Selmer Pennsylvania Special Tenor (1938)

The Story

I bought this tenor from my friend Tony at Maggini Supplies a few years ago. He had recently sold me the alto version of this and knew I would be interested. As always I’m interested in unusual vinatage instruments and this fits the description well.

The Instrument

This is a stencil branded by Selmer. It was made by Kohlert – not made by Keilwerth, Amati or Karl Meyer. It has been well played, unfortunately with gold paint applied to the worn lacquer many years ago. Consequentially it has just about the worst finish of any saxophones I’ve ever seen.
In terms of design it is consistent with the baritone and alto versions also reviewed on this site, although the left hand ‘pinky’ cluster lacks many of the pearl coverings of the alto. It is a thoroughly modern instrument with all lower keys on the right of the bell. The octave key has a stylish design.

The Player

Perhaps because I haven’t had this repadded, this doesn’t play very well. It is clunky in comparison to many of the other saxophones I’ve played and is heavy and stodgy. It is difficult to blow and has a poor ‘middly’ tone. I intend to spend more time playin ghtis in future to see how it can be improved through better restoration.


  • Make – Selmer (Kohlert)
  • Model – Pennsylvania Special
  • Serial Number – 27878
  • Date of Manufacture – 1938
  • Place of Manufacture – Czechoslovakia
  • Finish –Silver plated
  • Weight – 5lb 3oz
  • Sound – Poor, middly
  • Ease of Blowing – Weak
  • Ease of Fingering – Clunky and difficult

Do you play a Pennsylvania Special? We’realways very interested in reviewing your saxophone here – especially if you have a soprano, C Melody or other stencil versions of our reviewed here.

28 Responses

  1. Hi I have a Pennsylvania Special tenor sax…Made in Czechoslovakia..I would dearly like to find out when this instrument was made..and it’s history..I got it from a car boot sale and paid £49.00.. including the hard case with a tin of reeds, a spare mouthpiece and a neck strap…It’s a beautiful instrument with a big sound..I guess it would also be good to know it’s current worth so any info you have please send me..Thanks..

  2. Ray
    Thanks for the comment
    It’s worth a lot more than you paid. Send me a picture and I’ll try to tell you more. I’m particularly interested in the serial number and whether it looks like the one above. Also check out our reviews of the PS alto and bari on the site.

  3. Hi. I bought a Pennsylvania tenor a few months ago. It plays fairly well until I attempt some of the lower notes. It has been repadded fairly recently but needs setting up properly. I have no knowledge of the history of the horn and came across this site in my hunt for more information. I notice that there are some differences between mine and yours, probably because yours is a special and mine isn’t. I’m happy to send you some photos when I get a chance.

  4. Yes, I’m havening fun with your blog, tonight.

    I’m well aware that I’m quoted on Wikipedia as saying that the Selmer Pennsylvania Special horns were made by Keilwerth. As I got more pictures and serial number data, I realized I was wrong: they were made by Kohlert. The serial number data lines up perfectly. (Well, Julius Keilwerth worked for Kohlert and his early horns looked a lot like Kohlert, so my mistake is understandable.)

    Your horn should have a six-digit serial number starting with “26”, “27” or “28.” I’ve got a serial number chart at that’s fairly accurate. Translates to about 1935 to 1940. I’ve also talked with Helen at Bassic Sax — who knows more German makes than I do — about it and she agrees.

    FWIW, Kohlert and many other manufacturers, were in an area that could easily be considered Czech or German, depending on your point of view. The town’s Graslitz (German spelling) or Kraslice (Czech spelling). It’s right over the (current) German border. I’ve seen either name stamped on Kohlert and Keilwerth instruments.

    The Selmer Pennsylvania (no “Special”) is a different animal. A lot were made by a German company called Karl Meyer, however I’m sure that there were others made by other folks. Selmer usually sold these as a “step down” from their pro models.

    There’s also the Selmer NY, which was usually made by Conn, and the Selmer Manhattan, which was usually made by Martin.

    Amati (not “Amarti”) wasn’t around — as a saxophone maker, at least — until about 1945ish. They were primarily known for stringed instruments before that.

    • I have a VKS Kohlert tenor sax made in Ceckoslovakia . looks like a pennsilvania special . serial# 20756 with the triangle Best in the world .I think is a Keilwerth.made for Kohlert .I also have a 58 Kohlert tenor and that one is different.

      • Hector
        Thanks for your comment – it would be great to have a couple of photos so we can compare your saxophones with the many Kohlert’s we cover on the site here. My experience to date suggests that Keilwerth and Kohlert worked very much hand in hand. There’s a difference in quality with their ranges, rather than between them. The tenor featured here is very poor, while the alto is excellent.
        I really like both brands – it’s a shame Keilwerth no longer manufacture in Germany.
        Best Wishes – Martin

  5. Pete
    I’m very pleased you’ve been having fun on the site and many thanks to you and Helen for helping out on this. I’ve changed the post accordingly of course. On the back it’s marked ‘made in Czechoslavakia’ and has the ‘Best In The World’ triangle, also found on Keilwerth horns.
    This example has a very worn finish and is definitely of lower quality than the alto version we’ve featured
    I’ll have a look at the alto again and see whether it’s stamped ‘made in Germany’ or not. If it is it might throw the cat amongst the pigeons.
    Best Wishes

  6. Martin
    I have only just come across your interesting site. I have Pennsylvania Special tenor serial 18009 marked “Made in Czechoslovakia” and “The best in the world” and “JKG” in a triangle (G is under the JK). The markings and setup look exactly the same as your pictures and is in a reasonable and playable condition. It’s loosing a bit of laquer but nothing too bad. Is there anything you can tell me about it please?

  7. Simon
    Many thanks for connecting.
    ‘Made in Czeckoslovakia’ makes it a Kohlert – although JK and the triangle suggest Julius Leilwerth of course – very intrguing! If the latter your horn dates to around 1940 according to saxpics
    Send some pictures if you can.
    Best Wishes

  8. Hi all

    Just searching and found this great site. I have what I think is a Pennsylvania Special, says ‘Made in Czechoslovakia’ but the engraving is very worn. The serial is 264373… does that make it about 1934-5? The person I lent it to had it repadded and it makes a nice warm big sound, but the lacquer needs redoing and I don’t think I have it set up that well (but if it ain’t broke…). Not sure where to send pics but easy to take on my phone… Any ideas? Should I insure it?



  9. i have a Pennyslvania Special made in Czechslovakia serial no 263577, i’ve owned it about 25 yrs i cant remember how much i paid for it, i was going to put it on ebay but i’ve no idea what its worth, could you give me a guideline it would be greatly appreciated.

  10. is there anybody out there……….

    • Francis
      I can’t tell you what it’s worth, because these horns vary a lot in quality and it makes a big difference whether it needs repadding and setting up, which will cost around £200 or there about. I paid £150 for the tenor featured here, which was very cheap – so it cost £350 in total to have a playable sax.
      Hope that helps.
      Best Wishes – Martin

      • thanx Martin, allthough the laquer isn’t great the horn plays and sounds great. I will probably put it up for sale and £200 ish seems ok , thanx again for your help……..mack

      • hi martin, how can i tell if my Penn Special is a Kohlert, is it just by the serial number ?

  11. Hi there, a friend of mine is trying to sell his vintage Selmer Tenor Pennsylvania Special sax and he asked me if I can find some info on its value.
    He says its made in Czechoslovakia with Serial No 267102 2N and thinks it was made somewhere in the ’70’s. Can you please tell me if you know anything more about it and how much he would get for it?

    P.S.: two of the keys are broken, but he still has them, and the sax comes with original Selmer case.


  12. …Oh, also, am I right with the date? because based on the info above it seems that my friend is wrong about the production date and this sax should have been made around the 1930’s…I am guessing that that changes also its value, am I right?

    Please let me know if you know something about it. Thanks!!

  13. I have a martin comm II with serial #133534 in excellent condition with original case neck and warranty card to. just wondering what it might be worth my email is would appreciate your help…also if this helps martin is enscribed on th side of the horn with a crown above it and once again I must say in rather decent condition

  14. I bought this tenor from my friend Tony at Maggini Supplies a few years ago. …

  15. Hi guys.
    I’m the lucky owner of a Kohlert tenor sax from 1934 (#251 886) but the engraving says Pennsylvania Special too. The key guards are “Mercedes Bens” shaped and the low B minor plate is longer (triangular somewhat). It plays tremendously and have this kind of big sound I was looking for with my OL 7* mouthpiece… Is it of interest to you. Wanna pictures? I’m looking for as much info as possible on it, on my side. Can you help me on this? Thx saxers…

  16. Hi all
    I have a very nice Pennsylvania special Alto sax 1934 made by Kohlert in good serviced condition and plays very well with original snake skin hardcase. Looking to sell soon but unsure regarding its true value?

  17. serial number 259xxx

  18. Anyone can help?
    I have a tenor sax, silver plated, branded Pennsylvania, with a strange logo, no serial number. Very nice sound. I found no matching photo in Kohlert or Keilwerth saxes.

  19. Hi, i have a Pennsylvania Tenor Special…made in Czechoslovakia.
    Serial no; 254460. There is also an upside down 1 underneath the serial no ! Not sure if that means anything ?
    From what i read from this interesting site, it was made by Kolhert – can you please confirm you think this is correct ? I also estimate age of approx 1930’s…possibly earlier ?
    There is nothing else written on the sax…if you like i can send some photos ?
    Thank you.

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