Saxophone/1910 buescher true tone
QUESTION: I inherited my great uncle's saxophone. I don't know much about him other than he played In a symphony in Michigan. The saxophone has the numbers 128516. It says low pitch and it has a triangle symbol. It has the fancy engraving on the front saying beuscher. It has mother of pearl fingering. I inherited it 30 years ago. I have not polished it or have gotten new pads for it. I was amazed that it played so well today. Before I take it to be restored, what should I be aware of with its age? I don't think it is worth but a couple hundred. Could you give me am estimated value?
The saxophone you have is a Buescher True Tone alto saxophone. According to the serial number the manufacture date is circa 1923/24. I would really like to see more photos specifically of the pads, the resonators (the metal disk on the pads) as well as the key work on both sides of the sax.
If you could please forward them to me my e-mail is email@example.com
The True Tone was Buescher's bread and butter instrument through most of the jazz and sax craze of the 1920's I own a tenor from about the same vintage that I'm planning on a complete re-pad/overhaul in the near future. The difficulty here is the photos you gave me are showing a very clear shot of the engraving which looks fantastic!!!!! But the other is a bit blurry and I cant really see what condition the finish is in. However, I can say the lacquer appears to be original and this is very important, and a very good thing. The lacquer is a protective coating that is put on at the factory to prevent the brass from oxidizing and turning brown. Like the color of an old door knob. However over time, due to exposure to the players hands, body oils, and the environment, the lacquer would wear off in the areas where the sax would be touched the most. Also it had a tendency to wear off around the engraving as the engraving was done after the lacquer was applied. This created a beautiful look, but it exposed the brass and that would oxidize. Also the engraving would chip away in the engraved areas. The result is most of these old horns were relacquered in the 40's and 50's. Doing so could destroy the horns value as the re-lacquer process required the horn to be buffed and polished and that removed metal. So much that the engraving would be partially erased. When the new lacquer was applied, the engraving would be covered making it even more faint. As some of the metal was removed it changed the character of the instrument making it play and sound different. Now players are looking for these with the original lacquer. It seems that is what you have.
Another interesting note about Buescher saxophones is Buescher introduced a pad that would snap in to the pad cups. The idea is if a pad was damaged or worn out, they could easily be replaced simply by snapping out the old ones and putting a new pad in. Great idea but in practice it didn't work that way. Often the keys would become bent and this would make replacing the pads difficult and would often have to be taken to a tech to get everything straightened out, and regulated. This in and of its self created another issue. Many techs were not used to adjusting the snap in pads. All other makes used shellac and other glues to hold in the pads. this gave a bit of wiggle room to move the pad around in the cup. With the snap you lost that option. The result is some of the techs would remove the snaps from the bottom of the pad cups which the resonators attached to and held in the pads. Today a Buescher with all of the original snaps is becoming more and more rare. It's common to see a horn with as much as 80% of the snaps but usually the smaller pads near the top of the horn have been replaced with glue in pads. There should only be 2 pads held in with glue and those are the 2 smallest pads on the horn. One is on the neck, the other just to the right of the octave mechanism.
The way to tell if all the snaps are there is to look at the pads. Every pad should have a metal domed resonator right in the middle. If the resonator is plastic, metal with a rivet, or perfectly flat, it is not correct.
There is a video I would like you to see that shows the making of the Buescher saxophones at about the time your horn was being made.
This shows the factory as well as the snap in pads. Plus about 100 safety violations if they were still doing this type of work today.
As far as value... This is going to be much more than what you think. If the pads still have all the snaps and original lacquer than the horn could be valued anywhere between $600 to $1000. If regulated and set up properly by a trained technician it could be worth more. However the cost for doing this could be equal if not more than the value of the instrument depending on where and who you take it to.
What ever you do, do not attempt to clean or polish the sax yourself. That usually removes more of the lacquer and gums up the mechanism making it difficult to clean and regulate. I recommend you take this to a tech who is filmier with these and have it assessed. Go to www.napbirt.org and do a tech search for a technician in your area. Call ahead and verify if they are filmier with the Buescher True Tone saxes and have worked on them. These instruments are a bit different than a modern saxophone and can be a challenge to work on after 90 years of history.
If you could get me some more photos that would be fantastic. A close up of some of the pads and resonators would be fantastic.
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QUESTION: Here are some more pictures. There are metal discs in the pads. I'm still not sure if they are the snap ones or not. I literally have not opened the bag but maybe once or twice since I have gotten the sax. I'm sure it could be prettied up more but I didn't dare try with worries I would ruin the value. I'm glad I didn't.
Ummmmmm.......... You better sit down. Your great uncle had a great taste in saxophones for his time.... You need to get this in the hands of a qualified tech ASAP!!!!!
The photos are at a lower resolution. I assume you took them with a cell phone or an older camera, but based what I can see in the photo of the engraving that horn appears to be gold plated! In my travels over the last 30 years, I've only seen 2 true factory condition gold plated saxophones. One was an old Conn and the other was an Selmer. Gold plated saxes are extremely rare!! The simple reason it they are expensive. In the days this horn was made the gold plating added a 20% premium to the cost of the horn. Today getting a gold plated horn from the factory will double the cost of the instrument. Many companies are not even doing it due to the fluctuating gold market. Today this will increase the value of the sax, by as much as 20% to 50%. Now don't get excited about hitting the jack pot. There is more copper in 2 bb's than there is gold on that horn. Its a very very thin layer. But if the horn is taken care of it can last a very very long time. The way to tell if it's gold is the body should have a slight matte or "sandblasted" texture making the finish look kind of dull. However some areas of the engraving will be mirror smooth and reflective. They did this by masking the areas to be engraved. The body was sand blasted, gold plated, then engraved. That is why the engraving is so sharp.
Concerning the pads, the pads you showed me have the original resonators. Of this I'm 100% confident. However I would have to have the horn in my hands to know if any had been replaced with glue in pads. However I suspect and would not be surprised if this horn is 100% accurate. However the leather pads look very old and are showing signs of dry rot. I would recommend you get this horn to a tech soon and have it value assessed as well as what it is going to cost to get it fixed up. There are collectors out there who will pay a premium for a horn like this.
One last thing about Bueschers. The True Tone was Bueschers 1910's and 1920's era saxophone. In its day a great horn. However the model that came after it in the mid 1930's was the Aristocrat and a vast improvement to the True Tone. They sell for about double of what a true tone will. So if your looking at prices on line pay attention to the model. Some of the early Aristocrats had the True Tone stamp by the serial number but they also say Aristocrat on the bell these were transitional models as the true tone was being phased out and the Aristocrat phased in. I've had a few people notice this and think they have something more valuable than they actually do.
If you ever think about having it restored, let me know I would love to have a crack at it.