Ludwig supraphonic snare drum dating Free chat in message without registration
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 think in general serial numbers do play an important role in the commercial market especially electronics and other high end items.
In the 60's Insurance companies made it mandatory that serial numbers be put on items so they can be documented.
Unfortunately drum companies never really prescribed to any code of documenting a drum based on that serial number.
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.
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The Ludwig Supraphonic 5″ by 14″ snare drum is the most recorded and popular drum in the world.