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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
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Hi:

New to the forum. I've been playing tenor for about 2 years. In my 50s so a later-in-life pursuit. I've become at least as interested in the horns themselves. Bought this at a pawn shop for a trade of 3 low-end guitars I had hanging around plus $100. Believed I had bought a 1938 Martin Baritone but now am not sure. Looking online, by 1938 Martin seems to have moved away from the split-bell toneholes on the baritones. Serial number lettering/font looks different yo (127,XXX). It plays up and down with the exception that the octave lever on the neck is broken. Will need to have that fixed, plus pads and adjustments. But I figure the case is probably worth what I paid.

So you Martinophiles out there -- did I buy what I think I did? Is this something that may have been made with excess parts inventory? Have I bought a Frankenhorn. Or maybe I've been duped altogether? Would appreciate your opinions. Will post a second note with more photos. Thanks,

Steve
 

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That's no 1938 Martin.

Looks like drawn tone holes, and even if they're soldered, Martins always have a bevel or chamfer at the top. The round D# palm key, and the pearl G#, are anachronistic to 1938. Keyed only to high Eb, which would have been obsolete around 1925 or so.

I think what you've got there is a Buescher True Tone engraved by contract for Martin. Check the Buescher serial number charts, and I bet it'll give you a date of around 1924 or so.

It will probably play beautifully if in good adjustment; you'll want to use a fairly large chamber mouthpiece on it (Meyer, Link style should work well); the only issue I would have with using it as a main instrument is being keyed only to Eb.

You don't say, nor do you need to, what you paid, but I am sorry to inform you that the keying to Eb will adversely impact market value. If you want this thing for playing on, it will work very well indeed as long as you can work around the absence of keyed E and F. (You can access those notes by altissimo, but it's not as easy and slick as having the palm keys.)
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thank you, turf3. You are right about the Buescher serial numbers (~1924); therefore I think you've given me my answer. As to cost, I traded 3 old, low-end guitars I haven't used in years plus $100 (the horn was at a pawn shop). I really just got it to fool around with. I appreciate your advice on the value, as it will let me make appropriate decisions regarding repair. If nothing else, it's a good-looking horn (to my eye). No significant dents . . . maybe it's antiquated design spared it from being a high-school band horn! Nice case. Takes up less room than the guitars. Again, thanks for sharing your knowledge. Best, Steve
 

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That horn is, I'm pretty sure, gold plated. If you only paid the cost of the case ($200-300), I'd say you scored. If it's playable, it's probably worth close to a grand. It probably won't play as well as a 1938 Handcraft Committee, but it's certainly not chopped liver either. I wish I could still find things like that in pawn shops. Where I live, all the pawn shops eBay anything that might be halfway decent. All they sell in their shops are the really bad student instruments they can't sell on eBay.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Hi Saxophender: I was surprised as well. Found it on Craigslist and drove 150 miles after lighting out early from work (crazy or dedicated?). I asked why it was priced as it was. It was an independent shop & they told me that baris are big and don't sell in the area (Wilmington, NC). The other horns they had are like you describe. The employees were using eBay (& they thought it was a '38 Martin). I've done OK finding inexpensive horns (I got a Martin Mastercraft/Typewriter Tenor from eBay (relacquered) for $350 b/c it was advertised as a C-Melody). Of course, in other cases I've been burned. I don't talk about those. But you're right -- unless someone just wants to get rid of something, in eBay we've traded nice, underpriced surprises for geographic reach (and days waiting, wondering if we made a good decision to buy!). Best to you.
 

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That horn is, I'm pretty sure, gold plated. If you only paid the cost of the case ($200-300), I'd say you scored. If it's playable, it's probably worth close to a grand.
I respectfully disagree. An old Buescher splitbell keyed up to Eb which is not repadded and highly likely in need of a few hundred of tech service even if it is playable now ? Not worth $1000 on the market. Plating is pretty worn, and the G# touch is a round pearl. $700-800 tops. Even if it were completely overhauled and clean and shiny, it likely would not fetch more than $1200 on open market.

Does need a large-chamber piece, also Buescher splitbells have a propensity for instabilities in some of the low notes (gurgling)...Low E. D, sometimes C. Like Chu altos, this was an intrinsic quality due to the body geometry...
Like the mouthpiece cap down the bell for a Chu, the instability (if present) can be alleviated by soldering a piece of something to the inside of the body tube. Exact location via trial and error.
On the plus side it has the octave pip on the top of neck, as opposed to the side, which would really have knocked the horns value further down.

If a person just wants to noodle with a bighorn and gets one for a few hundred and it plays up and down I suppose it's an OK deal. Like Turf, however, I consider a horn like this to be anachronistic. Personally I would not have driven 150 miles for this...if you add the gas cost, it isn't insignificant (unless you have a hybrid or electric, in which case I salute you).

But again, looks like it wasn't abused. It wasn't a 'bad' deal. I suppose if you put $300-500 into it to get it cleaned and polished, and the worst pads/leaks attended to, it would be pretty attractive and would play fairly well as long as you are OK with your range ending at Eb3.
 

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Not worth $1000 on the market. Plating is pretty worn, and the G# touch is a round pearl. $700-800 tops. Even if it were completely overhauled and clean and shiny, it likely would not fetch more than $1200 on open market.

Does need a large-chamber piece, also Buescher splitbells have a propensity for instabilities in some of the low notes (gurgling)...Low E. D, sometimes C. Like Chu altos, this was an intrinsic quality due to the body geometry
Agree with the value estimate. Disagree Chu altos have low end issues. Have owned half a dozen or more. When set up properly, I have never experienced gurgles or low note instability in the slightest, even with medium chamber mouthpieces. They actually purr in the lower register quite easily in my experience.

That bari is definitely not a terrible deal. If you have the skills and patience to properly polish it, could be quite stunning. Looks straighter than most, too.

- Saxaholic
 

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Jaye,
So, the market has reached a point where a gold plated bari is barely worth a couple of Benjamins and $30 worth of gas? That's kind of sad.
As far as the range goes, I guess it depends on what you are going to use the horn for. I've been playing bari in a community band for the last five years and I don't recall ever needing the E3 or F3 keys. Heck, a range up to A2 would probably suffice. Of course, for serious playing you'd want to have them, but then you'd probably want a low A as well.
 

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If the horn turns out to be your idea of nirvana, down the road it IS possible to have a skilled tech add those missing palm keys and soldered tone holes. Just saying.
 

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Just wanted to throw out a quick 'thank you' for the answers and photos in this post. I just purchased what I thought was a 1937 Martin bari that basically sat exposed in a garage for 20+ years. No case.
But it looks almost identical to the horn above, and the S/N and details check out as a 1923 Buescher True Tone. I'm not disappointed - more intrigued than anything.

One question regarding the neck and octave key. The octave key on the neck doesn't drop down far enough to catch the actuator when G is pressed down. I'm not sure if the neck is original since the octave key is silver and nothing else on the sax is silver. But the neck above looks close enough to this one to make me wonder... is there an extension that's missing?
 

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Probably just the end broken off, need to solder a new piece of brass on. Or it's an attempt at substituting from a different instrument that for some reason was abandoned before finishing the adaptation.
 
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