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Hi Folks,

It's been a few years since I've been around here. After years of trying to track down an old family heirloom, today I finally got my hands on my great grandfather's alto saxophone. He used to play professionally in the 20's and actually met my great grandmother at a wedding while he was playing this very saxophone. So needless to say, the history alone makes it pretty cool to me.

It looks like it's a really old Conn. Maybe silver plated (or maybe this is what 100 years of patina looks like)? I've been having a bit of difficulty figuring out precisely what this thing is, and whether or not it's likely to play at a high level were it restored. I've been playing a Selmer Series II tenor for 10 years - don't currently have an alto. But I've been in the market for a King Super 20 alto for a while. I have no idea what it'd cost to restore something like this in New York City. If it's reasonable to expect it'd sound like a top tier horn I'd love to restore it but if it would cost tons of dough to get it into playing condition and it'd only ever sound and play OK, I'd just assume save my cash for the King Super 20 and make this thing an art piece.

Photos below.

https://imgur.com/a/PO0w6Xg

Thanks so much for any expertise y'all can bring to bear.

-Alex
 

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Your great grandfather's alto is a silver plated (they didn't lacquer horns when this was made yet) New Wonder 1 model, from the early 20s, and low pitch. (which is good, that's A=440.)
These Conns are nice horns, and are pro level horns-any horn marked Conn made before 1954 is a pro level one. However, they aren't worth that much, as Conn made boatloads of them back then. I live rather far from NYC, so I've got no idea what the average price of a repair there is, though. If it's worth it to you to play the horn, I'd say its definitely worth it if the tech isn't charging a fortune for fixing it, especially considering the sentimental value it has.
Also-getting to own your relatives' old instruments seems like it would be really cool-I know where my great-grandfather's trombone is, but it's not exactly something I can go see easily. (wrong part of the Atlantic Ocean, compared to me.)
 

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I'm no expert on old American horns but that thing looks absolutely awesome. I think it would be great to restore it just for kicks if nothing else, and it looks like it was pretty well taken care of. Plus it has a cool story and family significance behind it. If I were you I'd definitely restore it.

Sound-wise, old Conns and Bueschers are wonderful, in my experience. As long as there isn't anything structurally wrong with it, it'll probably sound great after you get used to it.

Playing-wise, it'll be a bit weird to get used to after playing a modern Selmer. The key-work will be less ergonomic than a modern horn and it might be missing some modern comforts like a front F and high F# key. There are ways around both of those, of course, but there's no doubt that it's easier to play on a modern horn than an early 20th-Century instrument.
 

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I agree . . . restore it. A good bath after tear-down will make it look great. The family history and the desire to play it outweighs any thoughts of re-sale value vs. repair costs in my view. DAVE
 

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these old conns are hard under the fingers,have tuning issues,and this one is definitely not in FANTASTIC condition,so i say donot overhaul it.
the pads look reasonable,and it may just need a service for it to play well.
save your money for the super20.
 

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I would definitely restore it and make playable you might be quit surprised, it is in nice condition and very cool, I'd say go for it
 

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LOL...what a range of replies.

Here is the scoop according to moi....it is a darn old Conn (wondering if neck has a microtuner ???) ...1921 to be exact, as TT notes. Thus a New Wonder I, as TT notes.

Indeed looks to be silverplate as nickel wouldn't quite tarnish in that way; matte body, shiny keys. Pretty classic.

Yes, worth the overhaul. NOT in a market-value sense...but:

1) it was Gramps's

2) You are a player...and as it has full keywork (incl. Front F), it is a completely appropriate and playable vintage horn. Nothing anachronistic about it, really.

3) Gramps played, you play....perhaps some day you pass it down to your kid or niece or nephew. The significance of this is literally priceless.

You play a Selmer and you wish for an S20. This horn is neither. It will feel like neither, in one sense. In another, it feels exactly like a sax is supposed to feel.

Some might even argue it is only a so-so example of an old Conn, as it isn't a Chu or an Artist. No, it isn't, but...the body and neck is EXACTLY the same as a Chu. The Chu's keywork was just slightly improved.
Also, I have refurbed and set up a number of NWI's...and I have known a few folks who have one of these as their main gigging horn and have had so for years and years. They are good vintage horns.

No problem navigating the stacks, spats, or table. It has the shortened LH palm Eb touch, which is unusual to most folks; and some actually have this extended or at least add a key riser to it. But then again, many also just leave it as is as it's quite easy to adapt to.

Beautiful tone. A bit of flex to the intonation, but I do not consider that a drawback myself.

One dialed in nicely by a good tech is a pretty sweet old horn.

Likely the investment in the refurb (in NY I guess $800-1200ish ?) will end up running well more than the market value of the horn (around $500ish nowadays)...but again it is a worthwhile instrument and its provenance has meaning.

If you are getting in$ane estimates back on an overhaul, contact me via PM or thru my website and I can probably do a full refurb on her cheaper than most folks, if you do not mind shipping. But definitely try to get 2 or 3 local estimates first.
 

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I like me some old Conns. And I play lots of gigs on them.
And on modern horns. Great saxes.

dsm
 

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You may just want to have it checked and a few pads replaced to see if you want to use it. If so, about $500 should make it like new. For a while I used one of these and they have a nice fat singing sound.
 

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Well, I have a couple of Conns that came with great stories, which I think makes them more interesting. I have a 28M whose original owner played in an all-woman dance band in Kansas City. I know it's true, because there were reeds with lipstick on them in the case. My great aunt played in an all-girl band (they really were girls--my great aunt was 14) in the 1940s, and I wish I had her sax & clarinet. So if the estimates to restore it are not too frightening, restore it & play it.
 

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Not sure what you mean by "art piece", but I hope you don't do anything destructive to it. Even if you don't want to fork out the money for a complete overhaul, there is plenty of middle ground between that and turning it into a lamp! From what I see in the pics, the pads look relatively new, so you might well be able to have it put in decent playing condition for $50-100. If not that, maybe just get a nice wall mount stand and display it in your studio/practice space for the time being. That way if you decide later on that you want to restore it, you still can.
 

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Nice to see someone have interest in a family sax. And not placing for sale. Get that thing serviced and enjoy it. Close your eyes and just picture your grandfather playing, wow how cool is that.
If you get a full repad I would stay with pads with rivets or flat metal resonators.
 

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If my grandfather ( I have never known both of them) had left me anything I would keep it, but it it would have been a saxophone I would have it restored to perfect functionality and beauty.

Regardless of value, money would be no object, because I would never ever part with anything that an ancestor had owned let alone something that I appreciate myself. I would make sure to keep it for the future generations with a full history and account of whom your grandfather was and what he had meant to you.
 

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Be good to that horn.

If it wasnt for that horn you wouldnt exist.

Its been pretty good to you lol

It may be playabke without a full treatment.

Id at least get it in playing shape.

Does it play enough to know if you like its vibe?

you could always send it to someone like jaye if he does work for others and escape nyc prices
 

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I restored a Super Selmer from 1930. Used kangaroo skin pads without resonators to match the original sound and enjoy playing it every now and again. There are some ergonomics issues - I.E. Eb is a bit weird but I got used to it.

Wouldn't play smooth jazz without the resonators - the sound is less "slippery" - but has a nice and moody colour.

Was worth doing it.
 

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I'm not a tech, but from the sentimental value alone I'd say have her overhauled and put in tip-top playing condition. Regardless, that's a horn you'd want to hold on to.
 

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I have a KING Silver Sonic for sale
Then I suggest you advertise it in the proper section of the forum in the required manner.

This is a thread about something completely different.

Good luck with the sales!
 
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