Saxophone/Conn Stencil sax


I am trying to list on eBay a sax:
"1920-1930 Conn for Bruno & Sons Low Pitch C Melody " Perfection" TENOR SAXOPHONE"
I received a email saying:
"This is a stencil of the Pan American model 50M, vintage 1920. It is not Conn the way the term implies"
The markings on the sax is "PERFECTION" "C.Bruno&Son"  "Pat. Dec. 8, 1914"  " C "  "L" .
Any help would be helpful.

The Email is correct. This is not the top of the line Conn. This sax is a stencil sax  made by Conn. Conn's second line sax was Pan American,and the stencils were also made there. What is a stencil sax? from the web...

What's a "Stencil"?

A "stencil" is a word that is specifically supposed to refer to a saxophone built by a major sax manufacturer for another company or storefront. On receipt of the saxophone, the storefront would literally take a stencil and engrave their own name or design on the horn.

American stencil manufactures were generally:
* Conn
* Buescher
* Martin
* Occasionally Holton
* Occasionally HN White (King)

European stencil manufactures were generally:
* Couesnon
* Kohlert
* Buffet (Evette & Schaeffer)
* Keilwerth
* Beaugnier
* Pierret
* Amati
* Yamaha (Japanese)

American stencils generally have the following characteristics:
* A different serial number chart than the pro horns from the manufacturer
* Stencil manufacture didn't begin in the US until about 1920
* A reduced feature set than the pro horns (for example, Conn stencils don't have rolled tone holes)
* Generally lower quality control than pro horns
* Designs were generally based on earlier tooling (i.e. body and keywork). For example, if Selmer produced a stencil of their Mark VII, it would have the "look and feel" of the Mark VI.
* Generally cheaper materials were used
* Generally limited engraving
* All American stencils I have seen have been low pitch, A=440hz (modern intonation) horns (I still recommend checking with a tuner, in case some are high pitch and aren't marked)
* Occasionally new designs were released only on stencil models (new key work, different octave vent designs, etc.). If the design was good, it occasionally found its way onto the pro models
* American stencils were generally made by the lowest bidder for the contract. For instance, if the Vega company requested a bunch of saxophones, they would buy them from whoever was the cheapest supplier: Conn, Buescher, etc. This means that most stencils were not always made by one specific company over the life of the stencil.

European and Asian stencils generally don't suffer from the same problems of American stencils: they had mostly the same feature set (look and feel) of the pro OR INTERMEDIATE horn they were stencilled from, just different engraving. For example, the King Marigaux is a stencil of the SML Gold Medal "Mk. II". The only differences between the two horns is the engraving and that the Marigaux doesn't appear to have as many finish choices available for it.

These are general rules for stencils, of course. There are many interesting exceptions: Keilwerth made sax bodies for many different companies in Germany and not all these horns are exceptionally good. Lyon and Healy (an American company) occasionally designed their own horns, but had other companies fabricate them. The list goes on.

What's a "Second-Line" Instrument?

The best way of thinking of a second-line instrument is that they are student/intermediate horns sold by a major saxophone manufacturer. It is too complex to get into the subject of European and Asian second-line horns, so let's deal with the most common American second-line:

* The Conn Pan-American
* The Martin Indiana
* The King Cleveland
* The Buescher Elkhart

In all the above cases EXCEPT for Conn, the name of the second-line instrument comes from the name of a company that was bought out (for example, the Indiana Band Instrument company was purchased by Martin). In all cases, these horns generally follow the rules for stencils, except that they were actually sold by the companies that produced them -- they just had different names on the bell.

Interesting exceptions:
* The Conn Pan-Americans did not always use the same tone-hole layout of the Conn New Wonder. The keywork also gradually got more and more dissimilar fthan the Conn pro line.
* The King Cleveland was actually produced by the Cleveland Band Instruments company, as a kind of "wholly owned subsidiary" of the HN White Company after HN White purchased them in 1925. Also, the Cleveland has its own serial number chart and, while they have the distinctive keywork of other King saxophones, the body is rather dissimilar.
* The quality of second-line horns was generally higher than their stencil brethren.

How can I tell who made my stencil?

For European/Asian horns, as mentioned above, it's easy: they look EXACTLY like their pro/intermediate counterparts except for the engraving. The only exceptions are with Keilwerth -- because they never follow any one standard format. Look for the "JK" logo, lucite (plastic) keyguards, the Keilwerth name engraved somewhere, the slogan "The Best in the World" engraved somewhere, etc. In any event, Keilwerth stencils generally have at least a passing similarity to other Keilwerth horns, and with Beaugnier and Pierret, who "custom made" horns for the stencil market.

There are several relatively easy-to-spot characteristics of some stencils:

* If the horn has a Mercedes-Benz-logo low C keyguard, the horn was made by Conn (note that these keyguards are not found on some curved sopranos and that straight sopranos/sopraninos don't have keyguards)
* If the horn has bevelled tone holes, the instrument was produced by Martin
* If the horn has "smooth" keycups, the horn was made by King (there are very few King stencils)
* All Martin and King basses (even those labelled "Martin" or "King") were produced by Conn or Buescher
* Holton stencils generally have additional and cumbersome keywork, as well as very thin construction (there are extremely few Holton stencils)
Buescher stencils are a bit hard to spot. The easiest of determining that you have a Buescher-made stencil is to say it doesn't have any of the above features. The best way, however, is to look at the octave vent mechanism .

How much is my stencil or second-line horn worth?

For European/Asian horns, the answer is: "As much as the horn it was stencilled from". For American horns, the answer is: generally not that much. The exceptions are horns with gold plated bodies and/or keywork, horns with extremely elaborate engraving, horns with "prototype" keywork, horns that were owned by someone famous (provided you can prove it) and sopranino, baritone and basses (although curved sopranos are starting to do well in this market). Broadly speaking, subtract about 25% off the value of the pro horn it was stencilled from.

The major exception to this value rule is brass, lacquer or silver C melody tenors (excepting odd designs). Don't expect to get more than $300 to $400 for these.

This is not to say that stencils/second-line horns are not desirable, they can play extremely good. It's just that the ratio of bad to good is higher. ALWAYS playtest a horn thoroughly before you buy.

L stands for low pitch, C stands for C melody. This sax is worth about $400 (mint sax) depending on the condition. Way less if it needs a total overhaul.
Grant Koeller


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Grant R. Koeller


I'm a Professional Jazz Saxophone soloist recently retired from 23 years with the USAF Band Of Flight, WPAFB, OHIO, experienced in performance, technique and equipment. I'm not a buyer/seller or dealer. I have 40 years Alto, Tenor, Soprano and Bari Saxophone performance experience with additional years on the Flute, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Bass Guitar, Piano, Drum-set, Guitar and Voice. I'm a third generation professional military musician, my father, Bill Koeller(1939-1997) was in the USAF 1958-1962, and played Jazz Hammond B-3 organ from 1957-1997, and my fathers Uncle, Alfred Koeller (1912-1993), was a professional Acoustic Bassist in the Army Air Corps in WWII, and also performed on Jazz Guitar, Hammond organ, Piano and tenor saxophone.


Professional Saxophone Soloist, 23 total years with the USAF Bands, 6 years with the USAF Band of Flight, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, performing on Tenor, Alto, Soprano, Clarinet, and Flute. 4 years in Japan, at Yokota AFB with the USAF Band of the Pacific. An Avid Composer and Arranger for the Night Hawk Protocol Combo. Former Lead Alto Saxophonist with the USAF Night Flight Big Band performing the music of Glenn Miller as well as other hits of the Big Band Era. I collect LP records of Jazz, blue's, classical and rock, and have over 12,000 records.

USAF,Phi MU Alpha Sinfonia, Men's National Music Fraternity, Johnny Mack Super Big Band, Tom Daugherty Orchestra, Kim Kelly Orchestra, Dayton Jazz Orchestra, Eddie Love Big Band, Gem City Big Band, Jazz Central Big Band, Shin Sings Orchestra, Kim Kelly Orchestra,USAF Night Flight Jazz Ensemble, Different Hats Big Band, Jimmy Baker Blues Band, This Side Up, Freelance, KING KOELLER Quartet, Jazz Central Big Band, GB Work, Sax On The Web,

Saxophone On the Web; Anchorage Daily News; All Experts; Augustana College Public Radio, WVIK;

North Texas State University School of Music, Jazz Studies 1982-1986 Lead Alto, Lab bands 1982-83 and small group leader 1983-1984, Jazz Radio Host WVIK 90.1 FM NPR affiliate Rock Island, IL United States Collegiate Wind Band European tour 1980 Augustana College, Rock Island IL, Liberal Arts Music Mentors/Teachers:My father Bill Koeller, a Jazz Hammond B-3 Organist (1939-1997) Great Uncle Alfred Koeller, Acoustic Bass 1912-1993

Awards and Honors
Paul Shartle Musician of the Quarter Spring 2008; Glenn Miller Festival, Clarinda, Iowa featured soloist; McDonald's All-American Band and Jazz Ensemble 1979; US Collegiate Wind Bands,Paul Lavalle Conductor, tour of Europe,1980; John Phillip Sousa Award, 1980 Dimond HS Anchorage, Alaska; USAF National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Star; USAF Achievement Medal with 5 Oak Leaf Clusters; USAF Good Conduct Medal with 6 Oak Leaf Clusters

Past/Present Clients
Performed with, Bob Hope, The Platters, Four Tops, Jimmy Dorsey, Crystal Gail, Helen Ready, James Williams, Dallas Jazz Orchestra, Jack Jones, The Mills Brothers, the G-Clef's, Lionel Hampton at Carnegie Hall, Performed for the King Of Thailand 2005, Tom "Bone's" Malone, Roy Hargrove, Tommy Turrentine, Performed for President Gerald Ford, President George W. Bush, The Maguire Sisters, The USO Girls-Andrew Sisters Tribute, The Four Lads, Lincoln Berry, The Dayton Jazz Orchestra, Louis Bellson, Buddy DeFranco, Walter Bishop Jr, Sadao Watanabe, Bobby Shew, Pete Jolly, Quad City Jazz Ensemble, Augustana College Symphonic Band, Jack Scott, Catfish Jazz Society, Intrigue-Boston Wedding Band, The Mark Herbert Little Big Band, The Pacesetters Big Band, The Ambassadors Jazz Ensemble, Pacific Showcase Big Band, Jimmy Dorsey Big Band under the direction of Lee Castle, Ronny Scott Orchestra, Big Al's Hot Dance Orchestra, The Dayton Sidewinders, Tom Daugherty Orchestra, Johnny Mack Super Big Band, Ken Peplowski, Eddie Daniels, Buddy Guy, Roy Hargrove, Warren Parrish, John OMeara Jr., Dave Holcomb, Albia Silva,Vinnie Demartino, Clon VonFitz, The G Clef's

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