1959 WFL Salesman “Banded Pearl” Snare Drum

One of the things I love about collecting vintage drums and percussion is the idea that each instrument has a story or mystery behind it – the old Deagan marimba that ends up in a pawn shop, the dusty xylophone that’s been stored in an attic, the pristine Gretsch kit that’s been hidden in a closet in cases for the past 40 years.

An interesting story unfolded in recent weeks about a particularly rare snare drum.  It all started with a listing from Iowa City on the Goodwill auction site that read “Colorful Striped Ludwig Snare Drum with Stand”.  I can only imagine how surprised the Goodwill people must have been when, over the course of the week, the price went from an opening bid of $76.89 to the final price of $3,201 USD.

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This listing led to a fair amount of discussion online.  Some felt the price was way too high, others thought it was justified, while some felt sorry for the poor guy who had dropped off such a rare drum without knowing its true value.

A few days later, the discussion heated up again when the same drum resurfaced on eBay.  This time, though, it was listed for $7,999 USD.  This sparked another round of debate about value, whether flipping a drum like this is ethical, and what exactly the drum in question is / how rare it might actually be.

By the following week, the listing had been removed from eBay, which again led to some questions about who had purchased it and for how much.  It turns out that it had been purchased by Chris at Three on the Floor and added to his impressive collection of vintage drums.  He included some additional information about the drum along with some beautiful photos on his website.

The finish itself is what sets the drum apart.  Ludwig / WFL used to offer salesman samples to dealers that showcased the variety of wraps available.  It’s my understanding that it was more common to use a marching drum for this, which each panel a different colour and a couple of different lug options.

This 6.5″ x 14″ version is much more rare, and features individual bands of five different finishes.  In recent years, Ludwig brought back a version of it as a result of a collaboration with the Black Keys’ Patrick Carney under the name “new Salesman” kit.

It really is unbelievable how beautiful and well-preserved this 1959 drum is.  The chrome looks perfect, and there’s very little fading on the pearl wrap. I would love to know how this very rare and coveted drum, looking pretty much exactly the way it did when it was made 57 years ago , came to wind up at a Goodwill store in Iowa.  Did someone really just find it in a closet and drop it off at the front door of the local store?  Who originally owned it, and how did they acquire it?

On the question of value, I have no issue with a drum like this going for several thousand dollars.  I know string players who pay two, three, four times this amount just for a bow, and there’s a local store that has a Magic the Gathering card for sale for $7,000.  Personally, I think it would be way more fun to own this drum and have it in my life for a couple of decades than to have that money locked up in retirement savings that I may never use.

 

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