A Couesnon Saxie Up For Auction

This morning I got an email from a reader of my site who thought I might be interested in something he saw on eBay. As soon as I saw the URL I was excited, because it’s not everyday that a Couesnon Saxie appears for sale.

Couesnon Saxie, French, vintage, toy, saxophone-shaped, metal,

     Source: homiept0

Some of you might remember that I did write about a Saxie last April, but that particular instrument belonged to fellow who used it sometimes in presentations. The owner was kind enough to send me a couple of photos of the instrument, and describe the vintage horn in some detail.

The Saxie is pitched in the key of C, and its lowest note is D, just below the first line of the staff. The large holes at the bottom of the body tube are how the horn vents, and the bow and bell are purely decorative. The key closest to the neck is an octave key, while the one mid way down the horn is an F# key.

Couesnon Saxie, French, vintage, toy, saxophone-shaped, metal,

     Source: homiept0

Now I don’t recall ever seeing a Saxie for sale or auction before, and that’s what makes today’s particular eBay find rather interesting. If you’ve ever wanted to have a Saxie to call your very own, here’s your chance.

The seller describes the little horn like this:

Antique Toy Saxophone. It is 88 years old and belonged to my father who would be 98. All I know about it is what it says on the bell: ” “Couesnon & Cie – Paris – Chateau Thierry France = Saxie = U S Patent June 3Rd 1924 – BTE S.G.3.D -” It has been sitting on our shelf for 30 years and is very tarnished. Some of the pictures show it tarnished. Other pictures is after it was cleaned. It looked like copper. Then I cleaned it with Brasso as best I could and it looks more like brass. I really don’t know what it is made of. As you can see, the bottom is dented and the back is more tarnished than the front. It has open holes and 2 levers and a mouthpiece. I don’t know if it plays or is strictly a toy. I pretty much know nothing about this except that it belonged to my father. If you have any questions, I would be glad to try and answer them. He also had a toy trumpet I am selling.

  Source: homiept0

In April my colleague Pete Hales, the man formerly known as Sax Pics, postulated that despite what the original patent might have said, these little instruments were not built as toys. Rather, when Couesnon bought the rights to Frederick B. Hammann’s patent, they converted the toy into a gateway drug to the world of real saxophones.

This is what Pete wrote earlier this year:

If I was to venture an opinion on the Saxie and other sax-related toys, I’d say they were primarily used as a “gateway drug” into Couesnon’s real saxophones. I also think they were throwing out a lot of ideas to see if any would stick so they’d build some market share in the US.

Hey, they were one of the largest manufacturers in France, but the real sax-related money was in the US.

I also know that Couesnon more-or-less insisted in their ads that their sax/clarinet/oboe variants were “real” instruments, not toys.

If this little vintage horn by Couesnon is your gateway drug into sax-shaped things, you have until September 4 to get your bids in. At the time of writing there were 3 bids on this Saxie, with the high bid being $10.50. My prediction: the price will go quite a bit higher.

…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!

A Couesnon Saxie

Couesnon Saxie, vintage, French, saxophone-shaped instrument, circa 1920s,

     Photography By: Paula Taylor

A few weeks ago I received an email from a gentleman who was the owner of a Couesnon Saxie. Michael has owned the Saxie for a number of years.

As a player with many years experience, Michael is often asked to speak and give demonstrations at schools. The Saxie sometimes accompanies him to these presentations, and is brought out at the end to wrap up the talk.

Despite owning this little French-made curiosity for years, Michael didn’t know that much about the horn. He was curious as to the details of its manufacturing, and its intended use.

Couesnon Saxie, vintage, French, saxophone-shaped instrument, circa 1920s,

     Photography By: Paula Taylor

I had to plead a bit of ignorance, and tried to enlist the help of one of my saxophone historian friends. Unfortunately, Pete didn’t have a great deal of information on the Saxie either. He did however, offer up an avenue of investigation.

As I poured through the patents that Pete suggested that I investigate, I happened across this one dated June 3, 1924. It corresponded with the date on the bell shown above.

In Frederick B. Hammann’s patent application, he states that:

     Source: Google Patents

The patent drawing shows a horn remarkably much like the Couesnon Saxie.

     Source: Google Patents

Although Hammann’s original design idea may have been intended as a toy, Couesnon’s Saxie was likely something else. According to Pete Hales, the man formerly known as Saxpics:

If I was to venture an opinion on the Saxie and other sax-related toys, I’d say they were primarily used as a “gateway drug” into Couesnon’s real saxophones. I also think they were throwing out a lot of ideas to see if any would stick so they’d build some market share in the US.

Hey, they were one of the largest manufacturers in France, but the real sax-related money was in the US.

I also know that Couesnon more-or-less insisted in their ads that their sax/clarinet/oboe variants were “real” instruments, not toys.

That would make sense, since if you compare the Saxie to the original patent drawing, you’ll notice that Couesnon’s version has a couple of keys in addition to the open tone holes.

Couesnon Saxie, vintage, French, saxophone-shaped instrument, circa 1920s,

     Photography By: Paula Taylor

Michael has provided the following description of the Saxie, to help us understand how this little instrument works:

It is pitched in C and has six tone holes and two keys, an f sharp trill, and a register key. Like a sax, the Saxie overblows on the octave. As there are no bell keys, the lowest note being D below the first line of the stave, the instrument is vented by two large holes at the foot, the bell being added purely for appearance purposes.

It is manufactured from unlacquered brass and has a brass one-screw ligature. It works well with a clarinet reed and it is assumed this was the intention as these would have been the most readily available to the students for whom this instrument was clearly intended—as a half-way house between the recorder and the sax.

Couesnon Saxie, vintage, French, saxophone-shaped instrument, circa 1920s,

     Photography By: Paula Taylor

I am hoping that at least one of the readers of my blog might be able to tell us more about this interesting little instrument. If you know more about the Couesnon Saxie, please chime in here with a comment, or drop me an email. Thank you.

I’d like to thank Michael for sharing his special little vintage horn here. These gems are a real rarity.

This horn is currently in the shop awaiting dent removal. Michael brought it home temporarily so that these photos could be taken. Thank you for the special effort you made to get the photos done.

When you do eventually get the Saxie back from the shop Michael, I’d love to see some “after” photos. I’m sure the Saxie will be a thing of beauty.

…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!