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One-off 335. Need advice


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I've been offered the opportunity to buy a unique 335. The story goes that a local guy to me (I'm in the UK) by the name of Ken was invited to the Gibson Kalamazoo factory about 8 or 9 years ago for a factory tour. He is a millionaire whose hobby is collecting guitars. Anyway after he completed the tour of the factory the guys at Gibson said they would make him a guitar as a gift from whatever bits and pieces they had lying around in the custom shop. The guitar couldn't be finished before he returned to England so they shipped it on to him at their expense. This is the guitar that they made for him. A friend of his (who is my work colleague and the person offering to sell it to me) saw the guitar hanging on his wall and declared that he had to have it. Ken asked him to make an offer for it and eventually a deal was struck for one thousand pounds. Ken reputedly sent the grand to the kalamazoo factory for the guy who built the guitar. Now my work colleague is in need of cash and has offered to sell it to me for somewhat less than he paid for it. He lent it to me last night and as yet I haven't had chance to do more than tune it properly and have five minutes noodling. My amp is in storage at the moment so I haven't had chance to hear it amplified but even acoustically it sound good with a very lively bright sound (far more top than my Epiphone Sherraton) and the neck is extremely comfortable top play - Wider and flatter than ther neck on the Sheratton or indeed my Tele.


What I'd like is the opinion of you guys as to whether its as good investment. I'm sure Gibson must make these guitars as gifts all the time so there are probably thousands knocking about but by the same token they are all unique guitars and I doubt there are many Gibsons out there with the gorgeous Chinese Dragon inlay on the neck (far more PRS territory). The label that can be viewed through the top f-hole reads ES-335 Prototype No 1!!!!

What is obvious is that this guitar was never intended to be shop quality as a number of blemishes are obvious.


1. The Gibson logo on the headstock appears to be a transfer, not an inlay

2. The serial number has been stamped in the wood on the back of the headstock but not blocked so its difficult to read. The first figure is indistinct but could be an 8, The remainder of the serial is 2308529

3 The tail of the Dragon inlay on the neck seems to be hiding a mottled blemish on the wood (rosewood?) of the fingerboard

4. The pickguard has an extremely rough unfinished edge - almost as if it has been roughly cut with a craft knife

5. The sides of the f holes do not appear to have been finished off and are very rough

6. The edge of the veneer seems to be very ragged in parts where it meets up with the edge binding

7. The side wall of the guitar has some mismatched pieces of wood near the strap button on the base.


So clearly not built to Gibson's usual standards but a very unique guitar nontheless. What do you guys think - Would you chop off your right arm to own it or would you give it a wide berth?



















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Under normal circumstances I would be very suspicious but i think the provenance of the guitar is sound. I've seen a few fake Epiphones and the quality on them is remarkable - correct in almost every detail. Surely if this was a fake they wouldn't produce something with so many obvious flaws (unless they were very bad fakers indeed) and it would look a lot better than it does! Also would a faker want to produce something so obvoiusly distinctive - Wouldn't he have more success just trying to fake a standard production model? Dunno - What do oher people thing?

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No way that guitar left any Gibson factory with a three-screw trussrod cover. Incidentally, the Kalamazoo factory closed a lot longer than eight or nine years ago, so if the guy was in Kalamazoo he wasn't at Gibson. They wouldn't have used a Nashville style bridge either, since custom jobs would have the ABR-1 bridge (even factory 335's still have the old ABR-1 bridge). There's no reason that Gibson would send out a guitar with anything but a real open-book Gibson headstock profile. If you like it, buy it, but not on the basis that it was some sort of gift from the factory. Maybe this billionaire was visiting the Heritage guitar company that started up in the old Kalamazoo factory, then somebody changed the headstock decal and put on a bogus trussrod cover, but Heritage guitars don't have that headstock profile either.


Take the pickups off and see what surprises you have inside.

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That's about it: it's a good $200 guitar. Not a Gibson, not some millionaire's toy, just a clumsy fake.


If it's a player (not likely) it's worth two bills. Otherwise let someone more gullible go for it.


The more colorful the story, the more probable it's a fabrication.

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FAKE, big time.


Besides the bridge and the studs used to mount it, headstock, truss rod cover, and other easy to see tell tale signs already pointed out, just look at that wiring. Obviously un-Gibson like.


Then there's the heel extension on the neck. No Gibson has that. The neck doesn't meet the body in the right way, either.


The fret ends are uncovered, and that shiny finish photographs like poly, not nitro, which has a softer patina.


That pick guard isn't the right shape. And why would anyone associated with the Gibson factory have to cut one by hand? It's also mounted with the system Asian manufacturers use on ES-type guitars, and not the block system used by Gibson for archtops (though they do use this for Les Pauls).


It' so OBVIOUSLY a fake, I can't believe you still entertain the notion it could be real. Listen to what everyone here is telling you. PLEASE stay away from that one.


Red 333

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Looking at the pics again, and comparing it to my own 335, and videos I have seen of Gibson's production, there's NO WAY that neck joint came out of Gibson. The tooling for that operation was hard, well developed, and there's no way they would even be able to make a neck heel like that!


The construction of Gibsons is highly rationalized: details like the finish, inlays, pickup configuration, and control layout are relatively easy to change. But tinkering with the tooling designed to ensure robust and repeatable joining of the various major components of the body and neck is not only improbable, but impossible given Gibson's way of doing things.


Run away. Run far, far away, and don't trust anything the seller tells you ever again.


PS: Kalamazoo closed in 1984: that's 24 years ago!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Interesting background for a poorly done imitation.


Well one good thing, it's a perfect example in spotting all the items that make it a fake....lol. Perhaps we can post this picture with anotations pointing to the fake items.

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There are many Asian builders making those necks with the dragon motif. That was my first clue that this is fake.


If you like the way it plays, offer the seller a few dollars for it, after letting them know that it's an obvious fake, of course.


If they refuse your offer, then you have to decide whether or not to alert any other potential buyers.


P.S. If you do buy it, at least remove the logo, and the inside sticker.

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