Coming across an old, beaten up drum kit and nursing it back to health with a combination of lacquer and butterfly kisses is a romantic idea, but it’s so rarely plain sailing. Restoring a kit isn’t just for Christmas, in fact, it’s a process that could have you tearing your hair out.
You’ve probably come across one or two restored vintage kits in your life, perhaps you’ve played a gig with a guy who, for some reason, didn’t trust you to share his pride and joy, so you’ve had to do an awkward, lightning fast drum kit transition between sets. I occasionally see them for sale on Facebook and Twitter and am surprised at the price, in a good way, though can’t fathom how someone can make money selling the product of months of work for just £600. Upon asking, I made a few discoveries…
Like record collecting, the thrill of finding a steal is the reason people get into this racket. If you think you’ve got the patience to spend hours rooting through dank, old stores on the off chance of stumbling upon a Slingerland or Premier from the 50s, more power to you.
Unfortunately, the invention of the Internet has hindered the drum seeker’s ability to find a bargain, because everyone has Google, and with a few clicks, can find RRP of whatever they’re selling. These people rarely take into account the fact that they’re pricing their knackered, very used kit as brand new. Inevitably, this leads to disappointment all round, because nobody wants to take less than what the Internet has told them they can get, while no buyer with their wits about them wants to pay through the teeth. Searching “vintage drum kit” will lead you to the results for the search “old overpriced drum kits.”
Occasionally you will stumble upon an online listing for a kit that’s very clearly been posted by someone who just wants this bulky item they know nothing about out of their house. I love these listings, because they’re always full of phrases like, “Ideal for beginners or more experienced players,” which literally just means “anyone, please, just somebody buy it.” These posters will sometimes adorably mislabel part of lot and, for example, call a throne or stool a “drumming buffet.”
My tip for finding these steals is simply searching “drum set,” “drum kit,” or “drums,” perhaps even a misspelling of one of those words. There are no guaranteed results with this approach, but every once in a while, you’ll find the drum equivalent of a mint condition Beatles vinyl for 50 cents.
You may already be wise to this, but I’d recommend avoiding large chain pawnshops because they are simply not in the business of pleasing customers. If they ever had anything worth buying, the price would suggest they have 6 of them, if you follow.
So far, all I’ve told you is where not to look for a bargain, which I will not rectify. Your best bet will be finding a dusty, old store that doesn’t have a web presence. You know the type, it’s the kind of place your Dad used to go when he was a kid to buy bottlecaps, or whatever bullshit kids of the past era used to play with. The kind of place that is inexplicably still in business, despite it never seeming to sell anything or be open for more than 2 hours a day. Almost every time I’ve found a bargain, it’s been this kind of place. They seem to be run by hoarders who are allergic to technology, and therefore will pull a price tag directly out of their rear end (metaphorically speaking, hopefully).
Restoring a vintage kit is the fun part if you like monotonous tasks that allow your mind to wander. You don’t really need my guiding hand for this section – just take things apart, polish all sorts, tighten stuff… all that good stuff.
Selling your newly restored vintage kit can be bittersweet, unless you’re in the business of flipping – maybe you just like to see your hard work actually hit the road. Selling the kit can also force you to be a tad hypocritical because, if you glance a few paragraphs back, you may notice that I chastised people who add the word “vintage” to a listing and hike the price up, but you didn’t get into this to not make money, did you? Hypocrisy aside, I’d recommend trying to make a human sale where possible, avoiding going down the Internet route, unless you’ve built a reputable name and a decent website.