QUESTION: Hello, I was wondering if you could help me gather some info on Conn Tenor Sax Serial # 154xxx. I have pictures to send. Im thinking about buying it from a guy who will do a restoration on it.
I want to learn its story an anything that you could help me to learn would be appreciated.
The serial number number would place this saxophones manufacture around 1925-26 and is called the Conn New Wonder. This was Conn's primary model during most of the 1920's and early 1930's.
Looking at the photo I'm not sure if this is a tenor. It may be a C-melody, which is a little shorter than a tenor. However that could be due to the angle of the photo. If you could provide me with all of the information on the back that would be a huge help. There should be a letter directly above the serial number. If there is a letter "T" than it's a tenor. If it's a "C" than it's a C-melody.
If this is a C-melody, I would pass on buying it as most are not in that great of condition and they are no longer used. Unless you just want one in your collection. If it's a tenor and you want a good vintage sax, than go for it, but I would not put more than $700 in to it total unless you plan on keeping it and playing it for many years to come.
Let me know some more of the details and I be able to give you a bit more info.
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QUESTION: Yes it has the "T".
A professional has it and he will do a complete restoration complete for a total $1,000. Looking on the internet it seems like they sell for $1,000 and up restored. I would like to get a collectable for my 12 year old who is really into it.
Should I look at other options ? What would you suggest ?
Does that also fall into the time period of the Chu Berry ?
What mouth piece would you suggest for a student ?
Thanks for the clarification on that. The picture that uploaded was either at a very strange angle making it look elongated, or it was compressed making the horn appear to be thinner, and more like a C-melody.
$1000, hmmm... Does that include the purchase price and the restoration, or just the restoration? And what does he mean by restoration? Will he simply replace the pads, corks, etc. Or will this go in to be replated, lacquered, etc. If he is willing to sell it with an overhaul, (i.e. new pads, corks, regulation) for $1000 thats not to bad of a price. It's maybe a little higher than the going rate but not much more.
A horn like this for a 12 year old. That does worry me a little, as I have a 14 year old and I've seen the way he treats his instruments as do most kids in middle and high school. If he plans to use this as an every day instrument in the school band, I would not recommend it. These can go out of regulation easily and considering it is pushing 90 years old, I'm sure there may be some hidden issues with metal fatigue as well. Some you may not find until your tech gets into with the repair process. Others you may not find until the horn starts getting used.
I mention this as I had an old Martin tenor Committee II, (crown and lion) come into my shop recently for a complete repad. Everything looked good until I took the cork off the neck. Turned out there was a crack almost an inch long under the cork where the seam had split and someone did a terrible job trying to close it. This added a bit of time and cost to the repair as I had to get out the brazing torch to close it properly.
I would recommend you keep this horn as a performance instrument. If your son is taking it to school on a daily basis it will be back in the shop within 6 months to a year. This is not to say your son will not take care of it, but what worries me are the 100 or so other kids that run around the band room. Things happen to the most well meaning individuals. So if you have a 2nd instrument in your possession, use that on a day to day basis and keep this one for performances, and special situations.
Unfortunately this is not a Chu-Berry model. It's about 10 years to early for that. The Chu-Berry model was a transitional model that incorporated features of both the New Wonder and the 10M, but with split bell keys. (Low B and Bb on opposite sides of the bell) Actually the Chu-Berry model is a completely made up name. As it was the model played by Leon (Chu) Berry. Eventually that variation in the design took his name after his death. The difference between the a true Chu Berry is that it has some of the features of the 10M (Artist Model), which includes the fully articulated left hand pinky keys and the nail file G# key. Meaning you could play a G# by holding down any table key. Previous models did not work that way. In the mid 30's as Conn used up parts the New Wonder evolved into the 10M and it's these "transitional" saxophones which are the true Chu-Berry models. Often sellers will identify any Conn or any other make of saxophone with split bell keys as a Chu-Berry model. Unfortunately this is not accurate and has caused a great deal of confusion concerning what is and what isn't a Chu-Berry.
As far as mouthpieces, as this horn does not have the microtuner, you should be able to use just about any mouthpiece you would like. However if you want that traditional Conn sound, then I would recommend you get something with a shorter shank that is similar to what would have been available at the time this horn was being made. I would recommend you stay away from metal mouthpieces as there were very few in production in the 1920's. Some of the older Selmer designs, including the Brillharts, Scroll Shank C*'s, should work well, Meyers, and the rubber Otto Links should be a good choice. And look at the Runyon line. Santy Runyon, made mouthpieces for just about every type of saxophone. Just use a bit of trial and error. If you have a music store in your area that is big on brass and woodwind, ask if they have a vintage / used mouthpiece box laying around. Most do. Most of what you will find there will be junk, but every now and then you will find a real jem, and you may be able to get it at a great price.
If your planning on playing this in a classical ensemble, for a student then you may want to look at some of the Vandoren mouthpieces, the Eugene Rousseau classic series, and the Selmer Paris Larry Teal. If you can find one a vintage Selmer C* with the scroll shank and round chamber would be my personal choice. This was the mouthpiece originally shipped with the Mark VI unfortunately they went out of production in the early 1970's and are becoming harder and harder to find. The Larry Teal is the closest I've seen to it, but they are expensive. If price is a real issue and you don't want to make this type of investment in a mouthpiece and I doubt a 12 year old student will be able to tell the difference, get a David Hite Premier. They are some great mouthpieces at an extremely affordable price, about $40.
I hope this helps and if there is anything else I can do, please let me know.