King New Voll-True Alto (1930)

The Story

I bought this in 2001 when I was travelling a couple of times a year to San Francisco to events such as the annual Sun Microsystems analyst meeting. There are a handful of Savings and Loan shops in the less touristy places – areas where people will ask you for money on the street and your middle class American friends advise you not to go. I really like these shops, because their owners tended to undervalue their stock, minimising the loan value on the assets. Although I didn’t realise it at the time the pound’s rising value against the dollar made buying secondhand saxophones even more attractive. It’s all changed since then – the pound hs declined significantly in value and eBay makes all saxophone values knowable for the shop owners. I also believe that these instruments are a finite resource – they got pawned years ago. I can’t find many interesting saxophones any more in San Francisco in these shops – I joke with my friends that I bought them all. Continue reading

Dearman ‘New Super’ Alto (1959)

The Story

I bought this for from my excellent saxophone doer-upper in 2006. He knows that my collection spans all types of saxophone and was right that I’d go for the art deco look and feel of this one. I know Dallas Arbiter as a UK importer of guitars in the 1970s and it’s nice to have an example of the company’s earlier activities with brass instruments. Continue reading

Keilwerth SX90R (1997)


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Conn C Melody (1919)

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Martin Concertone C Melody (1926)

The Story

I can’t really remember too much about acquiring this horn. I know I already had quite a collection and believe I bought it from Magginisupplies before having it repadded by my favourite saxophone technician. I’m not even sure when it was. I know I already had my Conn C Melody at the time. However I was attracted to owning a Martin, even if only a ‘stencil’. Continue reading

Martin Handcraft Alto (1930)

The Story

I bought this from my saxophone technician a few years age, who had already repaired, repadded and replaced the felts on it. It is a silver-plated Martin Handraft alto from 1930 and is excellent condition, made just after the stock market crash the previous year. Continue reading

Conn Pan-American Alto (1920)

The Story

My friend Chris Ingle was travelling on business in San José and gave me a call on a Saturday afternoon. He was in one of my favourite ‘savings and loan’ shops and ran through the saxophones they had. He mentioned the Pan-American alto, so I asked him about the condition. He bought it and brought it back from the States and into work on the following Monday. It was a truly great find – a classic horn, made by Conn in 1920. Continue reading

Conn 28M Alto (1950)

The Story 

I was travelling for business in Phoenix, Texas, a few years ago and went searching for saxophones. At the time the British Pound was at a very high exchange rate against the dollar, so I had been buying quite a few horns from America. I remember visiting three or four pawn brokers (savings and loan shops). This particular one sold mainly guitars and had several hundred on show around a pretty big store. There was a glass display cabinet with six or seven saxophones in it and I had a look to see what was inside. This stood out as unusual at the bottom left hand side. The shop assistant got it out for me. I was immediately surprised that it had a plastic keyguard and was made by Conn. It didn’t look like any of the others I had or had seen. Continue reading

Evette and Schaeffer Baritone (1915)

The Story

I bought this in 1982 from a second hand shop in Walton Street, Oxford. I was a student at the time, living in Welligton Square and studying Classics. I didn’t have much money, but had to buy it – making it the third saxophone I ever acquired. It came without a case, so I made one for it. Continue reading

Hawkes And Son XX Century Alto (1932)

The Story

A Couple of years ago I was looking to add a good English saxophone to my collection. Hawkes and Son made saxophones in their factory in Edgeware near London. I saw this in an eBay auction and put a bid on it.
I never took much interest in the instrument when it arrived, because it was immediately evidently that it was a ‘high C’ and unplayable in tune. Although I collect saxophones, I’m really not interested in them if they’re unplayable with other musicians, which is true of all ‘high C’ instruments. For those of you who don’t know, concert pitch was not always the standard 440Hz in is today. Many instrument manufacturers from the nineteenth onwards made high and low pitched instruments. While pitch is possible to adjust for stringed instruments, it can’t be changed for brass and saxophones, where the length of the tube dictates the frequency of the notes. Looking at the pictures now I realise that I completely failed to see that this horn had a solid silver bell and neck – like a King Silversonic. If I had I might have been more tempted to keep it.

I had some trouble getting a refund for this sax, but took some photos, which I think are useful for those thinking of owning a Hawkes XX Century horn. Oh… and to avoid purchasing a high-pitched Hawkes look for the ‘#’ or ‘H’ (bad) and ‘b’ or ‘L’ (good) markings by the serial number. I’m not personally against owning ‘high C’ horns, but I’m not going to pay proper saxophone prices for them.

My advice to those selling them is to make sure the fact that it’s a ‘high C’ is listed right at the top of the advert. Sell the instrument on its historical importance, but not on its playability.

Continue reading