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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So I am a high school student looking I buy a nice vintage saxophone but I do not know what to look for.
I know a mark vi is good but that is way out of my price range.
Is a mark vii good? Any suggestions?

Thanks,
Giovanni
 

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There are a bunch of good ones. In addition to Selmer, the big names for vintage saxes are Buescher, Conn, King, and Martin, all of which have their fans. Some of these had higher and lower end models - King had the Super 20, Zephyr, and Cleveland, for example. There are also good horns from lesser-known makers, such as Dolnet, Cousnon, Beaugnier, Keilwerth, Kohlert, Buffet, etc. The top-end big-name models (Mark VI, Super 20, etc.) tend to be pricey, especially from what folks consider the premium years. So you can get better deals on the lower models (King Zephyr) or less desirable vintages (1960's Conn 10M) or from one of the lesser-known makers. Or less-favored models, like you note the Mark VII.

But the bottom line is what is best for you - does the horn fit your hands well, does it sound the way you like, is it suitable for what you want to play, etc. And you can only figure that out by playing them yourself. Especially since some vintage horns are pretty inconsistent in quality (e.g. Dolnet).

The other important consideration is the horn's condition, and how expensive repairs are in your area. Where I am, repairs are super pricey, so getting a horn in good playing condition is a big plus. If quality repairs are cheaper where you are, condition becomes less important. But you need to take potential repair costs into consideration in figuring out if a horn is a good deal or not.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member/Technician
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I have a Mark VI that I have had for 47 years but I play vintage. I find that the older horns have a better sound but you may be hindered by the keywork, mainly the LH pinkies and palm keys. Modern horns mostly have a feel similar to a Mark VI but Conns, Martins, Kings and Bueschers tend to get better fingering as the years progressed. For most people, price will dictate what you get. Examples would be 1920s horns such as Conn Chus, Buescher TTs, Martin Handcrafts which will run you under $1,000 for a good playing horn with a nice finish, mosly plated horns. 1930s saxes like Conn 6Ms, Buescher Aristocrats, King Zephyrs, Martin Committees, may run up to $1,500 for a really nice example. The "primo" horns like a Conn 26M or 28M, King S20, Buescher 400, Martin Comm II, Magna will start around $1,500 and go up depending on condition.
The Mark VII is an overlooked horn that can be found in the $2,000 range and up. Whatever you choose, make sure you can play it first. Look for something local and play it. If that is not possible, get something here at SOTW that can be returned. I have a few Martins for sale in the $800-1,500 for example and every day I see really nice horns in the Marketplace at SOTW that look like good buys. Right now Conn 6Ms are fairly reasonable and Martins are really overlooked and are lower than they have been in a few years. Now is a good time to buy!. Also for the price of a Mark VI, you can get a set of Vintage soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bari OR one each vintage Conn, Martin, King and Buescher Alto......no lie!
 

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Forum Contributor 2011, SOTW's pedantic pet rodent
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The main thing to look out for is actually the condition of the instrument. You will find plenty of advice on vintage brands and models and everyone has their favourites. That's all fine and dandy. But you need to be very aware of how much money you are going to have to sink in the thing to get it working as it should. IMO.
 

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Grafton + TH & C alto || Naked Lady 10M || TT soprano || Martin Comm III
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But you need to be very aware of how much money you are going to have to sink in the thing to get it working as it should. IMO.
Yes, every time I bid on a horn on ebay, I can almost hear the dreaded sound of my tech sucking air in over his teeth and shaking his head.
 

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Forum Contributor 2011, SOTW's pedantic pet rodent
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Yes, every time I bid on a horn on ebay, I can almost hear the dreaded sound of my tech sucking air in over his teeth and shaking his head.
I dread to think how much money I've sunk in old horns with fabled names. When people do website reviews of a 10M or a Chu or a The Martin or a Big B or a Cigar Cutter etc they are talking about an ideal example of that sax in top playing condition. And when someone says "plays from top to bottom with that sweet vintage tone" they sometimes mean (whether they know it or not) "full of leaks and bashed around a bit". I am not saying there is no such thing as a good vintage horn (far from it), nor do I think that it is necessarily a bad thing to buy something that needs work and get it fixed. But you do need to know someone who can fix it really well and at a reasonable price. Such people are actually quite rare, at least in my experience.

That's all just opinion, so take it with a pinch of salt, OP, but it is based on a fair bit of experience. I may not be a great player but I do know a bit about buying clunkers off ebay.
 

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That is the reason I mentioned buying local or from a returnable source. With ebay, I always allow for a repad and usually get lucky on repairs. Sometimes I get really lucky and find a minty one but they are often really high and over $2,500: http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/tags/conn6msil/
Good to look for old closet horns with the original pads and pay for a good redo.
 
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