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Global FAQ: Horn Value


Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
EDIT (11/10/2018):
I realized that I never posted this. I'm surprised I didn't. So, here it goes: don't expect your horn to be worth thousands of dollars. That's also regardless of age. So, please don't be mad at us when we tell you this.

Now, back to the show:


The most often asked question I get is, "How much is $horn worth?" I really dislike answering this question because the people asking it are generally asking it about a real piece of junk, the answer is not going to be to their liking and they're going to end up not liking me. I could do without that. So I'm going to TELL YOU how to determine how much your horn is worth.

1. Go to eBay. Register.
2. Look for *closed* ads with pictures for the same make and model instrument as yours in the same condition as yours. That last part's important. Condition can add or subtract a LOT of value.
3. You're going to want an average. Write down a list of #2. The larger the list, the better.
4. Fire up Google or your favorite search engine. Start searching dealers for the same make and model instrument as yours in the same condition as yours. Use dealers that have pictures on their websites.

Aside: So, you think dealers charge too much of a premium? Nope. MOST don't.

In most cases, dealers realize that eBay and other online auctions can provide about the same quality and a lot more quantity at a good price, so they've got to be competitive. This means that a dealer's horn is either a) in better condition or b) is just priced competitively. In most cases. There are still some dealerships that think that based on former clientele or based on who they have (had) working there, they can charge a premium. These places are fairly obvious. Avoid them.

5. You're going to want an average. Write down a list of #4. The larger the list, the better.
6. Add up #3 and #5. Take an average. Presto! That's how much your horn's worth.

* There are the rare cases where you can't find a specific horn anywhere. I can help with those.
* Here's another rule-of-thumb that works about as well as any rule of thumb: your student horn is worth squat, except if it's a Yamaha. In which case, it's worth about 1/3 what you paid for it, new.
* Here's another rule-of-thumb that works about as well as any rule of thumb: your intermediate horn is worth about 1/3 what you paid for it, new. Even if you bought it in 1943 for $50.


Update on 08/11/2012

I realized that I've not spelled this out specifically. Sorry 'bout that:

Your mouthpiece or accessory's value can exceed that of the instrument. As an example, I went to the WWBW website and looked for their highest priced one there. Almost $600. I've seen vintage mouthpieces sell for easily twice that.

Not to confuse you further, but there are other 3rd party products that are out there that can be very pricey, including saxophone necks, bocals for double-reeds, necks and barrels for clarinets, etc.

Now, chances are fairly low that you'll pick up a student instrument from someplace for $9.99 and there'll be a $1200 mouthpiece in the case, but it has happened before. So, just something else to look for to help you determine value.


Update on 05/21/2012

So, what if you're just trying to find a horn in the $x to $y price range?

1. Open eBay. Click on the Advanced search link. It's in the upper right corner.
2. In the "Enter keywords or item number" box, enter something generic, like "sax" or "sax*"
3. Optional, but recommended, for "In this category:" choose "Musical Instruments and Gear." I recommend this because you'll find a lot of clothing (Gunne Sax, to be specific) and other non-instrumental things.
4. Check either "Title and description" or "Completed listings" under "Search including." The former selection will allow you to find stuff that's currently available and the latter will give you an historical viewpoint for value.
5. Under "Price," check the box for "Show items priced from" and enter some dollar amounts.

Everything else is optional. When you've finished making selections, hit the "Search" button at the bottom of the page.


Update on 10/18/2008:

If you want me to evaluate your horn and give you an idea of how much it's worth, you MUST send me pictures, as requested on this thread. I also ask that you PayPal me a donation (in whatever amount).
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Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Here's part 2.

Monetary value does not equal playability value.

Here are two examples.

One of the most vastly undervalued saxophones is something called the "Buffet SuperDynaction". Alto versions commonly sell in the $500 range. These horns are easily the equivalent of any top-of-the-line professional model that costs $2000+.

Conversely, slap the name "Selmer" on a saxophone, and you can get some deluded souls paying $1500+ for a Modele 22. Made in 1922. With 1922 keywork. And intonation. And handling. Yes, it has decent tone, but so do about a dozen other horns and a half-dozen others from the same era have better intonation and a couple even have better keywork, too. You're paying for the name.

While I'm obviously "the saxophone guy", there's no reason why this "maxim" shouldn't extend to other instruments. It's not always "you get what you pay for". It's "you get what you pay for, after you pay for the marketing mark-up".


Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
I've got at least one more part to go, regarding value, and that's regarding broken stuff, relacquers, replated and other things.

My college course (which I'm attending, for the third stint, after about 20 years) ended tonight, so I have two weeks of less pain. I'll get to it, soon.

Oh. And I just used "Selmer" because it was the most popular target. In the saxophone world, for instance, Conn is becoming an almost equivalent target, at this moment. It really is "insert flavor-of-the-month here".


Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Missing Keys

I get a lot of e-mails from folks that have bought (never "about to buy") but bought an instrument of some kind and it's perfect ... except it's missing 95% of its keywork.

To a certain extent, if you've bought an instrument that is MISSING a part, you can try to find (usually) on eBay a beater instrument of the same make and model and around the same serial number that has that part intact and just swap the parts. That is going to be the cheapest, easiest and best thing.

A lot of folks also ask something like, "I've got a 1925 Conn New Wonder in perfect shape, but it's missing the low C# key. I've got a 1925 Buescher True Tone that's a beater. Can I get the C# to fit?"

If you have some wire snips, a soldering iron and a Dremel tool, yes. I've seen several horns that have mis-matched parts. It doesn't look good. It doesn't play good and I wouldn't buy your horn. So that makes me value it at $0.


Missing Necks, Barrels or Joints

The easiest and cheapest solution is to do what I mentioned above: you can try to find (usually) on eBay a beater instrument of the same make and model and around the same serial number that has that part intact and just swap the parts. However, do note it's possible that these parts may have serial numbers that are supposed to match the rest of the horn. This can put a ding on your horn's overall value if the serial numbers don't match. Playability? May not matter.

Now, there are several third-party companies that make saxophone necks and clarinet barrels. Say I'm gonna buy a Selmer Centered Tone clarinet on eBay. One has an original barrel and the other has a third-party barrel. Everything else is about the same. It's a pretty easy choice that the one with the original part will be valued higher. The only exception to this rule seems to be flutes and their headjoints -- in most cases. Or bassoons and their bocals.

Mouthpieces are generally not included in this discussion. I'm not a mouthpiece guy and each mouthpiece can be valued independently of the instrument. (And while we're on the topic, don't sell used reeds unless you have an exotic instrument that someone will have to copy from to make a new one, like a Sarrusophone or a rackett. Selling used reeds should get you put in jail for breaking health laws.)


Bands, Cracks and Dents

Steve Sklar would be a better choice to talk about this in detail, as he's a real repairman and I'm not, but I've seen horns that have severe dents -- not splits -- repaired to almost-new, including instruments hit by cars. However, with wooden instruments, a band on the horn (which is usually to fix a severe split) means to look for a different instrument.

The other thing to look at would be WHERE the damage is. When I see damage next to toneholes, I start to worry about expensive repair bills.

Additionally, there are multiple families of instruments that may have rolled tone holes. If the tone holes are filed down, that severely and negatively impacts the value of the horn.



Relacquering can be done a variety of different ways, but the most common is to mechanically strip the old lacquer, mechanically buff the horn and then apply a new coat of lacquer. This a) removes metal, b) makes the engravings dull (or completely eliminates them) and c) can damage the tone holes, leaving you with an instrument that is either unplayable or just has intonation problems.

A lot of people will not buy a relacquered instrument, period.

At the very least, consider relacquering a significant hit in price. And don't tell me your relacquered horn is "minty". It's not. It's relacquered.

MOST saxophones, up until approximately 1930, were not originally sold in lacquer. They were lacquered at a later date. That's not to call them "relacquers", necessarily, but -- especially if the horn's an American make -- if the horn is that old and it's lacquered, you want to check it very, very closely. Prefer these instruments in some plating or bare brass.



Replating can ADD value to your horn. But remember, it's expensive and is generally part of an overhaul package. IIRC, replating an alto saxophone and re-cutting the engraving is close to $1500 US. That's not really bad if you've got a horn that's been REALLY good, but you need overhauled or if someone's given you a desirable make/model of an instrument that you've determined could be worth well beyond the overhaul price in perfect shape. However, it depends: I'd almost rather pay $75 for the junker horn that's a make and model I really want and have it restored the way I want by the people I want.


Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Another quickie chapter: Vintage.

There is a difference between "vintage" and "old". To me, when you say that you have a "vintage instrument" it should ....

a. No longer be produced, anywhere.
b. Have been considered a professional make and model when it was made.
c. Have value as a professional make and model, today, as a playable instrument or have value as a collectible make and model (for instance, a high-pitch Conn New Wonder alto saxophone in Virtuoso Deluxe finish -- a very expensive, elaborate, gold plated, heavily engraved finish with additional pearl keytouches -- is still "vintage", even though it has virtually no playibility value).
d. Have maintained its original value, adjusted for inflation, or increased in value.

"Vintage", to me, should have the connotation of a fine wine: "It's an excellent vintage."

Or, using an analogy from the automobile world, a 1934 Cord is vintage. A 1972 Ford Pinto is old.


Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
And maybe one more:

It amuses me -- in a sick way -- when I see eBay ads that contain copy in the form of, "This instrument is a copy of the (insert famous name make and model)!" That really may be the case, sometimes: for instance, I can successfully argue that the entirety of the German saxophone market up until, oh, 1960 or so, was based on making very good copies of the Conn saxophones. However, when you see a statement like, "This instrument is a copy of the (insert famous name make and model)!" in an eBay ad, the seller is really saying, "This instrument is kinda junk, but I'm going to compare it to (insert famous name make and model) in hopes of generating hits."

Which is a shame. Some of those instruments don't deserve that kind of copy because they stand up just fine on their own merits, but because of the sensationalist ad copy, a lot of people (including me) would not even bother bidding.

(Unless the person screws up in the wrong direction and does offer a really, really nice pro horn for $7. Of course.)

On eBay, several years ago, there was someone that was taking some relatively decent saxophones and engraving them in the style of other "super pro" instruments. And selling them as such. Moral: if you're buying from eBay, you'd better know what you're looking at -- including how much it'll cost to fix -- and pay accordingly. If you don't want the hassle, browse the web for a respectable dealer and buy on a "trade-in guarantee" basis: if you really don't like the horn, you can turn it in for something else (a lot of dealers have this policy). As I've mentioned above, most dealers are NOT charging a great premium, if any at all, over eBay.


Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
I can change it to "1971", if you'd like, Ed. I thought you had an AMC Gremlin. No offense intended. :)

I should have used "Pierce Arrow" instead of Cord. I used to live around the corner from the P-A factory.

BTB, I've owned about 60 cars in my lifetime -- I'm a couple years younger than Ed and I didn't get my license until age 22. Ex-wife was a mechanic and we always had a few cars in various states of repair.

Best car I've owned was probably my 1984 Caprice. Didn't pay much for it, never had to do a single repair, nice ride. The #2 spots go to the (new) 1990s Buick Regals I've owned. These had GMCs best engine evar, the 3800 V6. Lost one in the divorce, but wife #2 owned a newer one. I totaled that one :(

Worst car? Unquestionably the 1984 Fiero. I bought it because it had a new engine and looked really, really nice. However, it didn't have real power steering (electric assisted), the parts/maintnance for the car was outrageously expensive (probably because you had to jack up the car's body to work on the engine) and it broke down on a weekly basis. Second worse was a 2002 Olds Alero that had an electrical problem that'd cause the car either not to start or stop working at inopportune times -- like when you're on the freeway doing 60. And three different dealerships couldn't fix it, even after changing out wiring harnesses and computers.
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Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
Gold Plating is very nice on an instrument. But with some older techs (in the old days, I don't know if they still do this to this extent), a saxophone has tonehole redressing everytime it is repadded. Why? - it could just be part of a routine. (half repad or full)

Normally one would check for level toneholes before dressing them again. Such as a pros instrument that gets regular maintenace. But some techs simply redressed them each and every time. This constant tonehole leveling/dressing can lower the tonehole to where it could get too low for further maintenance/dressing. After they get too low the only way to address this problem then is to goldplate the instrument. (note: I understand the (first silverplate then gold) goldplate as it adds metal to the height of the tonehole ... but then why not dress the tonehole only when it needs it ? - i'm sure there's different sides to this)

When someone asks me about a horn that is goldplated (and it's not a known option) I tell them to pay particular close attention to the tonehole height. It could be a horn where the past repairman always dressed the toneholes after each overhaul in it's lifetime.

They are few and far between but few look for that .. but it was something addressed in a repair class I took years ago.

This is one such example of the Gold Plating on a mk VI where the GP was needed after much maintenance

all i'm saying here folks is that sometimes gold plating was used at the end of a maintenance life cycle of a sax. So it's just something else to look for and keep in mind when shopping around.


Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
Clarinets - banding, pinning & metal end caps.


Banding and pinning significantly reduce the value of a clarinet. Significantly. did I mention significantly ? As in alot.

Banding and pinning are basically the same solution to the same problem, though different means of accomplishing that.

When a clarinet cracks (and I'll address this issue of how it cracks in another thread - and hopefully put a link here) it normally cracks on the outside. Hopefully the crack does not go all the way to the bore, and not through a tonehole. but normally it occurs on the barrel or the top of the top joint.

A band can be installed on top of the wood, or flush with the wood (you cut a path in the wood on a lathe before placing a band on it). In short, it is basically crimping the body shut. bands are considered ugly. If bands are "over crimped" it can alter the shape of the bore.

Pins are installed by carefully drilling a hole in the wood across a crack - usually in 45 degree angles to each pin and usually every 1/2 of the crack. Then a threaded pin is screwed into the hole. The hole is then covered with epoxy, superglue/wood filler etc. sometimes the body gets restained and pins are very hard to detect. Some installersr drill through the body so they know where the pin started and ended, others you only see the entry.

The pins basically hold shut the crack.

Either way, banding or pinning greatly decreases the overall value.

If a crack goes through a tonehole then a tech can attempt to repair the tonehole or replace the tonehole. It all depends.

But people simply do not like to buy clarinets with a band or pin(s). On that certain auction site it usually isn't mentioned when a clarinet has been pinned (the seller may not know as it's 2nd hand to them). bands are easily distinguishable.

not all clarinets were manufactuered with end caps. When I see a nice vintage clarinet with an end cap it usually means it was damaged and thus fixed up. You simply have to know which clarinets were made with end caps and which ones weren't. But (not to generalize too much but I am) vintage professional clarinets did not have end caps. the only brand I know off the top of my head that consistently did it was Selmer USA and the Signet line.

Most of the time buyers are unaware of this. Personally, I avoid vintage clarinets with end caps when purchasing them.

Hope that helps ....


Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Sometimes I wish I had a digital camera.

First, thanks very much, Steve, for confirming my earlier statement about banding (and pinning, which I didn't mention). I actually have played ONE clarinet that was banded -- in two places -- that played in tune, but the majority don't. And remember, folks, banding and pinning could apply to any wooden instruments.

Now, regarding the picture ...

I had to think for a second what "end caps" were. On my wife's Selmer Signet 100 clarinet, the tenon -- the thing that you connect one joint of a clarinet into the other -- has a metal "cap". As I said, if I had a camera ....

I'm also virtually positive that my first clarinet, a brand spankin' new wooden Signet circa 1981 didn't have the caps. Moral: you had better check if your horn is supposed to have 'em or not. (Some brief Googling also suggests that some oboes have metal end caps.)


Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
as I said it varies per manufacturer. The Soloists and Specials were more consistent with factory end caps. The lower 100 was less consistent .. from just perusing ebay over time.

but caps vary greatly whether factory or a fix.

For example:
I have an old Selmer which was capped by someone a long time ago i presume. The cap was simply manufactured (hammered from the looks of it) from a flat piece of metal. molded to the end of the tenon. In one case the metal actually protrudes into the bore thus affecting the airstream and I'm sure the tone (i still have to fix it). On another end it covers up a splintered end with no fix to the splintered end (could epoxy, or a variety of other solutions, fill it and make it smooth bore again)

Another end cap on a vintage Leblanc Dynamic H allows the wood to continue to the next joint. So it's more of a band. This was factory.

another type of end cap could be machined from metal and replace say 1/8 inch of wood.

this brings on caps that replace the end and are also a sleeve .... so the tenon cork would actually go on part of it- as it could be machined to identically replace a tenon end.

Then you get into ebonite or even wood sleeves to replace tenon issues, or complete tenon replacements.

I'll try to put together a bunch of pictures showing these different type of scenarios.

in other words, buyer beware out there. Just like anything else, you have to know what you are looking at and ask the right questions. I never buy anything on ebay if i suspect one thing at all .. there's always going to be another one sooner or later.


Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
I just finished posting on another thread and I liked the way it came out. It sums up all of the above fairly nicely.
Me said:
Roger Aldridge said:
So, good deals can be had on vintage or used instruments. Of course, I have sad stories as well! However, live and learn. Happily, I've learned from many of my earlier mistakes.
That's a bit of my point. You and I are experienced enough to look at a horn in an ad and say, "This thing looks like it's going to need X, Y and Z. Those repairs will be $150. The horn is only $50. It'll play as good as a $600 horn when it's fixed. I'll do it."

Nancy Clarinet Player may not have enough experience to make the determination that the repairs aren't going to be that expensive and should budget for that full overhaul, instead, if she's going to let her fingers do the shopping on eBay. And we haven't even mentioned banding, pinning, epoxying or what have you. Hey, if I didn't know better, I'd think a band might just be a kewl accessory. You and I know it means "look for a different horn". (I mention some of these "if the horn has this, keep looking" things on my "horn value" thread.)

Or, a bit more "graphically":

* The horn has a max monetary value of $1000 in perfect condition.
* The horn has a playability value of a $1500 horn (i.e., "Experts think the horn plays as good as a ...").

If max playability value is less than the purchase price of the horn + the cost to repair it AND is not much greater than the max monetary value, it's probably a keeper. Otherwise, you're probably going to find a better deal, elsewhere.
eBay: not for the faint of heart.
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end caps


Steve, you may recall a recent message re Thibouville Lamy clarinet I recently received. Interestingly the tenon receiving joint (mortice presumably in woodworking terms) is completely silver/metal mounted. So the cork tenon slides into a metal sleeve. THe part that is visible when assembled (the band) is thicker than usual and gives a nice solid appearance. The whole construction surely is more sound as there is virtually nil wear to the receiving joint and the smooth surface must reduce considerably any wear on the tenon/cork. Why did no one else take this up? Is it cost? looks a lot neater to me, and from an engineering angle pretty good. Dose it affect sound at all? will posr photo if desired.

By the way, my B&H 2-20 just arrived today, has banded tenons all through and is very very good condition.


Old King Log
Staff member
All of my "full Boehm" clarinets employ similar construction, so it's nothing new under the sun. Only if you stick to "standard professional instruments" will you see nothing more than a band and a tenon without a cap.
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