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vi tenor 95xxx, vi alto 184xxx, yamaha yss-62, the martin baritone
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Discussion Starter #1
Hi everyone,

I posted a couple of weeks ago about a horn I was interested in buying with a touch of "red rot" on the bell. I made a 12 hour driving adventure to check out the horn and decided to pass on it, despite it being a good deal. To my eye, the engraving on the bottom bend of the horn seemed to vanish into nothing and I didn't want to take the chance it was a well-done relac at the price he was offering. The man, strangely, also had a microscopic-type light handy (?!) and I was able to see clearly that the engraving seemed to vanish at a very close-up level.

I came home empty handed, but I told the seller I still had interest. I told him that if he had the horn checked out by a reputable shop and was told it was original I would gladly buy the horn. He wrote me after having two shops check out his pictures (not in person--he lives in the middle of nowhere) and, while not being able to say 100% through pictures that the horn was original, that it most-likely was. Also it was unlikely that the horn was relac'd because the seller has owned the horn since the early 70's, the horn is from 61, and the he never had anything done to it. Everyone seems to agree it would have been strange to have a horn relac'd in the first ten years of it's life, but it's always possible? The seller has considered having a shop sell the horn for him and, of course, he'd have to pay a commission, so therefore he's offering it to me at an even nicer price.

Despite the price drop, however, I have a question about the bottom bow engraving. I have written the seller and asked him to send me a closer picture of the bottom bow for my colleagues to see and hope he will do so shortly. In the meantime, here is the picture I already have:

Any opinions?

This is a 98xxx European VI tenor with nickel keywork, lighter-colored lacquer, high F#, very typical for the European market. I will add the other picture when it arrives. He took good pictures of the rest of the horn, including some with the close-up microscopic camera of the engravings (cool!). If there is something else you'd like to see please let me know.

View attachment 235676

Cheers and thanks for your eyes.
 

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It appears that at least the bow has been polished and lacquered and judging by what I can see of the area chances are high that it was done all over. With a professional using the horn daily it is not at all unusual that it would need refinishing before ten years. Still, a '61 'French' tenor in excellent condition with a careful re-lacquer would get my attention. I'd say it would come down to how it plays.
 

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vi tenor 95xxx, vi alto 184xxx, yamaha yss-62, the martin baritone
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Discussion Starter #3
The horn hadn't been removed from it's case in 40 years. The vintage Berg mouthpiece that the owner used to play is STUCK on the neck and will require careful removal! I decided, wisely I think, against forcing it off myself for fear of damaging the neck, but I did blow the horn on his mouthpiece and it seems like it will be a player.
 

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vi tenor 95xxx, vi alto 184xxx, yamaha yss-62, the martin baritone
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Discussion Starter #4
Microscopic picture of area in question:

View attachment 235680

I asked him next for a camera picture, but this is interesting to look at regardless..! To me, all of these little V's should look similar.
 

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If it was a good deal you should have bought it. I think the bow to body joint is one of the best areas to look for buffing. This one looks really good. I think its likely that the bow was buffed a little harder after the engraving before lacquer. It is an area that would naturally lend itself to a little more pressure. Are you going to play the horn or is it just an investment?
 

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vi tenor 95xxx, vi alto 184xxx, yamaha yss-62, the martin baritone
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Discussion Starter #7
Saxcop, are you saying they buff the horn AFTER engraving? Do I have this entire process confused?!

The deal isn't gone yet, in fact its a little better. Most of the engraving looks like a no-doubt original horn to me. It was only that circle on the bow that raised a flag for me.
 

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vi tenor 95xxx, vi alto 184xxx, yamaha yss-62, the martin baritone
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Discussion Starter #8
And for your question, hopefully a playing horn that will also be an investment..! 😉
 

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I think the brass is polished before lacquering. I can see some touch up polishing being necessary after considerable handling while engraving. I can imagine some touch up being done on where the lacquer had runs. They didn't know that original lacquers and such would be such a big deal 70 years later.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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Everyone seems to agree it would have been strange to have a horn relac'd in the first ten years of it's life, but it's always possible? .
Who is "Everyone?"

Back in those days it was very common to have horn relaquered in the first ten years. And back then the lacquerers were very good so in many cases it was very hard to tell. And there was non of the stigma that some people now attach to relacquers. ie there weren't so many (if at all) "collectors."

But if you drove 12 hours and back to see this horn, that's worth more than any difference between a very good relacquer and original. (Given that it's unlikely to prove anything either way).

My gut feeling is that if it plays well enough for the asking price , buy it and stop worrying about the lacquer.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Yeah, not everyone, but the group of people and shops I've spoken to. You're right, I didn't ask you so it can't be everyone.

I'm not concerned about the lac on the horn, however I AM concerned about paying "collector" price if it is a relac. As stated, I could only give it a half blow based on the owners mouthpiece being glued to the neck on a horn with 40 y/o pads.

Everyone seems to agree it would have been strange to have a horn relac'd in the first ten years of it's life, but it's always possible? .
Who is "Everyone?"

Back in those days it was very common to have horn relaquered in the first ten years. And back then the lacquerers were very good so in many cases it was very hard to tell. And there was non of the stigma that some people now attach to relacquers. ie there weren't so many (if at all) "collectors."

But if you drove 12 hours and back to see this horn, that's worth more than any difference between a very good relacquer and original. (Given that it's unlikely to prove anything either way).

My gut feeling is that if it plays well enough for the asking price , buy it and stop worrying about the lacquer.
 

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vi tenor 95xxx, vi alto 184xxx, yamaha yss-62, the martin baritone
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Discussion Starter #12

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For the stuck mouthpiece, mix up some Ballistol and water and dip the mouthpiece/neck cork in it a few times, wait awhile and do it again. Repeat a few times over a day and you'll probably be able to take the mouthpiece off. Or, you could just buy the sax and play it with the Berg a few times a day. The moisture will eventually permeate the cork. Or, the most direct way, twist the mouthpiece off which will tear the cork off the neck but not harm the neck. Then you can get the cork out of the mouthpiece and have the neck re-corked.
When it comes to the 'French' MK VI, I do not know the lacquering/engraving procedure. On the USA MK VIs the engraving was done after the lacquer except they may have hit the engraving with a light coat to protect it from corrosion. In any case the horn would not have been shipped if the engraving had been ruined by some kind of touch-up work at the factory. The engraving would have been touched-up and the horn shipped. Consequently it is likely that the horn is a buff/relacguer.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Great advice. If I buy the horn I'll be following your instructions. Still awaiting some eyes on the lacquer. These Euro horns are different than the ones I'm used to seeing.
 

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It’s re-lacquered but they did it better like most types of craftsmanship in the old days.
If a seller doesn’t know for a certainty the provenance or history of a sax they should sell it as a re-lacquer.
The buffed down lacquer on the bow is the tell. Also look at the grid in the neck badge. If the points are rounded off there’s a good chance it’s a re-lacquer.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I made the owner an offer as the horn is officially a re-lac in my eyes and the others I've spoken to. He refused the offer, so case closed! I just hope the next person to visit him tells him the same thing I did. Thanks for your eyes opinions and eyes!
 

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To get the mouthpiece (and possibly the cork) off the neck, you can also try putting the neck and mouthpiece into the freezer for 20-30 minutes.
 
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