GRETSCH ROUND BADGE ERA PRICES IN TODAYS MARKET
UPDATE July 2, 2014: It’s hard to believe that it’s been five years since I last updated this document, but time flies!! Well, I looked this over to see where we were five years ago and to see how that compares with prices today. There are several interesting points so let’s do a little recap:
A) What sells best and how are the prices these days?
The overall scenario as to which of the various round badge era drum set configurations sell the best is really not much different than it was five years ago. In order of most desirable to least desirable configurations, the line up looks like this:
1) 8x12, 14x14, 14x18, and matching snare: Still #1. THE most desirable of all hands down due to rarity and demand from both players and collectors. Fine original examples in common colors are bringing $13,000 which is about the same as five years ago, but rare colors will bring more ($15,000). The economic challenges we faced from 2008-2012 have been a factor in the more stabilized prices, but I feel that these are poised to increase as the overall economic picture has improved.
2) 8x12, 14x14, 14x20, matching snare: Still #2 and no surprise there. For those who can not afford (or can not find) the 12/14/18 kits this is the next logical choice. The good news is that while these were in the $3500-$5000 range several years back, the recent economic impact has kept nice examples in common colors in the $2500 range and rarer colors in the $3000-$4500 range with only the finest and rarest colors bringing over $5000. So, if this is on your radar screen it is a good time to buy.
3) 9x13, 16x16, 14x22, matching snare: Still #3. These sets are the traditional “big band” configuration and are still in demand with collectors, players and studios. Although demand for these is not as high as the 12/14/20/snare configuration, this larger set up has a loyal following. Prices nowadays are in the range of $2000-$2200 in more common colors and $2500-$3800 for tougher colors. Superbly clean sets in the best colors may bring as much $5000.
4) 8x12, 16x16, 14x20, matching snare: Still #4. For those who can not quite swing the price of a 12/14/20 this is a nice solution and the price is right. If you can live with the 16x16 instead of the 14x14 you can get a nice, clean four piece in a common color for around $1700 and in more desirable colors around $2200-$2500.
5) This is a tie between the 9x13, 16x16, 14x20 with snare and the 8x12, 9x13, 16x16, 14x22 (or 20) with snare. Neither configuration moves easily and when they do, it is at a discount. The reality is that while people will live with the 12/16/20 they DO NOT want the 13/16/20. And, as much as the 12/13/16/22 (or 20) configuration was THE definition of rock in the 70s, the sets are really slow movers. Expect the 13/16/20 with snare to sell for about 30% less than the 12/16/20/snare. The 12/13/16/22 (or 20) usually shows up without a snare and sells around $1000 in a common color and maybe $1500 in a better color for the 4 drums. Now, if these configurations work for you then you can get yourself a great deal. Resale is the issue, but if you are buying it to keep it and enjoy it, then it’s great!
The kits mentioned here are generally 6 ply sets. The 6 ply sets run from circa 1958 til 1969. The 3 ply sets of the earlier 50s were generally 13/16/22. Once in awhile you will see 12/14/20 and, in all my time in the business I have only seen one 12/14/18 and I owned it. It really wasn’t until the 60s when the 20 and 18 bass drums started to become popular, so the bulk of what you see for the 3 ply era will be larger sizes.
One more note: We didn’t mention 13/16/24. In truth, 24” round badge era bass drums are almost as rare as 18s. These were more prevalent in the 40s, but they were still in the catalog during the 50s, 60s and 70s. But, we don’t see many. When you do see it assume about a $20% premium over the same set with a 22.
So, I hope this is helpful. Down below you will see the chain going back to the very first article we did on these, which dates back to 2006. Enjoy!
UPDATE 7/09: A little over two years have passed since we provided the update below. And, despite a terrible economic downturn, the value of round badge Gretsch kits with the highly desirable configuration of 12/14/18 with matching snare have continued to rise. In our 3/07 update below we still held that the price for fully original kits would be in the $9k-$10k range, and that for the future we anticipated that these prices would still rise. Here we are a 28 months later, and prices for these round badge kits are now in the $13,000 range. That's a 30% increase in 28 months. Please check out the string of articles below. The original article was done in 8/06, with an update in 3/07 and now today's update. Just look at the price increases for these sets over that period of time. These sets have gone from selling in the $5000 range back around 2004 to $13,000 here in 2009. Granted, this is for the rare 12/14/18/matching snare round badge combination in excellent original condition. But, what this tells you is that key value drivers have been, and always will be, originality, condition, rarity, and overall desirability. We haven't had time to update this for other round badge kits such as the 12/14/20 and 13/16/22 sets among others, but we hope to do so in the near future.
UPDATE 3/07: When we wrote this article back in 8/06 we talked about prices for original 12/14/18 kits with matching snares. We talked about how prices were running at that time in the range of $7500-$10,000 for original sets as compared to the $5000-$6000 range from about 2.5 years prior to that.
We have some new information to add: Recently we became aware of two more sales of 12/14/18 round badge sets, both with matching snare drums. Each of these sets was rewrapped, and those sets each brought $7500. This is a previously unheard of price level for rewrapped sets of this type. In general, in the past we have seen rewrapped kits bringing about half of what a fully original kit would sell for. So, when the original sets were in the $7500 range you could assume you would pay about $3500-$4000 for a rewrapped set. Does this mean that a fully original 12/14/18/ with matching 4x14 would now be worth $15,000? Not in my opinion; at least not yet. I still feel that the price range for a fully original 12/14/18/4x14 round badge kit still tops out around $10,000. However, whereas previously we saw the low end of this price range at about $7500, it now looks like the low end of the price range for a fully original 12/14/18/4x14 is $9000. We recently sold an extremely clean 12/14/18 without the snare drum. This set had been wrapped at one time, but the wrap was removed and the shells had spectacular grain for Gretsch shells. Almost as if the set was a special order without the wrap. We advertised the set as having previously been wrapped. These 3 drums sold for $6900 without a snare drum. This price is consistent with the $7500 level for the rewrapped sets that included a snare.
So, where are we now? My sense is this: Fully original 12/14/18 sets with a 4x14 snare drum are going to be at $9000 on the low side, up to as much as $10,000. In this price range I would include the more desirable colors such as champagne sparkle, gold sparkle, and others, but you should expect to pay a premium beyond these levels for rare colors such as burgundy sparkle as an example.
Where are prices heading? No one has a crystal ball, but based on current trends I
don't see price increases slowing down for these sets. The reality is that they are extremely rare and they continue to be in high demand. And, it also tells me that professional players who want the sound of these drums will spend the money to acquire the set even if it is rewrapped. This means that this market is not one that is solely dominated by collectors. It is also active with serious players. Many of these players still see these sets as worthwhile values, especially when they compare the cost of these vintage kits to the cost of vintage instruments that their bandmates may be using. These kits are still well priced when you consider the ultra high cost of 50s and early 60s era vintage guitars, basses, amps, etc; and the routinely high cost of high quality vintage string instruments such as violins, cellos, etc. And, the fact that serious players are willing to spend significant money even if the set is rewrapped tells you that it is the sound quality that is driving the decision for these people. So, what we have is a market where rarity and sound quality drive the players, and rarity and condition drive the collectors. These Gretsch sets fill the need for both players and collectors alike. As a result, prices for these drum sets will likely continue to climb.
Original Article From 08/06:
So much has been said about the topic of Gretsch round badge (RB) era kits over the years that we thought it would make sense to stop and see what the market has been up to.
A lot has happened over the past few years, so lets tackle it in sections:
1) 8x12, 14x14, 14x18, with matching 4x14 or 5x14 snare: This is the holy grail of Gretsch RB kits and it is the dream set of many jazz players. No question. These kits are highly sought after and have been for many, many years. The mystique associated with That Great Gretsch Sound of the era is part of the attraction, and the ever elusive 14x18 bass drum is the icing on the cake. That bass drum size is the hands-down favorite of jazz players the world over. Clearly, there were not that many examples of these sets made, and when they do show up they sell very fast. Nice, original examples basically get sold with a single phone call.
What sort of prices are we currently seeing for these sets?: Here at our shop we have been responsible for 4 sales of round badge kits with 18 inch bass drums over the past 3 years. Also, we know of other transactions for 18inch BD kits that have taken place as well.
About 2 years ago a 12/14/18 with matching 4x14 in champagne sparkle was sold by us. Just this year I happily paid more for the kit than I sold it for when I had the chance to buy it back. I sold it very quickly again. About 18 months ago we also sold a set in the same sizes but in even rarer burgundy sparkle. Additionally, we sold another kit but that one was a less desirable color and had an original 14x18 bass drum, but the drum had extra holes. Clearly, the fully original kits bring higher prices. In general, at this point in time a fully original 8x12, 14x14, 14x18 with either a matching 5x14 or 4x14 snare drum is easily bringing $7500 or more. There have been recent sales that we are aware of in the range of $7500 to as much as $10,000. That’s a hefty premium over the $5000-$6000 price range they were selling at a few years back.
Why so expensive? : The answer to that is fairly simple. There are some players and collectors in the market place who treasure these sets and will pay the price. And, the laws of supply and demand take over here: there is a high demand, and there is a very limited supply of excellent original instruments of this type. Some people see them as investments. Some people are superb players and they acknowledge that even at the high prices being realized for these sets today, the overall cost for a professional jazz drummer is not as steep as it can be for players of other instruments. Case in point, guitar players: Professional guitarists are paying upwards of $30,000 for 50s era Fender Stratocasters. For those fortunate enough to be able to afford it, there are Gibson Les Pauls from 1957-1960 that sell in the range of $125,000 - $350,000 depending on the instrument and the finish. And these instruments get snapped up very fast.
Add to this the issue for pianists: A professional will easily pay $30,000 for a grand piano, with many topping $100,000. String players have the same issue: High quality professional violins, violas and cellos routinely sell for $25,000 on up to prices in the millions depending on the heritage of the instrument. While it is true that for all instrument types there are good values in many different price ranges, the most exacting professionals very often seek out a special instrument and when they find it, they are willing to pay the price. To these musicians, that instrument will become the enabler that facilitates the expression of their music to its fullest potential.
Where are prices going? : Of course, if I had the answer to this question I would have every drummer on the planet chasing me for advice. What I can say is this: Over the years the demand for these instruments has not slowed, and the supply has not grown (nor can it grow). As a result, I believe that the laws of supply and demand will continue to be present and I believe that prices will increase further. How can I be sure? The answer is that I can not be sure. However, a few years back there were people saying that 12/14/18 kits with matching snares would never be worth more than $5000; much like there were people saying that 50s era Fender Stratocasters would never exceed $20,000. In reality, there are quite a number of affluent people in our society today and many of them may have made their money in more traditional business, but in their hearts and souls they are musicians. Maybe they started out as musicians and became traditional business people along the way. They may have abandoned their music (perhaps a bit unwillingly) for awhile in favor of a more stable/traditional way to make a living, but the music never really left them entirely. Now, as they mature a bit, and children are grown, and business and personal finances are good, they can go back and recapture some of what they left behind for awhile. For that person, a $10,000 investment in a set of drums will be an easy decision to make. It will bring enormous joy, (which helps to keep you young by the way), and it might even turn out to be a better investment than the stock market. And, it’s a whole lot more fun than the stock market because you get to play it while you own it.
What options do I have if I really want a 12/14/18 Gretsch kit with matching snare? This is an excellent question, and we have what we think is a pretty good answer: If you truly feel that you must have a Gretsch kit in these sizes we would strongly recommend that you try the new Gretsch USA Custom drums. We purposely stock many of these kits in the 12/14/18 configuration because they are an excellent alternative to the much more expensive round badge era kits. An 8x12, 14x14, 14x18 with matching 5x14 snare drum generally sells for about $3200. That’s a lot less than the $7500-$10,000 you would pay for the 60s era kits. Granted, the wood used in the new sets is clearly not as old as the wood was when they were building the 60s era drums, but we have done side by side testing of 60s kits and these new sets and the sound is remarkably close. If you are a good tuner, you can very clearly approximate that 60s era be bop sound that Gretsch is so famous for. The quality of sound and the workmanship are first rate.
My advice: Indulge yourself if you can. You only live once. Enjoy it.
2) 8x12, 14x14, 14x20, matching 4x14 or 5x14 snare drum. This configuration is also extremely popular and has risen in price as the 12/14/18 sets have gotten out of reach of most buyers. Jazz musicians have always loved this configuration and it continues to be in high demand.
What sort of prices are we currently seeing for these sets: A few years back you could buy a 12/14/20 set with matching snare drum for about $1400. Today, we are seeing nice original examples in tougher or more highly sought after colors bringing $3500 to as much as $5000. Sometimes a kit can be found for less if the color is more common, or perhaps the condition is not quite as good, but you should expect to pay $2800 anyhow, even if it is a common color. If you can find one that is all original, clean and less expensive my recommendation is to buy it! The more common colors that bring less money include the likes of red sparkle, blue sparkle, silver sparkle. White marine pearl is always highly sought after, and the really tough colors such as burgundy sparkle, starlight sparkle, anniversary sparkle, etc can bring the highest prices.
Where are prices going? Once again, the laws of supply and demand are at work here. Many of the same driving factors that we outlined for the 12/14/18 kits apply here as well, and in fact there are more people who will be able to afford these sets than will be able to afford the 12/14/18 original sets. Professional and semi-pro players can make an investment of under $5000 and have a superb Gretsch RB 12/14/20 jazz kit with matching snare. Granted the bass drum is not an 18, but that 20 can be tuned up beautifully to get you a nice be bop sound. Very versatile sets. Very popular right now, and probably will remain so.
3) Other size combinations: This is a very interesting category. I will break this down into 4 sections:
d) double tom sets
a) 13/16/22: These sets are popular with players who like big band drumming. The sizes are perfect and the drums sound great. But, these sets languish in terms of value on today’s market when compared to the sets with smaller size drums, and the number of buyers is definitely fewer than for the smaller sized jazz kits. Today we often see kits in these sizes sell in the $1300 range without a snare and add an additional $350-$400 for the matching 5x14, and $400-$800 for the much rarer 4x14 snare. Of course, there are exceptions and truly magnificent kits in rare finishes bring high prices. Pristine 13/16/22 kits with matching snares in tough colors have brought prices as high as $4500 for the set, mostly from collectors, but these examples will take longer to sell because the buyers are fewer. My personal opinion is that the 13/16/22 sets in more common colors are a great value today. If you can buy one in the $1300 range and add your own snare, you have a great kit at a great price. I truly think these are undervalued.
b) 13/16/20 : These sets have the same issues as the 13/16/22, but they are a bit more popular because of the 20 inch bass drum. Still, they seem to languish in price as well, with the 13/16/20 combination selling in the $1300-$1500 range, with tough colors commanding a premium as always. I truly think these sets are undervalued as well.
c) 12/16/20 : These sets are interesting because the buyer ALMOST has the 12/14/20 set. You get the 12 and the 20, but you get the 16x16 instead of a 14x14. These sets will sell for more than the 13/16/20 and 13/16/22 kits because lots of buyers figure that they can eventually find a 14x14 and will then either keep the 16x16 for the double floor tom effect, or sell off the 16x16 to help pay for the 14x14. Trouble is, those 14s are not all that plentiful by themselves, and often the colors do not match the 12 and the 20 since the old sparkle and pearl finishes tended to fade quite a bit. But, nonetheless, if you are a good tuner you can get that 16 to sound fairly high and close to a 14, so these sets can be a good value. Looks for these sets in the price range of $1500-$1900 with really tough colors commanding a premium.
d) double tom sets : The double tom sets also languish in price. The earliest sets had two small mounted toms of the same size, which is a definite negative, and, the tom holder was inadequate and provided minimal adjustment. As a result, these sets do not bring as much money as you might expect. Even the kits with the later 8x12 and 9x13 mounted toms are not all that desirable even with the improved (slightly improved) tom holder. 12/12/16/20; 12/12/16/22; 12/13/16/20; and 12/13/16/22 kits tend to sell in the range of $1400-$1700 depending on color, not including snare drum. Again, the sets with 12 inch toms and 20 inch bass drums will bring a bit more, because of the desirability of the 12s and 20s, but the bass drum with the poor center mount tom holder does not help the value of the 20 as a single all that much.
So, there you have it. We do not claim to be trying to give you a definitive picture of the total market. No one can do that. We are simply sharing our experiences with you since we sell quite a few of these drumsets, and we always feel that if our customers are well informed they will make better purchases over time, and will be much happier. Some of you may agree with our information, and some of you may disagree, but as I said, we are just sharing our experience so that there is more information available to you, the prospective buyers of these drums. Hopefully you will find this information useful. And, as always, please let us know about the Gretsch kits you acquire in your travels. We really love to hear about these, so feel free to email Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org anytime.