I have in my possession a saxophone that I am looking to sell. I am having an extremely difficult time trying to identify the make and model of this instrument. It is stored in a very old looking case that has an identifying label on the outside. Printed on the label is Conn Band Instruments. The inside of the case is a purple velvet material. The saxophone has a stencil that simply states The Master - Built in Elkart - IND. The stenciling around the words is not very elaborate. There is a serial number on the back of the saxophone: 16940 The same serial number is printed on the bottom of the mouth piece.
The confusing thing is that there is no manufacturer printed anywhere on the Saxophone. I have been looking on the internet and my best conclusion I can come to is that this looks somewhat similar to a Martin "typewriter." and the Martin Handcraft. Although, the serial numbers are too low to be either of these. In fact, the serial numbers are too low to be any of the Martin Saxophone models. The earliest Martin serial number is listed as 17721.
If it is a Conn, the serial number would fall into the Wonder Improved & Wonder Perfected model not "The Master." And if it were a Conn the serial numbers would match up to a time that there was a fire at the Conn factory.
So what I am hoping you might be able to answer for me is, do you know of any manufacturer that made a saxophone with the model name "The Master"? Or is it possible that this was some sort of prototype?
Any information would be appreciated.
I have a very good idea of what you have. It's interesting the way you phrased your question as you actually have many of the answers already there. So what I'm going to say will sound like I'm "twisting" your words a bit as I put everything in the correct order.
What you have is called a "stencil" horn. This is a common practice where a manufacture makes an instrument for another company and put that companies name or "stencil" on it. Just about every saxophone factory has done this as its a good way to sell more instruments. The stencils are usually based on the companies standard designs but may have a few subtle changes. (i.e. different G# cluster, key guards, extra or missing keys, etc.) Often these horns were slightly stepped down versions of the manufactures top line horns or based on older models thus allowed them to use up the extra parts they may still have. Sometimes individual music stores would order only a dozen horns or thousands. Therefore it's not uncommon to find stencil horns that no one has heard of as the quantity on some names is very small.
This practice is still widely used today if not almost exclusively as the number of saxophone factories has greatly diminished in recent years and just about all of them are now located in China and Taiwan. So if you wanted to go into the sax manufacturing business, all you would have to do is contact one of the factories, give them your specifications, create a fictitious name like "George Sax" tell them where you want the serial numbers to start and then write a check. Next thing you know you have created a "stencil" saxophone. I've already answered many questions concerning stencil saxophones and if you do an Internet search for stencil saxophones you will find much more information.
Concerning the serial number, you are correct that it does not match up with either Martin or Conn. As I stated above when a stencil was created the company that ordered it could begin the serial number list anywhere they wanted. Therefore the Martin or Conn list means absolutely nothing in relation to this instrument. Most of the companies that ordered these were somewhat limited in their orders and any type of serial number list have been lost to history. The only way to determine who made it and when would be to take a very close look at it and compare with the various manufactures. If it's a Martin the tone holes would have been soldered and not drawn. Also the tops of them may be beveled in. However if they are not it doesn't mean they were not made by Martin. However if the tone holes are drawn the horn could have been made by Conn. However the earlier Conn's had soldered tone holes. I would need to see pictures to know for sure. There are also other manufactures who could have made this including King, Selmer, Buescher, etc.
If you would like me to take a look and try to identify the horn I would be more than happy. Just send some photos to my e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would need to see photos of the keys especially the left hand G# cluster, key guards, close ups of the tone holes and the neck. The serial number on the body and neck would be a big help as well.
I hope this helps and answers some of your questions.