Saxophone/conn sax

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Conn sax
Conn sax  
I had purchased a cg conn model M251698. Has unique engraving with bust of a topless woman in pentagon above company info. I know the patent number is just the company patent. But i bought this for myself to play which it sounds absolutely beautiful all pads n cork are in tact and damage free . I am just wondering if i made a good purchase and to get backround info on it.

Answer
Thomas,

I really hope this is not a set up question... LOL....

What you have is an early Conn transitional 10M Naked Lady tenor sax and you may have it the jackpot. Based on the serial number it's was manufactured around 1932/33. Based on the engraving that looks like a Tenor. The altos usually only showed the face and not the exposed bust. You didn't say how much you paid, but these horns in great condition sell for $2000 to $2500 and in some cases much more. This is a professional sax and highly sought after!!!!!

Here is some history on this model. First of all it has many names. In the 1930's Conn introduced what was officially known as the Artist model, which is what you have. Each size of saxophone had a different catalog number and these are often better known by that number, The alto was the 6M, tenor was 10M and Baritones were the 12M. When they were produced Conn still had parts left over from the previous model (New Wonder) and they continued to use some of these parts until they ran out. This resulted in some variations in the designs of the early artist models. The design didn't settle down until some where around serial number 265,xxx. Horns produced during this time are often called "transitional" horns. Also the engraving got a reputation for obvious reasons. These are also known as "Naked Ladies". The altos usually only showed the face and no bust and those are called the "Lady Face".

When it comes to the engraving the horn you have is the standard engraving, however there were some variations which included much more detail and sometimes a very detailed full head to toe nude, and I do mean very detailed. The legend is the better the horn the more of the naked lady was engraved. However I don't believe this. What I think happened is sometimes the engravers had a bit more time on their hands or the supervisors would step out and the engravers would try to get away with a bit more. Maybe they would take a horn home for the weekend to "trick" it out. Every now and then one of these extra Naked Ladies will show up.   

There is one thing that I cant tell from the photo. The engraving and the finish look a bit to good for a horn of this age which tells me one of three things.

#1. This horn was rarely ever played and stayed in the case most of it's life. What does the case look like? Is there any literature in the case from Conn? There are usually places on the horn where the lacquer rubs off and exposes the brass under it which oxidizes and turns brown. Do you see any brown spots that kind look like a canker.

#2. This horn was re-lacquered and maybe re-engraved. It was not uncommon in decades past when a saxophone was overhauled to remove and reapply the lacquer. This required the horn to be polished by a buffing wheel which removed some of the metal which if done improperly could make the engraving very faint. Then when the lacquer was reapplied it was sprayed over the engraving. If done wrong the engraving could almost disappear. At the factory the horns were lacquered and then engraved afterward breaking through the lacquer. This makes the engraving stand out more and allows the brass in the engraved area to oxidize. Over time the lacquer around the engraving would rub off and the engraved are would so a great deal of oxidization around the engraving... I don't see any of that here. In recent years it's been a trend to have horns re-engraved when the old engraving is no longer visible especially on these old Naked Ladies so it's possible there is some trickery here.

#3 This is a possibility but without the horns in my hands I can not be sure. This horn could be gold plated and if so it's an extremely rare find! If it's gold plated, than add 50% to 80% more to the price I quoted you. When a sax is silver or gold plated, it's engraved before the plating then the plating makes the engraving stand out even better than it does with a lacquer coat. It's also better protected as gold is an inert metal it doesn't change  or oxidize over time. The engraving in the photo is super sharp plus the color is a bit to gold to be lacquer. However that could be from the light and your camera setting.

The Lacquer used at the time this horn was made usually darkened as it aged as it was nitro-cellulose based. This would turn a brownish color. Modern lacquers are epoxy based and do not change as they age. So this horn is either gold plated, its been re-lacquered, or just didn't change color over time. A tech would be able to determine exactly which. The best case is you found a closet horn that was gold plated... I can see this happening as the horn could have been bought as a gift or a future investment and rarely ever played. Then somehow it came to you.


A few things you should look for. The left hand pinky table may have a nail file G#. This means it looks a bit like a metal nail file, it may be also be flat. The tone holes should be rolled. If you look at the top of the tone hole chimneys you should see the metal rolls over to form a lip. Check the pads and see if the edge of the pads extends slightly over the edge of the pad cups. You should be able to catch the edge of the pads with your thumb nail. Just be careful not to rip the leather. If you find you can do this and the pads have a flat metal disk with a single rivet in the center than it's very likely these pads are original or were replaced with the original type of pad at some point. If the pads are completely inside the pad cup or don't have the flat metal resonators than the were replaced at some point in time.

That serial number you pointed out is not the company serial number it's a patent number for a method of manufacturing and refers to how the tone holes are created. In the early years of the saxophones existence, the chimneys were soldered directly to the body after the holes were cut. This was a problem as the solder would often react with the players saliva and corrode creating leaks. Mr Verne Powell who was a flute manufacture created a way to "draw" the tone holes out of the existing brass and created a seamless chimney. This feature was patented until 1939 and any instrument that used it prior to that date had to carry that patent number and small royalty was paid to Mr. Powell. This number appears on all Conn saxophones and many Bueschers produced during this time period. It made Mr. Powell a very, very rich man.

What I would like you to do is send me some photos of this horn to my email which is at the bottom of this message. I would like to see the key clusters for both the right and left hand, the left hand pinky table. A photo of the bell and the bell keys (low B and Bb). The pads, tone holes / chimneys, more of the engraving, the neck, then serial number and any additional info stamped on the horn, the case, (inside and out) and finally if there are any oxidization spots on the horn and that will help me determine the finish. I'll look them over and get back to you within 24 hours.

My E-mail is charles@harrisbandinstruments.com

Thanks again and congratulations on a great find.

Charles Harris  

Saxophone

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Charles Harris

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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

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

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