Gretsch Drums were introduced by a German instrument dealer named Friedrich Gretsch in New York in 1883. Gretsch was sold to Baldwin Piano Co in 1967. Gretsch drums are popular among country and rock artists alike and have been played by performers ranging from Phil Collins to Eddie Fisher of OneRepublic and Debbi Peterson of the Bangles. Dating a set of Gretsch drums accurately is a challenge that relies heavily on comparing the physical characteristics of your drums to those found in vintage drum catalogs.
Locate the badge on your Gretsch drums. The badge is a metal piece affixed to every drum, usually located in front of the drum. This is the best way to narrow down the possible date of your vintage Gretsch drums. The badge has changed drastically over the years. The first Gretsch badge, introduced in the 1930s and in use until the 1970s, was a round brass over nickel badge nailed to the drum with upholstery tacks. The badge featured the Gretsch logo. There have been 10 badges in Gretsch history, all of which can be found on the Gretsch website to help you identify the general time period of your Gretsch (see Resources).
Identify the color of your Gretsch drum set. Gretsch drums came in distinct colors and changed through the years. This is a good way to find a general decade for your drums, since the catalog colors varied from decade to decade. There is enough distinction between the colors to narrow the date of your drums to within five or 10 years. Compare your drums to a Gretsch color chart or by consulting Gretsch vintage catalogs at the Gretsch website (see Resources).
Note whether your drum shells are 3-ply or 6-ply by looking inside the drums. Note whether the paper tags with the serial number are on the inside or outside and if the drum sealer is natural or silver. These components, along with vintage catalogs provided by Gretsch, can help you closely date your drums. The serial number itself is not so important as the physical characteristics of your drum set, since drum companies didn't use serial numbers in the early years and followed no real system when serial numbers were introduced.