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Discussion Starter #1
A local seller has an Aristocrat alto, sn 354xxx, for $300 (with neck and mouthpiece). Let's assume the horn needs a total overhaul. Would you go for it?

I haven't yet seen the horn and the seller doesn't know anything about saxes (left over from an estate sale). I'm checking it out Saturday, but let's assume the worst, i.e. complete overhaul needed. Would this still be a good deal?

And a question for the experts: what should I check for when I try the horn? I'm an amateur player but I'm definitely not a tech. I can tell if the keys work properly and if there are serious leaks, but other than that, what to look for? Any advice would be appreciated! Thanks.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Btw it has the inside-facing tone holes, not on the left, i.e. Series IV by Saxpics' classification.
 

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It would be a model 141, a "lesser" horn to the model 140 alto which was consistently made from the early 1940s (When the 140 stamp appeared) up until the Series IV model 141 release some twenty years later. If you can, confirm the model number on the back of the horn, around the right thumb rest. If it is a 141 you would not be buying the "classic" Aristorcrat alto. You might check for the original snap-in resonators and the gold-plated norton key springs. These can be lost due to overhauls and affect value if missing. Try to determine also if it is a heavily buffed-out re-lacquer (faint or lost engraving or SN stamps, buffed edges of the tone holes). These all would be condition negatives. If your total investment is $1,100 to $1,300, you probably would not clear the investment if re-sold as a ready-to-play-anywhere horn. I have never played one so I can't comment on their sound quality. Much has been posted about the great Aristocrat altos on this forum. You just need to dig a bit if you are interested.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks Nuages. (Nice handle btw!) I'd be buying it to play, not necessarily to resell. How are these lesser horns than the classic 'Crats? Inferior mechanism? Tone? Intonation?
 

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I have no reason to believe they are "lesser". It's a 140 body and neck (Big B/Script Aristocrat) with a "400-like" bow and bell and still in a very good range (1956-57 or so) regarding features and build quality. It's going to sound essentially like an earlier Aristocrat.

They certainly aren't common. They don't command the same price as a Big B engraved 140 would -- not that a Big B 140 commands a high price despite its reputation. Assuming it isn't trashed, it's worth buying to fix and play, and you'll have a very nice, if a bit unusual, pro-level horn to play. As long as you aren't planning to flip it for profit, you'll be very pleased.

As Nuages indicated, check it for condition. A buffed and relacquered horn isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it raises the risk of more serious problems. I'd also assume it needs an overhaul, but you might be surprised. Also, it would be better if it had its original gold plated Norton springs and the Snap-On resonators, but at $300 I wouldn't call it a show-stopper if it didn't.

Post some pics if you can and we can give you a little better assessment.
 

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It would be a model 141, a "lesser" horn to the model 140 alto
i don't think so,these are good horns and in some ways like a bigB with a TopHat&Cane bell....
nice horns....i sold one last week for $450AUD in not playing condition....
cheers,philip
 

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View attachment 80514 View attachment 80515

These are the only pics. Are the original springs and resonators easy to identify? Are they important because they're higher quality or because of higher resell value?
They are easy to identify. The springs will be gold in color, usually, though they can turn black with tarnish over time. They will also be clipped off square on the end (rather than pointed) and have a screw holding them in place.

I can tell that the resonators on the bell keys are original, but there's not enough detail to either of these pics to see the rest of them (or any of the springs). Some of them may have been changed but that requires looking closely at the bell keys and then comparing them to the rest of the resonators to see if they essentially look the same but are just different sizes. A few having been changed won't really matter other than a small hit on value.

What I can tell you from this pic is that this is an original lacquer horn, so it hasn't been buffed. Engraving was cut through the lacquer, which is how the factory did it. That doesn't mean the tone holes are level though. :) Most of these will benefit from leveling the tone holes, which also requires changing the pads.

Pads may or may not be original. Judging from the bell key pads I can see, it might play ok for awhile on these pads, but I suspect that it's going to leak pretty badly from the pads at the top of the horn that get moisture and have hardened as a result. Might even have cracked the leather. You might be able to limp it by with a few new pads, but it would sing best with an overhaul. In any case, very old pads don't live long once you start playing it. Could play for a little while and then they start to deteriorate quickly. Also, this horn has some miles on it. That's a good thing, as it probably played well from go, but that also means that the key work is probably a bit worn and could use some swedging to make it quiet and slick. Frankly, I'd just assume an overhaul is in order.

For $300, I think this is a good buy. Fix it up and play it. You won't be disappointed.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Seller agreed to $150, so I took it home! Couldn't let it get away at a price like that.

It definitely needs work, but it's a nice horn. It has the Norton springs and some of the original resonators, but not all. No serious problems with the mechanism; octave rod is slightly bent, there's a smallish dent on the bell and the brace is sunk very lightly into the body, apparently from an impact, which probably means the tone holes will need leveling. It leaks like a sieve, as you might expect, and basically needs a total repad. Even so it sounds pretty good, except that the bottom few notes don't speak at all because of all the leaks.

I took it to a couple of local techs and they both said $500-600 to get it playable but that it would benefit most from an overhaul. Now if only there was a reliable Bay Area tech who did overhauls for under $1K... Eric Drake at Saxcraft is a good guy but I can't afford $1300 for an overhaul.

maddenma, as a Buescher man, what kind of mouthpiece and reed do you find these horns are happiest with? It has the original Buescher piece, and I also tried a Runyon on it but that was way too bright.
 

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Seller agreed to $150, so I took it home! Couldn't let it get away at a price like that.
You did quite well.

maddenma, as a Buescher man, what kind of mouthpiece and reed do you find these horns are happiest with? It has the original Buescher piece, and I also tried a Runyon on it but that was way too bright.
What ever moves you, frankly. All depends on what you want out of it. It's a horn rich in harmonics. Dark, bright, anything in between.
 

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Congrats on a real buy on this early 141 for $150. It is definitely worth fixing the right way.

Here in the southeast you can get a full mechanical overhaul (w/o refinishing) and chem-clean for an alto for around $500. The place I use does repairs and only repairs. They have a woodwind specialist, 2 brass specialists, and a percussion specialist.
For me, the alto repairs have been a full rebuild/silver clean/spot silver restoration on my 1930 Buescher TT, minor repairs on 1955 Conn 6M and 1937 Martin Committee 1, and a full mechanical overhaul on my 1967 Selmer Mark VI. In tenors, they have done a full mechanical on my 1925 King C Tenor, and a full overhaul (including refinishing) on my 1937 Martin Committee 1, plus some palm key tone hole repairs on 1967 Conn 10M. I almost forgot... also a full mechanical overhaul on my 1920 Conn curved soprano. In every case, I have been very satisfied with their work, and that's an extensive list showing above. All of these horns SING! Unfortunately, I have sold off many of them as I played less and wrote music more...

Send me a PM if you would like to know location and contact info. While shipping a horn can be iffy from west coast to southeast and back, the times I have had horns go 'cross country' have been without incident if the instruments are packed well.
Sax Magic
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks Sax Magic! That's a nice stable of horns... If I do get it worked on I'll probably take it to Tony Bigham in San Rafael who's local and reasonably priced. Right now I'm trying to decide between putting $ into the Buescher or a silver Martin Handcraft I bought around the same time -- I'll probably end up working on the Martin first though because it needs less work (newer pads) and I really dig its sound.
 

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Seller agreed to $150, so I took it home! Couldn't let it get away at a price like that.

I took it to a couple of local techs and they both said $500-600 to get it playable but that it would benefit most from an overhaul.
You got it "for a song," so I wouldn't balk at paying for an overhaul. If it were me, I'd take it to Lee Kramka at Saxworx in SF. He'll likely charge as much as Eric Drake, though. Still you'd be assured of a great-playing horn in perfect playing condition. I don't know Tony Bingham, but if he'll do the overhaul for a good price and you know he'll do the job right, then that would be one way to go. Or maybe take Sax Magic's advice (shipping a horn is no big deal really) and get a really good price on the overhaul.

Just getting it 'playable' wouldn't be the best course, imo. If it needs an overhaul, then......it needs an overhaul. "Getting it playable" when it really needs an overhaul means you'll have it back in the shop soon enough and be spending more money on it, unless you can put up with it not playing at its best.

p.s. My statement above is assuming these guys are right who are saying this horn is as good as an Aristocrat or TH&C (I haven't played the later models like this one, so don't know). But if that's true, then the price of an overhaul is well worth it, esp given how little you paid for it (basically you got it for next to nothing).
 

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I own a TH&C sn#304xxx and a 400 sn# 359xxx (with overslung neck octave key like yours).

When played side to side the 359XXX is a tad brighter but sounds close to the TH&C (I play HR Meyer 6M or métal high balle .085"/.090 mpcs), full bodied sound and nice altissimo and no intonation issues if you raise a bit low C and low C# key height

As a Selmer player I'm not found of the left pinkie table (low C# quite difficult to find) but I don't spend so much time on these notes lol
 

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I own a TH&C sn#304xxx and a 400 sn# 359xxx (with overslung neck octave key like yours).
Really? What is the neck from, do you know? They won't swap between my Big B's and TH&C's due to the octave key.
 

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Really? What is the neck from, do you know? They won't swap between my Big B's and TH&C's due to the octave key.
The overslung neck is original on 359xxx (like the one pictured by OP), on my 304xxx it's an underslung neck and AFAIK both are original factory necks

I never tried to swap necks between my 2 horns lol... if you want more details I can make/measure them ;)
Just let me know
 

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Sorry. I misread your post. I thought you were referring to the TH&C having an overslung neck.

 
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