Zildjian Decoding Serial Numbers

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Laser Stamps

Laser stamps started on Zildjian Cymbals in 1994. Cymbals from before that time are referred to as pre serial by some people. There are far more distinctions which can be made in the pre 1994 cymbals based on ink and trademark stamps, and production details like hammering and lathing style. Not all lines or series of Zildjian cymbals have an added line with a serial number. If you don't have a serial number (extra bottom line) then you are looking at a lower line (not A Zildjian or K Zildjian family).

If you have a trademark on your cymbal which looks like this with an extra bottom line:

Year 2000 A Zidjian Laser Stamp

or this K version of the stamp:

Year 2010 K Zildjian Laser Stamp

then you can find out when your cymbal was manufactured. For example, in the Avedis stamp the serial (below the Made in USA) begins JJ so that is 2000. The year is encoded by 1 = A, 2 = B, up to I = 9 and J = 0. The K version shown above is AJ so that is 2010. Thanks to Rob Scott for the decode.

The first two letters code the year. The rest of that line contains a batch number and a unique id within the batch. The batch number codes what sort of cymbal it is (diameter, series, model) and Zildjian can look up this info the identify a cymbal. The unique id at the end is 008 in the case of the A Zildjian stamp shown above, so this is the 8th cymbal from the batch 11236.

The laser trademarks look rather scruffy when magnified because the laser is just doing a "good enough" resolution. The image is made from lots of little dots and/or strokes of the laser.

Year and Letter Code

  • 1994 ID
  • 1995 IE
  • 1996 IF
  • 1997 IG
  • 1998 IH
  • 1999 II
  • 2000 JJ
  • 2001 JA
  • 2002 JB
  • 2003 JC
  • 2004 JD
  • 2005 JE
  • 2006 JF
  • 2007 JG
  • 2008 JH
  • 2009 JI
  • 2010 AJ
  • 2011 AA
  • 2012 AB
  • 2013 AC
  • 2014 AD
  • 2015 AE
  • 2016 AF
  • 2017 AG
  • 2018 AH
  • 2019 AI
  • 2020 BJ
  • 2021 BA
  • 2022 BB
  • 2023 BC <<<<<<<<< you are here -- 400th Anniversary since 1623
  • 2024 BD

Until at least the year 2002 (JB) the laser serial number appears at 12 o'clock just like the pre laser trademark stamps did. After that it moves to 3 o'clock. However, there are exceptions. This pair of 10" Special Recording Hats is from 1996 and have a 3 o'clock laser stamp. If you look at the amount of surface taken up by the upside down ink logos you can imagine that having the laser stamp clear of that area made 3 o'clock a good choice. The other informative aspect to these is that the batch numbers for top and bottom hats are different and they have letters included not just digits.

Unusual Laser Stamps

Most laser stamps follow the standard convention of encoding the year in the first two letters. But just when you thought it was going to be easy to get the year from the serial number on any cymbal after 1994...there are a few exceptions. The first celebrates the new millennium. I don't know how many of these exist, although this one has unique id 0698.

Millenium K Zildjian Laser Stamp

In addition to the one off millennium laser stamp there are a few recorded which don't have the usual pattern of two upper case letters. These are thought to be special endorser cymbals but we don't really know for sure. In some cases they certainly seem to be:

Elvin Jones Laser Stamp

In other cases they could just be typos when telling the laser what to print

Year Ji K Zildjian Laser Stamp

This could be a 2009 typo (JI) or it could be something else.