For general Drumkit information, I would recommend Parkkeeper's excellent Drum Guide but there are a couple of other points to be made about Premier and Olympic drums:
In particular, that the Pre 1969 drums are a slightly different size to modern drums known as Pre-international sizes.
This is mainly a problem for the 12" and 16" Toms. 10"s are also affected but rare, Snare (and thus 14" toms) and Bass drums became standard size earlier, and 13" toms seem to have arrived along with the international sizes.
Remo make skins for these sizes, and the Ambassador and Pinstripes are quite easy to get, and are sometimes found on Ebay, but Emperors and possibly other types can be ordered through a good shop.
The 12" drums are about 1/8" under sized, so it is possible to put new rims on which will fit modern heads. In theory you should put spacers under the Lugs to line them up, and the bead (top edge) of the drum should be re-cut to correct the contact point, but in fact for most uses it will be unnoticeable.
The 16"s are more of a problem as they are Over sized, but again, people do do things like shaving a little off; in fact, cutting away the covering material at the top edge does most of it. But really, you would be better off just buying the right heads.
The Olympic drums are very easy to identify as the Pre-international ones have a round ended badge and the later ones have a rectangular badge. Have a look in the Catalogues at Drum Archive or on the excellent Vintage Olympic site
The Premier drums started using serial numbers on the badges at about the time they changed, but I would be a bit cautious on anything pre about '72. Ask the seller for an exact measurement across the shell, or to check as some were stamped International inside the shell.
Other than this, the Premier and Olympic drums can be thoroughly recommended. And can be had for Bargain prices.
Premier made some of the best drums ever made, with the thin shell walls and solid beech mounting rings giving them a huge sound, but keeping them pretty light, proper celluloid covering material in a great range of finishes (all coming back in fashion now) and their chrome was of outstanding quality. Although do watch out for cracks in the bass drum mounts for the '80s Oval tom mounts.
Due to not much interest from international buyers you can get Premier for a fraction of the price that the equivalent Ludwig etc. would cost. and '70s Olympic kits are probably the best starter kits around. The shells are better than most top price drums these days, and although the fittings were less solid, they still had excellent chrome. I have a number of 45 year old stands that are still good for professional gigs, and will outlast any cheap stand bought new; and all for less than the price of a really cheap and nasty new kit.
That said, if you must buy new stuff, then although Chinese made, due to Premier's input the modern Olympic kits are better than most of the cheap imports.
The new ones are easy to spot, as the old Olympic name stopped being used in 1980, when the economy range was renamed Premier Club, so any Olympic's with a modern vinyl finish, and tom mounts that stick into the drum are modern and Chinese made.
Old Premier and Olympic Drum Kits
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18 September 2012
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