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"First Rack" ES-345's

OKGuitar

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I'm trying to get a sense of the timeline regarding very early ES-345s. The lowest serial that I know of is Tom H's blondie in the A296xx range. These early 345s have some characteristics that later went away but there is some inconsistency (big surprise) in both the serial number sequence and the features. The typical "first rack" features are the smaller bridge pickup rout which necessitates the "short leg" PAF, the sometimes wax potted VT chokes and the humongous neck. I recently sold A 2971x and recently acquired A2995x. The earlier one didn't have a short leg PAF but had the small rout and the huge neck. It didn't have the wax potted chokes. A2995x has the short leg PAF (double white) and the wax potted chokes and the big neck. Here's what really throws it out of whack. The original ES-345 prototype belonged to Hank Garland and had a serial number very close to the one I just acquired. His is A29915. Gibson often used serial numbers out of order, so that's no surprise but it makes the early history of the 345 difficult to research. It would make sense that going forward, Gibson would make changes that made construction easier and more cost efficient. So, the disappearance of the small rout-replaced by the fully cut block made economic sense. Similarly, I would think that the elimination of wax potting would make sense but the A2971x 345 didn't have it and the later serial does. The FON of A2995x is S8537 32. I'll have to check the records on the earlier serial since that one is sold but I think I wrote it down somewhere. So, anybody with a 345 with a serial before A30000, please chime in and let me know what you know in terms of these early characteristics and FONs. If you don't want to post your numbers here, just email me. Here's Hank's documentation

1556874_orig.jpg
 

mbowen

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I will have to dig this guitar out to check the Fon -all i remember is it is 59.This one has the biggest neck of any of my old guitars except for a 1968-69-Les Paul Custom which may be a little larger.Anyway here is the serial # A-29952--do not know if that is First or second rack?Got FON -S8537 9 looks like smaller lead pickup route,mine was wired for mono when i got it so do not know about the choke not sure what to look for?.M.B.


 
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OKGuitar

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Yours is from the same rack as mine-S8537. Yours is number 9 in the rack, mine is #32. Interesting that the serial numbers are only 6 apart but the rack number is 23 apart. Is the bridge pAF a "short leg"? Is there any wax residue in the cutout?
 

mbowen

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Yours is from the same rack as mine-S8537. Yours is number 9 in the rack, mine is #32. Interesting that the serial numbers are only 6 apart but the rack number is 23 apart. Is the bridge pAF a "short leg"? Is there any wax residue in the cutout?
Do not know next time i change strings on it i will pop the lead pickup and look,Mike B.
 

OKGuitar

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I just heard from the gentleman I sold A2971x to and the FON is actually LATER by 1. His is S8538 3. So, the question of the earliest rack number (as opposed to the earliest serial number) becomes a little clearer. The serial number and the rack numbers don't seem to necessarily correspond to each other. I know that the rack numbers are consecutive and that serial numbers often were not. Therefore S8537 9 is earlier than mine S8537 32. But A2971x which is 200 serial numbers earlier is from the next rack of 40 or so guitars built. I spoke to Gil S about it and he explained that he always referred to black VT ring giant neck 345's as "first rack" regardless of whether they actually were from the lowest rack number which makes sense since we're talking about certain features. Anybody else got a number for me? Tom H?
 
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mbowen

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I just heard from the gentleman I sold A2971x to and the FON is actually LATER by 1. His is S8538 3. So, the question of the earliest rack number (as opposed to the earliest serial number) becomes a little clearer. The serial number and the rack numbers don't seem to necessarily correspond to each other. I know that the rack numbers are consecutive and that serial numbers often were not. Therefore S8537 9 is earlier than mine S8537 32. But A2971x which is 200 serial numbers earlier is from the next rack of 40 or so guitars built. I spoke to Gil S about it and he explained that he always referred to black VT ring giant neck 345's as "first rack" regardless of whether they actually were from the lowest rack number which makes sense since we're talking about certain features. Anybody else got a number for me? Tom H?
I have bought a bunch of ES's from Gil S.and yes he always called a Huge neck Black VT ring a first rack Es-345.In reality it looks like that description could be applied to the first two racks or at least the early part of the second rack.Mike B.
 

Little Jake

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The black '59 335 recently posted in the "Love ES" thread is from the same rack as the two 345's discussed above: FON S8537 5; Serial No. A31302. So, earlier FON, much later ser. no.
 

OKGuitar

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The black '59 335 recently posted in the "Love ES" thread is from the same rack as the two 345's discussed above: FON S8537 5; Serial No. A31302. So, earlier FON, much later ser. no.

That seems crazy but I had a 59 ES355 with an A306xx serial and a 58 FON. That's what makes this fun. And a little frustrating, perhaps. So who has FON S8536 xx?
 

abalonevintage

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Allegedly Hank Garland had two early ES-345s. I would take anything, and everything, with a grain-of-salt that came from his family or estate. History has been revised several times over the years....if you get my drift.

I have waded into those waters more than once... :wah
 

RAB

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I owned A29663 for quite awhile. I bought it from Gil. An amazing guitar which I regret selling but, ya know, I just had to have a dot 335! The 345 had the black Varitone ring of course...Unfortunately I can't recall the FON. The guitar had the biggest neck profile I've ever encountered on an ES model, in fact likely the largest profile I'd ever seen on any Gibson electric. It had a full white PAF in the neck position. I believe the bridge pickup had the short leg...I don't recall seeing any waxy residue inside the guitar...
 

Michael Minnis

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Here is my 345 on Tom's site. http://www.es-335.net/345/A29846.html

I just checked my FON. It's S8537 12. The varitone has been removed, but it was wax potted. The neck is exceptional for my tastes. Full, but not a baseball bat. Not sure about the other specs. It's a fabulous guitar. Light, wonderfully alive. The "one" for me.
 

OKGuitar

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So far A29846, A29952 and A29958 are all from the same rack (S8537) and A29719 is from one rack later (S8538). The black one probably had a finish or grain flaw and was held back and then painted black when the order came in and was given a later serial number despite being part of S8537. And it's a 335 anyway and not relevant to this discussion. It does show that the "racks" were mixed. Interesting that the lowest serial is not the lowest in the rack. Anybody got one with an earlier FON (S8536 maybe?) Gil loves these huge neck monster guitars. Too big for my little hands.
 
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Michael Minnis

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So far A29846, A29952 and A29958 are all from the same rack (S8537) and A29719 is from one rack later (S8538). The black one probably had a finish or grain flaw and was held back and then painted black when the order came in and was given a later serial number despite being part of S8537. And it's a 335 anyway and not relevant to this discussion. It does show that the "racks" were mixed. Interesting that the lowest serial is not the lowest in the rack. Anybody got one with an earlier FON (S8536 maybe?) Gil loves these huge neck monster guitars. Too big for my little hands.

As I stated, mine doesn't necessarily have a huge neck. Although it's certainly full.
 

mbowen

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That's A29958 which I bought and was the only bidder.
You have more guts then i do a seller with 0 feedback scared me.I am glad it was legit and you got the guitar for a super price,Mike B.
 
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TomGuitar

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The FON on my blonde is S8539.

I am not convinced though that FON's were consecutive. Does anyone know that to be fact? I have seen wildly divergent FON's on guitars whose serial numbers, specs, and all other indications of time period were very close.
 

OKGuitar

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It is my understanding that it is just about the only thing at Gibson that is consistent. The serial numbers and features can be all over the place because the FON simply says that the guitar's construction was begun in a certain "rack". Some would be completed months or even years later. I have a 60 FON on a 62 block neck. For all I know, rack 8537, 8538 and 8539 were all begun on the same day. Your blonde has the lowest serial of any I know of. My question is which early features it has. Wax potted VT? Short leg PAF? I'm trying to get a handle on what features came on the very first ones. Serial numbers are what is messing up my research. I had A29719-rack 8538, no wax potting, no short leg PAF. I just sold A29958, rack 8537, wax potted, short leg PAF. I spoke to Gil about it and he thought he had one from rack 8536.
 
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