This drum took The Dance of the Mayans to finally make it into my collection. The drum came from shopgoodwill.com in Indiana. The auction was listed, then ended (wrong information), relisted, then ended (dead beat bidder) and finally relisted with the third ending date of 9-7-16. Some jockomo bid up the drum to 7300.00 and then turned out to be the same dead beat bidder. After four weeks of perpetual meandering I was finally able to win the drum at a decent price via a “Buy It Now” option and finally move on with the program...kind of...the drum was listed all three times as a 6.5 x 15 snare drum but what I received was a 5 x 14 snare drum. I discussed this with the customer service department at Shop Goodwill and was given the typical lack of taking responsibility answer of “well. we did measure the drum and for accounting reasons we cannot give you any type of adjustment.” Yes, they did measure the drum but they measured the drum incorrectly and failed to take any responsibility for that. I ended the conversation by telling them to reverse the deal and send me a return authorization tag, we will see how that sits with their accounting office. Anyway, here’s the drum.
A WORD ABOUT DUPLEX BLACK JEWELS:
As of this writing there are now five known Duplex engraved Black Jewel snare drums. The previous four Black Jewels are on pages 36-43 in my book: VINTAGE SNARE DRUMS, THE CUROTTO COLLECTION VOL. I. There is another way to look at this Black Jewel situation. Of the five Black Jewels only two actually have the name “Black Jewel” engraved on the shell so one could argue that there are only two Black Jewels in existence at this time, the one on pgs. 36-37 in my book and the drum in this article. Noted drum historian and black/engraved snare drum expert John Aldridge is of the opinion that the “un-named” drums are also Black Jewels so I am going with John’s evaluation. I have included a photo of the other 4 Black Jewels.
The blackened and engraved shell is in very good shape for an 85 + year old drum, no major dents or extra holes. Only a light cleaning was necessary. The “diamond” engraving is strong and covers a lot of shell area. Duplex used the term “Spring Brass” as the material used for their all metal shells. The shell is no where near the thickness and weight of a Ludwig nob, 2-piece, heavy brass shell of the same era.
The hardware was all there except for one tension rod. All that was needed was a simple cleaning. I have not been able to find enough catalog data regarding the finish other than the Duplex Catalog M description of their “Art” Bass Drum finishes. I am assuming that these options were also offered on their All Metal Models. The two finish options other than nickel plating were “Bronze Gold Plated Trimmings” and “Real Gold Plated Trimmings”. Brian at Avenue Plating confirmed that all of the hardware is gold plated. The 1920s “Multi-Model” type counter hoops are made of aluminum, the 8 separate tension lugs are made of brass, the strainer is a combination of brass and steel, the “butt plate” is the very early, primitive and useless piece of leather with 12 holes to accommodate the wire snares. It is pretty sad that a nice drum like this one was outfitted with such a crappy “butt-side” tensioning system. The 8 10-24 tension rods are steel all of which accounts for the different shades in the gold plating.
Top and bottom of-the-era calf heads and the original wire snares rounded out this restoration.
If you are looking for a great “player” drum from the 1920s-30s then this is not the drum for you. Any of the heavy brass Ludwig & Ludwig, Leedy or Slingerland snare drums of this time period will smoke this drum any day of the week. Conversely, if you are looking for an extremely rare, engraved, gold plated snare drum then this is the type of drum to own.
Given that there are only 5 (or 2) of these Duplex Black Jewel snare drums known - as of this writing - it is my opinion that Duplex Black Jewels are on the same level of ultra-rareness as the Ludwig & Ludwig engraved Silver Anniversary Black Beauty (5 known), the Ludwig & Ludwig gold plated/engraved Triumphal Model (10 known), the 1929 Ludwig & Ludwig DeLuxe/engraved Standard-Sensitive Model (only 1 known), the Slingerland 6.5 x 14 engraved Black Beauty (5 known) and the Slingerland 5 x 14 engraved Black Beauty (15-16 known).
As always I welcome your thoughts, opinions and related stories.