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Saxophones Old Beat Up Horns.....are they worth it?

Vintage Sax Lover

New Member
Messages
13
Hey folks,

I've been aproached by someone with three old Conns that wants me to buy/play them. He's had them sitting in his closet (uncased unfortunately) for about 35 years. They belonged to his grandfater (who began Downbeat Magazine many years ago). He has a straight soprano, an alto, and a tenor. Tenor and Soprano have rolled holes, the alto has flat toneholes. My question is what the value of these horns are in totally unplayable condition. I'm pretty sure these horns are from the late 20's or early 30's but didn't take the time to check the SN on them. No crosshatched G#, so they are not Chews. I know enough about old conns to tell they are valuable, and are sought after horns IF they are in good condition. However, they are all in need of serious mechancal overhaul. The horns are pretty good in terms of dings, dents, nothing on the stack is bent or so out of whack they they should be scrapped, but they are all miles away from playable. Some of the palm keys are bent, many of the pearl finger pads are gone, and of course they need pads, springs, corks, etc...

Being that they are old vintage horns and would probably be awesome once in top condition, what are they worth before overhaul? The guy wants like 250 each, but I sort of think that's on the high end since I'll spend at least 1,000 bucks each to get them overhauled....if not more.

Any thoughts? I sort of feel like they are worth less than 100 each, especially since you never know how a sax will play after overhaul and they could be duds even with a ton of work done to each. Something tells me that they may be worth fixing up though. He almost sold them for 15 bucks each at a garage sale, but didn't. I told him they were valuable after overhaul...so he got the idea that he wants several hundred each.

Thanks for any advice on these horns.
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
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8,000
Information from sales on Ebay for the past 3 months shows that in good playing condition with new pads, the highest sales prices for silver plated Conn saxes are:

Straight Soprano - $1000
New Wonder Alto - $ 500
New Wonder Tenor- $ 700

If you plan to resell the saxes after a complete overhaul, the soprano would be a wash and you would lose money on the alto and tenor if the saxes are the models I think they might be. On the other hand, if you plan to keep and play all three you might want to go as high as $75 - 100 each. Your first mistake was to hint that they were valuable. Otherwise you could have gotten them for $15 each at the garage sale. >:)
 

What

Member
Messages
314
I myself have been hunting for a good vintage sax myself. Jbt is spot on in price point. The thing you must consider if these saxes are worth it to you or not. If you plan to sell you might be out on these, but if they are going to be your horns and you can get some of the work done on your own, they might be well worth it. Depends on how much your love of vintage saxes goes. I would consider them myself, but I would expect a good after sale expense even if you repad, cork and spring yourself.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
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21,947
The other thing to consider is pitch - do these have the L stamp on them, or an H - if it's H, they're pretty much ornaments.
 

Vintage Sax Lover

New Member
Messages
13
Thanks for the info folks!

I didn't take the time to write down the SN or check for the L or H stamp. They guy is a friend of a friend and is holding them for me as long as I want until I decide to buy or not, so I didn't want to rip him off for 15 bucks each….but anyone else would have gotten 45 bucks for them and I’d have been on my way. I won't pay more than $75 to $100 each, that’s for sure. My plan is to play these horns, not sell them.

They look like they are artist series horns, from what I can tell. All are engraved ornately and are old pro model conns, or so my knowledge tells me. They are original lacquer and have that look to them that says “I’m a great old horn made in Elkheart…play me!”.


Again, I understand that all horns are individuals and I could play 20 of the same make/model/year, and some would be great, some would suck. Guess it’s a gamble.


What difference does the “L” and “H” designation make?
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
There were many different pitch standards over time. For saxes we're mostly concerned with low and high pitch. High pitch horns won't play in tune with modern instruments, so are only usable with other high pitch instruments or as unaccompanied solo instruments. As a result most end up as ornaments or being scrapped. Sad, but true. You've probably worked it out, but L mean low pitch.
 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,797
On Conn the L stands for Low Pitch (A=440) and HP för High Pitch (A=456). The high pitch saxes were not sat to a certain standard pitch, as the L (A=440), it vary from manufactor to manufactor. The HP saxes were constructed to work in a wider range so they could play together with other instruments and in differnt contries as well. Most of the Conn HP's were exported to Canda but you can find them in Sweden as well. Beside the L or HP you can also see if the your Conn is a high pitch sax buy the model number. 7M is a HP alto, 9M is a HP C-melody and 11M (NB the low A bari from the 60's!) is a HP tenor. The Conn HP saxes are shorter but have the same bell diameter as the L Conn's. The weight is the same if it's a L or HP Conn.

You can try a modern long shank mouthpiece on a HP sax, and then transpose the music. This maybe helps to make the HP sax more useful but the "sweet oldtime tone" is still there. HP saxes can be used in Balkan music. A HP soprano sounds fine in this type of music!


Thomas
 

Vintage Sax Lover

New Member
Messages
13
On Conn the L stands for Low Pitch (A=440) and HP för High Pitch (A=456). The high pitch saxes were not sat to a certain standard pitch, as the L (A=440), it vary from manufactor to manufactor. The HP saxes were constructed to work in a wider range so they could play together with other instruments and in differnt contries as well. Most of the Conn HP's were exported to Canda but you can find them in Sweden as well. Beside the L or HP you can also see if the your Conn is a high pitch sax buy the model number. 7M is a HP alto, 9M is a HP C-melody and 11M (NB the low A bari from the 60's!) is a HP tenor. The Conn HP saxes are shorter but have the same bell diameter as the L Conn's. The weight is the same if it's a L or HP Conn.

You can try a modern long shank mouthpiece on a HP sax, and then transpose the music. This maybe helps to make the HP sax more useful but the "sweet oldtime tone" is still there. HP saxes can be used in Balkan music. A HP soprano sounds fine in this type of music!


Thomas
Thanks Thomas. That makes perfect sense. Do you know anything about the Pan American stencils that Conn made? My Pan Am horn seems to be sharp but no so much that I can't pull my mouthpiece out to play in tune. I've heard of intonation problems among older horns, so I sort of figured that was just part of the territory. Do you think that my Pan American could be a HP sax? It doesn't have any letter designations on the SN at all.
 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,797
I use to setup all saxes as factory setup. The same keyheights and the same thickness of the pads. And if it's possible you should play the sax with the original mouthpiece or something in the same style. I guess your Pan American is a construction from the 20's and your mouthpieces are younger (from the 60's or 70's ?) and designed to work on modern saxes. IMO this might cause you a problem? You can install modern pads and set the keys lower or higher on an old sax and use a modern longer mouthpiece as well. Perhaps you must extend the the neck a bit. But that's easy for a tech to do.

Pan American were Conn's second line brand. Often made from old inventory and old tools. And they were a low priced alternative. You could find very good saxes among second line saxes. Conn made Pan American, Martin-Indiana, Buescher-Elkhart, King- American Standard and Gladiator. So all of the four big American manufactors had a second line brand/sax.

I have never seen or heard of a HP Pan American. But I don't know about this.

Thomas
 

C_Claudemonster

Formerly saxgirl22
Messages
399
I don't think I've replied to this as yet but I'd say yes, they are so worth it if you seek out a good one! I got an old Pan american alto for £50, it's so so ugly but has been made to play and I wouldn't part with it for the world! I'd describe it as my equivalent of a favourite teddy haha :)
 
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