Vintage Orsi Catalogue

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a reader of my blog who happened to have a vintage Orsi catalogue. Since I have written both here in my weblog, and on my main site, about my La Monte tenor (an Orsi stencil), he thought I thought I might appreciate copies of the catalogue’s saxophone pages.

Unfortunately there is no date given in the catalogue, so we can’t be sure when it was published, but the owner believes that it might be from the 1960s. He is planning on writing Orsi to see if they might be able to provide information about the year of publication.

For ease of viewing, I have converted the PDF pages to JPEGs. All the images are used by permission.

The Orsi catalogue shows an interesting variety of saxophones available. Beginning with their student model altos and tenors, it appears that they offered both low B and low Bb models in the student line.

student-models

In their pro line of horns, what is immediately obvious is that the bell keys were located on the right side of the horn.

professional-alto-tenor

Orsi certainly offered a wide variety of soprano saxophones. Again, the most obvious difference was the presence or absence of the low Bb.

The left pinkie tables look like a real ergonomic nightmare in the low B variety of horns. Here in the sopranos, as well as in the tenor student model pictured above, there appears to be a gap between the keys. This would make playing fast, technical passages nearly impossible on these horns.

soprano-models

In the baritone department, Orsi offered both low Bb and Low A varieties.

low-bb-low-a-baritone-models

Here is Orsi’s bass sax offering at the time. Note it goes to low Bb.

bass

Orsi is of course known to be one of only a couple of contrabass saxophone makers in the world. This was the contra they offered at the time the catalogue was printed.

contrabass

Orsi was established in 1836, and continues to produce musical instruments in its factory just outside of Milan, Italy. What is unique about Orsi, is that they will make any instrument for you that is no longer in current production. For example, have you always coveted a  contrabass sarrusophone? Orsi used to manufacture them, but don’t anymore. However, they will make one for you upon request.

…this is just my blog. My “real” website is www.bassic-sax.info. If you’re looking for sax info, you should check it out too.There’s lots there!

© 2009 – 2013, Helen. All rights reserved.

Helen

Helen Kahlke is a professional horn player and sax teacher who lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia. She plays soprano, alto, C melody, tenor, baritone, and bass saxophones.

18 Comments:

  1. Thanks Helen…much appreciated!!

  2. Hi Helen, I’ve just restored an Orsi Stencil with Revelle etched on the bell. It is identical to your A8860 With a serial of B9059. The one difference I can see is there is a metal palm key for the right had rather than a Pearl you pictured. There is “very little” on the web concerning Revelle as an Orsi. If I took a series of pictures, would you like to list this one on your page….just for anyone in the future looking for info on that stencil name?

    Thanks for all the Orsi research you’ve done.

    • Hi John. Thank you for reaching out to me.

      Yes please, do send me some photos. My Orsi galleries are very out of date—as are many others I’m afraid—since I’m in the process of doing a massive gallery update ATM.

      I am very interested in seeing photos of your Orsi-made Revelle. It is one that I have heard of before, but off the top of my head, I’m not sure I have photos in my collection or not.

      Please send any photos to me at: bassic.sax.info@gmail.com

      Thanks again!….helen

      • Hello Helen,
        I have a Richmond tenor C6582, never did know anything about it’s origin (nor did anyone else) until now. I purchased it used in ’93’. Must have paid far too much for it….$300, I played around with it for a couple of years and cast it aside. Life’s obligations took precedent back at that time. Today at 63 I’ve decided to give it another toot, unfortunately it needs a full overhaul. Techs estimates run at about 800, obviously not worth it so I purchased a Shooting Star and a Martin Imperial off Ebay
        ( both enroute). I now have the Richmond stripped down, for even a novice I can see just by the pad installation/removal that the horn was not a very good one for one that may have been built around the late 60’s or early 70’s. Actually I am more amazed with the engineering that must go into the construction of these instruments. Anyway…nothing ventured nothing gained. I will attempt to do the overhaul, not a big expense, and it will allow me to be more intimate with my other two horns when I receive them.

        • I can tell you that the Orsi-made Richmond will be a better-made horn than a MexiConn. If your shooting star is from Elkhart, then it is not so easy a call to make. Depending on the condition of the Imperial—you do mean a Handcraft Imperial, right?—realistically, the Imperial will likely be better built.

          Orsi’s horns are rather under-rated. These horns have a big, fat sound and stand up really well. My La Monte was the very first saxophone that I ever owned. My parents bought it for me way back in Grade 8 so they wouldn’t have to pay rental on the Bundy any more. Today it adorns my foyer along with its mirror opposite. Wouldn’t trade it for the world.

  3. Hi Helen,
    I got an old Richmond which I believe is made by Orsi. It has serial C3625. Bought it second hand. I’ve never played saxophone before but I want to learn and this one just came at the right price (cheap haha). I have to replace a few of the pads and the mouth piece, but there’s no bumps or dents or scratches. Is it any good to learn on?
    Mave

    • Hi Mave.

      Sorry it took so long to reply to your comment. I have been on holidays for a bit since the last musical I was in the pit orchestra for, ended.

      Yup, your Richmond was indeed made by Orsi. I have photos of a Richmond alto that I have so far not had time to upload to my Bassic Sax Pix gallery. Yours looks just like it.

      Your serial # starting with a letter is a very good indicator that it is an Orsi, combined with the features that I see in the photo. All this lines up with other Orsi stencil saxes.

      Have you taken the instrument to a tech yet? What do they say about it? There is a boatload of damage that can be present in saxophones that may not detectable in even numerous, detailed HD photos to even the most trained eyes—I’ll be writing an article about this soon.

      If your tech says the horn is OK, and doesn’t need a great deal of work—b/c quite frankly, it would not be worth repairs beyond a certain point—then yes, this could be a decent instrument to learn on. I learned on an Orsi stencil sax (my was a LaMonte). As a matter of fact, I still have mine. It adorns the wall in my foyer. And yes, it is still playable.

      Orsi never made the best saxophones. However, they can hold their own against the cheap, Asian junk that is flooding our shores these days.

      Compared to say a $250 alto that you can order off eBay, this Orsi should be the better horn. Why? Well provided that there is nothing seriously wrong with it, then it has already proven that it will withstand the test of time, while most cheap Asian junk horns are well, junk. They won’t last more than a few years; many come with major flaws; some techs refuse to work on them b/c they won’t stay in regulation, so any work done on them won’t last; and the cost of repairs is higher than buying a new one.

      Do you have a saxophone teacher already? If you don’t, I strongly suggest that you find one Mave, at least in the beginning to help you so you don’t develop any bad habits that will need correction down the road. It’s always easier to learn things correctly the first time, then to unlearn bad habits, and re-learn how to do things right. This is especially true when it comes to things like embouchure.

      What I often do with my adult students is get them started for the first few months, and then cut them loose. After that it’s up to them to call and set up lessons with me when it’s convenient and when they’ve progressed through what I’ve assigned to them. I recognize that adults have more complex lives than youth, and need more flexibility in their educational pursuits.

      Hope this info helps. Ask me anything else you need to…helen

      • I suspect the economics may shift somewhat, at least down here in the Land of the Trade War. Cheap Chinese crap is already ceasing to be so cheap, making that Orsi look like an even better deal. However, I’ve had a Yamaha-made Vito alto pass through my hands – $200 in, $200 out – that was a really nice instrument which I kept around until I got a duplicate of my primary (and gigged with once), so the Orsi at $250 wouldn’t be the /best/ deal either.

    • Identical to mine, bearing the ser.# C6582. Any idea as to the year(s) of manufacture for these?

      • Sadly not. Orsi never published a serial # listing, and email queries to the company have never been replied to. Best guess is likely early 60s. Based on what I was told when I got my tenor D83XX, and the condition it was in—was told it was from the 60s—yours would have been just slightly earlier.

  4. Hello,
    I just bought for quite cheap what it look like an old Orsi Bb tenor.
    I live in Switzerland an d I considering going to Milano since the Orsi manufacture still operate today!
    the serial number is 5003, with no letter

    • Hello Chris.

      Yes, it does look like it might be a very early Orsi. The early ones didn’t have a letter before their serial #’s.

      Even the key shapes—the low C key I’m thinking of here, that looks very much like those we see in mid-century German-made horns—is what we’ve seen from Orsi in that serial # range. EG: Here is alto 4024 for comparison.

      Unfortunately I don’t have an early tenor to compare it to, since all the tenors I have already have a letter before the #. And based on the hundreds of Orsi stencil saxes I’ve seen and gathered photos of, it would appear that they didn’t make saxophones for anyone until somewhat later. (After the letter/number combo in serial #’s, which is when the keys changed in shape.)

      Orsi stopped making saxophones a number of years ago. Any emails to the company (at least those in English that I know about) have gone unanswered. If you read and write in Italian, you could always try and write them to see if they can tell you anything about your saxophone.

      I don’t know how valued Orsi saxophones are in Italy, but in the rest of the world, they are not considered all that special. They are most often sold as student-level instruments—despite many having been sold when built as higher quality.

  5. Hi

    I bought the cheapest saxophone I could find over twenty years ago (I only had the money my flute would sell for…). I have only recently started playing sax with other people and I suddenly noticed every one else has a shiny student level Yamaha and I was suddenly curious… Thank you for creating this site, I now know what my Karl Meyer Alto is. I wish I knew how old it was though…. Mine is an A3972, maybe its earlier than the 60’s? I noticed the photos of a Karl Meyer lacquered sax on your site (much bigger serial number than mine, it has the bell keys on the other side and a key near the bottom was mother of pearl round key whereas mine has a long metal key) which surprised me as I read that the Karl Meyers were only the student model (like mine). Do you know what mouthpieces came as standard on the Orsi Stencils? Mine has a Selmer Paris Soloist C, with ligature and cover that look as old as the saxophone. I always assumed that was standard until looking at ebay, and realising people buy these mouthpieces on there own!

    Thankyou!

    • Hi there.

      Unfortunately Orsi never published any serial number charts for their saxophones, so I can’t tell you exactly how old your sax is. That said, based on the serial # you’ve provided, yes, it was most likely made before the 1960s. But when exactly, that I couldn’t tell you.

      Have you seen the photos of the 3 Karl Meyer horns in my saxophone gallery Bassic Sax Pix? I think I have a few more that I have collected images for, but haven’t had a chance to upload yet. Unfortunately my computer is in at the shop at the moment, so I can’t look them up for you. But even with the 3 that are already in the gallery, you can see that some had their bell keys on the right side, while others had them on the left. It seems Karl Meyers ordered different versions from Orsi, even around the same time they ordered yours (the AXXXX production time).

      Alto A8860 has right sided bell keys, and the pearl chromatic F# key you mention having seen in photos, while tenor A5494 has left-sided bell keys, and a metal chromatic F# key—like yours has.

      I don’t know what mouthpieces came with Orsi saxophones, but I can tell you it wasn’t a Selmer Paris Soloist. I am guessing that whoever owned the saxophone bought that mouthpiece and used it with the Karl Meyer because they liked it, or because they were told to use it by their teacher. Since mouthpieces are a very personal choice, people buy and sell mouthpieces all the time until they find one that works the best for them, and fits well with the horn they are using.

      I’m sorry I couldn’t be of more help to you, but I’m hoping that this has been somewhat helpful in answering your questions.

      Regards,

      Helen

  6. Hello! Live in Uruguay, and I have a Tenor Orsi Milano No. C5521, which do not possess any information. I would greatly appreciate if you could provide me some.
    Attached photos saxophone.
    Thank you very much!

    • Hello Jorge. Welcome to my website.

      Unfortunately I can’t provide you any information based on the photo you have attached. The picture is too blurry to make out details. If you would like to email some clear, large photos, I will try to assist you with some details. Please check this page on my website for more information about what types of photos allow me to help you best.

      You should also know that Orsi has never published any serial number listings for their saxophones. It is therefore impossible to say exactly when your horn was built. Based on the serial number, a best guess is the closest we will be able to come, combined with its features.

  7. I have recently inherited an Orsi Milano Tenor Saxophone… I am a music teacher, but find this one very huge and difficult to handle. What could I possibly sell it for? I also inherited an Alto Antiqua and that is easier for me ….

    • Hello Helena. Welcome to my website.

      You don’t mention where in the world you are. Where you are depends on how much you could sell the Orsi for. (That combined with condition of course.)

      Realistically, in North America, Orsi saxophones are not worth a great deal.

      I just did a quick search on a whole bunch (US, Cdn, UK, & German) eBay site and found nothing that sold recently. As a matter of fact, I only found 1 tenor Orsi listed, and 1 Orsi stencilled La Monte. Neither sold. The Orsi tenor was on the German site with a start price of EUR 425. It got 0 bids.

      I have a page on my website that you can use to help you determine a value for your vintage Orsi. It will most likely take a bit of time to find some comparable listing though.

      One thing to watch out for, there were 2 models of Orsi saxophones made. Which do you have? The one with the circular bell to body support brace? Or do you have the straight metal bell to body brace? That might influence the price slightly.

      Take your time. If you don’t need the money badly, I’d advise you to hang on to the horn for a bit and research it further on sources outside of eBay as well.

      If you’d like to upload a few photos to a comment I’d be happy to look at them for you and see if I can estimate a price for you. Or if you prefer, you can send me some pics via email.

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