So back the end of April I finally did it. For the last couple of years, I've been trolling the interwebs looking for a really good deal on a specific guitar. I bought my Epi ES-339 back in like 2012 or whenever it is that they started making them. I missed the first run of them the previous fall (although I had my order in at that point), so I got mine the following spring when production on them really ramped up. Although it hasn't been on the stand the entire time, it's a guitar that I have continually gone back to. Also, I pulled it out of the closet in 2017 for a blues jam I was going to, and it only went back into the closet when I did this thing.
I've really liked the size of the 339. Not as big as a 335 and not as heavy as an LP. When it's clean, it can get that airy sound of a 335, but can growl like an LP. When you play it, it's pretty obviously not either of those, but it can give a reasonable facsimile of either. It leans closer to the LP though. It can get that jazz vibe and still be rock and roll. Or it can be a total blues machine. The more I played that Epi, the more I liked it, and the more I wanted an really nice one.
So I started looking for one. I was looking mostly at Gibsons, but I had seen a couple of Collings that were that size that were really nice. The Collings would've been my first choice, but they are/were just soooo expensive. More than I could really rationalize paying anyways. If I ended up going for a Collings, I didn't care what the aesthetic or year would be. If I got the Gibson, I really wanted a light caramel version that was pre-Memphis factory closing. Also, if I got a Gibson, I wanted a real 339 and not one of the Studio models. That was mostly because I had gotten a 335 Studio (not the 2-knob version) and it just never did it for me.
Anyways, I had narrowed it down to those two models, and had just been looking for one that was a price that I was willing to pay. Being as selective as I was being, no matter how you sliced it, it wasn't going to be a cheap guitar. I had a couple pop up on my Reverb feed over the course of those couple of years that would've met my hopeful price range, but they went extremely quickly.
One afternoon, one showed up that fit the bill all the way around. And it was on the other side of the Metroplex and not somewhere across the country. I wouldn't call it a screamin' deal, but the price was actually the lowest I had seen for one like I wanted. Looking at the listing, it had been posted only an hour before. So I emailed the store.
Surprisingly, they immediately responded, and the sales person told me that I probably wanted to call on the guitar because it had already generated more than usual interest. I gave them a call and talked about the guitar. They asked if I wanted it, and I explained that, if I did, I was going to want to do some trading to get the cost down so I'd have to call him back. He told me, "I promise I'm not trying to pressure you on this one, but do whatever thinking you need to do quickly." Talked it over with Mrs Snarf, looked at a couple of guitars I had in the closet, and called them back. Told him I wanted it and asked if he could hold it until I could get over to the store the next day. He said he could only hold it with a deposit, and he wouldn't recommend on just hoping it would be there the next day. So I put down a 10% deposit.
Since I put the deposit down, I actually waited a couple of days to drive across the Metroplex to finish working out the deal. Got to the store, played on it for a couple of minutes, and then got my trade guitars out of the truck. We got the deal worked out and got the cash out of pocket down to about half of what they were asking. I paid the man and started to put it back in the case to bring it home.
That's when the sales guy told me this. He said that he really wasn't trying to do the sales pressure thing on me with the guitar. He said as he saw my email come in asking about it, a guy came into the store and picked it up. The guy plugged it in and sat down and started playing it. He sat there playing it the entire time (probably 20 minutes) that he and I were going back and forth with phone calls. He said that he could tell the guy was actually interested in the guitar and not somebody that was just killing time by playing it. After he hung up from the call where I put down the deposit, he said he walked over to the guy to tell him it had just sold on the phone. As he got up to the guy to tell him, the customer looked up and said, "I'm really liking this guitar. I think I'm going to take it." So the salesman had to tell him that he had just missed out. According to the salesman, if I'd drug my feet just a minute or two longer, he would've been telling that to me.
I don't know if that was him giving me a good sales story to make me feel better about buying it, but I felt like he wasn't feeding me a line with it. And if that's the case, I guess I got lucky with it. The guitar I had been wanting at a lower price than I had been seeing other places. So I present to you, my new-to-me 2007 Gibson ES-339. I know I've only had it a couple of months, but it is absolutely without question the best electric I own. There's a LOT to be said about Gibson's QC issues the last few years (the ES-335 I bought was a case in point for that), but when they built this 339, the got it right.
I like guitars. For the first 15 or so years of my guitar playing life, I only had 2 guitars. Well, 3, but really only played 2 of them. They were both acoustics. A steel string and a classical. I also had a travel guitar for part of that time, but that was kind of a novelty, and it didn't get played very often at all.
Then I bought my first electric. I had it for a couple of years. Bought it off eBay from a guy across town. Never really bonded with it, but usually kept it sitting out on the stand instead of the others just because I thought it looked cool. Shortly after I bought it, I took myself to the local GC, and I bought myself an amp. Knew even less about amps than I did electric guitars, and I ended up with an amp that has since been relegated to the workbench in the garage so that I have something that I can test a guitar on when I'm working on it just to be sure that all the electronics are working.
I thought the electric guitar and amp sitting next to each other in the living room looked really cool. You know how it is. Bachelor chic. Single guy decor. When I joined the ranks of the matrimonially inclined, I was pretty quickly told that they were no longer welcome sitting out in the living room.
I was content with the guitars I had. They covered everything I needed them to do. And, in fact, when I played out, I only ever used one specific guitar...the Martin...because it had a pickup in it, and I could plug it in or mic it, and it just was (and still is) a workhorse of a guitar. That was also back when finances were beyond tight. There was seldom anything extra, and when there was, it generally went to stuff that I actually needed and not guitars or gear. I had also not really discovered the world of gear at that point.
Somewhere in the middle of all that, I had spotted the electric guitar at a little guitar shop in East Texas that I wanted instead of the one that I had. I wasn't yet seeing the girl that I ended up marrying, but I had driven over to East Texas a couple of times to visit her with some friends. So I decided one weekend when I was visiting her to take my electric to that little shop and see what kind of deal I could swing for the one that I had seen hanging on their wall. Because the shop didn't do their due diligence, they thought the guitar I was trading was a much nicer guitar than it was (it was the very bottom end, import Parker that they thought was the bottom end MIA version...a difference on the used market of about $600 at the time). So when the guy came out and made a production of telling me that they were going to give me a super deal and trade me straight up for the guitar on the wall (which, at what they should've been paying me was going to be about 50% off the price of the one I wanted), I figured I was going to take the money and run.
I figured that, when I walked in with the guitar, I had told him the model number, and it was right there on the headstock too, so it was his own fault if he didn't know what it was. Then again, date of manufacture on the one I wanted was about 18 months before, so maybe it had been hanging on their wall for too long, and they just figured they'd get rid of it and try their luck with something else. Maybe they thought they were the ones getting the steal of a deal.
I still think the store guy thought he had the nicer Parker, though, because they had a used one sitting over as soon as you walked in the door like a trophy. It had the usual Parker price tag on it, and he kept talking about how it was going to be nice to have 2 Parkers in the store at once. Problem was, the one I was trading would only sell for about 30% of the price they had on the other one. Like I said, take the money, or rather the guitar that I wanted, and run. Depending on your perspective, I didn't pay anything for the guitar I left with. It was a straight up trade.
It was what has come to be known on the market as a Fender Splattercaster. A MIM Standard Strat with a splatter paint job.
Fast forward a few years. I had a better paying job. I was married. She also had a job. Finances were a little more free. I had not only realized that different electrics sounded different (there was a time that I thought they all sounded the same - I was an extreme acoustic snob), but I had discovered all the periphery gear that gets sold around guitars. So I slowly started acquiring pedals and amps and even more (and nicer) guitars.
Every guitar that I bought, I bought for a purpose. I had always really liked the look of a 335, so for our first Christmas together, my new wife found a 335-clone on a bargain closeout price, and bought it for me. Then I got a really good bonus at work so I picked up a Les Paul because, since my primary electric was a Strat, it seemed to be the opposite electric. That's when things started to free up a bit and GAS started to kick into high gear.
Since then I've managed to get representation of all the major body types of electrics (at least the ones that I like - except an SG, and someday I still need to find the perfect one of those). I've also got more amps than some studios I've seen, a closet full of pedals, and lots of other associated gear. In truth, when we moved into our current house, one of the major considerations was the music room and the fact that it really, really needed a walk-in closet so all the guitars would fit.
Out of all the gear I've got, I've gotten it all to play. Basically anyways. I've got one guitar that I bought recently for the sole reason that I like the look of it. One of these days, I'm going to hang it on the wall as an art piece. But that doesn't meant that it will never be played.
I've got some nice gear that someday may actually be worth more than I paid for it. It may not be. I'm thinking specifically of a couple of anniversary edition guitars that I've got. They'll never finance my retirement (they're not babied - I play them), but someday I might at least be able to get my money back on them. There are a couple of pedals I have because they're unique that I bought with the thought in the back of my mind that maybe someday I'd get a return on them because of the fact that they're unique and they (at least as of now) haven't really been mass marketed. One of them, I could already do that to. Watching Reverb, mine's in good condition, and it looks like I could get about 50% more from it than I paid. But I like the pedal, don't really want to part with it at the moment, and it gets played. So, when I do decide to get rid of it, it's going to look used. So it may end up being worthless. But, when the rubber meets the road, I buy gear to play it. Gear is never an investment.
I feel like I should repeat that. Gear is NEVER an investment.
That said, I occasionally pull out the guitar and amp blue books and hit reverb (or where ever) so that I can see how much it would cost to replace my gear if anything happened to it. It's an insurance thing. Oddly enough, tonight in doing that audit, it appears that most of my gear has either held steady at used prices I paid or depreciated as expected when bought new. Except for one guitar. The one that I didn't pay anything for. The one that I could never get rid of because I bought it to try and impress a girl that I wasn't yet dating. The one that, since all of my guitars are named, happens to be named after that girl...who a few weeks later bought a stuffed animal and named it after me because I had told her the new guitar's name. BTW, she eventually married me.
Looking at what they seem to sell for when they hit the market, since I wasn't out of pocket for the guitar, if I factor in what the guitar I traded would have fairly sold for, that Splattercaster has doubled in value since I bought it. Of course I'd have to go dig the original pickguard and back plate out of the box in the closet and put them back on, but it just kind of made me laugh. As far as collectibility, it's just a MIM Standard Strat with an odd paint job. If you listen to the cork-sniffers, it's a run of the mill MIM so it can only be worthless, good for nothing, and will never amount to anything. I wonder if they could tell me what guitar they have that has doubled in value. I bet they can't.
Funny how that works out sometimes.
Snarf is a wannabe musician who currently resides in the great state of Texas. His wife is his favorite. He believes chocolate milk made from milk that is anything less than whole milk is basically water and deserves to be dumped down the sink so nobody has to suffer through it. He hates having to shop for clothes. But he has a thing for really cool bags, and, consequently, has more gig bags than guitars and a closet full of messenger bags and backpacks. He still misses his dog who was taken by cancer years ago. Check out his Reverb shop and see if he has any gear he's trying to get rid of.