Gretsch Serial Number Dating Guide

KCDrumDad

Very well Known Member
Joined
Dec 8, 2006
Messages
1,451
Reaction score
204
Location
Kansas City
I wanted to provide a progress update on the Gretsch Serial Number Dating Guide and make one more push for information from owners of vintage Gretsch drums.

Back in 2006, member gsw started a thread on DFO in which he kept a log of serial numbers for Gretsch drums. I joined in the effort later that year. The goal was to determine if a serial number based dating guide could be created for vintage Gretsch drums. After all, serial number dating guides had been developed for Ludwig, Slingerland and Rogers, so why not Gretsch?

Although the original thread no longer exists, the serial number log has flourished. It has grown to include entries for over 3,900 drums. Drumforum members have been very supportive and many have provided information on their drums. I would like to thank everyone who has contributed so far. I always welcome more reports on vintage Gretsch drums with serial number labels. So if you have a Gretsch drum with a Round, Stop Sign or early Square badge and that drum has a serial number label inside it, please post information about it here or contact me (PM through DFO or email to Rick@GretschDrumDatingGuide.com).

Many pieces of information are included on each drum. The particular items I record are:
1. Serial number,
2. Model number,
3. Dimensions,
4. Badge style,
5. Label style (Orange/White – with and without guarantee language, Grey/White),
6. Whether the model number is stamped or handwritten on the label,
7. The color of ink used for the model number,
8. The type of screw used to mount the lug casing to the shell (round head or hex head),
9. The set configuration, if part of a set,
10. The type of throwoff if a snare,
11. The presence or absence of decorative knurling around the center of a chrome snare,
12. Any other noted characteristics,
13. The original purchase date or drum’s history, if available, and
14. Wrap or finish.

With data from more than 3,900 drums in front of you, many things become very clear. These include:
1. Serial numbers were used in a very systematic and predictable way, not applied randomly as some contend.
2. Serial numbers were reused by Gretsch, introduced in the early 1960s and started over once in the 1970s and again in the 1980s. This reuse of serial numbers has contributed much to the confusion over the usefulness of serial numbers.
3. The changes in badge styles, label styles, hardware and other physical characteristics track extremely closely with the numerical progression of serial numbers through the decades.
4. There are always some exceptions to the general rule. Gretsch has surprisingly few, but there will always be a drum somewhere that does not fit the pattern.

Based upon analysis of the information gathered, I have written a 44 page “research paper” which goes into detail of how Gretsch used serial numbers and how Gretsch serial numbers, when combined with other physical characteristics, can be used to estimate a drum’s age. That paper culminates in a Dating Guide for Vintage Gretsch Drums. After one last push to gather information (see above), I hope to finalize the paper and publish it. Precisely how it is going to be presented is still being worked out. I plan both printed (book chapter, booklet or magazine article) and on-line publication of the information.

I realize that many people currently disregard Gretsch serial numbers as meaningless. This is the prevailing opinion in the vintage drum literature and statements made by several of the experts. One noted exception is John Sheridan, who developed a Rule of Thumb for round badge drums based upon the number of digits in the serial numbers. I would point out that Rob Cook states in The Ludwig Book and Carl Wenk states in his Slingerland Serial Numbers article on vintagesnaredrums.com that when they started their efforts, the common belief was that serial numbers from Ludwig and Slingerland, respectively, did not have any meaning. Today their serial number guides are not only accepted, but relied upon in the vintage drum community. It just seems that no one had done the data collection for Gretsch before.

So, to end this long post, I ask for two things:
1. Keep your reports coming.
2. Be patient as this effort of more than four years is getting much closer to a conclusion. There should be a Gretsch Dating Guide available later this year.

Thanks,
Rick

Edited in 4/19/11 to add wrap or finish as characteristic that I collect.
Edited 11/10/14 to revise contact email address.
 

hefty

DFO Master
Joined
Aug 5, 2005
Messages
3,203
Reaction score
238
Location
Seattle
Looking forward to seeing the paper! I was happy to contribute a small brick (my 1983 sq badge Gretsches) in this wall of information.
 

tillerva

Forum Guru...yeh right :p
Joined
Dec 4, 2008
Messages
4,922
Reaction score
198
Rick,
I'll get you info for these babies that I just picked up (not to mention check on those nickel parts for you)! Okay, this was a shameless way to show off my new Gs. .

 

gsw

DFO Veteran
Joined
Aug 20, 2005
Messages
1,639
Reaction score
3
Rick is on to something here and I truly believe this info will be "the" source when published.
Those numbers make sense on RB drums and I applaud you for chugging along despite the many naysayers.
The drums in factory built sets may have serial numbers several hundred digits apart, but there was definitely a general order to the batches of labels through from the 60's on.

I applaud this effort... it's something that I was far too lazy and unorganized to take on.
Greg
 

Night Mission

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 30, 2010
Messages
192
Reaction score
2
Hope it's not too late, I just sent four more numbers! Looking forward to the report...
 

Jazz Drummer

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 20, 2011
Messages
80
Reaction score
12
Location
Hamburg, Germany
I have been collecting Ludwig/Slingerland since 35 years (now I am down to what I believe I really need, comes with age folks!).
I happen to have a what I believe early 80's Gretsch Custom since 2007 and to this day I have not been able to find out a rough idea about the production year. I could help with Ludwig or Slingerland but there is no serious information out there for Gretsch and I am dying to know:

Badge: Square GRETSCH USA
Color: Pink Champagne Sparkle
Hardware: Techware
Inside shell: Silver

Serial#-stickers:
Silver/white "That Great Gretsch Sound"

Size......Model.......Serial#
12".......Gm4415......CS 49694
14".......G4417.......CS 49649
18".......G4244.......CS 49655 (hoops light wood/laquer)

Serial numbers are printed, model and "CS" hand written. As to the
"CS", since this is also my initials, would be curious to know what
that refers to.

I did ask Gretsch twice but they don't seem to have time for this sort of thing.

The drums may be too young to be in the upcoming list, can you or anyone give me a guide on production year?

Thanks!
 

AaronLatos

spang spang a lang
Joined
Aug 5, 2005
Messages
4,071
Reaction score
205
Location
upstate NY
Rick, thank you for your efforts! I don't own any Gretsch, but I'm sure this will be an invaluable resource for the community. Good work!


Color: Pink Champagne Sparkle

Serial numbers are printed, model and "CS" hand written. As to the
"CS", since this is also my initials, would be curious to know what
that refers to.
My best guess!
 

KCDrumDad

Very well Known Member
Joined
Dec 8, 2006
Messages
1,451
Reaction score
204
Location
Kansas City
Size......Model.......Serial#
12".......Gm4415......CS 49694
14".......G4417.......CS 49649
18".......G4244.......CS 49655 (hoops light wood/laquer)

Serial numbers are printed, model and "CS" hand written. As to the
"CS", since this is also my initials, would be curious to know what
that refers to.
These drums are a little past the timeframe that is my focus, but I can provide some information.

I would have to see a picture, but I suspect that the "CS" actually belongs as part of the model number and was handwritten below the model number line or on the serial number line when the author ran out of room. The color code for Pink Champagne Sparkle in the 1983 Catalog is "CSP". It would not surprise me if this was shortened formally or informally over time. I do not have access to catalogs from the later 1980s or 1990s to compare against. A color code appeared as part of the model number on many drums in the same serial number range as your drums. Here is the 1983 catalog for reference: http://www.gretschdrums.com/ebooks/catalog_2/index.html#

I can also tell you that the vast majority of Gretsch drums had non-wrapped finished wood shells during this timeframe. Your wrapped drums would have been in the minority.

The "M" in the model number for your 12" tom means that it was a deeper power tom "Magnum" depth of 10" instead of the traditional 8".

As far as age of your drums, I can help a little. The gray/white labels started in about 1979/1980 and continued in use for several more years. During the 1980s and 1990s, it appears that Gretsch did not make many drums. I do not have a significant enough number of reports of serial numbers and known dates from this time period to be able to give you anything very definitive. I have a report from an original owner of a set of drums with serial numbers in the 318XX range who says they were purchased in 1986. I have another original owner report of a set of drums with serial numbers in the 425XX range purchased in 1988. I also have a report of a set with serial numbers in the 483XX range purchased in August 1994. Finally, I have a report of a drum with a serial number in the 524XX range purchased in 1996. From the above reports, I would suspect that your drums are probably from the 1990s rather than the 1980s.

I hope that helps.

Rick

PS: I sent my dating guide "research paper" to be printed this week. It should be available in a few weeks.
 

Jazz Drummer

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 20, 2011
Messages
80
Reaction score
12
Location
Hamburg, Germany
Thanks a lot Rick!
First of all, you are right about the 12" tom, that used to be 10" deep and it looked like a cannon over the 18"BD, disgusting to say the least. I had it cut down professionally to 7,5" using on both sides one old hole and drilling one new one for each lug. Does not show at all, sounds great.
As to your date of manufacture suggestion, that's what I "love" about Gretsch: From the set it looks like a clean 1981 but the serial numbers don't match. Enclosed a picture of the set as well as 2 pictures from what I believe a 1981 catalog (according to Gretsch a 1983 with reference to your link). The only difference is the BD-hoops, in the catalog black and mine are natural (which Gretsch did offer at the time). The previous owner - I checked my records - suggested 1989 actually. So if we can settle for end 80's/early 90's, what kind of drum shells do we have here, Jasper or Keller (which understand is the same shell design/6-ply).

To cover the snare drum from March 2009, who made that shell? That drum was a real Gretsch Classic by the way, it had been at the Frankfurt Music Trade Show (largest in the world) in April of 2008, I bought 11 months later, I could not get that thing to sound right and took it apart: The snare beds were great, but the shell wasn't drilled correctly and the beds were off center quite a bit. The only good part of that story is a replacement shell arrived within 2 weeks.
The dealer said at the time Gretsch only made 8 custom drums per day, may be they should only make 6...? View attachment 113779
 

KCDrumDad

Very well Known Member
Joined
Dec 8, 2006
Messages
1,451
Reaction score
204
Location
Kansas City
I am not very knowledgable about shell manufacture. I think there are probably some threads on DFO discussing whether shells from those time periods would be Jasper, Keller, or some other manufacturer. Perhaps someone with that knowledge will come along and enlighten us.

Edit - Here is a useful thread: http://www.drumforum.org/index.php?/topic/56344-gretsch-jasper-drum-shells/page__p__621910__hl__%2Bgretsch+%2Bjasper+%2Bshell__fromsearch__1#entry621910
 

Jazz Drummer

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 20, 2011
Messages
80
Reaction score
12
Location
Hamburg, Germany
Thanks again. One thing that I can add about my set is, unlike the pictures show in the 1983 catalog, the bass drum head originally was clear and not white. I have now decided that it is a 1989 vintage unless someone out here believes it is totally wrong.

As to shells - I have read somewhere that Jasper and Keller were made the same way. I found some detailed info about early 80's:

JASPER SHELL CONFIGURATION OF AN EARLY 80’s GRETSCH

ALL DRUMS:
6 Plies of Maple and Gum
Maple ply thickness: 1/32"
Ply layout (from the outside in): MGMGGM

TOMS:
Shell thickness: 3/16"+
Gum ply thickness: 1/32"
Grain orientation: HVHVVH

KICK:
Shell thickness: 9/32"+
Gum ply thickness: 1/16"
Grain orientation: HHHVVH

SNARE:
Shell thickness: 9/32"+
Gum ply thickness: 1/16"
Grain orientation: HVHVVH

As to the silver sealer, I really had a ball reading this and I hope you do too:
"Yep, aluminum-bearing fence paint is a perfect match for the silver sealer. Secret formula my ass!"
 

Jazz Drummer

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 20, 2011
Messages
80
Reaction score
12
Location
Hamburg, Germany
This is what I found about Jasper shells:

Speaking of "secret formulas", an interesting thing to note is that gumwood has approximately the same specific density as sugar maple. It is, however, less expensive than maple because it is not quite as pretty, and therefore makes a great filler wood, rather than using 100% maple plies. The "Great Gretsch Sound" is not as much a function of the shell as it is the silver-sealed interiors (a hard but non-glossy surface), bearing edge design, and die-cast hoops, and is easily cloned by anyone who can build drums using regular ol' 6-ply maple shells. The use of gumwood in the Keller/Gretsch shells is purely for aesthetics and nostalgia to satisfy the tweakheads and stalwarts. Side-by-side, you can't tell the difference. Don't get me wrong, I love Gretsch drums, but they are NOT an enigma, tonally-speaking.

According to Rob Cook in his discussion of Rogers shells, Jasper stopped making shells for Gretsch as late as 2002. Gretsch drums with those shells continued to ship long afterwards though. I also remember in 2002 the announcement that Jasper would no longer make drum shells.

If it's a 6 ply Gretsch it's a Jasper unless it was made sometime in approx. the past ten years, in which case Jasper didn't make it (having gone out of business) although the post-Jasper shells are being made to the same specs.



Per Falzerano's Gretsch book.

Bill Hagner:
"The relationship with Jasper Wood Products went back to the '40's"

Phil Grant:
"6 ply shells came about after I joined the company, probably in the mid-50's. We got them from Jasper.

That gives you some ball park start dates. You can probably spend the rest of your days trying to confirm the end of Jasper's usage at Gretsch. I wonder if the Gretsch's Jasper shell inventory kept some jasper shells in rotation well after the business agreement between the two was over.

Jasper also supplied wood for Gretsch guitars.
 

Pounder

DFO Star
Joined
Aug 5, 2005
Messages
12,055
Reaction score
514
Location
Norman, OK
Great work on the serials! Looking forward to seeing the publication. A few years ago I had an errant round badge set that had a tom and bass without silver paint. The tom had the sticker and number in there. I appreciate all the info you have provided and will provide in the future and will certainly contribute to the database if/when I come across more vintage Gretsch drums!
 

KCDrumDad

Very well Known Member
Joined
Dec 8, 2006
Messages
1,451
Reaction score
204
Location
Kansas City
I think it is already published. :notworthy:
I bought it just before on the ebay.
You bought one of the first copies! Rob Cook just listed it on eBay yesterday. As Rob's listing indicates, it is not even back from the printer yet. I hope you like it.


Yep. Saw it yesterday...! KCDrumDad, is this available elsewhere by chance?
I don't even have an "official" copy for myself yet. I expect that Rob will have it available at rebeats.com and in person at the Chicago Musical Instrument Show in a few weeks.

Rick
 

Latest posts



Top