A Day Gibson Will Never Forget
The date was August 24, 2011. The clock stuck 8:45am and in came the Federal Government with 4 search warrants to seize pallets of wood, electronic files as well as completed guitars. The reasoning for this? Suspicion of violating the Lacey Act.
After many months of negotiations, paying a $300,000 fee to the Federal Government and a $50,000 donation to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Gibson was able to receive most of their wood back.
Disgruntled by this whole situation that he felt was completely politically biased, Henry Juszkiewicz, decided to launch a new line-up of guitars to “commemorate” the occasion.
The Government Series Guitars
The Government Series was born! This first series of Government guitars limited to 300 pieces each was released in 2013. It consisted of an Explorer, SG, Les Paul and Flying V guitars in a “Gun Metal Gray” finish and very appropriately named “Dirty Fingers +” pickups. They also came in a “Currency Green” case with black interior. These instruments utilized the reclaimed rosewood that the government took and went over very well with the public. They did so well Gibson decided to do a 2nd Run.
The second run also done in 2013 (with some spill-over into 2014) was very similar to the first, however, they got a “Government Tan” finish and were issued with regular cases instead of the cool green and black version series 1 had. The same Les Paul, Explorer, SG and Flying V shapes were done. Due to these limited extra features, series II is not as collectible as series I. These originally retailed at $999 and have held value very well since then. Series 1 is definitely the most collectible, but both runs rarely sell for under their new prices.
What about the ES-335?
Good question! I’ve always been confused about the reasoning behind the Government 335 as it wasn’t done until 2015 – two years later! (There are also a few made in 2016)
Series 1 and Series 2 were both made at Gibson USA in Nashville, but the ES-335 was done in their Memphis plant. Perhaps they got their wood back a little bit later than Nashville, but the important thing to note about this guitar is it was built in the same manner as series 1. It has the “Gun Metal Gray” finish, a “Currency Green” case and was limited to 300 pieces worldwide. The biggest difference to note is just regular “Dirty Fingers” pickups (not the plus version) and the 335 had black binding. Each of these received a hand numbered COA that was signed by the then CEO of Gibson.
The Headstock features a pearl Gibson logo with the Wheatstack/Crown inlay and an F-hole Engraved truss rod cover. The nut is black corian and the instrument is equipped with 18:1 ratio Grover Tuners.
The construction of the guitar is typical of a 335 with a Maple/Poplar/Maple sandwich for the top, back and sides of the instrument. However, an interesting feature of these guitars that many might be quick to assume is an after-the-factory upgrade is a locking bridge and locking tailpiece!
The bridge is an ABR-1 style that is made by Tone Pros called the AVR-II. These have two small allen key adjustment screws that lock it into place which keeps your intonation in check. If you are having trouble removing this piece from your guitar, it is likely because you have not loosened the screws!
The biggest surprise for me was the locking tailpiece! This is the first I’ve seen this technology stock on a Gibson. I’m familiar with the locking tailpieces from Tone Pro that utilize a similar alley key screw, but this version is different. The large circle part of the shaft screws up/down separately from the stud that screws into the guitar. Once this is tightened down on the tailpiece, it will then be locked in place. Personally, I think these look a little bit weird as you now have a large circle in the top of your post!
These instruments featured what Gibson considered a “semi-gloss” finish. It wasn’t quite a satin finish, but it wasn’t quite full gloss either. It is an in-between feel though with a little bit of elbow grease, you can easily polish these into a full gloss. In fact, just playing it regularly will do this!
Something else that makes the 335 a step above all the other Government series guitars is that is does indeed have binding. You might have missed it, but there is black binding along the neck and body of the instrument. This gives the ES-335 a more higher-end feel, which is appropriate since it was the most expensive of the series at $2899. For the price, I wish the f-holes would’ve been black bound as well!
Scale Length – 24.75″
1st Fret – 0.80″ | 12th Fret – 0.90″
1.66″ Nut Width + 2.00″ @ 12th Fret
It weighs 8lbs 3.1oz
Conclusion | Main Facts to Remember
- Only Government Series Guitar Produced in Memphis
- Only Government Series Produced outside of 2013/2014
- Similar to Series 1 with Green Case + Gun Metal Gray Finish
- Had “Dirty Fingers” Pickups instead of “Dirty Fingers+” (like the rest)
- Had Locking Hardware
- Most Expensive and High-End of all the Runs