TRASH OR TREASURE
ZACHARY R. FJESTAD
Gibson ES-295: To Refinish or Not to Refinish?
Hey Zach, Gibson introduced the ES-295 in 1952 as a and it appeared in Mint condition, it would be
I recently bought this Gibson 1955 ES-295 hollowbody version of their solidbody Les Paul worth between $3500 and $4250. Currently,
for about $700 with what I was told is the Model. A closer look at the ES-295 will show this guitar would be rated at 60 perent (Good)
original case. As you can see, it’s got a seri- that it is very similar in construction to Gibson’s or lower condition, which we show at $3750.
ous finish issue. My question is, would I ruin popular ES-175D with an all-gold finish, floral
what little value a guitar in this condition has pickguard, and gold hardware. Toward the end
if I had it refinished? Is it worth the $700 I of 1957, Gibson replaced the P- 90 pickups with
gave for it? Everything seems to be original their new humbucker pickups. The ES-295 was
and it plays great; however, the flaking fin- discontinued in 1958, around the same time
ish makes it hard to take out of the house as the Gold Top Les Paul Model was discontinued.
they chip off here and there. Should I have The ES-295 appeared again in the 1990s as a
the guitar refinished, or should I keep it as is? reissue in Gibson’s Historic Collection. You may
Thanks! have also seen this guitar being played by Elvis
Heath Wilcox Presley’s lead guitarist, Scotty Moore.
Determining whether to refinish a guitar is a
big decision, especially when it comes to an
instrument of this era. Since this is your guitar
and not mine, you are the one who has to
make the decision, but I can certainly lay out
the pros and cons of refinishing. First, let’s
take a look at the ES-295 history.
As long as this guitar is structurally sound and
in working order (no cracks in the wood, working pickups and electronics), I think it is well
worth the $700 you paid for it. We show the
ES-295 at $8500 in Mint condition in the 11th
Edition Blue Book of Electric Guitars, and as
a general rule, refinished guitars command
between 40 and 50 percent of the unfinished
value. That means if you refinished this guitar
In the vintage guitar market, we’ve been taught
to appreciate all-original guitars and components, and any modifications will negatively
affect the value. Original finishes, pickups, hardware, and even original strings add favorably to
the value. Even if a guitar is refinished to Mint
condition, it is still worth about half of the same
guitar with all original finish and components.
I’ve had many discussions with vintage guitar
dealers regarding this topic, and in the mid-
2000s, people were paying ridiculous amounts
for clean all-original instruments.
The question you need to ask yourself is:
what do you plan on doing with this guitar?
If you plan on keeping it and playing it regularly, you may want to look into refinishing it.
I’m sure you’d like to have a clean guitar and
a finish that doesn’t flake. However, a professional refinish job will cost a lot of money,
especially if you refurbish the hardware and
electrical components. On the other hand,
if you are looking at making a quick buck or
selling it in the near future, you may want to
leave it as is. Also keep in mind that the used
(Relic, Road Worn, etc.) look on guitars is very
much en vogue today. The gold finish that
Gibson used on this and their Les Paul Model
was very prone to cracking and flaking.
I think you found a great treasure in this
guitar, and regardless of whether you refinish it or not, it will continue to be a treasure.
Just make sure you are confident in what you
decide, and find a professional to refinish it if
you take that route.
Zachary R. Fjestad
Zachary is the author of the Blue Book of Acoustic
Guitars, Blue Book of Electric Guitars, and the Blue
Book of Guitar Amplifiers.
Questions can be submitted to:
Blue Book Publications
Attn: Guitar Trash or Treasure
8009 34th Ave. S. Ste #175
Minneapolis, MN 55425