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I would like help from King aficionados about an alto I just acquired labeled Varsity USA. I searched a website of stencil manufacturers and found the Varsity listed as a Conn stencil. But this alto has earmarks of a King horn, ie. beveled key cups, soldered tone holes and pinky table. I understand that the “Varsity” name was used at one time by a Czechoslovakian manufacturer, but I have never seen one marked Varsity USA. The serial number, PP 260, is stamped on the body and the neck — a three digit serial number! My guess is that the Varsity USA was made by King in Cleveland using left handed bell key bodies made elsewhere. Your opinions would be greatly appreciated. Have any of you ever seen a Varsity USA?
 

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IMy guess is that the Varsity USA was made by King in Cleveland using left handed bell key bodies made elsewhere.
You are correct with King, but why would you guess THIS ?

Your horn is a King Cleveland model, as Bruce notes , just w/ a stencil name. Pretty unusual in that respect - as King never did many stencils at all, and even fewer after they went with same-side bellkeys.

Yes very interesting serial number !

But it is a Cleveland, thru and thru and indeed likely a pre-war one due to what Bruce noted, plus the G# trill key as well....

Yeah, it looks similar to an old H.N. White I own. It's been sitting in the closet for a while just waiting to be made into a lamp.
Cleves are good horns. Just as good as Martin Indianas or USA-made Conn Directors or PanAms. One of my favorite second-shelf American models.

Nothing to strafe about a Cleveland when it is set up into good playing shape. It's a shame to let one go to waste...
 

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I sure hope you're kidding.
Sorry to say, no I'm not. I took it to my tech about ten years ago and at that time he suggested making a lamp out of it. It really needs a complete overhaul and unfortunately it's just not worth it. Anyway, it was a horn I actually played for a couple of years way back when and so I got my moneys worth out of it. I'm going to make a lamp out of it and gift it to my son, at least then it will be re-purposed.
 

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I'm going to make a lamp out of it and gift it to my son, at least then it will be re-purposed.
That's too bad, I would take a Cleveland hands-down over a Yamaha 23 or any other student horn. I've had both altos and tenors and all played with a big open tone that is easy to shape.

You are correct, the market value isn't there, but it certainly is not a reflection on the quality of the instrument. Perhaps try to avoid any permanent 'modifications' in your lighting project?
 

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That's too bad, I would take a Cleveland hands-down over a Yamaha 23 or any other student horn. I've had both altos and tenors and all played with a big open tone that is easy to shape.

You are correct, the market value isn't there, but it certainly is not a reflection on the quality of the instrument. Perhaps try to avoid any permanent 'modifications' in your lighting project?
I think Reet is referring to an early split bell H.N. White. They may be the least valued / respected of the US Made altos. I sure wish it was a Cecilio or Mendini sax for lamp material. I do understand the no return value of an overhaul though.
 

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I think Reet is referring to an early split bell H.N. White. They may be the least valued / respected of the US Made altos. I sure wish it was a Cecilio or Mendini sax for lamp material. I do understand the no return value of an overhaul though.
Derp! Where is my reading comprehension lately!? Thanks for pointing that out!

That makes me feel a little better, but even those old H.N. Whites aren't terrible. I agree with your sentiment. We can't save them all out of charity, the market value just isn't there. C'est la vie!
 

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I would like help from King aficionados about an alto I just acquired labeled Varsity USA. I searched a website of stencil manufacturers and found the Varsity listed as a Conn stencil. But this alto has earmarks of a King horn, ie. beveled key cups, soldered tone holes and pinky table. I understand that the "Varsity" name was used at one time by a Czechoslovakian manufacturer, but I have never seen one marked Varsity USA. The serial number, PP 260, is stamped on the body and the neck - a three digit serial number! My guess is that the Varsity USA was made by King in Cleveland using left handed bell key bodies made elsewhere. Your opinions would be greatly appreciated. Have any of you ever seen a Varsity USA?
This looks rather like a horn owned by a student of mine. His is in a matte silver and is labelled "American Standard", I believe. It's from the late 20s or early 30s - can't remember.

As for how it plays, it has a very nice rounded sound and blows freely and positively. The intonation at the top of the second octave is a little rough, but it's not crazy. I'm sure it would be improved with the use of a period mouthpiece. The action is light and really fast. Nice instrument.
 

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I still say this horn was in the 1935( left side bell keys) to mid 40s (still had the rear Eb) period although the rear Eb could be ordered later on. Perhaps the dealer who had the Varsity stencil wanted something extra to sell by adding the Eb.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I still say this horn was in the 1935( left side bell keys) to mid 40s (still had the rear Eb) period although the rear Eb could be ordered later on. Perhaps the dealer who had the Varsity stencil wanted something extra to sell by adding the Eb.
Thanks all for your comments. The horn was obviously re-padded at some point and needs very little work save for the Eb pad and some adjustments. I was not aware of the left side bell keys so please excuse that error. As for playability it has a full warm sound. Quite lovely and dark as a matter of fact. BTW, the sax came in a case that contains a F. Hofinger clarinet, marked Bruxelles, S. Langenus, Inc, New York, with two six-pointed stars above and below the names. Aside from a low E spatula that needs spring work, this wooden clarinet is in remarkable condition with pads that look to be in excellent condition.
 

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I think Reet is referring to an early split bell H.N. White.
But.....but....
Yeah, it looks similar to an old H.N. White I own. It's been sitting in the closet for a while just waiting to be made into a lamp.
A Cleve does not 'look similar', given the older ones have opp-bellkeys....and Cleves do not, no ?
 

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I don't know, from what I've seen on youtube, the early Kings can hold their own.
They definitely do. By the time the masses realize this, and the prices start to soar, hopefully those of us in the know will have already bought up the lion's share.
Yes, there's another recent thread here by someone thinking of buying a King split-bellkey Alto, and I advised them of the market reality that the King split-bells have a very bad rep in the intonation dept, although of the half dozen or so altos I have refurbed, I have to say that their qualities in that respect do not differ greatly from a Conn or Martin of the same period.

And the King split-bellkey era Tenors are, actually, monster horns....
 

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They definitely do. By the time the masses realize this, and the prices start to soar, hopefully those of us in the know will have already bought up the lion's share.
I have three split-bell altos. I don't know what they go for now, but I ended up with three because I wanted the mouthpiece in the case and they went for so cheap it made sense to buy 'em. One of them had been taken care of & it played fine. IIRC after about the 75xxx serial number mark they did something that improved intonation; these have an "igloo" octave pip that vents out of the side of the pip rather than at the top. Don't know if that's supposed to be the intonation fix or not. You have to be careful to make sure the octave pad actually fully covers the vent on these horns. I think this & some other keywork quirks on these horns led to them to have a poorer reputation than the later '20s examples probably deserved.

Yes, there's another recent thread here by someone thinking of buying a King split-bellkey Alto, and I advised them of the market reality that the King split-bells have a very bad rep in the intonation dept, although of the half dozen or so altos I have refurbed, I have to say that their qualities in that respect do not differ greatly from a Conn or Martin of the same period.

And the King split-bellkey era Tenors are, actually, monster horns....
I love the way the tenors look with that monster kink in the bell. I've got one but it needs pads.
 

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Late to the discussion, but what you have is a stencil of H.N. White's American Standard model from 1940 or 1941. American Standard and Gladiator woodwinds (usually) had a unique serial number sequence separate from Cleveland models, the latter half of the run having that unusual double-letter prefix.
 
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