Choosing the best vintage percussion instrument is partially about getting a piece of percussion history, but it is most often about getting the best sound for your money. Buying vintage percussion can get you a high-quality older instrument for less than a low-end new instrument, but they should be purchased with care. Vintage percussion instruments should ideally have their original hardware and be in excellent condition to produce the classic sound that makes vintage instruments valuable. The only way to ensure that you are getting the best vintage percussion instrument is to have an industry expert verify the authenticity and original condition of the percussion instrument.
Though buying an older instrument just because it is a part of history can be enticing. Without the right research and attention to detail, however, you could end up with something worth less than a new instrument. Examine the instrument carefully for anything that has been repaired or replaced. Look for cracks, rust, and missing or unusual looking hardware. Any areas of discoloration on an instrument or any strangely colored or misshapen parts could be an indicator that the instrument has been repaired and may have been damaged.
Get to be an expert on the vintage percussion instrument you wish to buy so you can learn to spot problems in a potential purchase. Many manufacturers can give you specifics about instruments they made in the past that can help you identify them and ensure that they have all of their original parts. If you do not have the knowledge or experience to reliably evaluate a percussion instrument, insist on taking it to a trusted appraiser before committing to buy the instrument. Repairs and replacements that can seem minor to an untrained observer can irreparably alter the sound and value of a vintage percussion instrument.
For high-end collectors with a large budget for vintage purchases, the most reliable way to buy authentic vintage percussion is to go to a trusted dealer. A trusted dealer may be an instrument shop with skilled and knowledgeable staff, but it might also be the original manufacturer of the instrument you wish to buy. When absolute authenticity is important, contacting a manager to inquire about vintage purchases is a nearly foolproof way of connecting with a seller who has an older instrument in nearly perfect playing condition.