. I don't see any signs of a removed varitone. Maybe someone just put on another truss rod cover. You could also look under the pickups for signs of refiinish.

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I once had a black ES-175D all original. I don't see any signs of a removed varitone. .


You can clearly see the filled in hole where the varitone was, like L5Larry said, it appears someone wanted to make a 345/55 out of it. Maybe is custom order but why would anyone change it.


If it was a custom it would have a TD-SV designation.

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Something just doesn't look quite right with the writing on the Orange label to me, the ES-335 TD and the 9 of the serial number (not sure about the word Black) are way darker and appear to me to have been written with a different pen (possibly at a different time) and by a different person to the rest of the serial number.

Also (and I appreciate it may well be the photos) the serial number on the label looks like it ends in 039 or 038 whereas the one stamped on the headstock ends 037 and the 9 on the headstock is very faint.

It also looks to have been re-finished at some point and had the hole filled in (and not very well) where the Vari-Tone switch was, and it has never been a 355 for all the reasons stated by L5Larry.


If it was me, my gut instinct would say walk away, but that’s just IMHO of the way it apparently looks from the photos, not being able to handle the instrument I could very well be wrong.

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I have seen a few 335 stereos over the years. They were either custom ordered, or 355 bodies that for whatever reason got finished out as 335s. I would not hesitate to buy it if you like it, removal of the Varitone system is probably a pox on the value, but you may be able to put one back in...a righteous pain in the backside to do, however.

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