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Tenor: Eastman 52nd St, Alto: P. Mauriat 67RDK, Soprano: Eastern Music Curvy
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Discussion Starter #1
I've been perusing the saxophone sales across the internet as of late and, as always, I'm drawn back to the desire of owning a vintage Conn. However, funding is limited so I've been watching bunches of Pan American tenor's and Altos sell for sub $200 in working order, seemingly needing little to no work.

So, price wise, this seems like the steal of the century to me, especially if you can get that big early Conn Sound. Is this worth it to everyone else?

So what is everyone's experience with Pan American's as a backup? Are there any particular models or years that are better than others that I should look out for?

Gripes and complaints about them welcomed as well. Just want a vintage Conn style and not break my bank trying to get a Chu Berry or 10m/6m.
 

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Really? Where are you seeing such cheap Pan Ams? At that price, I'd grab two.

I played a beautiful Pan Am tenor at a dealer in NYC last year, but it was like $1300.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Some local and facebook sales I've seen. But even the sold listings on ebay show a lot around that price point.
 

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seemingly needing little to no work
Therein lies the rub. Pan Ams and other vintage Conn cousins built on the 6M body tube don't get the love. You can get a great carcass for $200, but if you want it to play like a nice Conn it will need some love. Not too expensive if you do your own work, but buying a clean Pan Am for $200 and then taking it to a tech for "the works" means that you have a $500 horn. I think that they are still a good deal, having had at least four of them. I have one for sale here on SOTW.

Mark
 

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Are you sure you want one as a backup? There are many many newer, easier to play horns than a Pan-Am. I started on one, no high front F. I hope to never see one again.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Are you sure you want one as a backup? There are many many newer, easier to play horns than a Pan-Am. I started on one, no high front F. I hope to never see one again.
I already have newer and easier to play. I want an old vintage horn for sure.

I've tried numerous Conn horns, including some new wonders and a couple 6ms. Even got the chance to play one early silver plated pan am that my friend owned. Quite the honker, but yeah it took some getting used to playing on it. And thats what part of the joy.
 

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I already have newer and easier to play. I want an old vintage horn for sure.

I've tried numerous Conn horns, including some new wonders and a couple 6ms. Even got the chance to play one early silver plated pan am that my friend owned. Quite the honker, but yeah it took some getting used to playing on it. And thats what part of the joy.
Enjoy your quest.
 

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There was a thread not long ago about whether the ideal backup should be similar to your main horn, or something else entirely. I guess it depends on how much you gig, how adaptable you are under pressure, and how curious you are about different horns.

My main tenor is a Buescher B12 TH&C. My backups are an Armstrong and Kohlert Bixley stencil--both big-bored and loud like the B12, but with very different ergos from my Buescher and from each other.

My main alto is a Zephyr; my backup alto, also a Kohlert Bixley stencil, is completely different. Not as comfy under the fingers or as spread in tone, but complex and satisfying in its own way.

I'm still on the lookout for a nice silvery PanAm, though.
 

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Really? Where are you seeing such cheap Pan Ams? At that price, I'd grab two.

I played a beautiful Pan Am tenor at a dealer in NYC last year, but it was like $1300.
A 1950’s alto just sold in LA area for $225. Lacquer rough at about 80% but clean / no red rot. Included a pretty decent looking case. Play condition? It was listed seven months. Starting at $375
 

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There are reports of some stencils and second line horns by Conn and Buescher [not King or Martin or Keilwerth] that were poorly made from soft or thin materials. The most recent report I recall was one that a Pan Am Conn horn bell would warp or bend easily in the hand with slight pressure due to overly thin metal used in construction. While I have NO experience of these first hand, it is worthwhile to consider doing research to find these reports and consider whether they are significant. For myself, it means that I would not buy any such horns without having them in my hands first.
 

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Keep in mind that the very youngest Pan Am sax is probably around 60 years old. Given that, and given that they were sold as "second line" or "student" instruments, you can expect that the vast majority of them were rode hard and put away wet. I think the chance of one of your $200 Pan Am horns being able to play decently as received is essentially nil. You should budget for at least a significant number of pads being replaced, and considerable regulation work. So I would consider a $200 Pan Am bought from the want ads to be a starting point on a good playing $400-600 sax.

That said, my understanding has always been that the Pan Ams are basically older model Conns with straight tone holes and no fancy stuff. Basically the same thing as Conn did later when they started the "16M Director" tenor which was labeled "Conn" and sold alongside the 10M "Artist". For whatever reason, they felt in the 1930s that calling the second line instruments "Pan American" would sell better and in the 1950s they felt that calling them "Conn Director" would sell better.

If I understand it correctly, Buescher's second line in the 30s and 40s was "Elkhart" but that this division of Buescher was more separated from Buescher than Pan American was from Conn - it's not clear to me whether Elkhart was a separate pre-existing company acquired by Buescher or a "company" created by Buescher for the purpose of making student instruments; it seems to me that I have read both versions.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
There are reports of some stencils and second line horns by Conn and Buescher [not King or Martin or Keilwerth] that were poorly made from soft or thin materials. The most recent report I recall was one that a Pan Am Conn horn bell would warp or bend easily in the hand with slight pressure due to overly thin metal used in construction. While I have NO experience of these first hand, it is worthwhile to consider doing research to find these reports and consider whether they are significant. For myself, it means that I would not buy any such horns without having them in my hands first.
I have done a fair bit of research, and I have heard reports of some having poor construction. It doesn't seem to be the case for all PanAms however, as they had such a strange building practice. I have however also considered a king or martin stencil.

Keep in mind that the very youngest Pan Am sax is probably around 60 years old. Given that, and given that they were sold as "second line" or "student" instruments, you can expect that the vast majority of them were rode hard and put away wet. I think the chance of one of your $200 Pan Am horns being able to play decently as received is essentially nil. You should budget for at least a significant number of pads being replaced, and considerable regulation work. So I would consider a $200 Pan Am bought from the want ads to be a starting point on a good playing $400-600 sax.

That said, my understanding has always been that the Pan Ams are basically older model Conns with straight tone holes and no fancy stuff. Basically the same thing as Conn did later when they started the "16M Director" tenor which was labeled "Conn" and sold alongside the 10M "Artist". For whatever reason, they felt in the 1930s that calling the second line instruments "Pan American" would sell better and in the 1950s they felt that calling them "Conn Director" would sell better.

If I understand it correctly, Buescher's second line in the 30s and 40s was "Elkhart" but that this division of Buescher was more separated from Buescher than Pan American was from Conn - it's not clear to me whether Elkhart was a separate pre-existing company acquired by Buescher or a "company" created by Buescher for the purpose of making student instruments; it seems to me that I have read both versions.
The expectation for the fix up is definitely something I have considered. With most of the silver plated ones, there is usually some significant plate wear, or maybe its just the worst tarnish I've ever seen and it needs a good polish. Regardless, I'm not expecting this one to be a pro level horn by any means, and its backing up a Chinese horn (A well made one through CE Winds). Most of the work I do on this horn will be from myself, and whatever I find that I am unable to do, I'll invest in a good tech.
 

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I have done a fair bit of research, and I have heard reports of some having poor construction. It doesn't seem to be the case for all PanAms ...

I am sorry if I misled anyone or was not clear. From what I can tell, most Pan Ams are very good horns. Apparently, however, the company was willing to cut corners severely on some contracts and put out runs of horns with soft or thin materials. At least there are stories about this when there are not stories about Martin stencils. Consequently, unlike, say "Keilwerth", knowing that your vintage horn was made by "Pan American" is no guarantee of quality materials.
 

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I had an older Pan American tenor as a backup. The brass was thin and so was the sound. It made a good backup horn though.

Notes
 

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I had an older Pan American tenor as a backup. The brass was thin and so was the sound. It made a good backup horn though.

Notes
Mine was a good backup horn..............made me want to get in the car and backup right over it........again and again
 

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Mine was a good backup horn..............made me want to get in the car and backup right over it........again and again
:D

What, and ruin a good set of tires?

BTW, I got my Pan American for free - and that's what it was worth.

I played a gig in Bay City Michigan many, many, many, years ago, the owner said another road band left a sax here about a year ago, I contacted the agency but they never came back to claim it. Then he said I was the first sax player to come in a band for a few months and asked me if I wanted it. I told him I'd take it, and to contact the agency if he ever wanted to claim it, and I'll get it to him. I never heard anything. We were working for ACA (Artist's Corporation of America) at the time and they 'owned' that room.

I was playing a Mark VI at the time, so the sound was a big contrast. I used it once when I had my VI overhauled and the repairman couldn't do it quickly enough to be between gigs. All I can say was it worked.

I think it was made from spare plumbing fixtures.

Insights and incites by Notes
 

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I have an early Pan Am tenor. Nice player, solid build.

No tin foil, etc. Bought it here on SOTW too...
 

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I have an early Pan Am tenor. Nice player, solid build.

No tin foil, etc. Bought it here on SOTW too...
That's good to hear. I guess they went through design and manufacturing changes

Notes
 

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That's good to hear. I guess they went through design and manufacturing changes

Notes
Cost reduction, baby!

Why is there a difference between a 1930 Conn New Wonder II and a 1975 Conn 16M made in Mexico? By design they are almost the exact same horn.

Or the difference of an electric fan from 1940, all steel and aluminum castings, versus one from China you buy at Walmart today made from the finest 100% recycled soda bottles with 24 gauge wiring everywhere.
 

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What I did, to be able to afford a 10M, was to look for a major refurbisher, like JayeLID, and see if I could get a 50-ish 10M for a price that wouldn't kill me. I had a '66 King Cleveland that I could sell, that would offset most of the cost. I ended up with a '61 Conn 10M, for $950, delivered. It's not a beauty pagent contestant, but it was completely overhauled, new pads with metal resos top to bottom, keywork all refitted and adjusted, and it plays beautifully. It isn't quite as old as I was looking for, but I got impatient waiting for the right horn to come along.
There are decent deals out there, to be made. BTW, the King Cleveland is still ready to be sold. It's a very in-your-face deep sounding horn, with brazed tone hole chimneys, and plays beautifully. I could've easily kept it as my only horn, but I wanted to see what a vintage pro Conn was all about, and in the transition came to love the Conn enough to keep it. The King is still a very sweet horn, though.
 
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