ES-350 Guitars

1951 Gibson ES-350

Color: Natural, Rating: 9.00, Sold (ID# 00955)
Call to Inquire: (818) 222-4113

The Best of Both Worlds…

One of only 57 Natural ES-350s shipped in 1951 (an additional 70 Sunburst ES-350s were shipped that year), out of a total of 914 ES-350s shipped between 1949 and 1956. This 17-inch-wide guitar weighs just 7.00 lbs. and has a nice, fat nut width of 1 11/16 inches and a scale length of 25 1/2 inches. A wonderfully thick one-piece solid carved maple top (a full 1/4 inch thick at the 'f' holes!!!), one-piece maple back and sides with triple binding on the top and bottom edges. Two-piece maple neck with a center mahogany strip and a wonderful medium-to-thick profile. Bound Brazilian rosewood fretboard with 20 jumbo frets and inlaid pearl split-parallelogram position markers. Headstock with inlaid pearl "Gibson" logo and pearl crown inlay. Single-layer black plastic bell-shaped truss rod cover with two screws. Individual gold-plated Kluson deluxe 'double-line' tuners with bell-shaped keystone buttons and "D-169400 / Patent No" stamped on the underside. The back of the headstock has the black widow's peak. Two early "Patent Number" humbucker pickups with outputs of 8.95k and 7.76k. Original five-layer (black/white/black/white/black) plastic pickguard. Three controls (two volume on lower treble bout, plus one master tone on upper treble bout). The potentiometers are stamped "615 0689 119" and "615 0689 124" (ROC May and June 1951). Original gold plastic barrel-shaped 5/8 inch tall "Speed" knobs. ABR-1 Tune-O-Matic retainer bridge with nylon saddles on rosewood base. Original trapeze tailpiece with pointed ends and three small raised parallelograms on cross-bar. All hardware gold-plated. Inside the bass 'f' hole is the white oval Gibson label with "ES 350" and the "A" of the serial number written in black ink. The "9198" of the serial number is stamped in black. Inside the treble 'f' hole are the FON letters "7881 5" stamped in black.

This superb guitar went back to the Gibson factory in late 1963 (job # A 244) for a 'factory' conversion from P-90's to Humbuckers. The pickup cavities were extended and filled to accommodate the two humbuckers and the only visual evidence that remains are the four tiny (filled) holes from the P-90 pickup covers. The two "Patent Number" humbuckers which both show clearly the "L" toolmarks on their feet. These two pickups were wired from inside the pickups and the pickup covers were then attached and soldered at that time. The original wiring harness and potentiometers from 1951 were left untouched. The pickguard (which has the factory job number "for A 244" etched on the underside) was also modified to accommodate the two humbuckers and under 10X magnification the factory tool marks are clearly visible. The guitar was re-fretted with '63 style jumbo frets and the fretboard binding re-done as only the factory could have done. Also at that time, the original individual Kluson deluxe tuners were replaced with the then latest late '63 'two-line' Kluson deluxe tuners with single rings (probably because the originals had shrunken) and they also replaced the original pre-compensated rosewood bridge saddle with a then current ABR-1 bridge with nylon saddles. Finally they returned the guitar to the owner in a then 'brand new' Gibson four-latch black hardshell case with orange plush lining.

So what do we have here? We know that the early ES-350's (1949-1956) are considered to be amongst the finest guitars that Gibson ever produced and that the 18 natural guitars shipped between 1955 and 1956 with ABR-1 Tune-O-Matic bridges are amongst the most desirable of all Gibson archtops… we also know that after 1956 the ES-350 underwent several major changes - the most significant being the use of a short scale (23 1/2 inch) neck.

Here we have the best of both worlds… a blond ES-350 with a thick carved maple top, a full 25 1/2 inch scale neck, an ABR-1 Tune-O-Matic bridge and two Patent Number pickups - all installed by the Gibson Factory. Truly unique…

We purchased the guitar from the second owner - who bought it from the original owner in the seventies. The original owner lived in the same area and was a Gibson rep. He told the story of how In late 1963 the Gibson factory offered to 'update' his prized 1951 ES-350 and retrofit his instrument with the latest Patent Number humbuckers…

We called in our resident Gibson expert Joe Ganzler to give us his opinion on the validity of the story - his full report is available upon request.

In 1955 the ES-350 was fitted with a fully adjustable Tune-O-Matic bridge shortly before being discontinued as a full body electric. The same year, the thin-bodied ES-350T with shorter neck was unveiled and the regular 350 was definitively phased out in 1956" (A.R. Duchossoir, Gibson Electrics -- The Classic Years, p. 178).

According to Duchossoir, a total of 117 ES-350s with Tune-O-Matics were shipped from the factory between 1955-1956, but out of these only 18 had the very rare Natural finish.

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