Saxophone/1914 the buescher soprano straight saxophone
i have a buescher straight saxophone pat. dec. 31,1914 serial #128430 it appears to be silver with a gold inlay and mother of pearl buttons in its origanal case i would like to know if this is what it really is and what kind of price range would this be in and is there some importantance to the pat. being dec. 31,1914
Thank you for the question.
The sax you have was manufactured between 1923-34, It is a Buescher True-Tone. The True-Tone was Bueschers work horse until the Aristocrat was introduced in the early 1930's. During this time the saxophone was as popular as the guitar is now. The pop music of the day was jazz and the sax was one of the driving forces of the music. This resulted in a very large number of saxophones being produced. However most were altos and tenors. The soprano was produced in very small numbers compared to the other instruments. I would estimate one soprano was produced for every 20 altos.
Regarding that date on the back. Take a closer look at it. It should say, December 8, 1914, not Dec 31. I've gotten into many discussions and "arguments" with sax players who sware up and down their horn was made on Dec 8, 1914. However this is not a manufacture date, it's a patten issue date. The patten it is referring to is a patten issued to Vern Powell. Mr. Powell, was a flute maker who invented a method of drawing the tone holes out of the body of the instrument instead of cutting a hole and then soldering on a chimney. This prevented the tone holes from developing leaks as the solder would often suffer from metal fatigue or quality control issues at the factory. The paten expired in 1939 after 25 years. All saxophones and flutes that used this method were required to carry this date stamp and paten number and pay a few $$ to Mr. Powell. This made Mr. Powell very rich. Currently Mr. Powell's company makes some of the best flutes on the planet. Many sell in the high 5 figure range. After the patten expired, all sax and flute manufactures began using his method and it is the standard method for manufacture today.
You asked about the finish and if it "is what it really is"? Yes and No. The sax is made of brass, but it is plated in silver. Sometimes Buescher would put a gold wash inside the bell or over the engraved area. Sometimes they gold plated the keys. Also the keys could be lacquered brass and therefore appear "gold". I would need to see the instrument to know for sure. Recently I've seen a few people attempt to sell instruments as "solid silver". This is usually due to lack or knowledge or they are trying to scam the buyer, and considering the current price of gold and silver it seems like they are getting a deal. The silver was put on the instrument by electroplating and is extremely thin, no more than .0002 of an inch or less. If you look closely there may be a few areas where the silver has rubbed off exposing the brass under it. The amount of silver that is actually there is about the same as what you would find in a small piece of jewelry. #i.e. a pair of stud ear-rings# The gold is even thinner. So the silver and gold does not add much to the value of the instrument. Also most instruments produced in the 1920's were silver plated.
During the time this horn was made Buescher made two versions of the straight Soprano sax, the more common Bb-soprano and a C-Soprano. The C-Sopranos are a little smaller and pitched in the key of C. Therefore play at concert pitch. If you have a tuner, play a C "third space". If the tuner says it's a Bb then you have a "Bb" instrument if it says your playing a "C" then you have the rarer C-soprano. The C-sopranos are rare and I doubt you have one, but I would still check.
Concerning it's value, that is going to be hard to pin down as I'm sure as you know the value of something is only what the buyer and seller agree to. There are a few things to consider. Is this a Bb or a C soprano, what condition is it in? Does it need any repairs, pads replaced, etc. A true-tone altos usually sell for between $200 to $1000 depending on the condition, finish, etc. The sopranos are not as common and are extremely popular now. Therefore they tend to sell for a bit more. I would estimate between $500 to $1300. If the horn need repairs you will need to subtract that from the value. If it needs a new set of pads, that can run you between $400 to $700 depending on the tech. If it's a C-soprano it's going to be harder to sell and you may have to ask less for it. However if you can find a sax collector, I'm sure they would love to have a C-soprano.
BTW... I'm located in Covington, GA just east of Atlanta. If your close by and would like me to take a look at it, I would be more than happy to. You can shoot me an e-mail directly or call me at my store, Harris Band Instruments 770-787-2095