Vintage Drum Guide Search our web sites! I get emails all of the time with a basic drum description and a serial number from visitors in hopes I can unlock the history of their drum. I think in general serial numbers do play an important role in the commercial market especially electronics and other high end items.
In the 60's Insurance companies made it mandatory that serial numbers be put on items so they can be documented. Unfortunately drum companies never really prescribed to any code of documenting a drum based on that serial number. In fact I once heard that they started using serial numbers not for their own use per say but so schools and institutions could keep track of instruments in inventory. I also get people asking what factory a drum might have shipped from or the exact month a drum was made or even the production numbers etc.
The ever important serial number which some companies keep detailed records of unfortunately does not exist in the history of drums. We also have to state that much of the record keeping was archaic at best and in some cases history was destroyed in plant fires or just tossed in the garbage!.
With that said many drum companies never even used serial numbers early on. In most cases the best way to estimate the date of a drum is its physical characteristics. Fortunately drum companies since the 40's were good at printing catalogs. Earlier catalog examples do exist, but are rare and expensive to acquire. In most cases they also included a host of other band instruments and items related to the music business.
These catalogs although re-printed in some cases from year to year with limited changes do provide a timeline of when finishes were added and when hardware was used and or changed on drums. Unfortunately still there is no exact science or way to pinpoint an exact date of a drums manufacture. As collectors and historians we have to settle for a date range or a specific year at best.
That being said some drums did get date stamped on the inside shell and that is the most accurate indication when a drum was made. The problem was that the stamp was created with an ink that easily wiped off during routine cleanings!
Even if a serial number badge does exist on a drum anomalies do occur and that is because the badges did not have an inventory control system. A more historical perspective and history of this practice was documented by Vintage Drum Center and can be read here.
It is also common knowledge that finishes that were discontinued were kept in inventory and people would order them, so production would use the finish. That throws the date of the drum off!
This happened with hardware and badges and these companies were competing in an ever aggressive market and had to do what needed to be done to remain profitable. This is especially the case when import drums started flooding the market with a lower priced alternative set of drums.
Slingerland Drums - Click Here Rogers Drums - A few people are trying to create a guide, but the best way is the physical characteristics Leedy - Physical characteristics Gretsch - Physical characteristics Anyone left out - Physical characterisitics So if you finally made it to this point then you are almost there!
Below you will find information for dating the serial numbers on Ludwig Drums. Here are some references you can use to date by serial number. The web site link is available so feel free to visit their web sites and learn more. I only put them in one location to make it easier for people to get the information.
Vintage Drum Center 60's Ludwig dating guide: Also if you wish to purchase vintage drums or new drum gear this is the place to go! If you have this badge you can't use the serial number guides below.