Buying a Radio King and not getting ripped off!



Slingerland Radio King drums were some of the best drums made, especially their one-ply maple snare drum. These drums are often available on Ebay or other sites with snare drum prices that are listed as high as $1500.  One should expect to spend anywhere from $500-$1200 or more for an authentic RK snare.  What one should be aware of is that there are many RK snares that are not worth that price.

If you are looking to invest in more than one RK –  I suggest getting Rob Cook’ excellent book:

“The Slingerland Book”

Here is what you need to know before you spend a lot of money:

  • Not all Radio Kings are equal Slingerland also made student Radio Kings – usually 3 ply drums without the gates.  The only real hardware on this drum worth anything is the three-point strainer.  Although a clean RK student model may be worth $100-$200 (if it is beautiful) it is NOT worth $600+ dollars.
  • A Radio King that has been refinished, re-wrapped, or altered is not worth as much as one that is original.  ESPECIALLY if they have replaced the strainer!  Usually, when they replace the strainer, they drill new holes – which means the value of the drum has gone down.  A refinished RK may be a GREAT players drum, but you will never get the collector’s price for it if you sell.
  • Being owned by a famous drummer does not always add value.  Just because a “famous” drummer may have owned it (supposedly) does not make the drum worth more. You must ask yourself, “Is there proof”?
  • If there is not badge, or if the badge is not original, or has been tampered with, the value diminishes.  Ask to see the inside of the drum where the badge is set.  If it looks chopped up, it may have been replaced with another badge.  In some cases, people take shells they buy elsewhere, and put the RK hardware on, and call it a Radio King.  Even if they say they took the badge off a drum to refinish the drum and later replaced it (like I did) the value has gone down because you can never prove it to be the original badge.  (You may have noticed that one can buy such a badge on eBay so beware.)
  • Unless the shell is a one-ply maple shell, it is not a Radio King.  Most legitimate sellers show a picture of the inside of the drum from above and up close.
  • If extra holes have been drilled, the value diminishes.  Some Radio Kings have been re-drilled for strainers other than the ones that came with the drum.  Collectors want everything to be original.
  • If it is a metal-shell Radio King, make sure it is chrome on brass (COB).  If a magnet sticks to the shell – the shell is chrome on steel and is not the original shell.
  • If the hoops have been replaced – once again, the value goes down.  Most of the older Radio King drums have hoops with “Radio King” engraved.  Some of the more recent Radio Kings may not have these hoops; however, if you are looking for a collectible drum, you will want the  engraved hoops.
  • If the reinforcement rings (rerings) are separating from the shell, the drum is not as valuable.   Get pictures of the shell from both top and bottom without the heads on.
  • If the drum is missing the clamshell strainer, beware.  To find a clamshell strainer is very difficult.
  • If the shell is missing a three-point strainer, and the rest of the drum is in good shape – it may be a good investment.  You can still find the three-point strainers since they were used on other Slingerland drums. There are even reproduction strainers available (but very expensive) from AK drums in Italy.