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Saxophone/1979 Conn 24M Alto Saxophone

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QUESTION: Hello Charles
Hope you are well.
I have never played a saxophone or any instrument for that matter. I am 53 years old and want to try. I love the sound of the Sax. I have been searching for quite a while to find something decent that will not discourage me. I have come across a 1979 Conn 24M Alto Saxophone for $300 Canadian Dollars. I am told it has been recently overhauled and will need nothing. It has some minor dings and some scratching of course, but all in all it looks really good. What is your thoughts on this sax and the value and playability?
Thanks so much in advance for your response.
James
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

ANSWER: James,

The Conn 24M Alto sax is a good solid student level saxophone. You could do worse and you could do better but for the price your getting a bargain as long as it is as it is described.

A little history of this particular model. In the 1970's Conn was going through a very rough time. They were under extreme pressure from the labor unions and over sees competition, mainly Selmer and Yamaha. Therefore they had to cut cost and did so by moving their factory from Elkhart, IN to Nogalas, NM. Later they moved even further south to Mexico. However this was not even enough to save them and by the mid 1970's the Conn company was sold to a gentleman by the name of Daniel Henkin who moved the Conn factory back to Elkhart, IN in a attempt to reclaim the company's former glory. This is where the horn you have comes from. He begin by manufacturing student level instruments and was in negotiations with Keilwerth, Leblanc and other big manufactures in Europe to create a new series of professional instruments for the Conn label. Unfortunately the endeavor did not last and by the mid 1980's the Conn company and all it's patents, properties, etc were sold and became part of the United Musical Instruments company, (UMI) in 2004, UMI was again sold to Selmer U.S.A. where it was re-named Conn-Selmer.

I have a serious concern based on the way you worded your question. I've come across many auctions where the buyer says the sax is in great shape but they don't play or repair saxophones. What looks just fine to the naked eye can be a real problem when you try to play it. My concern is why is something that has recently been re-padded being sold for less than half of the cost of a repad. According to the Google currency converter. $300CA is about $270US. Either the buyer just wants to get rid of it, or it's not as it's described. The pads may look good and clean but that doesn't mean they are new. As pads age they will turn brittle and will begin to tear and eventually they have to be replaced. A horn that has not been played may look good but can have hidden damage mold, mildew, or insect damage. A complete overhaul on a saxophone will cost around $500US or more depending on where you go. If it cost less than that I would find out who did the work and find out what they did or did not do. Did they take the horn apart, replaced all corks, felts, adjust and regulate and replace the pads or did they just replace the pads? There is a difference and the quality of the work will show. You may want to have the horn looked over by a repair tech. If you don't know one, go to www.napbirt.org and do a tech search. I'm sure there would be a competent tech within an hour of you. Call the shop and make sure they do the repair work in house and do not send it out. You will want to speak to the tech and have him or her look at the horn while you are there.  

As long as the horn is as described, I think you are getting a great deal at a great price. The best thing to do now is commit to practice and learn to play it.

Good Luck
Charles Harris

 


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hello Charles
Once again thanks for all the great information.
I may have been mistaken on the year, can you please confirm the year of this Conn 24M Alto Saxophone ... it bears the serial number NL38762.
Thanks,
James

ANSWER: James,

I would say your estimation on age is about right. Late 70's to mid 80's. However if you look at a Conn serial number chart it's going to show you a date of about 1896. Your sax is obviously not that old. After the buy out, Conn recycled some of their serial numbers and model names.

I was originally going to mention this in my first message but I didn't think it would have any bearing on your horn until now. In the 1920's there was a different 24M saxophone. It was known as a mezzo-soprano, technically an alto but pitched in F in stead of Eb. It was a little smaller than an alto and due to the smaller bore sounded more like a soprano in the upper register than an alto. Hence the name (mezzo-soprano). Back in the day there was very little demand for these and they didn't sell very well. Therefore most ended up back at the Conn repair school where teachers would throw them on the floor, hit them with hammers, etc and tell the students to fix them. The result is not many survived. Now collectors covet them. About 5 years ago, one appeared on Ebay with a buy it now for $1500. It sold in less that 3 minutes after being posted. Most sell for between $2500 to $4000.  I've seen a few people with the 24M you have get them mixed up with the mezzo-soprano and think they have a horn worth thousands, when it's only worth a few hundred.

As far as the serial number the NL means something. However to my knowledge I've never been able to find exactly what it means. Some have said it has to do with the year and month of production and the rest of the numbers tell you the model. A list like this exist for the brass instruments, (i.e. trumpets, cornets, etc) but a chart for saxophones from this era seems to have never been released. So the best I can do is give you an estimate.

I hope this helps. Any more questions feel free to ask.

Charles H.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hello Charles
I want to say thank you very much for all your great information. It is greatly appreciated.
I have one more request from you ... for now. LOL
I have opportunities on 3 possible Saxophones.
Assuming all 3 are in decent playable condition and all are within $50 price range of each other, $250-$300, can you rate the following 3 saxophones, best choice to least.
1979 Conn 24M Alto - which you have assisted on already - $300
Armstrong  Alto Saxophone - $300
King 613 Alto Saxophone - $250
Once Again Thank You,
James

Answer
James,

Well I would put it between the Conn and the King. As long as both are playable and in good condition you are comparing apples to apples so either one would be fine. The Armstrong I have some reservations about as they are very durable saxophones and can stand up to a great deal of abuse, however they are very difficult to work on. Whenever I have to disassemble one of them I get the feeling it was designed by a committee. One group worked on the upper stack and another the lower, and another on the bell keys, etc. Neither group ever spoke to each other. Repair techs tend to hate the Armstrong saxophones.

The King 613 and the Conn 24M are good all around student horns so either one would be just fine.

Let me know what you get.

Charles Harris  

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Charles Harris

Expertise

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

Experience

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.

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

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

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