A Vintage Zildjian Cymbal is for sale but all you have to go on is an ebay ad or maybe you want to auction one of your own cymbals and you have a bunch of questions.


Is this something like your list of questions?

  • How old is the cymbal?,
  • How much is the cymbal worth?
  • How do I know it’s not a fake?
  • How do I now it’s not rubbish?

These are the kinds of sensible questions that you need to ask to enable you make a reasonably informed decision despite not being able to handle the cymbal.

You need facts of course, but in the world of old zildjians, ballparks are the name of the game and exact facts can be hard to come by.

What you will need to know

How to tell the age of a Vintage Zildjian

There really is only one method of ascertaining the age of a zildjian cymbal and that is the Manufacturer’s stamp that is enbossed onto each cymbal.

The stamps were each used for a period of years and each one is slightly different. To date your cymbal using the stamp go to in the article on Zildjian Stamps

It is difficult to give an exact estimate of age of a Vintage Zildjian but usually you will be able to say ‘this is from the 30s, or 40s or 50s etc’. It is unlikely that you or anyone ele could tell if it’s from 1953 or 1958 for example, simply because individual data were not kept. A further complication is that there seem to be transition periods between stamps when both seem to have been used. It all seems to add up to a whole lot of dunno!

Size

Be aware that sizes may or may nor conform to an exact measurement. a 20″ cymbal can be anywhere from 19.5″ to 20.5″.

Cymbal Weight

Most Vintage cymbals are thinner and therefore lighter than their modern equivalent.
Tip: thin cymbals have a lower pitched, more ‘trashy’ and less pingy sound than thicker cymbals

When purchasing look for a weight – usually given in grammes

Cymbals have a weight : size ratio and there are several common conventions for defining ‘heavy’, ‘medium’ and ‘light’. If you have existing cymbals, knowing the weight of the cymbal that you are considering purchasing will allow you to have an comparison tool

The size, weight and ‘thinness’ of a cymbal are closely related. These relationships are discussed at length (and with heat) on drum and cymbal forums around the web. Thanks to Cymbalholic & the Handy Cymbal Weight calculator

Here are the approximate ‘medium’ weights for different sized cymbals – Vintage cymbals will tend to be lighter.

  • 22″ – 2500-2800g
  • 20″ – 2050-2300g
  • 18″ – 1650-1850

Value

Yeah, where do you start. If you are pricing to sell, basically the cymbal is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it. it’s as simple as that. Some K Istanbul cymbals for example have sold for many thousands, others sell for a thousand or so, a ballpark is $12-1600 but in every case, it requires the right buyer.

Old K istanbul cymbals are occasionally seen on ebay completed sales lists either unsold, or sold at much lower valuations than here which all proves that the value is in the eye of the buyer! If this is your cymbal for sale, don’t be discouraged, re-list it and try again.

If there’s no reserve on a vintage zildjian or if there is a low reserve then for the investor or collector it can represent a ‘wee find’ but be aware just as there are simply amazing old Zildjians there are also not-so-hot pies out there: Although the ‘name’, ‘age’ and ‘markings’ may be right, there is always a chance of disappointment with the actual sound of it. Caveat drummer!

So what do you do now?

Assuming that you will be using eBay, buying or selling; You will have to check what is for sale. Our ebay links here on this site are set to Show Vintage Zildjian cymbals that are available Right Now. So you can see what is available quickly here and then go to ebay to get the full details. I have placed the ebay ‘best match’ widget just below.

For price comparisons, to estimate the likely purchase activity for sellers, or competition for buyers, just and do a comparison of what is selling on the current best match listings.

When in the Listing results you can also see what has been sold in the past 2 weeks. Go to the left hand side & look for ‘completed auctions’ ) These will show what did sell, for how much and with how many bids (or BIN) and what did not sell – you can gather some clues about what is hot, what is a bargain and the current market valuations right now

Notes on Manufacturing

The actual alloy itself has not changed hugely over the years, it all stems back to Avedis I in 1608 however there have been definite changes in the manufacturing process.

Until 1964 all Zildjian cymbals were hand hammered. This made them very thin which gives a deeper ‘trashy’ sound than thicker cymbals and is a major part of the reason why they have such appeal. The hand hammering and the varying thicknesses also mean that each cymbal is highly individual, consider it like speaking with an accent.

This is good in so far as there is an enormous palette to draw upon from the vintage cymbals out there but bad in as much there must be some not-so good ones in there. This means that yeah whilst you may find an amazing unique cymbal there is also a risk in purchasing vintage cymbals from the web as there is in purchasing anything that cannot be seen or that sounds different on audio. Caveat Emptor!

If you want to date a cymbal, you’re best to visit the Stamps page and look for the obvious clues. It should be relatively clear but if you are still unsure, by all means take a photo and send it to me and I’ll tell you what I think!