For American-made horns,
* 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 and sopraninos don't have keyguards).
* If the horn has bevelled toneholes, 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 labeled "Martin" or "King") were produced by Conn or Buescher.
* A rare few Conn-labeled basses and all contrabasses were made by Buffet (Evette & Schaeffer). These horns were labeled as such to get around
* Holton stencils generally have additional odd 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 (see below).
There are several alternative ways to
determine who made your stencil. The best suggestions are found in this EXCELLENT article from Dr.
Rick's Music. Of course, you can also look at pictures of a variety of pro horns and go from
there. Just note that the most common American stencils were made by Conn and Buescher (in approximately that order).
Please also note that Lyon & Healy and York, amongst many others, made their own
instruments until about 1920, when Conn and Buescher essentially took control of the American saxophone market. Also note that FA Buescher left the company
that bears his name in the late 1920's and then founded another company that
used Martin stencils for their saxophone line!
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
* 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.
* 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 than
that found on the Conn pro line and was then used on the Conn Director
instruments of the late 1950's and 1960's.
* 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 Buescher Elkhart is sort-of a stencil: an Elkhart-labeled horn is an older
True Tone model, made with the same old tooling, but made in the 1930's (or
so). The Elkhart, however, is engraved as such and was available in lacquer.
* The quality of second-line horns was generally higher than their stencil
How much is my stencil or second-line horn worth?
For European/Asian horns, the answer is:
"As much as the horn it was stenciled from". For American horns,
the answer is: generally not that much. The exceptions are horns with gold
plated bodies and/or keywork (there are some beautiful, high quality Selmer
New York horns out there, a stencil made generally by Conn), horns with
extremely elaborate engraving, horns with "prototype" keywork,
horns that were owned by someone famous (provided you can prove it) and
sopraninos, baritones, basses and contrabasses (although stencil curved
sopranos are starting to gain value, too).
Broadly speaking, subtract about 25% off the
value of the pro horn it was stenciled from and that's the value of your horn.
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 US for these, ever.
This is not to say that stencils/second-line horns are all bad. Some can be
extremely good. It's just that the ratio of bad to good is higher. ALWAYS
play test a horn thoroughly before you buy.
Final Comments: "Copycat" Horns
You probably have seen an eBay ad or three touting a horn as being "A copy of the Selmer Mark VI!", "Has
the same keywork as the Selmer Super 80!" or something similar. These
horns fall into a couple categories:
* Asian (generally Chinese or Korean) copies of French-made horns (or horns
"Manufactured under the supervision of French craftsmen!")
* Czech copies of Keilwerth horns
* German copies of Keilwerth horns
* Italian horns based on French designs
These are generally horns you don't want to buy. There are some notable
exceptions, the easiest example being the Yamaha 62 and better: these horns
are essentially copies of the Selmer Mark VI and Super 80, but they are
exceptionally good copies.
Just remember: a copy is only as good as the
craftsmen copying it and the materials that they use.
You also should beware of advertisements in
ALL CAPS or that have too many exclamation marks!!!!
Again, repeat this mantra: Always playtest a horn before buying it.