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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi, I restore old horns and there was this literally spray painted “Selmer tenor“ On shopgoodwill last week. It looked like a very abused mark vi. I won the auction and I got the horn today. But to my dismay the serial number was “erased”. Looks like scratched or sanded off. Everything else checks out as a genuine mark vi albeit the horn is very dirty, pads busted etc. there is no number on the neck. There is 50526 number stamped on the bell brace, but this would be a pre mark vi serial number. The engraving is the “normal” flower engraving with the Selmer stamp and “R”. Plastic thumb rests. so I was wondering if any of the more experienced members might know how else I can identify this horn as to age. And if anyone has any comments how I could ascertain that I don’t have a stolen horn on my hand? Any advice would be appreciated before I sink a lot of work and more money into this endeavor
 

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Sorry to hear about the serial number having been erased. I’d say there is a high chance it’s been stolen. Else why would it be erased? We were wondering:
 

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Whoosh, there was a whole thread about this hor. Had no idea. So the datum that it might be 150526 and that the 1 was dropped might be a good pointer. any idea on how I can check if this is indeed a stolen horn? Where and how can I check this? Please let me know if anyone knows how to research this.
 

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Whoosh, there was a whole thread about this hor. Had no idea. So the datum that it might be 150526 and that the 1 was dropped might be a good pointer. any idea on how I can check if this is indeed a stolen horn? Where and how can I check this? Please let me know if anyone knows how to research this.
If you google 'stolen saxophone database' you will get a number of hits, including a section on this forum. I doubt they share info between them, and I'm not sure how well a search function would work, so it might involve manually looking through a lot of postings. Of course that assumes that the horn has been stolen since these databases were created, and that someone actually posted about it.

The big problem is that no matter how much searching you do, you really can't prove that it wasn't stolen, and as someone else pointed out, there is no other good reason to remove a serial number. Of course there's always the possibility that it was stolen and recovered. More likely is that it was stolen so far back that nobody really cares anymore because the victim has long since forgotten about it, if they are even still alive.

The good news is you've got an 'out', if you want to take it. Goodwill sold you a horn with an obliterated serial number. True, they did post the hidden number, but they didn't mention the scratched off one. They are usually pretty tough about not taking returns, but I don't think there is much they could do if you wanted to push the issue. The downside of that is that it might well end up getting destroyed, or relegated to an evidence room, and never played again. Tough call.
 

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Normally Goodwill takes great images, including the Serial most of the time. Its absence scared me off this auction, as did the final price.
 

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It’s value is hugely decreased by the obliterated serial number. It would be illegal to sell in many jurisdiction, possibly even illegal to own (?).

I would just send it back for a refund
Pete,

I'm not sure that it might be illegal to own. My wife works in the high-end jewelry business. The store often takes in expensive pieces ($1,000-100,000) on consignment or purchases them outright. The company is required to send in a report to the police with a description of the piece. If after a certain period of time the police have no reports of the item having been stolen, the store is free to sell the item.

If the OP really wants to clear his conscience and free himself of possible future charges, he can make an inquiry with the police in the jurisdiction from which it was purchased. In all likelihood, there will be no record of the instrument. With his inquiry on record with no reports of the instrument having been stolen, he is in the clear, no matter where it may have originated. He can't be charged with dealing in stolen goods. (He my have to return it to the owner with no compensation if it can be proven that the sax is really stolen. The burden of proof is on the the claimant).

To find out whom to contact, the OP can call any pawn shop in the area of the Goodwill store from which it originated. Pawnshops are required to report receipt of certain items to the police as well, so there would be no problem finding out how to direct his inquiry. My wife's store takes in Rolex watches when they are available--- there's a shortage of new and used right now). The store reports the serial number and the police proceed with that number. Serial number obliterated? The store declines any transaction regarding that watch for the reason that you cite.

So Pete, your assumption that the instrument may be stolen is a fair one. The likelihood that the instrument could be traced or that anyone could prove ownership at this point is slim.

If it will help clear the OP's conscience, he can always send that baby to me.
 
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It does have the serial number on the bell brace. Missing the first digit which is a “1.” Of course Goodwill would have seen the partial number and moved on. Now if the bell brace number was missing as well, that’s a different story.
 

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It does seem that someone thought they were removing the serial number, and maybe they painted it to make it unrecognizable (now we know why). Not clear when this was done, but from the looks of the paint and the case and the mouthpiece, it was many years ago.

If you do the work yourself, maybe selling the mouthpiece would cover your time somewhat. Then would have a sax with a suspiciously filed off serial number that might be worth 1k-2k more than you put into it, if it had the serial number intact. Would this still be true with the filed off serial number, even though you know what the serial number is? It's almost worse, because the serial number can still be tracked and it looks suspicious. Maybe that erodes any potential profit.

You might be able to get a Mark VI in need of an overhaul, looking well used, for $4-5k with its serial number intact.
 

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California has a penal code section making it a crime to buy, sell, possess any item with an altered or obliterated serial number. All of the excuses don’t matter nor do they mitigate the crime. Many states have similar laws. Return the horn immediately and distance youself from it. DAVE
 

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If you google 'stolen saxophone database' you will get a number of hits, including a section on this forum. I doubt they share info between them, and I'm not sure how well a search function would work, so it might involve manually looking through a lot of postings. Of course that assumes that the horn has been stolen since these databases were created, and that someone actually posted about it.

The big problem is that no matter how much searching you do, you really can't prove that it wasn't stolen, and as someone else pointed out, there is no other good reason to remove a serial number. Of course there's always the possibility that it was stolen and recovered. More likely is that it was stolen so far back that nobody really cares anymore because the victim has long since forgotten about it, if they are even still alive.

The good news is you've got an 'out', if you want to take it. Goodwill sold you a horn with an obliterated serial number. True, they did post the hidden number, but they didn't mention the scratched off one. They are usually pretty tough about not taking returns, but I don't think there is much they could do if you wanted to push the issue. The downside of that is that it might well end up getting destroyed, or relegated to an evidence room, and never played again. Tough call.
I've told my shopgoodwill.com story before so I won't repeat it here. When I contacted them and explained that the horn I bought wasn't as described they gave me money back no problem. This was just one guy at one Goodwill store in Wisconsin. I did end up eating the $100 or so it cost to ship it back to them but I was relieved that they were so cooperative.

There are ways to forensically raise the filed off numbers. Police labs to it with confiscated guns all the time. Also, I'd suggest contacting the police in the commnunity where the Goodwill store is located and ask if they have any reports of a stolen horn. It's possible the horn never left the town where it was stolen.
 

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As I recall Dave knows of what he speaks, I’d send it back, buy something else.
 

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I’d like to know what it looks like under the paint. I’d guess anything that gets the paint of would take the lacquer off with it.
I’m almost surprised anybody fessed up to buying that at that price, but it is a MarkVI.
I had a beat to crap 150,000 that was a beast.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Hi everybody. thanks for all the responses and recommendations. Needless to say I am a bit of a neophyte in this arena and I am still digesting all the input. For example I had no idea that it is against the law to buy sell etc anything that had the serial number altered. But then again it seems the number on the bell brace IS the serial number, so theoretically this horn 'still has its serial number'... Makes my brain creak. So I need to do my due diligence to not be in conflict with the law of the land...

That aside from the looks and smells of this horn I would estimate that it hasn't seen the light of day in decades. So whatever happened that prompted some person to remove the serial number on the body tube along with the patent numbers seems to have happened a long long time ago. A lot of the pads have fallen out and these pads look very 'old style so this horn hasn't been used in a long time. I can imagine all sorts of stories that could fit the circumstantial evidence on hand but likely we will never know.

I developed a whole plan of action involving many steps to ascertain that it was legal that SGWL sold me the horn, that it is legal for me to own it, that there is 'no warrant out for it' and so forth. And the first step for me to ascertain is the serial number of the horn. Now I am not a 'Selmer specialist' but it has been said that the number on the bell brace is the serial number and one only has to add a number 1 before it. It may sound stupid but uneducated people ask stupid questions but what is this datum based on? has this been 'standard procedure' in the manufacture of these horns and why would they drop a number ? Maybe there is a thread that discusses this subject in excruciating detail for me to study to come up to speed on this. Anyone with the patience to educate me in this regard would be much appreciated.
Let's assume this settles it for me and I have certainty about the serial number of this horn Ii will then search high and low to find out if there is anyone out there that has been looking for this horn as per the many suggestions. Including police and so forth. IN the end I will find something or nothing. really either one is fine with me. IF I find someone that is legit I will of course return the horn and ensure SGWL returns it to the rightful owner inclusive of course me getting my money back.

If I find nothing after exhausting all avenues I will be content to have a MARK VI I paid too much for considering its actual condition. I have made worse mistakes in my life. but money or making money is not my main or prime motivation. It is to restore old horns that deserve to be preserved like this one does despite all the trauma they went through. I was a Selmer player most of my active playing only when I came to the US and picked up a CONN wonder II that I realized that I there are other dimensions of saxophone sound and so my restoration urge was kindled. I have since restored many of the old greats enjoyed their sound and then made them available to some player or collector out there knowing that i brought them back to life and they once again do what they were created to do. Play, sing, bring joy to players audiences alike.

So I don't mind to put in the countless hours and more money to bring back this Mark VI. It gives me something to do in my little free time that is worthwhile not just for myself but also the future generation of players that can discover that there are sounds beyond what is offered today from the mass production saxophone scene.

So yes i am a bit of a saxophone philosopher and I don't mind it. It is a very therapeutic hobby. there is an exact result to be obtained and it doesn't even need an audience. The horn either plays right or it doesn't. The judge is there in the playability. there is great joy to work for weeks on end on a horn doing all these tedious things that need to be done but doing each step just right to the correct standard and then picking it up and it sings with joy for the first time in decades. I often don't even try them 'as-is' as it creates a bad first impression between me and horn. but to play it AFER I have done everything to bring it back to 'original or better' what a first meeting!!!!

Anyway thanks again for all your advice. I will post as the saga unfolds for all those of you that enjoy following such an adventure. It hopefully ends with this horn getting his identity back fully restored and playing and looking better or as well as the day it was created back in the 60ies.

Udo
 

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I'd love to hear what you end up finding out and doing, it's interesting to hear all this about missing serial numbers etc. I almost bid on that horn for the mouthpiece, but knew the price would fly up at the end of the auction.

I hope it works out for you.
 

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On your question about the partial serial number on the bell brace, others are much more knowledgeable than me here but I believe it has to do with how these horns were shipped in batches, disassembled to the US and some of its parts were stamped with the last digits of the serial number so they could be identified as the horn was put back together.
 

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The number on the bell brace was a max of five digits - once they got to six-digit serial numbers they just started leaving off the first number. So, 131419 would have 31419 on the bell brace. This was done in France before the unfinished horns were sent to Elkhart. You can usually figure what the first number was based on this and looking at the features of the sax.
 

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Another piece of evidence that the "1" was left off was mentioned in the other thread. The side keys have those annoying ball joints, correct? Selmer didn't use those until the 1960's, and the serial numbers passed 100,000 in 1962. I supposed one should confirm that ball joints didn't appear until after 100,000... but I know mine is a 168xxx and it has them.

Updated serial number chart thread
 

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The number on the bell brace was a max of five digits - once they got to six-digit serial numbers they just started leaving off the first number. So, 131419 would have 31419 on the bell brace. This was done in France before the unfinished horns were sent to Elkhart. You can usually figure what the first number was based on this and looking at the features of the sax.
Perhaps this applies to US assembled MKVI horns. However, both my MKVII and SA80-I have the full 6-digits stamped upside down on the plate for the bell-body brace. When it comes to Selmer, I have stopped believing in any consistency or accurate record keeping.
 
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