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Vintage Vault: 1959 Gibson ES-330TD

Vintage Vault: 1959 Gibson ES-330TD
The laminated top on this 57-year-old guitar practically glows. Three years later, in 1962, the neck dots were replaced by block inlays and the “Mickey Mouse ear” shape became less rounded.

Introduced a year after the ES-335, this hollowbody has a lot in common with first-generation Gibson thinlines.

The revolutionary double-cutaway thinline electric guitar series begun by Gibson with the ES-335 in 1958 expanded to both higher- and lower-end models by 1959. These included the upscale gold-hardware-bearing ES-345 and ES-355, as well as the student level ES-330T, ES-330TD, ES-125TC, and ES-125TCD. (The “D” was used to denote a double pickup model.) The ES-330 shared the same body dimensions as the ES-335, ES-345, and ES-355, but had a very different interior construction. Rather than having a semi-solidbody, the ES-330 was fully hollow, similar to the original 1955 thinlines like the ES-350T and ES-225.

The current value for one in excellent all-original condition is $4,500.

The original catalog text describing the guitar highlights the similarities to the ES-335: “A wonderful instrument with truly magical tone available in single- or double-pickup models. The double cutaway body and thin silhouette make it wonderfully easy to hold and play. The new slim neck provides fast, low action and perfect response. A beautiful guitar in the finest curly maple and rosewood and nickel-plated metal parts.”

A close-up of the ES-330TD’s classic ’50s angled Gibson headstock displays its pearl logo and individual Kluson Deluxe tuners with white plastic buttons.

This month’s featured 1959 ES-330TD has the usual features seen that year. These include a mahogany neck with dot inlays (block inlays were used after mid-1962), 22-fret rosewood fretboard joining the body at the 16th fret, individual Kluson Deluxe tuners with white plastic buttons, an unbound headstock with a pearl Gibson logo, a nickel Tune-o-matic bridge attached to the body, two single-coil P-90 pickups with black plastic covers (metal covers were standard by 1963), individual volume and tone controls for each pickup, a dark tobacco sunburst finish on a laminated maple top, a dark-stained laminated maple back and sides, and a nickel-plated trapeze tailpiece.

Among fans of P-90 pickups, the vintage dog-ears on this guitar and on Epiphone models from the same era are highly coveted for their rich, balanced sound.

The horns of the body’s double cutaways have the classic rounded “Mickey Mouse ear” shape (less perfectly rounded after 1962). Gibson made 270 sunburst ES-330TDs in 1959. The list price was $275. The current value for one in excellent all-original condition is $4,500.

Sources for this article include Gibson Electrics: The Classic Years by A.R. Duchossoir, Gibson Shipment Totals 1937–1979 by Larry Meiners, and The Gibson 335: Its History and Its Players by Adrian Ingram.