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Is it a bird, Is it a plane, Is it a Bass Clarinet, ALTO-Clarinet or a F-Basset or?

Discussion in 'The Buffet Family' started by Digitronxx, Jan 15, 2015.

  1. Dear Sirs!

    Here is one more newbie at the forum asking again one of those well known questions about the make / model / year / value of it's instrument.

    If I came to the wrong place please advice.

    What I can read on my inherited clarinet is:
    Buffet Crampon & Cie
    RC Prestige
    Serial: 271XX
    It is in very good condition, pads are good, mechanics are good, wood is not scratched, silver coated parts are good.

    It could be Bass Clarinet, ALTO - Clarinet or a F- Basset Horn? I am really not sure wich - they look very similar to me.

    I have searched the web, sites and serial numbers schemes but still find it hard to be sure what type of clarinet / model etc it is to be abel eventually to estimate the value.

    I could post few photos if I knew how. I'll try out forum method for uploading.

    I sincerely hope someone here could help in my quest.

    Thanks in advance for your time!

    Best regards

    Attached Files:


    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    It's a basset horn pitched in F, from a quality maker in what appears to be a high end model. The fingerings for the southward extension of the horn are all located on the front of the horn (i.e., it appears that there are no thumb keys for the right hand).

    The off center mount for the peg is counterbalanced by the large size of the non-slip ball at the bottom. I personally do not like off-centered peg mounts, but if the price were right (and there was a need for this instrument; see below), you could get used to it.

    The open tone hole on the lower joint is there to clean up the tone of the fork B natural. You have to be pretty careful with open tone holes on the larger clarinets, but with practice it would not present a problem.

    Utility? Well, aside from the traditional clarinut response that you could play jazz on it, the uses are limited to classical music - e.g., don't expect to get a lot of calls from anyone outside of a chamber orchestra. Maybe a few more over in the Old Country, but opportunities to play basset horn are few and far between here in the US of A. (There is a university professor who sponsors a basset horn playing group, most of the members of which are probably using school supplied instruments.)

    Expect to pay (or charge) a premium for a genuine Buffet horn of this design.
  3. Wow! That was a fast respons :)

    Thank you very much for the good explanation about the model. I am glad to know more about it (even dough few explanations exceeds my understanding).

    What about the age determined by serial number?

    What would be "premium charge"?

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    For an answer on the serial number, you would do better to consult someone who follows serial number lists and the like. (Also, I'm pretty hostile to Buffet products, so my understanding of their ins and outs is far less than most of the clarinet clan.)

    For further help on pricing, search this site for "What is my clarinet worth?" and you will find a lengthy process that will return that answer. Unfortunately, the process is somewhat involved, including searches on eBay and the like, but that's the only route that will return an accurate answer.

    I'm not saying that this instrument isn't valuable. For any given musical instrument, there are those who will value it higher than others. The trick is in finding them...
  5. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    1994/5. Look at the charts for "Harmony Clarinet" on Steve's website. If you want to get really specific and/or just want to confirm the year, you can contact Buffet through their website.

    The, "How to determine horn value" link is here. I'll also note, as a generic statement and reinforcing SOTSDO's point, I don't see too many people clamoring for basset horns. If you're planning on selling on eBay or similar, it may take a while before you get any nibbles.

    Also in regard to Terry's comment about "the old country," the current Buffet basset horn is pitched at A=442hz. That's generally a European orchestral standard. The pitch in common use is A=440hz, also known as "low pitch." In practice, these two intonation standards won't make much difference to you, provided you have a good enough ear. If you were a string player, you could argue that the extra tension is shortening your strings' and/or your instrument's life.
  6. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

  7. Thanks Pete (and SOTSDO)!

    Those high end Buffets have also high end prices.

    I will follow SOTSDO's and your advices about finding right price tag indication.

    By reading serial number chart I would agree about the year 1994/5. Before your help in telling me what model I have, I was looking at wrong chart and thought it was from 1945!
    Now I at least know what I'm selling :)

    I will choose to take my time and try to sell it somehow at different yellow pages sites in Europe, e-bay, etc. and cross my fingers.
  8. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    ClarinetPages is kewl. I've killed a couple hours there, in the past. Someday I'll compose a website full of nothing but insanely great links. When I retire :).
  9. Just a small update regardin sale:
    i have sold it for 4000 $ first day on e-bay.
    Didnt know i have to pay them also about 250 $ beside paypal comission too.

    Thanks to all again and good luck to Pete with future site when retired :))
  10. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    Yup. eBay takes a percentage. I'm not sure if they do on "list free" days. In any case, 5ish% isn't that bad.
  11. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    I've done a few basset horn "gigs", and in every case, it was with a university owned horn. In each case, it was a matter of getting the horn, doing a rehearsal or two, playing the concert, and then putting it away for a few years.

    Washington University ("In Saint Louis", as the sports folks call it) had two of them, both gorgeous instruments (of the Selmer line, natürlich) needed for your Classical or early Romantic period music. One of them was missing a neck, however. As far as I could tell, they never replaced the missing neck.

    I was amazed at how little control there was over instruments at that school. Need a basset horn - go ahead and take one. Need a contra bassoon? We've got an old Heckel that you can use, and it's a bassoon-shaped one to boot. (That thing was a real hoot to use too; you needed baboon like arms to reach everything, not like the well laid out key work on the coiled versions.)

    That was of a piece with the time in the horn room at then-Drury College (which is now known as "Drury University", thank you very much), where I was scraping around for a working bass clarinet (I found one, an Albert horn, that I stripped and restored and played for the rest of the year, then found that they wouldn't sell it to me). On top of the old bass clarinet case were stacked two brand new Selmer Mark VI-ish horns, a soprano and a sopranino, both of them still in the plastic bags with the key wedges still in place, and both (incredibly) NOT on the school's inventory.

    My curse has always been that (excepting only my term in RVN, where we in the armored cavalry used to loot any of the S & T trucks that got blown away on the Highway 19 running through our area of operations) I can't bring myself to steal things. That bass clarinet, a very old Buffet to low E similar to the one I grew up playing (but in Bb instead of A, as I had to suffer with), was in trashed out shape when I took it under my wing. And, when restored, it was one hell of a sweet horn. I doubt that one in five hundred players would bother to pick it up, much less play it. But, the school insisted on holding on to it. (It has since disappeared.) The saxes (which, remember, no one of authority knew that they were there) would have been a bigger score, and I could have walked with those two horns with no one the wiser. But no, I had to be honest.

    The one horn not my own that I have ended up keeping over the years was a little Eb Selmer. I was given the horn by the director of the music program at another Saint Louis area university to use in a performance, and he told me just to hold onto it afterwards, as there was to be another.

    Only problem was that the next performance never happened. The school completely dropped the music program, along with about half of their sports programs, all very abruptly.

    While all of this was happening, I got drafted and sent off for two years. When I returned, there was no trace of the music program any longer. So, when it came time to buy my new bass, I traded it in.
  12. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    The bass sax I played for a couple months was a SUNYC Fredonia horn. They actually had a person manning a Dutch-door with a sign in/out sheet and stuff. Considering that I was a student there, the guy that wanted me to play the horn was an alumnus, and I had the same instructor, it was no problem. I also *think* SUNYC Fredonia had an instrument repair program at that time. Too bad they didn't do much repair on the bass sax. They could have at least either thrown out or attempted to repair the original Conn mouthpiece that was in the case.

    I went to high schools back in the northeast US. Most of these schools were fairly old, which also meant old junk stuffed into corners of the band room. That's how I ended up playing Bb contrabass clarinet, tenor sax (minty Martin Committee "III," a Beaugnier-made Vito, and two different Mark VIs), and bari sax (old Buescher 400, couple newish Bundy IIs, three Yani B6 Vitos) -- and fooled around with an old Bundy eefer. I did ask about buying those instruments. I was told a flat, "No." No further discussion.

    A second cousin of mine was a director at one high school. At some point, he decided to throw out junk that nobody would use. That's how I got a big, redwood marching bass drum (I stripped all the old paint; beautiful instrument), a Selmer Centered Tone Bb clarinet, and some other odds and ends. I donated these to a church that would put them to weekly use.
  13. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    "Booth led boldly, with his big bass drum,
    Are you washed in the blood of the lamb?"

    My bass sax question is "Where did they all go?"

    The math is posted somewhere else hereon. I used a couple of yearbooks from my parent's high school days in Saint Louis, noted the number of different basses, postulated a similar situation in most big city high school, and came up with a total in the thousands back in 1939. Where did they all go?

    I've seen theories that postulated the old brass horns from back in the day were scooped up by scrap drives for shell casings, but we weren't that short of copper during the war, so that probably isn't the answer.

    I almost bought a bass that had been stuffed in a corner in a barn where the music shop stored all of the old brass horns that they had taken in. A decent Conn, it fixed up well, and I could have had it for all of $600. I opted for a sailboat instead; probably a better choice.

    What are the Conn production figures for bass saxophones? That way we can come up with a baseline figure for what could be out there, and work down from there.

    A serial number question for you serial number mavens...
  14. When I was in the R.A.F. in the early 60's I played Eb clari in the station band. The base and the band were being closed down, so I souvenired the Eb, as otherwise it would have vanished forever in a dusty store room somewhere until it either corroded away or was sold for scrap. I still have it, a nice little Albert Buffet.
  15. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    I don't necessarily think that there were that many bass saxes or lower. Let's name some companies, off the top of my head:

    Holton (a few)
    Adler + Eb contrabasses
    Kohlert + Eb contrabasses
    WA Stowasser + Eb contrabasses

    ... all of these stopped producing basses and contrabasses in the early 1930s. With Buescher and Conn, if you wanted a bass sax in, say, 1955, they'd trot out the old tooling from the True Tone/New Wonder era and make you one. Adler and Stowasser went poof! after WWII. I've only seen a couple Kohlert basses, period, and I haven't seen any sopranos and higher or basses and lower from them after WWII.

    In 1922, a basic Conn bass cost about $1,900, adjusted for inflation ($135 in 1922). A brand spankin' new Selmer S80 bass costs $22,000 (about $1500 in 1922). It makes me think that Conn was selling the basses they did at a loss and that a bass was a special order item.

    Before the advent of teh Intarwebs, I was aware of a couple hundred pre-WWII vintage basses still around. Contrabasses? 13. Of course, both are now being produced by a few companies.

    Just an opinion.
  16. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    Well, let's review the protocol that I used.

    My folks attended a variety of high schools in a city that was in the middle tier of US population centers back in the 1930s. In the photos of the school bands in their annuals could clearly be seen three (I think) different bass saxophones.

    (They were identifiable at the distances of the group photos by the dents and such seen on the horns - we in the Japanese tank interest group use the same system (fender dents and damage) to assign identities to old Japanese vehicles, kinda like the nicks on whale flukes).

    I postulated a number of urban high school students for the period (based upon census data obtained for me by our census guru at the DOL), divvied them up into hypothetical urban "high schools", assigned one bass sax to each high school, then slashed the figure well down below half (since obviously not every wealthy urban school unit bothered to purchase one.

    With all of that done, the number that should have been (in the right environment of the wealthier urban high schools that were keeping up with the trends in music at the time) was well up there in the thousands range.

    The question remains: Where the hell did they all go?

    We can move this elsewhere, of course, but it's clear that some of you have sufficient command of the serial numbering system to at least come up with a rough "real" figure, both to compare to my hypothetical one, and to serve as a starting point to determine where they are all squirreled away.

    (It is entirely possible that Helen is hoarding them all, up in her urban apartment. After all, I might be accused of the same thing when it comes to full Boehm clarinets.)

    Inquiring minds want to know...
  17. Carl H.

    Carl H. Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

    I figure most of them went to the war scrap drives. The mindset back then was that new was better and old fashioned had to go. I know a number of seniors who tell of doing unspeakable things to antiques in the interest of being more up to date - and not that long ago either.

    So YOU must be the reason I can't find an affordable FB A or case for a pair!! :wink:
  18. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    I applied to Selmer, and they customized a case just for me. I don't know if Stan is still there or not, or I'd have inquired.
  19. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    As I mentioned above, I was aware of a few hundred pre-WWII basses remaining in (say) the mid 1980s.

    An analogy: I recently heard that a relatively popular model car from maybe 25ish years ago had just gone extinct in the UK. The last one was scrapped. One can assume production into the tens of thousands. All those went away in a lot less time.

    Because the bass sax is a huge beast, I'd be willing to bet that they got more than their fair share of abuse. That's one of the reasons I never saw many old Sousaphones and/or tubae in the high schools I attended and the ones I did see were fairly beat up. I can easily see some band director making the decision to throw out a bass sax that's badly dented. Heck, I seem to remember someone here saying he/she rescued a bass from a scrap bin. I could also see someone saying, "Y'know, this takes up an awful lot of room and nobody wants to play it ..." and tossing out the horn.

    There are no serial number charts for Conn or Buescher that I'm aware of that have production numbers for each saxophone pitch. However, I can accept the idea that there were thousands of basses produced between 1895 (Conn Wonder introduced) and 1930 (Great Depression). Conn and Buescher produced about a half million saxophones in that time, which is why you see so many of them on eBay and Craig's List.
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