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Saxophone/how to find the value of a vintage alto sax.


I have a Carl Fischer sax that i know is pretty old, and I'm having trouble in finding it's value. Any suggestions?


What you have is a Buescher made stencil most likely made in the 1920's or 30's. This time was what is known as the "sax craze". Jazz was the pop music of the day and the saxophone was a huge part of it. In fact the sax was as popular as the guitar is now if not more so. This resulted in a huge number of instruments being produced and now they show up in attics, garage sales, flea markets, etc. Often they are not worth as much as the sellers think.

When I say it's a "Stencil" means that the Buescher company manufactured it, but the Carl Fisher company bought it and had their name "stenciled" on it. This is a practice that is still very prevalent in the musical instrument manufacturing business today. If you wanted to go in to the sax manufacturing business all you would have to do is contact a factory order a few thousand instruments and tell them what name to put on them and where the serial numbers were to start. Then write them a check. The advantage this has for the manufacture is they can sell a large number of instruments quickly and in some cases it gives them the opportunity to use up some extra parts that may be left over from previous product runs. For the seller it establishes a brand of his own and hopefully a greater profit margin on the products. However when a horn is stenciled by another company the manufacture may not put all of their best features into it. Sometimes they will base the stencil on a previous model or will make subtle changes that only an expert in the design will be able to identify. More than likely this was based on the Buescher True-tone model. Also the serial number will not follow the manufactures standard list. So if you were to look Buescher's serial number chart and attempt to date your horn it would generate some strange results. So as far as an exact date the best you can do is an educated guess.  

There is a good chance there is a date on that horn of Dec. 8th, 1914. That is not the manufacture date, but a patent date. This refers to a patent on a manufacturing method to draw the tone holes out of the body. If the date is not on the horn, than the tone holes would have been soldered and they have the possibility of leaking. All companies that used this method of manufacture had to stamp that date on the horn until December of 1939.

Based on my experience and the few Carl Fishers I've seen I would have to put its value near the low end of the scale. If the horn is in playable condition with a good set of pads, minimal dents and damage, as well as a good finish than it might be worth $400 to $600. If the horn has any damage or needs work as most from this era do than the instrument may be worth as little as $50. A collector may be interested but it's not something I would give to a child to use in the school band as there are usually a few quirky things about saxophones this old that are not found on modern instruments and may be a bit confusing if they are trying to follow a modern method book. Kind of like learning to drive a Ford Model T, using a Ford Mustang driving manual.

I would recommend you have the horn looked at by a competent repair technician and see what they can tell you. If you go to you can do a tech search for someone in your area who can take a good look at it and give you an honest evaluation.

I hope this helps and if there is any more I can do feel free to ask.

Charles Harris.  


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Charles Harris


questions regarding equipment, performance, repairs, lessons, etc. Almost all saxophone related questions.


I am a professional member of N.A.P.B.I.R.T (National Association of Professional Band Instruments Repair Technicians). I have been repairing saxophones, flutes, clarinets, and brass instruments since 1993. I perform in several professional groups covering genres form classical, jazz, and rock.

N.A.P.B.I.R.T (National Association of Professional Band Instrument Repair Technicians

St. Petersburg Junior College (AA) University of South Florida.

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