Saxophones Martin experts - advice needed! Indiana or Handcraft?

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197
#1
I’ve been offered a 1955 Indiana tenor, nickel keys, heart shaped thumb rest, overhauled with pisoni pro pads for 900£ or a 1926 Handcraft tenor, rich, dark gold colour in need of an overhaul for the same price. Both have a wonderful, vintage sound that I liked, the Handcraft being more colorfull and less spread out, missing a low C pad, and a felt on top of it.

Are these prices reasonable?

What would be a better choise?
@Stephen Howard , @jbtsax ,@thomsax . And any other experts :)

Thanks!
 

Wade Cornell

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1,448
Location
New Zealand and Australia
#2
Although prices vary considerably for Martin tenors you should be doing an Ebay search. I'm not familiar with your market (UK) so don't know what (if any duty/VAT) you pay for importing an instrument. From my recollection these are high prices for an Indiana or a 1920's handcraft that needs a lot of work.

The tone of both are marvelous, but ergos will take a bit of adjusting. The Indiana, for a more modern horn doesn't have the Low B and Bb operating the G#, whereas the Martin Com III does. I guess they needed a difference for the extra $$ for the Com III as the tone on both are excellent. My Com III re-lacquer (in excellent playable condition) is probably only worth $800 USD. As long as they have not been buffed to death these would be the cheapest option, look better and play wonderfully.

Take your time, there are lots of these horns out there and prices are generally cheaper if you can import from the USA.

Best of luck to you.
 
Messages
47
Location
London
#4
Martins have soldered tone holes which require a regular expensive strip down of the keywork to check them for leaks. On a tenor purchase you should budget for a £300-400 stripdown to sort out pads, tone hole checks and soldering, correct a bent body, and a set up. These old saxes cost serious money to get up to what they are capable of.
I have a skyline alto. The tone is stunning, the set up makes it fly, and it will play at a whisper. The couple of skyline tenors I’ve tried we’re not for me.
Price. I think £600 would be a bit too much but I’d pay it for one that had the tone and volume range of my alto with no serious dent work or repairs. £900 or more is too far unless it has been the money no object love child of a serious player.
 

altissimo

Well-Known Member
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3,119
Location
leicester
#5
prices of Martin tenors seem to have gone up over the last few years and in Europe where they're less common, they can be very expensive, particularly in the bigger sax shops -
here's a Martin Indiana tenor for sale at a dealer in the Netherlands at an eye watering € 1795 - Tenor Martin Indiana - De Saxofoonwinkel
which is about twice what it's worth
Mike Duchstein in Berlin has a Medalist and an Imperial for €1290 and €1280 - https://www.saxophon-service.de/media/html/Instrumente/Tenorsaxophone.html
another german dealer with an Indiana at €1250 - MARTIN Indiana Bb
all way too expensive so far...
here's an Imperial for sale in Italy for a more reasonable €700 - carlosonny saxophone vintage

prices in the UK are somewhat less over the top, I couldn't find similar examples of the ones you've been offered, but there's a 1938 Handcraft Committee here for £1400 - Martin Skyline Tenor saxophone | DG Music

so that's an idea of how crazy and variable sax prices can be...

since your profile says you're in Lithuania, I guess there's not an abundance of vintage american saxes to choose from and it's a choice between paying over the odds for an instrument you can actually try out or ordering one from America and paying the shipping and import taxes and hoping it's not got damaged en route.. If you're lying awake at night unable to sleep, thinking about Martin tenors, then check the Indiana over very carefully making sure that it's been well serviced, play it for about an hour making sure you can play it in tune and can blow it down to a whisper up and down the whole range of the horn and if it's really the horn for you and if you really really want it, then try to haggle the price down to €750...

I've only ever owned one Martin tenor, an early 30's Handcraft that was worn out and in need of some serious key swedging and general servicing, in spite of which it played well with a variety of mouthpieces and had a wonderful tone - the guy I sold it to said it had a fatter low end than his Mark VI.... After a little bit of haggling he got it for £400 and was likely to end up spending another £300 on getting it in full working order. While I don't miss having a tenor it was a very nice sounding instrument and it I'm ever mad enough to want to take up tenor again I'd look for a Martin Indiana to go with my Indiana alto which is still the best sax I've ever owned for my particular needs.

A Martin from 1926 is unlikely for have a front high F key, which may or may not be an issue for you, but Martins from that era are less desirable and worth less because of this and also because everyone wants the later Committee models. 1920's Martins are darker and a wee bit stuffier than later models. Intonation may not be quite as good, but that depends on the player.... as indicated above, 900 is too much.
 
Messages
197
#6
Thank you all for your insights! @altissimo thank you for your time and effort doing the price research! The one in Italy looks very tempting, others seem to be overpriced.
since your profile says you're in Lithuania, I guess there's not an abundance of vintage american saxes to choose from and it's a choice between paying over the odds for an instrument you can actually try out
Exactly! It's similar to online dating or an actual date. You know which you like more, when you can actually play a little....
I spent 3 hours playing with both of them ( fixed the handcraft's octave key for the guy, and was able to play down to low d, he didn't even know how it sounded, we both were very surprised how good the sound was). Reading yard-sale posts here in the forum, I also came with conclusion that the price is a bit too much, but then again, most of the posts were couple of years old, and the prices do rise fast lately...
I'm in no hurry, I'm sure there is a great american vintage tenor waiting for me somewhere...(over the rainbow).
 

thomsax

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3,191
Location
Sweden
#7
Try both horns with your regular mouthpiece and play "your" music as you use to play. £ 900.00 for an Indiana! I often see Indiana saxes that sellers just calls "Martin". They are good saxes but we should keep in mind that these saxes were sold as student/beginner saxes back in the 50's. A playable Comm II tenor went for 9000,00 s e k the other month. When I compare my Indiana tenor -60 to a Martin Committe there is a big difference. It's two complete different saxes when it comes to construction and materials. I recommend to buy a "ready - to - play" Martin sax. The one at DG Music seems to be a good buy! There are some shops in USA that use to sell good Martin saxes as well. There is a nice silverplated 1930 Martin Handcraft tenor for sale here in Sweden. 12 000. 00 s e k. Maybe you can get it for less money?
 
Messages
79
#8
Here’s my 2 cts worth. The Martin you want is only as good as the tech who’ll look it over and prepare it for you. If you have a very good tech who has access to parts or can make them an Indiana is worth not more than $600 USD in playable condition and the 26 Handcraft half of that.
 
Messages
335
Location
Lewes, East Sussex
#19
martins seem to me to be currently the least expensive/best value vintage American saxes. they are ridiculously cheap in the UK, if you can find one - I reckon you could get a fully set-up tenor from a later period than the 'handcraft' (a committee 1 or 2) for £1200 or less. I also think owners are not selling because they cannot get what they are worth. in comparison with (say) conns they are a real bargain. an 'indiana' is not of the same as a martin handcraft or committee, it is a cheaper, entry level martin. i'm told they can be very good, but they were built as student or intermediate horns.
 

DavidUK

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4,149
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Near Lutterworth, Leics.
#20
Just had a five minute "look around". Wow! Prices have really moved up in the last few years!

In Europe (not the UK) I can buy an overhauled Indiana Tenor for €749 in Italy, or a 1920 Handcraft tenor, overhauled, for €800.

Altos (my bag) Indiana, overhauled, €550.

I also noticed someone selling an Indiana tenor at €690 who wanted to swap for a Grassi 2000 Professional. Having had a Martin Medalist, ( SOLD - Martin Tenor - Medalist 1960-61 ) and the same Grassi, I would rate the Grassi as twice the horn the Martin was.

Grassi will cost you the same as the now overpriced (imo) Martin but you'll be happier.

What I also found (in five minutes) was a Typewriter alto at €400 - seemed a more reasonable buy, but one for collectors, not players perhaps.

In summary, both your horns seem over priced to me, but if you can get hands on and you like them the high price may save you the same in time and effort looking elsewhere. The Indiana you can't improve, the Handcraft you may be able to over time, at a cost.

Why Martin particularly? Have you tried many other vintage tenors from other brands?
 
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