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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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
Unfortunately still there is no exact science or way to pinpoint an exact date of a drums manufacture.
The only way to be clear, is to have an understanding of the feature sets of the instruments from the era.
In about 1969, Gretsch began to use another version of the Orange and Grey label on F-Hole instruments.
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.