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7. Student vs. Intermediate vs. Professional Instruments

Discussion in 'General Information' started by pete, Dec 25, 2010.

  1. ya, I hear ya Pete. I just meant when the difference was easy to distinguish instead of everything being muddled together. Even when Yamaha had the 23, 52 and 62. That was nice, now with all the nonsense in the middle it doesn't even seem to matter anymore...

    I keep an old Vito stenciled YAS-23 around to prove to my students that I sound almost identical on that than I do on my new ish 82z. The 82z is a lot nicer, responds better and feels better, but it sounds the same to me...

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    Uh, not to differ here or anything, but I was postulating the same thing about bass saxophones being cut up for scrap at least ten years ago (I think that the first place I posted the musing was on AOL, and I've not worked for them for over ten years now), and maybe well before that. So there (insert emoticon of tongue thrust out here).

    During both the First and Second World Wars, all nations routinely scavenged up their artillery brass (shell casings) from the battlefield, usually well after the active fighting had ceased. German and Japanese troops in World War II were instructed to make some effort to recover their brass (both artillery and small arms) even when fighting was still active, that because both war economies were short of copper (a vital material, if you think about it - all that electrical wiring has to come from somewhere).

    For that matter, in World War I, the Kaiser's fleet recovered the stub shell casings used in their capital ship's main armament (11"-ish to 15"-ish), even as the hammer and tongs action at Jutland in 1916 was underway. The 'empties' were ejected from the turrets, whereupon bottom of the ladder Matrossen of the deck crews scurried out from cover to stuff them in non-vital compartments.

    Oddly enough, after suffering through all of World War I with copper shortages in large part due to the design of their artillery breeches (wedge breech block instead of the copper-friendly asbestos and suet obdurated type), the Germans launched into World War II with the identical situation. Even the huge 80 cm siege gun used briefly on the Eastern Front used a huge, stub shell casing to seal the thing up.
  3. Helen

    Helen Content Expert Saxophones Staff Member Administrator

    Yes Terry, I remember you mentioning this here on the WF too. That's what furthered my own theories. Great minds think alike I believe my friend. :-D

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    Ah, but priority is all in scholarship...
  5. Helen

    Helen Content Expert Saxophones Staff Member Administrator

    Well when I go to publish my theories, I will be sure that your name comes first then! :emoji_smile: I just need to find a journal that's worthy of our academic prowess. :emoji_rage:

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    A cautionary tale...

    A long, long, long time ago, I was acting as the area director of the Peoria Area Office of OSHA, with jurisdiction over most of the central portion of the state of IL. Over a golden autumn weekend, my lovely wife drove up from Mount Vernon so that we could spend a whole day poking around a part of the state in which neither of us had spent much time in the past.

    Our path took us all the way up north to the little town of Galena. Back in the early 1800's, Galena was the "lead capital" of the United States, shipping lead to the rest of the country and overseas. Once the lead mines gave out (and the river silted up), it turned into a sleepy little town with one great distinction: it was the "home" of Ulysses S. Grant, Union general and future president of the nation.

    As a town, Galena isn't much. The downtown parallels the banks of the river, and much of it is down in a deep valley (which the river occasionally floods out). (The modern section of the town is up on the highway, on very high ground.)

    The "upper rent" section of the late 1800's is located on the southern bank of the river, up on the slopes of the valley. Grant's house (a weedy kind of place, like his two homes in Saint Louis) is way up on the slope, overlooking both the river and a large rectangular park, quite a nice place back in the day.

    Like all towns of its vintage, Galena has a shortage of downtown parking. (It also had a shortage of restaurants and rest rooms, but I digress.) After crawling up and down "Main Street" for a while, we finally parked up on the hill, by the Grant house.

    The tour of the home didn't last long, and (bypassing the available rest rooms at the house (dumb mistake)) we soon found ourselves walking down the slope, towards the park and the foot bridges over the river.

    On our way through the park, I noticed a number of "war memorial" artillery pieces scattered about here and there. The first two were uninteresting surplus anti-tank guns from World War II, pieces that are a dime a dozen and littering urban landscapes throughout the country. The third one was quite a bit more interesting (to me), being a secondary armament weapon from the Spanish armored cruiser Viscaya, sunk at the Battle of Santiago in 1898. (The Yanko-Spanko War is one of my areas of interest, and those guns salvaged from the ravaged Spanish "fleet" are scattered all over the landscape in some of the most surprising places.)

    I could see a number of other guns, all set in concrete plinths, off at the eastern edge of the park. Since I had already spent a lot of time on my feet, and my bad leg was starting to affect my mobility, I was more than happy that my lovely wife volunteered to walk down and photograph the rest of them (I maintain a registry of such stuff) to save me the leg work.

    I plopped down on the Viscaya plinth and watched as my lovely wife, power walking the whole way, marched down to the east edge of the park and briefly stopped at each piece. When she came churning back up the walking path, I got up and prepared to walk down to the town. However, things were just not that simple.

    She had taken both her Polaroid camera (remember those?) and my 35 mm SLR along on the walk to take the obligatory photographs. Fortunate for me, or so it seemed at the time, she was unable to get the SLR to function. It turned out that she had only two exposures left in the Polaroid; she expended them both on the seemingly innocuous Civil War vintage weapon that appeared (from a quarter mile away) to be a dirt common 3" Ordnance rifle, the Civil War artillery equivalent of a cockroach.

    What I saw in the photograph made me sit up and take notice. The photograph of the breech end of the Civil War vintage piece (one of the normal photo angles taken of such stuff) revealed, in ornate script, the legend "Blakely's patent.

    In American Civil War annals, the Blakely rifles occupy a special niche. Made of steel in Great Britain, Blakely weapons were relatively uncommon due to the Union blockade, highly prized by the Confederacy for their penetration power, and generally used in situations where extraordinary accuracy, range and destructive power were in order.

    Any Blakely rifle was an interesting piece of Civil War ordnance, and I was aware of only one of them located in the State of Illinois, in Rock Island. Had my lovely wife decided to walk in the opposite direction, she would have shot her last two photos at the generic anti-tank gun, would have described the Blakely as a "Parrott rifle" (her catch all term for any Civil War field piece without an interpretive plaque), and that would have been that.

    I immediately moved off to more closely examine this rare item. The walk about killed me, but what I saw brought a smile to my lips.

    As I said, Blakelys are rare and very thin on the ground. Not all that many made it through the blockade, and those that did are very well known, often by nicknames like the "Widow Blakely" at the Vicksburg NBP. And, none in Galena.

    This one was special in about four different ways. First off, it was somewhere where "the authorities in the field" said it should not be. (The nearest known Blakely was at the Rock Island in the arsenal's museum and very well documented for all of its life.) Second, it was not painted all to hell (as is common with ACW monuments, the better to prevent rust of the wrought and cast iron metal in over half of them). (Of the rest, virtually all were made of bronze.) Third, unlike virtually every other Blakely, it was small, very small. Most of the rest were big weapons, used to punch holes in ironclad warships. And fourth, it was located in Galena, the home town of one US Grant.

    Finally, there were the markings on the piece, or (rather) the lack of same. In addition to the Blakely's patent marking, there were two holes drilled partially into the breech of the piece, in the identical location where a plaque described in Ripley, the standard work on Civil War artillery, was attached to the long-considered lost Blakely rifle that fired the first shot to hit Ft. Sumter in 1861. (That particular weapon was a pre-war gift to the South by a Southron resident in Great Britain at the time, hence the fancy plaque.) The weapon was still in Charleston when Sherman visited the place during his march to the sea, and the last time it was heard of was when he sent it to Grant as a war trophy following its capture.

    At that time, the piece was both drawn in some detail, and the inscription on the bronze plaque was recorded, as well as the maker's numbering, the weight of the piece and all of that. Then it vanished, to become one of the mysteries of the American Civil War. If Ripley said it was lost, then (by Gawd) it was lost.

    And, here I had found it. I fired off about thirty photos of the thing, along with some with a pen across the muzzle (I had no measuring tape to verify the bore of the thing). Once we returned to Southern IL (where my reference stuff was - this was long before most everything could be found on the internet), it all checked out. Holes for a sight bracket (not common on small Blakelys)? Check. Holes for the plaque on the breech? Check. Overall information on the size and marking of the piece? Check. Calibre? Check. Weight (always a positive ID for artillery of the era, since each piece had slight casting and machining variations)? Dead on the money.

    Next, I started trying to contact Ripley (who lived over in South Carolina). When a direct attempt (telephone) didn't work, I sent out a bunch of letters to others interested in the subject, and waited for the replies to come in.

    The first five letters or so (all negative) had been answered by the time we took off on our spring break trip to camp at Pensacola FL, early the next year. On the way back, we passed through western Tennessee, where we doglegged over to the Shiloh NBP, a place I had only visited once in a driving rainstorm.

    After the park visit, I scoped out the books in the bookstore. One that immediately caught my eye, titled Field Artillery Weapons of the Civil War, by Hazlett, Ohmstead and Parks (the first two of which had yet to answer my letters mentioned above), was a comprehensive overview of that portion of the ACW topic. And, the little Blakely up in Galena was (by its calibre) in that class.

    I opened up the book, scanned down the columns devoted to the few small Blakely rifles known to exist (only about five hundred of all sizes were made, and most were large, ship and coastal artillery weapons), hoping to learn more. And I did.

    In the short time between my discovery and my blundering across this book (a "vanity press" publication of a small Delaware university), I thought that I had achieved the equivalent of immortality among Civil War buffs, having found the very weapon in at the Genesis of the war and then lost to history for one hundred and twenty two-odd years. This was better than my patents (actually, my lovely wife deserves a good bit of credit for those - lotsa screening of written materials there), better than my professional recognition in my field of work, better than all of the musical stuff I had done up to that point (even the circus band).

    But, there it was, in poorly reproduced typescript (the pages of the book are actually photo-reproductions of the original typewritten manuscript), "This rifle has been found, in Galena IL". Bummer.

    I never was able to find out who had beaten me to the punch (both Olmstead and Hazlett shuffled off their mortal coils soon after the book was "published", and I didn't know the other fellow). But, it was clear from the copyright date on the book that someone had been there just a short while before me and had passed the information up to the folks known to be writing a book on the topic.

    So, my chance at a slice of Civil War immortality went slipping away. And, since that time, I've been really careful with credit where credit is due...
  7. Carl H.

    Carl H. Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

    Very interesting Terry, I've probably seen that gun any number of times and never knew of its historical significance. I'll be sure to take some pics next time I'm over there.

    BTW, there are Many good restaurants in Galena these days, not including the subway on main.:)
  8. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    While we're meandering away from the original topic, I do also want to mention that I've found one of the good reasons to find out who something is attributed to is because you can have a ready answer to folks who ask, "And what backs up your statement?"

    As an example, I was doing some SML (Strasser-Marigaux-Lemaire) saxophone research awhile back and I found an interesting tidbit: Santy Runyon was said to have had some of these horns stenciled for him. And it was exceedingly rare: a split-bell-key horn (low B and Bb on opposite sides of the bell). I had seen an extremely large percentage of all SML horns ever produced and I hadn't yet seen a split-bell-key horn. This information came from two extremely well-regarded sax names: Paul Coats and ... Santy Runyon.

    Anyhow, what had happened seems to have been a couple of interesting things:

    * The person that owned the horn and talked about "split-bell-key" was wrong. The horn didn't have split-bell-keys.
    * Paul Coats had misidentified the horn as an SML.
    * Santy Runyon had misidentified the horn as an SML.

    Now, there IS a split-bell-key SML. I've seen a grand total of one in about 14 years of searching (again, I've seen a fairly large percentage of ALL SML saxophones). It is possible that Santy Runyon DID buy stencils from SML, but not in the date-range that was mentioned (50's/60's). And the horn the person had was NOT an SML, it was a Pierret. I documented all this on my old website, but it took 6 years to get all the research done -- and another 4 to even verify that there was such an animal as a split-bell-key SML. (The whole story is chronicled here.)

    Bottom line was that the sources were wrong. At least I could point a finger and say, "Well, that's what HE said!"

    Considering that I've been labeled "an authority" on vintage saxophones by some folks, I also end up getting misquoted, often, or people don't bother contacting me to see if I've done any further research. This has happened on Wikipedia and eBay more than once. Heck, I had to file a "cease and desist" order against one eBay'er who was just copying and pasting random things from my former website and essentially presenting himself as me. (Well, who can blame him? So many people want to be me ....)

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    For the record, I don't want to be you...

    Being an authority has with it the co-commitant hazard that you are sometimes expected to exercise that authority and - well - be an authority. If you can stand up under that strain, then you are legit; if not, well, the punishment usually fits the crime.

    When I was young, I started building up my authority credentials in a number of areas: bricklaying and associated tasks (like scaffolding), heavy equipment operations and hoisting procedures (from being in an armored unit in the military), and a familiarity with the way the US military has organized personnel work over the years (from both a military history hobby and from toiling away at the then Veterans Administration for years). Helped by a capable memory, I was able to recall scenarios and their likely outcome from my young years to give accurate answers in all of these fields from age twenty five or so.

    Fast forward a few years and I found myself widely touted (by my superiors at OSHA) as the "go to" guy for specific investigations (railroad equipment - OSHA does the in plant portion of railroading; hoisting accidents, various types of fraud, and so forth). I've even been officially qualified as an "expert witness" on ten or so occasions, called to testify for the department in our administrative courts and coroner's hearings in a variety of situations. It didn't pay any more, and I had developed the skills, knowledge and abilities (personnel-speak, there) on my own dime for the most part, but it was good for points at performance appraisal time, so it wasn't entirely fruitless.

    However, no matter how capable I became in any of my fields of expertise, I have always been careful to qualify my "authoritative answers", knowing full well that there is always some hidden factor that might affect the final outcome. Only when in full control of the situation (say, building a fireplace for a friend when I was sure that the footing was properly prepared, or investigating a hoisting accident when I had subpoena power to back up my probing) did I allow others to say that I was "an expert".

    In "the old days", it was different. Then, you relied upon people with encyclopedic knowledge on certain topics for opinions that "meant something." (To do actual, physical work, of course, you still relied upon "craftsmen", who might also happen to be "experts" capable of communicating that knowledge to others.)

    These days, however, anyone with access to a computer and some language skills can pose as "an expert", given enough time to research the answers. While Wikipedia is quite capable of being wrong, it also is an excellent starting point on any number of topics.

    Those needing an ego boost are given the opportunity of gaining "prestige points" by pretending to be a doctor, dentist, cook or candlestick maker, and to some extent they can succeed. And, in the process, they give anyone with gen-u-ine "expertness" a slightly tarnished name. Hardly worth the trouble (in my eyes), unless of course you are getting business out of it or someone is paying you to go out on the "expert" limb.

    I see the situation of someone like Pete (as an example) as being placed in a situation where his considerable knowledge on a topic is really nothing more than a "no win" situation.

    Take the prototypical "How much is my POS horn worth?" question, often sent in blind by someone who doesn't know Pete from Adam:

    • Answer truthfully ("It's a POS and isn't worth a nickel") and you are damned from the start with most people.

    • Answer carefully ("Well, it's hard to tell from photos, but it looks like a decent (insert favorite horn name here) alto, and it should sell in the thousand dollar range") and you are in the doghouse when the top offer for the horn comes in below that thousand dollar price point.

    (And, this leaves out completely the difference between retail and wholesale. People are never happy when their prized Mark VI is priced at (retail value - 30% for retail markup to cover operating expenses) = offered price. I hate those kinds of arguments, because you are dammed from the start if you take the part of the retailing ghoul.)

    • Answer like an expert ("Well, it's not my horn, and you should get other opinions besides mine, but it looks like it would be worth $X at retail, and I would offer you .7 x $X for it") and a sane person won't hate you for it, but you have in effect just wasted your time, since they will (if they are smart) go opinion shopping in any event, so why should you have to be involved, right?

    Unless someone's giving me good money for the trouble that all three of these scenarios can bring, it's just not worth the time and bother.

    These days, the only kind of "experting" that I'm interested in involves areas that are so trivial and limited (Japanese armored vehicles of the Showa Era, the presidency of Warren Harding, bricklaying and mason contracting (down here, the Mexican immigrants undercut the pricing for brickwork, so you can't make any money at it if you would try) bass clarinet playing, and so forth) as to have no "practical" impact at all. That's the best way to avoid controversy, unsatisfied customers and the like.

    Oh, and I can still run up a beautiful barbecue pit if I am properly motivated - and someone else pours the foundation to my specifications.
  10. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

    I love the arguments presented to me such as:

    - when I played it was an intermediate instrument, therefore it must be/or comparable to a top of the line professional instrument today and thus worth alot more.
    - the clarinet has no marking, thus it must be a buffet
    - the ubiquitous, I'm disapointed in your valuation because someone else told me (at a retail store) it is worth much much more. I always reply to tell them to have that "other person" buy the clarinet then, which we know they don't.
  11. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator


    The fundamental fact remains that, no matter what some "blue book' or 'expert' says about the worth of an object, the value of that object is what a seller and a buyer agree upon.

    My son was shattered when I finally managed to convince him that the sports cards in his collection were not worth what the guide to such things said they were. He did take the precaution of attempting to move some of the more pricy ones at the local card shop, thereby getting the disappointment first hand, if you will.

    More poignantly, when we sold off my mother's household goods some three years ago or so, we attempted to keep her away from the house as much as possible during the duration of the sale. However, when we returned after the end of the sale, she still had enough of her wits about her to notice that her beloved Hummel statuary had not sold at all. She just could not get her head wrapped around the fact that collection stuff is only worth what it can be sold for, rather than what some book says it is worth. Sad, but inevitable - she had so much stuff after eighty years of life that some of it was bound to be disappointing when a sale was attempted.
  12. tictactux

    tictactux Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

    There's always a gap between commercial vs. emotional value. If my beloved xyz-brand instrument would be destroyed or stolen, I'd be heartbroken, even if the "market" would only pay say $30 for that honker. And a collection is rarely a sound financial investment, it's more of a hobby if you will, something that reveals its value to the owner only if the objects can be touched, looked at, played with. (I'm not talking about paintings of famous artists that are stored in a vault in order to "park" some money and make ridiculous prices when sold at Sotheby's).
  13. Gandalfe

    Gandalfe Administrator Staff Member Administrator

    Finance 101 for collectables: Collect things you love so that in addition to any possible money gain, there is the fun you have with the collection. The fun with the collection is usually the best part of a collection.
  14. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    In the instrument world, there's also playability value. If you have, for instance, a mint-condition Buescher Big B also, I might say that it's worth all of $1200 (making up numbers, ATM). However, is a mint condition older pro horn worth less than a new student instrument? Y'gotta think of it that way.

    I also have to convince people that if they have an old horn, it's not necessarily worth a lot because it's old. If it's old and unusual -- and very specific kinds of unusual -- it's probably worth something. Additionally, if you're talking saxophone, it's highly unlikely that you'll ever see an instrument that's valued over $30K. Flutes? Lots are. Same with a lot of double-reeds. Clarinets? Also comparatively low.

    The fun thing about value is that people think that a big name = lots of value. I've shared with the WF staff one particular horn, that the owner said was minty and was a "big name." He thought it was easily worth in the high thousands range. When he eventually sent pics, I saw that the horn looked like it had been stored in a leaky basement for 30 years. I told the guy that it was worth less than the cost to repair it. He didn't appreciate the advice.
  15. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    Precisely my point. I envy those who can do a service to others by "appraising" things for others - me, I just don't have the stomach for it.

    Unless someone is willing to pay me for my "expert opinion", of course...

    Another thing to consider is that there are fads in every thing. My mother's Hummels are one example; C melody saxophones are another. Both had their time and place, and now that it has come and gone, their comparative value is pretty low.

    Another interesting hobby that some have treated as an investment is model railroading. Back when trains were au courant, there were a ton of model railroaders. Lionel and others encouraged entry to the game, and a whole specialty industry fed "high end" modeling, with elaborate brass locomotives.

    Well, there are still model railroaders (of late, there has been some movement into garden railroads, G scale monsters compared to the older HO and O scale stuff), and they still buy the expensive brass engines, only with fancy electronic control modules. But, some who looked to get out of the hobby (as they got older) found that their "investment" in all of those brass engines was really not worth all that much. Investment in fun, of course, but as a place to park your money, not so good.

    It used to be that "an investment" meant either putting it in equities, or putting it in the bank. Nowadays, putting it in the bank is hardly worth the trouble. Me, I'm investing in Albert system clarinets - that's going to be a growth market in the next few years, I'm sure...
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2011
  16. Gandalfe

    Gandalfe Administrator Staff Member Administrator

    I was thinking that too, maybe diversifying with some taragatos too.
  17. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    I've argued that investing in instruments is a losing proposition, no matter how you slice it. About the only saxophones that I've seen appreciate in value are:

    * Selmer Mark VI altos and tenors (BA and SBA are close, but not quite there)
    * Bass saxophones (example: a new Conn New Wonder in GOLD plate was $4642 in today's $. BARE BRASS ones are selling for twice as much or more)
    * Contrabass saxophones (approximately double)
    * Odd and unusual saxophones (examples: F saxophones, pre-1941 straight altos, Buescher tipped-bell horns, Lyon and Healy Perfect Curved sopranos, Adolphe Sax instruments, etc.)

    The other thing is some prototype test-beds -- Conn's prototypes that were sometimes released as stencils, Vito's C melody, Yanagisawa prototypes, Yamaha prototypes, the King Super 21, etc. -- are not worth appreciably more than other pro horns from those companies. And I've seen all of the ones I've just mentioned. It's possible that the titanium-finished Keilwerth prototype I saw increased in value ....

    However, I can look on eBay right now and get a professional Buffet SDA for less than the price of many new student horns, even after I figure in the cost of a full overhaul by a vintage sax specialist. And I've had Mark VI players grudgingly admit that this is a better horn than theirs.

    Again, the thing is that the SDA is a horn that's worth a low $ amount, but it's equivalent to some of the best pro horns ever made. Hey, I'd rather pay $1700 for an overhauled one of these (alto) than $1800 for a new Yamaha 23 (alto).

    Back to the disappointment thing and tying it into this post, I've had people show me beautiful gold-plated Conns, Bueschers, etc. from the 1920's and I've told them that the overhaul price is more than their horns are worth. That's a kick to the head when you think gold-plated = high $ horn.
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