Untitled Document
     
Advertisement Click to advertise with us!
     

H-Couf and Armstrong, revisited

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
For about the zillionth time. I'm editing this, too. August 25, 2018.

So, I've been rebuilding the Keilwerth section on Helen's/my pic gallery, as it's one of the most popular sections. When I started doing file uploads, I started seeing some interesting horns float by and that made me want to sit down and do a bit more horn research. It took a long while for me to sort pics and upload new stuff, so I finally have some good info to share:

The real lineup of H-Couf stencil vs. Keilwerth is ...
* H-Couf Superba I = Keilwerth Toneking Exclusive (I've also seen one engraved "Toneking EX" or "Toneking Exklusiv") Toneking Special.
* H-Couf Superba II = Keilwerth Toneking Special Toneking.
* H-Couf Royalist = A whole lot of different things.

I'm not going to go down the Superba I and II rabbit hole, yet. Let's get the Royalist out of the way, first.

Keilwerth made at least two versions of the Royalist. You can tell the difference by looking at the low Eb and C keys. There's this one, which is almost definitely a "The New King" and this one, which is ... something. Here are your choices:

* A "The New King Special," minus the altissimo F# key and rolled tone holes.
* A "The New King," with the updated "H-Couf Superba"-style keywork.
* An Amati-made horn.

Caveats:
* The H-Couf Superba-style keywork was added to all Keilwerth horns at almost exactly sn 68,000 (1971). You can actually check me! Go here. The 67633 horn has old-style keywork. 68374 has new.
* Mostly confirming what Helen's already mentioned in her article, The New King model was dropped around sn 68,000 (1971). Latest horn I have pics of is 61638 from 1969, which is the year Mr. Keilwerth is going for. That 1971 year is waaay too tempting, though.

There were definitely Royalists made by Borgani and others. I've seen them. I doubt Amati made the Royalist because the Royalists I picture at least have Keilwerth serial numbers.

Amati or Armstrong, themselves, may have made the Royalist I and Royalist II because those DON'T have Keilwerth serial numbers. Or maybe Keilwerth gave Armstrong specs on how to make the horns.

What I also find interesting is that there appear to have been "The New King" and "Toneking" horns available at the same time as the Toneking Exclusive, Toneking Special, and The New King Special. Mind you, neither the Toneking nor The New King have an altissimo F# key or rolled tone holes.

Mind you, there was some model overlap: the latest "Angel Wing" The New King I have pics of is 50051 (1965). The first The New King with the standard, boring, sheet-metal keyguards I have pics of is 51915 (1965). The first The New King Special I have pics of is 42380 (1961). That 1961 date bothers me. Either Armstrong started ordering H-Coufs in 1961 or earlier or Keilwerth was just coming out with new models because they wanted to confuse folks. Researchers, at least.
 
Last edited:

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
You can see above that I crossed-out a couple of lines.

I've been trading e-mails with the webmaster of a Keilwerth brasswind website. I made an offhand comment about the Toneking Exclusive and he asked why I thought it came into being in the 1960s. I really could only point to the keywork and say, "That's when the keywork changed." Neither he nor I had any pics of Toneking Exclusive horns earlier than the 1980s. I also had mislabeled a couple of Keilwerth catalogs/flyers. One's from 1979 and there's no Toneking Exclusive. In addition to all that, Uwe Ladwig also mentions a 1982-1985 production date here (please note that some of the details aren't exactly correct).

So, never let it be said that I don't take responsibility for being wrong.
 

Helen

Content Expert Saxophones
Staff member
Administrator
I'm curious about Herb Couf horns, since I know very little about them--but am about to become a Superba II bari owner.

When did the Superba IIs get introduced to the American market? The reason I ask, is b/c the bari I'm looking at is engraved H. Couf Superba II on the bell, and Made in Germany 61XXX on the back. The JK serial # chart tells us that this horn was made in 1968, but I didn't think the Superba IIs were available that early already.

Paul Maslin---whose shop I'm buying the sax through--and I were kicking around some theories yesterday, and he can't remember the IIs being around that early, although the Is certainly were. He does know that the I & II were sold concurrently at some point--but again, he's not sure of that early. When he saw this horn's early serial #, he too looked up JK's serial # charts to check the date of manufacturing.

Paul is theorizing that perhaps due to the horn's unusual finish (black nickel plate with gold plated keys), that this sax could simply be an anomaly, and I'm guessing, one of the first Superba II baris on the market.

I have not come across anything to indicate that JK altered the serial numbers that they put on Couf horns. To the best of my knowledge, and from everything that I have read, JK's serial #'s remained consecutive.

Any insight or theories that anyone would like to share would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
 

Gandalfe

Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
Administrator
I'd love to know too. From the "Herb Couf" Wikipedia entry we see:

1965–1980 H Couf stenciled instruments.

For a few years the Superbas were available in black lacquer. The engraving was done after the lacquer which provided a stunning visual effect of being able to see the engraving from a distance. These models had metal thumbrests and were probably late 70's models.[1]
 

Helen

Content Expert Saxophones
Staff member
Administrator
I know I really like the Superba tenor you had Gandalfe, it was a I wasn't it? Although the difference between the I and II in altos and tenors is obvious--with the most obvious difference being the rolled tone holes--in baris the differences are much less pronounced.

Times like this I miss Sarge the most. He loved all things JK, and had a great deal of knowledge about the subtleties between models and sub-models. He would absolutely love the horn I'm getting.

BTW, in the 1979 catalogue I have from JK on my website, they do list black nickel plate with gold plated keys on a completely separate page. The price is noted to be 20% more than that of a basic lacquer finish horn.

So it would make sense that if a customer wanted to special order a horn from Couf, he/she could do so. We know that they offered Couf bass saxes--which too would have been special orders, since all JK bass saxes were--so a special finish would not be much of a stretch.
 

Gandalfe

Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
Administrator
I know I really like the Superba tenor you had Gandalfe, it was a I wasn't it?
Actually the Couf horn was my all time fav every since my high school daze. So I had a matched set of tenor and alto Superba I's.

DSC00034.JPG

But then I made a huge mistake and tried the Selmer Ref 54 and have been using them ever since. My friends have them now. Charlie has the alto and Steve has the tenor.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
I was absolutely positive I posted in here last week. Oh, well.

I'm fairly sure this beast is black lacquer. This one's black nickel plate. I'm essentially going on which one looks less shiny (lacquer) and has more wear (lacquer).

We've got some very early Superbas in our gallery, Helen. I really don't have that much of a problem with them coming out around 1965. However, for a brief time, Keilwerth had three or four models at once. That was also right around 1965. "Model overlap."

I'm pretty sure I've seen one, but it hasn't been recently: the Superba I and II soprano, bari, and basses that are on our gallery all have straight tone holes. I've no idea why the Is don't have RTH and I don't know what the difference is between, say, a Superba I bari and a Superba II bari. Bow? Bell design? There are both low A and low Bb versions of each, too, so it's not that. What about those sopranos, then?
 

Helen

Content Expert Saxophones
Staff member
Administrator
Mmm.... Well the logistics have been worked out. The $'s paid, and the H. Couf will be shipped on the 22nd. (Just as soon as my job as administrator of cat asthma medication is over.) ;)

Because the horn basically looks like NOS, I've opted to upgrade the case. We're not really sure if the case it's in is original or not anyway since it doesn't have a H. Couf label on it, and it isn't brown---then what case the Superba IIs originally came in is not totally clear at this moment. I've opted to have the horn shipped in a BAM HighTech bari case. This gives the horn the best chance of making of the trip to the West Coast unscathed.

Hey, it's like I always tell people: If you drop thousands on a horn, don't cheapen out on a case or a stand. You owe it to the sax to give it the best protection possible.

The BAM HighTech bari case I currently have is a first generation one. I knew the prices had gone up--like double--since I first got mine in the early 2000s. However, both my Mark VI and my Martin Committee III have been saved serious repair work while in the case. I know the case does its job. Fingers crossed for my new baby making its trip from Paul's shop to WA with no ill effects.
 

Helen

Content Expert Saxophones
Staff member
Administrator
Pete, if you ever see a H. Couf brochure on eBay please let me know. (Or you find one online in its entirety great!)

I'm going to put out some feelers to some people I know here in the Metro Vancouver region who might have some knowledge about these horns. Sadly, the stores that used to sell them, no longer exist.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
Pete, if you ever see a H. Couf brochure on eBay please let me know. (Or you find one online in its entirety great!)
Let me check a couple places. I might be able to find some.

+1 on getting a good case, too. I know my horn was older and a stencil, so no Keilwerth case.

Every time I sit down to start writing something about Keilwerth, I find a fun new rabbit hole to go down.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
Per 2012 Keilwerth catalog:

1962
Founder Julius Keilwerth dies at age 68. The company was taken over by his son Josef, who studied at the music school in Graslitz and learned the woodwind instrument making skill in his father´s factory.

1965
An association between the Keilwerth factory and Herb Couf began. Herb and Josef Keilwerth signed an agreement which lasted until 1987, whereby Keilwerth manufactured saxophones for Herb with specifications designed for the American market. They were known as the H. Couf Superba I, Superba II, and Royalist. Within a few years Keilwerth was recognized by players as being in the top echelon of saxophones. In 1965 they sold their fifty-thousandth saxophone. By 1970, the company had begun concentrating on the production of saxophones only.
 

Attachments

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
http://www.vintageadbrowser.com/music-ads-1970s
https://cafesaxophone.com/threads/h-couf-superba-ii-bari.25585/ :p

Anyhow, that's the extent I've done on checking. I think I covered all the bases OK.

Inverting your question, the Superba I is based on the Toneking Special. Earliest? 42xxx. The Superba II is based on the New King Special. Earliest? 47xxx. Mind you, I have pics of only one horn engraved "The New King Special." Mind you, I wasn't planning on doing a big breakdown on Superbas, but maybe I should ...
 

Helen

Content Expert Saxophones
Staff member
Administrator
Something interesting that I've since learned from Brian at Get A Sax, has thrown the model of my new horn into question. Brian and I were exchanging emails about something else, when I tossed in a question about the H. Couf baris and the serial # of this horn I'm getting.

He mentioned that on some Superba I baris he has seen, the I is done with 2 lines on the "I" so that it actually looks a bit like a II in the way that it is engraved on the altos and tenors. He was wondering whether my bari couldn't be a one of these, and actually be a Superba I.

Unfortunately Brian doesn't remember ever remember owning a Superba II bari, so hasn't seen one up close. To make matters more confusing, the pics on Paul's site are pretty small, thus making the details harder to see.

The horn is being shipped tomorrow, so fingers crossed it makes it from the Evanston to the West Coast unscathed. With any luck it should arrive by the end work, so the answers to the question: is it a I or II may well be answered in a week from now.

However, given what Brian is saying, and given the pics I've looked at of the Superba I baris, I realize that they never had a number of the features that instantly ID'd the I's as such anyway. (E.G., but not limited to the bell to body bracing and the rolled tone holes.) This combined with the extremely low serial #, has me leaning towards the thinking this may very well be a Superba I after all.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
Arabic numerals:
Screenshot_2.png ... superba2-arabic.png

Roman numerals:
Roman.png ... Superba2-Roman.png

Helen's (Roman numeral):
HelensRoman.png

Click the thumbnails to embiggen.

mentioned that on some Superba I baris he has seen, the I is done with 2 lines on the "I" so that it actually looks a bit like a II in the way that it is engraved on the altos and tenors. He was wondering whether my bari couldn't be a one of these, and actually be a Superba I.

Unfortunately Brian doesn't remember ever remember owning a Superba II bari, so hasn't seen one up close. To make matters more confusing, the pics on Paul's site are pretty small, thus making the details harder to see.
The pics aren't too small to see the engraving. It's a definite Roman numeral II (two) on your horn, Helen. However, I don't think that's a "deal-breaker" in any sense.

As a passing note, it seems a bit random when Arabic or Roman numerals were used. Some of the horns I looked at were early, some late, some middle. As a "for instance," because I still have it up on my screen, the horn engraved "Superba 2" is a 1974 low A baritone.

Anyhow, one of the things I don't have a lot of pics of are New King Specials, in any pitch. Interestingly, I also don't have bari or soprano Toneking Special pics.

I make this statement, above:
The H-Couf Superba-style keywork was added to all Keilwerth horns at almost exactly sn 68,000 (1971). You can actually check me! Go here. The 67633 horn has old-style keywork. 68374 has new.
This didn't appear on the Superba baritones for a while later, as is generally the case for any pitch that isn't an alto or tenor. I don't think this 83601 horn has the new keywork, either. This 88000 (yes, "000") horn does. These are both Superba 1s. Neither has rolled tone holes. Note that the bell-to-body braces are also different (the old style is a letter "I" and the new style is a letter "T"), which I think I've mentioned to you, but not on the forum.

Hiding in this 65760 Superba I batch of pics is a price list. No Superba IIs are listed. Here's a 64031 Superba II soprano, so no cause for excitement, yet :D. I'll do some more searching and see if I can find a Superba II alto or tenor from before 65760.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
I'm packing it in for the night. Final results:

* I do have a bunch more H-Couf pics I can upload. They may or may not have serial numbers pictured/listed. Again, I have no problem either way with saying that that the Superba I was introduced before the II. Helen's bari is just the earliest IIs I've seen.
* I'm definitely going to put more quotes around "stencil," if you want to consider the Superbas stencils of the New King Special and Tone King Special. There's quite a bit of keywork difference. I've also got enough Keilwerth Special horns that I need to somehow shoehorn into the fray, to say nothing of the DJH Modified horns.
* So, looking at the 56781 horn, above, there are at least three "series" of Superba, which is kinda cool.
* I did do a check for New King Special and Toneking Special horns. I didn't find any sopranos, basses, or baritones. Check out the 1979 Keilwerth catalog. No listing of a Toneking Special soprano, bari, or bass. Hmmm.

One of the real problems is that we don't have a good idea of what the differences between the Superba 1 and 2 and the New King Sepecial and Toneking Special are supposed to be. If it's rolled tone holes, why aren't they on Superba 2 sopranos, baris, or basses? If it's a different-sized bow, where does that leave the Superba 2 soprano? My ~opinion~ is that there probably weren't Superba 1 SBB and someone at WT Armstrong said, "Our top line doesn't have SBB. We need to fix this!" and Keilwerth/WT Armstrong just engraved the horns based on if the person thought he was going to get a Superba 1 or 2. I think that's the easiest solution, unless we've got folks out there with a couple Superba 1 and 2 baris and sopranos around the same serial numbers and want to do some measuring for us. Brian seems to see a bunch of H-Coufs at Get-A-Sax, as does Matt Stohrer. Anyone want to get a note out to them?
 
Top Bottom