• Gretsch Round Badge
  • Gretsch Stop-Sign Badge #1
  • SSB #2

The first Gretsch badge

The first Gretsch badge is their most famous and revered: the Round Badge. It certainly came into use by the 1930s and lasted until 1970. Over those years, the imaging varied slightly on the RB. This is due to the fact that they were produced for Gretsch by at least two different outside sources, accounting for slight variations in tooling. During this period, Gretsch tom-toms had their badges nailed-on with upholstery tacks and even those varied from suppliers. Most snare badges were fitted with 3/8" brass eyelets, and some, like all bass badges, were pressure-fitted with 17/32" nickel-over-brass grommets. Badges for metal snare drums were usually fitted with 3/8" nickel-over-brass eyelets. By 1961, shortly after Gretsch's change from 3 to 6-ply shells, the internal orange/white labels started to appear. Pre-printed with That Great Gretsch Sound slogan, shell guarantee and serial number, the model numbers were usually hand-stamped in indigo or black ink at the factory. Unlike Gretsch's equally-famous guitar line, the drum serial numbers offer little clue to the actual dates of manufacture. However, here is a reasonably reliable dating-system for RB drums by serial number: four or less digits = early-'60s; five digits = mid-'60s, and six digits = late-'60s. (Late-'60s drums usually have internal hex-head shaped screws rather than the earlier round-head style.)

The second Gretsch badge

The second Gretsch badge premiered in 1970. We'll call it Stop-Sign Badge #1. It features the Gretsch "t-roof" logo above the eyelet with their famous slogan below and Drums left of the eyelet with U.S.A. to its right. Baldwin (Gretsch's owner from 1967 through 1984) scrapped the round badge in favor of this sepia-toned design. For the first time, all Gretsch drums had their badges affixed in the same manner. Using 3/8" eyelets universally, it was no longer necessary to use tacks on toms or oversized grommets for bass drums. Though most believe SSB#1 to be synonymous with Gretsch's relocation to Booneville Arkansas, it was actually in use just prior to their move from Brooklyn. It's also the most common of the three stop-sign designs, as SSB#1 was in use from 1970 until roughly 1978. The orange/white internal labels stayed the same, but are even less helpful in drum dating, as sequencing numbers from this period repeat and vary wildly. Model numbers from later in this era were handwritten in black, and eventually, green ink. Sometime before the next label change, the lifetime shell guarantee was literally blacked-out with a Magic-Marker! Obviously, Baldwin was looking to avoid liability. As '70s Gretsch hardware and drum finishes varied often throughout the decade, distinguishing when those changes occurred is your best chance in determining a Gretsch drum's approximate year of manufacture.

The third Gretsch badge

The third Gretsch badge emerged by 1979. Stop-Sign Badge #2 is the rarest stop-sign version. It's virtually the same as SSB#1, save for its slogan: Drum Makers Since 1883. Conversely, the internal label went through another alteration during this time. The labels were trimmed in such a way that the model and serial numbers appear above the slogan and the lifetime shell guarantee is gone! Trimming the label was considerably less tacky than running a heavy-black line through the guarantee! Though serial numbers were still preprinted in black ink, most model numbers were by then handwritten with a green felt-tip pen. Apparently, this was the official company color by the late-'70s, since Gretsch's promotional literature, t-shirt images, dealer stickers and sales binders were predominately green.

  • SQB #1
  • SSB #3
  • SQB #2
  • SQB #3

The fourth Gretsch badge

In 1980, the fourth Gretsch badge was the premiere (albeit brief) of Square Badge #1. It features the "t-roof" logo with U.S.A. to the right of the vent hole. This is repeated upside-down on the lower-half of the badge as well. Baldwin's idea behind this symmetrical and rather generic-looking badge was to maintain the readability of the Gretsch name regardless of whether it was facing upright or not. Many of these early version square badges seem to lack the classy sepia-tone finish that most of the later ones exhibit so beautifully. Instead, this version possesses a rather muddylooking patina with an odd pink/copper hue to it. Perhaps that's why it was promptly dismissed! The trimmed internal label is unchanged, as is the green-inked model number.

The fifth Gretsch badge

By late-1980, the fifth Gretsch badge was unveiled: Stop-Sign Badge #3. It features the same slogan as SSB#2, but has what is commonly referred to as the "drop-G" logo. It could also be called the '80s Stop-Sign, as it's the only such-shaped Gretsch badge from the decade. Like the two previous stop-sign badges, it says U.S.A. to the right of the vent hole. This is the most commonly misdated badge in the Gretsch timeline; due to its '70sshape, many think of it as '70s-era. Closely following this badge change was the new internal label, which is grey/white. The label's left side has the famous Gretsch drum logo with slogan below. The right side features a model number handwritten in black felt-tip pen; below it, a serial number stamped in large characters.

There's an interesting foot note relative to SSB#3's short tenure. By 1977, Gretsch offered 6, 8 and 10-inch toms for the first time. These sizes were respectively outfitted with generic triple-flanged 6"/4-hole, 8"/4-hole and 10"/6- hole rims through 1980 and are commonly referred to as "pre-die-cast" drums. By '81, Baldwin had realized the obvious: the trend for multi-tom sets wasn't going away anytime soon and they had to bite the bullet. Expensive tooling was created to make the necessary die-cast rims needed for these small sizes, thereby making the overall appearance and function of Gretsch multitom sets more uniform. As die-cast 6"/4-hole, 8"/5-hole and 10"/5-hole rims became available; it suddenly becomes clear why either rim can be found on a "drop-G" badge drum. Unfortunately, Gretsch die-cast rims are not compatible with their older 8 and 10- inch toms, as they possess different lug configurations --d'oh!

The sixth Gretsch badge

With a factory move from Booneville to DeQueen Arkansas by late-'81, the sixth Gretsch badge was... back?! Square Badge #2. Aside from the round badge, this is the most common of all Gretsch badges. Unlike SQB#1, it features a rich, darker sepia-tone finish and remained in regular use until the late-'90s. (Another footnote: With four badge changes in only two years, it is not unusual to find different badges within the same early-'80s stock Gretsch set! Remember, these were the pre-"custom" days when Gretsch still built drums "for stock" rather than "for order." The 1980 catalog cover demonstrates Baldwin's "grab-bag" approach - three different Gretsch badges are illustrated!)

The seventh badge

The seventh badge came in 1983 and only adorned drums specifically made to celebrate Gretsch's 100th year. The "Centennial", or Square Badge #3, is the largest and most ornate Gretsch badge to date. It's roughly 2"x3"; a vertical, sepia-tone rectangular shape stating: THE CENTENNIAL 1883-1983 GRETSCH ("drop-G" logo) U.S.A. Each badge had spaces allocated for set number and signature and all 100 sets in the series were reportedly signed & numbered by then-Gretsch president Charlie Roy. The internal label is a silver facsimile of the Centennial badge with the corresponding set-piece number handwritten in heavy black ink. These Centennial designs are likely the rarest of all Gretsch badges & labels.

Fred Gretsch III purchased the company from Baldwin by 1985. With another factory move from DeQueen to Ridgeland South Carolina in 1986, Gretsch soon began an on-again/offagain trend in issuing dual-SQB#2 toms and snare drums while the internal sticker abandoned the sloppy large character serial number in favor of a neat-and-petite dot matrix.

  • Gretsch Square and Round Badges

The eighth Gretsch badge

The eighth badge came in 1998. The Broadkaster Badge, or Square Badge #4. It is exactly like a square badge, but is pewter-colored instead of sepia. Championed by then-endorser Harvey Mason, the Broadkaster sets feature gun-metal hardware and satin-finished shells. (By 2002, another satin-finished set premiered, using SQ#4. A hybrid, Gretsch USA Maple featured American-made shells with import chrome hardware. 1998 also saw signature drums for both Harvey Mason and Vinnie Colaiuta, featuring facsimiles of their respective signatures on exclusive black Gretsch square badges.

The ninth Gretsch badge

Gretsch badge nine: Square Badge #5. Over the last decade, the square badge took on a lighter sepia-finish. This aesthetic alteration makes the brand more visibly readable in the marketplace while giving it a richer appearance.

In mid-2000, Gretsch Drums joined forces with Kaman and has since enjoyed a major renaissance in popularity. Countless new drums bearing the vintage Gretsch trademarks of Renown, Catalina, and Blackhawk have been re-introduced and sold with no end in sight. Gretsch's top-of-the-line drums are still being made in their Ridgeland, South Carolina plant and are among the best American drums ever built. In keeping with the badge theme, here's a rundown of Gretsch limited edition drums with unique badges that have been introduced since 2000. Surprisingly, due to the number of limited edition badges being offered almost annually, nearly as many badges have been introduced in just the first few years of the 21st Century than in all of the 20th! As these drums feature fleeting specialty or signature badges, they are only of "special mention" and purely incidental to the Gretsch badge timeline. I'd also like to acknowledge and thank Fred W. Gretsch and Paul Cooper for graciously supplying the badges seen here.

2002 marked the 75th Anniversary of the Gretsch American line of instruments from 1927 and Gretsch celebrated with 3 different all-American square-badge snare drums. The Harvey Mason Grand Old Flag model was fitted with a glittering blue badge; the Vinnie Colaiuta God Bless America model has his black signature badge and the Stars & Stripes Forever sports a pewter badge. All internal labels in this series feature an American flag motif. 2003 marked Gretsch's 120th Anniversary and a number of specially-made round badge drums were offered for the celebration. These bright gold badges all have 3/8" eyelets. The internal label is a smaller orange/silver facsimile of the '60s orange/white version, substituting 120th Anniversary for the guarantee.

2004 saw a '70s reissue of lacquer drum sets using the (oops!) '80s "drop-G" stop-sign badge. This revised "drop-G" (sans U.S.A.) also appears on the current chrome-over-brass Model #4160 snare drums. A non-eyelet New Classic round badge (with embossed year) was issued on a line of tubelug snare drums that continued into 2005.

According to company records, the new sepiaburst U.S.A. square badges have thus far been issued on 558 custom drums made in the Gretsch Custom Shop. Currently, 370 Gretsch Custom Shop Broadkaster and U.S.A. Maple drums feature black non-signature U.S.A. badges. These productions totals date from February 28, 2007.

The tenth Gretsch badge

The tenth badge in the timeline arrived in 2006: Square Badge #6. It looks much like the standard square badge, except it now reads Since 1883 instead of U.S.A. and has greater contrast. The internal labels have an American flag motif. A new Steve Ferrone signature set in Cadillac Green with his own signature badge (similar to Vinnie Colaiuta's badge) was introduced in 2006. New hammered and non-hammered model snare drums feature the revised "drop-G" badge, while 50 one-ofa- kind custom-shop snare drums (many with 1979-1983 vintage badges) premiered at the Winter N.A.M.M. Show in January 2006 with 50 more in January 2007.

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Gretsch Marquee Series

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