Phase 1 Hohner President Tenor

A Phase 1 Hohner President tenor and what it tells us about the evolution of Max Keilwerth saxophones

In early April 2019, I happened across this interesting, and quite rare, Phase 1 Hohner President tenor sax on eBay. Unfortunately the horn sold before I could email any questions to the owner.

Phase 1 Hohner President tenor, saxophone bell engraving, bevelled tone holes, vintage German sax, silver sax, Max Keilwerth

Phase 1 Hohner President tenor Source: leon-1364 on

If you’re not familiar with what I mean by Phase 1, after years of extensive research into the Hohner Presidents, I came up with a classification system for the brand based on their features. You can read all about it on the Hohner page of my website.

The seller of this very-vintage Hohner President described the tenor like this:

Vendo sassofono tenore argentado d’epoca (VINTAGE ) prodotto da Max Keilwerth, uno dei primi sassofoni realizzati per Hohner, marchiato HOHNER PRESIDENT, non ha un numero di serie nel corpo, ma se il collo (39), un sax molto solido, ha ancora le cuscinetti originali debe essere sostituito, laccato in buone condizioni, data l’età, presenta diversi macchia nera, vedi foto boccaglio originale e gli accessori sono inclusi.

Spedizione in Italia 50 euro, Union Europea 70 euro, fuori Europa (EEUU) 120 euro.

I sell vintage argentado tenor saxophone (VINTAGE) produced by Max Keilwerth, one of the first saxophones made for Hohner, branded HOHNER PRESIDENT, does not have a serial number in the body, but if the neck (39), a very solid sax, has still the original bearings must be replaced, lacquered in good condition, given the age, has several black spots, see original mouthpiece photos and accessories are included.

Shipping in Italy 50 euros, European Union 70 euros, out of Europe (EEUU) 120 euros.

Unfortunately not all aspects of the horn were shown in the photos the seller provided. However, the ones that were on eBay, were crystal clear and showed great detail.

At first I didn’t think all that much about this tenor, but then I remembered some research I was doing into the various permutations of Presidents. This unassuming tenor added an interesting set of data points into what was already an unusual model of Max Keilwerth-made saxophone.

Making sense of many types of Presidents

It just wouldn’t be a Bassic Sax article without a chart, now would it? ;)

Rather than trying to describe all the variables I have come across; I have put together a chart to help make sense of things. The atypical Presidents are listed before the model they most closely resemble.

Links to photos illustrating the features noted are provided. All of these links are on my website somewhere—either in one of my galleries, somewhere on this blog, or on the the website itself.

Features President tenor no serial # or MK Logo (full picture set) MK-made Presidents pre-Hohner Phase 1 Hohner President no serial # or Hohner Logo (the horn from current eBay ad) Hohner-branded MK saxes
Microtuner not present Present on both alto and tenor not present Not present
Neck brace “man in the moon” “man in the moon” reinforced simple brass piece reinforced simple brass piece
Neck fastening screw wing nut wing nut Not shown in pics but lyre screw holder is conventional so neck fastening screw likely is as well round thumb screw with crosshatch pattern
Tone holes bevelled drawn & rolled bevelled bevelled (pre 25XX)
        straight (pre 25XX)
        rolled (25XX-12XXX)
        straight (13XXX onwards)
Key Guards eyebrow wire cage eyebrow “eyebrow”
    “eyebrow” post 72XX    
Bell Keys right-sided right-sided right sided right-sided
Bow Guard rugged-edged, brass reinforcement rugged-edged, brass reinforcement protruding reinforcement protruding reinforcement
        simple, flat brass reinforcement
Engraving very similar to 1 1 Less refined version of the Most Common  Most Common
    2   extremely rare 1
    3   extremely rare 2
        no President designation
Logo none present Pure Tone Trade Mark none present Hohner Trade Mark 
        Hohner accordian player post 10,500
Range low Bb to high F low Bb to high F low Bb to high F low Bb to high F (pre-45XX)
        low Bb to high F# optional (45XX-13XXX)
        low Bb to high F# standard (13XXX onwards)
G# key wider on horn side and plain wider on the horn side with crosshatch pattern wider on horn side and plain wider on the horn side and plain (pre-Transitional & Phase 3 horns)
    wider on the horn side and plain post 73XX   Hohner log & thinner on horn side (13XXX onwards)
G# trill key present present present present until 45xx
C/D trill key present present present present until 125XX
bell to body support brace straight brace in the shape of the horn’s posts straight brace in the shape of the horn’s posts straight brace in the shape of the horn’s posts a straight brace that had the shape of the horn’s posts
        arched piece of brass (13XXX onwards)

So what does all this mean?

After pouring through all of these images, I have come to the following conclusions:

  • The brochure that I bought on eBay back in 2011 that illustrates the Hohner Presidents, most likely depicts pre-production Hohners—since it shows Hohners with features associated with Pure Tone Trade Mark Presidents, not really Hohner made ones, or even the very first few horns made.
  • When Max Keilwerth moved to Hohner and started a saxophone division, his saxophone design was refined somewhat. His horns were already moving from utilitarian to artistic, but at Hohner he was able to create a much lovelier, more refined, yet extremely well thought-out and built horn. Anyone who owns or has played a well-maintained Hohner President will tell you: They are built like tanks but are smooth and quick in action and responsive across their entire range. Furthermore, they have a sound that is unique to themselves.
  • As Max Keilwerth further refined his Presidents, he added features—arguably the most famous of which was the legally protected (”gesetzlich geschützten”), true double socket neck. The neck was held in place by a round thumb screw with a cross hatch (nail file) pattern. MK also added a smaller, matching round thumb screw to hold the marching lyre in place. Perhaps equally famous were the drawn, rolled tone holes that the Phase 2 President saxophones became known for.
  • To date I have seen only two pre-Hohner saxophones bearing the German spelling of Präsident. If I had to guess, I would say that these horns are the earliest incarnations of the President model saxophones that Max Keilwerth built. The very limited serial #’s that I have seen would back up this theory. Given that the Pure Tone Trade Mark stamp is missing from above the serial # of alto 1223, I further postulate that this Präsident was built before MK received his Trademark. 
  • Given what I recently discovered about Max Keilwerth making at least some HP horns, it is safe to say that once he moved his saxophone design studio to Hohner, all his horns were LP. To date no one has come forward stating that they had tuning problems with their Hohner President, or that they had a HP Hohner President.

If you have a Max Keilwerth-made President, or one of the über rare Präsident saxophones, please get in touch with me. If there is any way that you would be willing to share photos of your horn and a partial serial # I would be very grateful. Thank you.

© 2019, Helen. All rights reserved.

Series NavigationBrand new Hohner President Page


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.



    If Helen wants to buy yet another horn. Präsident. 1400 Euros. Silver plated alto.

    There’s a video on, a bit of the way down. I can’t tell if it’s the same horn.

    I’ll try to upload to Helen’s/my Gallery a bit later. I’m currently doing a backup.

  2. Apparently this would certainly be a well sought after horn.

    • Well… I’m not so sure about that. By whom would it be sought after? It sold, but not for a crazy-ass amount of $$.

      The fact is, neither MK horns nor Hohner Presidents fetch a great deal of cash. Therefore by extension they would not be seen as particularly “desirable” or be necessarily “sought after”. Even Adolphe Sax originals don’t sell for much when you seriously sit back and think about them compared to certain guitars, or other even flutes. The only exception in the saxophone world seems to be particular vintage Selmers.

      I would personally love to see this President be a coveted or sought after horn. Why? Because it would indicate that Max Keilwerth is finally getting the recognition he deserves for building the saxophones he did.

      His horns were better made than those of his much more famous brother Julius. The design was unique, and the craftsmanship that went into each and ever instrument was second to none. The Presidents are a testament to a time when hand craftsmanship still meant something, and saxophone design was an art form.

      That said, sadly, these days vintage beauties like the President find themselves cast off and bounced from owner to owner as fickle players—many who don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground—try to find “the sound”. All the while not knowing/understanding that no horn is the source of the sound they so desperately crave anyway. However, rather than put the time and work in to improving their sound, they keep looking for that “magic sax” to fix their problems.

      There… Rant over…

      • Another problem for them who search the magic sax is that the first and the last Hohner Presidents play different. Still they are both well made.

        On this particular tenor two small details are equal to the M.K. President.
        The position pip of the first octave and the absence of a support on the E flat C axis in the middle.

        Both details change in the series. The first detail influences the sound. The second is a protection against gorilla grip bending the axis.

        All those small details make the search for the magic sax endless.
        Just enjoy playing on a reliable instrument and improve your sound.

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