Getting real on Selmer sax prices
Getting real on Selmer sax prices

Getting real on Selmer sax prices

vintage Selmer, Selmer sax, Mark VI, bari sax, soprano sax, alto sax, tenor sax, quartet of Selmer Mark VI saxophones
A quartet of Selmer Mark VI saxophones.

 

Arguably one of the most divisive things in the online saxophone community over the past 20 years has become the name Selmer—and specifically how it relates to vintage Selmer Paris models such as the BA, SBA, and Mark VI.

After two decades+ of reading the commentary/opinions of those who participate in online discussion boards like SOTW, it strikes me that those with the most vehement opinions are those who: 1. Don’t own a Selmer Paris horn, and never have, and/or 2. Are priced out of the BA, SBA, and Mark VI market. 

I’m not sure if these comments and opinions are simply sour grapes, consequently some have convinced themselves that the horns are not worth X. As a result these players have taken it upon themselves to try and convince everyone else this as well. 

Whatever the reason, there are those players who can’t help but make statements about vintage Selmer Paris horn prices. Statements such as: “not worth it”, “overpriced”, “price is ridiculous”, and “price is absurd”. Or my personal favorite: “I could buy 2 of brand X, and still have $$ left over [for what that {insert model and specifics of vintage Selmer here} costs]”.

Saxophone players have it pretty good compared compared to other instrumentalists

I have said it before, and I’ll say it again: True professional model saxophones are no more expensive than other professional instruments. As a matter of fact, as sax players, we are WAY BETTER OFF than our musical colleagues who play other woodwinds such as the flute or bassoon. Why? Because are our instruments are considerably less expensive than their pro model horns are. 

Don’t believe me? Check out the used bassoons currently listed by Midwest Musical Imports. At the time of writing their used professional model bassoons start at $17,510, and top out at $30,000. Don’t forget the bocal upgrades that many a bassoon player have to make. Even used ones will commonly set you back +/- around $1,000.

OK, so bassoons are made of wood and are much more complicated mechanically than saxophones. Then how about flutes? Flutes are similar to saxophones, only smaller. Right?

One of the world’s most respected names in flutes is Powell. Flute World is a Powell dealer, and on their website you can find the brand’s professional model flutes listed. New Artist model Powell flutes range from $15,759 to $66,560: before options. 

So why is it that Powell has been able to make flutes in the US since 1927, yet the Silver Eagle saxophone was a flop? Are there simply not enough sax players willing to pay out some serious coin for a saxophone? 

Players bitch about the prices of new Selmers and other brands not manufactured in Taiwan and China. Yet compared to the Powell Flutes, even the Series III baritone is a bargain.

Kessler and Sons is a Selmer Pro Shop—meaning that any horn you get from them WILL be set up and playing like a dream—and here are their current*, advertised prices for new, Selmer Paris horns.

*Prices are in $ US, and current as of September, 27, 2021

Model Soprano Alto Tenor Bari
Series II Jubilee gold lacquer 5909.00 5879.00 7099.00  
Series II gold lacquer       12,919.00
Series II brushed matte   7039.00   14,949.00
Series II black lacquer 6939.00 7119.00 8429.00 15,179.00
Supreme dark gold lacquer   7609.00    
Series II silver plate 6979.00 7639.00 9059.00 14,789.00
Supreme solid silver lacquer keys   19,389.00    
Supreme black lacquer   8149.00    
Supreme gold plated   20,649.00    
Series III Jubilee gold lacquer   6759.00** 7629.00  
Series III gold lacquer 6689.00     14,159.00
Series III black lacquer 7919.00 8229.00** 9329.00 16,529.00
Series III brushed matte 7809.00     16,789.00
Series III silver plate 7919.00      
Series III solid silver 11,499.00 20,009.00**    
Series III gold plate 16,649.00      
Reference 54 gold lacquer     8879.00  
Reference 54 vintage matte     8879.00  
Reference 36 gold lacquer     8879.00  
Reference 36 vintage matte     8879.00  

** Indicates discontinued models

Even if we look at the most expensive Selmer offered on this list—The Supreme gold plated alto for $20,649.00—it is still less than 1/3 of the price of Powell’s most expensive pro flute (before the player adds any extra options).

Feeling less sorry for yourself as a sax player yet? 

It could be worse, you could play strings

double bass, string bass, cello, If you’re still not convinced, let’s take a look at violins. If as a sax player you’re complaining about the cost of a pro horn, how would you feel about about shelling out tens, or hundreds of thousands of $$ for your instrument? 

I was looking around the Net and came across Martin Swan Violins. They have an amazing assortment of antique violins for the professional player. They have them in the £20K – £50K range, as well as violins in the £50K+ range.

Of course if you play violin, you have to have a bow to draw across it. Martin Swan Violins also offers a fantastic assortment of bows that range in price from under £5K, to over £20K

Yup, bows for violins can cost more than we pay for the most expensive saxophone from Selmer. Let’s just let that sink in for a moment…

And that’s just for violins. God help you if you play cello or double bass. Hope you have a trust fund or investments you can leverage. Suddenly bass and contrabass saxophones do not look so expensive anymore. 

As players we are our own worst enemies

I’ve said it here and in online communities before: Saxophone players are a cheap bunch. Why? I don’t know. But we have contributed to the demise of once vibrant and successful companies. How? Because we are the ones always looking to pay the least amount possible. 

Saxophones from the great companies of the past—Keilwerth, Selmer, King, Conn, Martin, Buescher, et al—were built to last generations when maintained properly. The problem is we now live in a disposable world.

Don’t like your couch anymore? Don’t recover it, throw it out and buy a new one. Large home appliance last how long these days? Certainly not the decades the old ones from the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and even 80s did.

And tech? How many computers, tablets, cell phones and the likes have you personally burned through over the past two decades? Now multiple that times the number of people in the developed world. That’s a lot of waste in our land fills, and a lot of valuable materials that have been mined for the various components like microchips.  

Sadly, musical instruments of all stripes seem to have fallen victim to this same type of disposable thinking. When you only pay $1,500 – $3,000 today for a new, pro model horn (sure it is), what are the chances you are going to pay a tech $1,000 to overhaul it for you?

Jury is still out how many of the new horns made today will be around a few generations from now. From what I’m seeing brought in the shop, the student horns of yesteryear were built far better than the crap that’s being produced today by many companies.

And what about those supposed pro horns by companies that have had them stenciled in factories in China and Taiwan? Again, time will tell. Will they hold up as well as the stencils made by say Keilwerth, Conn, King, Martin, or Buffet? I guess we’ll find out in the next 20-40+ years.

And this relates to the prices of vintage Selmers how?

Which brings us a full 360° back to Selmer Paris. Although not nearly as upper class as the violin crowd, certain Selmer saxophones have developed a strong following that has increased over time. In turn their prices have not been subject to market fluctuations as much as other vintage saxophones. Is this a contributing factor to some players’ attitudes about vintage Selmer prices?

The following chart represents a survey I did over the past weekend that represents some completed sales on eBay, as well as current dealer offerings of some vintage Selmer saxophones. Yes, there are a lot of vintage Selmers for sale right now. 

To keep things fairly manageable, I focused only on the BA, SBA, and Mark VI. I did find sopranino through bass examples, but not necessarily of every model. 

You can use the search feature at the top of the chart to find specifics you are interested in.

A couple of points to keep in mind:

  • The horns found through vintage dealers are in generally much better condition than those seen by private sellers on eBay. That is a major contributing factor to the price difference between private eBay sales prices, and dealer prices.  
  • If you have BA, SBA, or Mark VI at home, don’t think that if you’re going to sell it, you are going to get what a dealer is selling a similar # horn for. Dealers have put time and $$ into all the horns they have for sale. Just the photos alone cost a lot of $$: either in time, or in the hiring of a professional studio photographer. Then there is the shop time to bring it into proper condition for sale. Because no matter how good you think your sax is, it will undoubtedly need work, and an established vintage sax dealer with a sound reputation needs to ensure that everything they sell is in top condition—or sold “as is”.
  • Yes, serial #’s make a huge difference.
  • Refinishing does cause the value of a Selmer horn to decrease. However, old, well-done relacquering or replating, done in the Selmer factory with the engraving re-cut, does not decrease the value nearly as much as a crap job by someone too friendly with a buffing wheel.  
  • In addition to the BA, SBA, and Mark VI, other models, such as the Dorsey model, or horns with special finishes, are also fetching a lot of $$—depending on their condition of course.
ModelVoiceSerial #ConditionSelling/Asking Price
Source
Mark VITenor130035Original lacquer. Very fine. Best offer accepted. Listed for 6,500 USeBay.com
Mark VITenor227XXXOriginal lacquer. Good.Best offer accepted. Listed for 5,900.00 US.eBay.com
Mark VIBass331XXXOriginal in almost every way. Very fine.Bids start at 18,500eBay.com
Mark VIBari197XXXOriginal lacquer. Good Low A6,250.00 USeBay.com
Mark VIAlto219136Original lacquer. Good4,699 US eBay.com
Mark VIAlto86167Original lacquer. Good7,500. USeBay.com
Mark VIAlto188488Rough. Original lacquer. Needs overhaul. Missing original neck. 3,350.00 USeBay.com
Mark VI Tenor18646XOriginal lacquer. Had $500 work done in Jan 2021. Invoice shown. 4700.00 US eBay.com
Mark VIAlto102926Original silver plate 95% intact. Good.7000.00 USeBay.com
Mark VI Alto164274Original lacquer. Two-tone horn. Good6649.00eBay.com
Mark VITenor182293Relac. Decent4199.00eBay.com
Balanced ActionAlto24481Old relac. Refurbished in 2019.3499.00 USeBay.com
Mark VITenor233661Original lacquer. Decent4500.00 USeBay.com
Mark VISoprano259759Original lacquer. Very fine.Best offer accepted. Asking price was 5000.00 USeBay.com
Mark VIAlto134379Original lacquer.5677.00 USeBay.com
Mark VIBari163733Hard to tell. Might be a relac. Low Bb4325.00 USeBay.com
Mark VI Alto219299Original lacquer. Looks very nice.Best offer accepted. Asking price 4900.00 USeBay.com
Mark VIAlto74897Delacquered.4961.00 USeBay.com
Mark VIBari257794Original lacquer. Very fine. Low Bb4999.00 USeBay.com
Mark VIAlto93662Original lacquer--very worn. If it is a relac, it is a very old one.5500.00 USeBay.com
Balanced ActionAlto33063Relacquered in 19803700.00 USeBay.com
Super Balanced ActionAlto38260Relacquered and now delacqueredBest offer accepted. $6500.00 AU was the asking priceeBay.com
Mark VIBari1344XXRelaquered extra engraving added. Low Bb8200.00 USeBay.com
Mark VITenor141045Original lacquer. 7500.00 USeBay.com
Mark VIAlto19XXXXOriginal lacquer. Very good.5500.00 USeBay.com
Mark VISoprano273478Original lacquer3745.00 USeBay.com
Balanced ActionAlto28XXXWorn lacquer. Hard to know if it's original or not from the pics.2550.00 USeBay.com
Mark VIBari178440Delacquered. Needs overhaul. Low A4250.00 USeBay.com
Mark VITenor194151Original lacquer4151.00 USeBay.com
Mark VIBari257794Original lacquer Low Bb4300.00 USeBay.com
Mark VI Bari76878Old relac. Rough condition. Low Bb2950.00 USeBay.com
Mark VIAlto116014Original lacquer. Quite worn6400.00 USeBay.com
Super Balanced ActionTenor47XXXDelacquered7500.00 USeBay.com
Mark VITenor226XXXOriginal lacquer. Super Action 80 replacement neckBest offer accepted. $3995.00 US was its starting priceeBay.com
Mark VI Tenor153896Original lacquer. Mostly worn off5499.00 USeBay.com
Mark VIAlto2208XXOriginal lacquer. Very worn.3750.00 USeBay.com
Mark VITenor208379Relaq. Needs overhaulBest offer accepted. Bids were to start at 4995.00 USeBay.com
Mark VISopranino194667Original lacquer. Needs some work6500.00 USeBay.com
Mark VITenor75415Original silver plate in very fine shape. Over all horn look very nice.Best offer accepted. 12,000 GBP was asking priceeBay.com
Mark VITenor194114Might be an old relac? 5202.00 USeBay.com
Super Balanced ActionAlto47495Relac. Needs overhaul. 2850.00eBay.com
Mark VIBari76878Relac. Not working/Parts horn. Low Bb$2255.00 USeBay.com
Balanced ActionTenor21445Original lacquer. Normal wear for its age.Best offer accepted. Seller had asked for $13,500.00.eBay.com
Mark VITenor231976Original worn lacquer.4000.00 US eBay.com
Mark VISoprano187102 Original lacquer. Near mint6000.00 US getasax.com
Mark VISoprano270755Original lacquer4250.00 USgetasax.com
Balanced ActionAlto24352Original lacquer. Very fine7500.00 USgetasax.com
Mark VIAlto76722Original lacquer. Very nice.12,500.00 US getasax.com
Mark VI Alto190714Original lacquer5750.00 USgetasax.com
Mark VIAlto172759Original lacquer. Near mint7250.00 USgetasax.com
Mark VI Alto127335Original lacquer. Original pads. Near mint.11,000.00 USgetasax.com
Mark VIAlto143715Original lacquer. Worn.7500.00 USgetasax.com
Super Balanced ActionAlto41532Relac. Great player4950.00 USgetasax.com
Mark VIBari262323Original everything. Near mint Low A12,500.00 USgetasax.com
Mark VIBari100463Original lacquer. Recent overhaul . Low Bb7500.00 USgetasax.com
Balanced ActionTenor21445Original lacquer. Price includes overhaul13,500 USgetasax.com
Mark VITenor195260Original lacquer. Plays well.5950.00 USgetasax.com
Mark VITenor77158Original lacquer. Neck has removed pick-up. Plays well.11,500 USgetasax.com
Mark VITenor228352Relac.3750.00 USgetasax.com
Mark VITenor223649All original. Near mint7500.00 USgetasax.com
Mark VITenor160601Original lacquer. Near mint.8950.00 USgetasax.com
Mark VITenor95365Original lacquer. Recent overhaul12,500 USgetasax.com
Mark VITenor130477Original lacquer. Near mint11,000.00 US getasax.com
Mark VISoprano86554Original lacquer. Lots of lacquer wear11,500 USpmwoodwind.com
Mark VI Soprano184106Original lacquer. Looks very fine4695.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Mark VISoprano 197304Original lacquer4495.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Mark VISoprano271129Original lacquer, but lots of lacquer wear on body4300.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Balanced ActionAlto31814Original lacquer
3495.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Super Balanced ActionAlto42404Original lacquer with normal wear.6495.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Super Balanced ActionAlto51547Original lacquer. Little wear5895.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Mark VIAlto56742Relacquer6395.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Mark VIAlto79659Original lacquer8900.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Mark VIAlto96151Original lacquer7150.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Mark VIAlto158854Original lacquer7495.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Mark VIAlto160925Original lacquer6895.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Mark VIAlto187132Original lacquer6895.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Mark VIAlto189256Original lacquer6395.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Mark VIAlto201085Relac.3750.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Mark VIAlto202133Original lacquer5850.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Balanced ActionTenor28305Relac. with lots of wear7500.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Balanced ActionTenor32254Original silver plate more than 95% intact. 13,500 USpmwoodwind.com
Super Balanced ActionTenor35542No image posted. But does not state relac.11,750.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Super Balanced ActionTenor42906Relac? Doesn't state it, but engraving is not as crisp as it ought to be.6495.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Super Balanced ActionTenor45068Relac.7995.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Super Balanced ActionTenor54153Relac.7495.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Mark VI Tenor75095Original lacquer13,950.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Mark VITenor76175Original lacquer13,950.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Mark VITenor83825Original lacquer12,500.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Mark VITenor111013Original lacquer10,495.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Mark VITenor127517Original lacquer9650.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Mark VITenor146951Relac.6095.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Mark VITenor154058Relac.5495.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Mark VITenor158509Original lacquer7995.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Mark VITenor195985Original lacquer6250.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Mark VI Tenor204974Original lacquer5995.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Super Balanced ActionBari52429Original lacquer Low A12,950.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Mark VIBari118361Original lacquer. Low A12,500.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Mark VIBari187266Original lacquer Low A7995.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Mark VIBari188822Original lacquer. Very worn. Low Bb5995.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Mark VIBari263836Original lacquer. Low Bb6895.00 USpmwoodwind.com
Super Balanced ActionTenor51185"Selmer tone relacquer" so it has that more 70-80s more yellow hue. 8999.00 USworldwidesax.com
Mark VITenor103629Original lacquer, extremely worn8499.00 USworldwidesax.com
Balanced ActionAlto22939Relac.3995.00 USjunkdude.com
Mark VISopranino268713Original lacquer8500.00 USrobertoswinds.com
Mark VIAlto228XXXOriginal lacquer, extremely worn5500.00 USrobertoswinds.com
Mark VI Alto90XXXRelac.6000.00 USrobertoswinds.com
Mark VI Alto149XXXOriginal lacquer9800.00 USrobertoswinds.com
Super Balanced ActionAlto36XXXRelac? Engraving is pristine, but the keys and neck are slightly differently colours. 10,500 USrobertoswinds.com
Mark VITenor57XXXOriginal lacquer. Nearly mint. Owned by Bob Berg.75,000.00 USrobertoswinds.com
Mark VITenor153XXXOriginal lacquer. Needs some TLC apparently.8500.00 USrobertoswinds.com
Mark VI Tenor183XXXOriginal lacquer9500.00 USrobertoswinds.com
Mark VITenor195XXXOriginal lacquer. In need of an overhaul and suffers from pull-down of neck. 8500.00 US robertoswinds.com
Mark VITenor226XXXOriginal lacquer. Needs TLC7500.00 USrobertoswinds.com
Mark VITenor228XXXOriginal lacquer. 7500.00 USrobertoswinds.com
Mark VITenor231XXXOriginal lacquer. 8450.00 USrobertoswinds.com
Mark VITenor173XXXOriginal lacquer. Body to bow brace needs replacing. 12,000.00 USrobertoswinds.com
Mark VITenor100XXXOriginal lacquer. Just overhauled by Roberto. 15,000.00 USrobertoswinds.com
Mark VITenor196XXXOriginal lacquer. 7200.00 USrobertoswinds.com
Mark VI Bari215XXXOriginal lacquer. Low Bb7200.00 USrobertoswinds.com
Mark VIBari215XXXOriginal lacquer. Lots of lacquer wear. Low Bb8000.00 USrobertoswinds.com
Balanced ActionAlto26078Original lacquer5999.00 USbrassandwinds.com
Mark VIAlto165035Original lacquer. Low A alto7999.00 US brassandwinds.com
Mark VIAlto236487Original lacquer. Original everything. NOS from a music store owner. Never played.14,999.00 USbrassandwinds.com
Mark VIAlto58577Original lacquer. 9999.00 USbrassandwinds.com
Mark VI Tenor182296Relac.4699.00 USbrassandwinds.com
Mark VITenor183389Original lacquer5799.00 USbrassandwinds.com
Mark VITenor204737Original lacquer6499.00 USbrassandwinds.com
Balanced ActionTenor21752Relac.8500.00 Cdntwiggmusique.com
Balanced ActionAlto26784Relac? Hard to say, only 2 pics displayed6500.00 Cdntwiggmusique.com
Super Balanced ActionAlto41XXXOriginal lacquer? Hard to say. Twigg only gives you 2 pics to work with7000.00 Cdntwiggmusique.com
Mark VIBari273XXXOriginal lacquer. Low Bb8995.00 Cdntwiggmusique.com
Super Balanced ActionAlto41475Original silver plate9500.00 Cdntwiggmusique.com
Mark VIBari275XXXOriginal lacquer. Low A8995.00 Cdntwiggmusique.com
Super Balanced ActionAlto37XXXOriginal lacquer. Entirely overhauled.9500.00 Cdntwiggmusique.com
Mark VISoprano186947Original lacquer4300.00 Cdnmassullomusic.com
Mark VITenor214925Original lacquer6500.00 Cdnmassullomusic.com
Mark VITenor95XXXOriginal lacquer? Hard to tell. The engraving is not all that crisp in the pics12,500.00 Cdnmassullomusic.com
Mark VITenor104XXXOriginal lacquer. Approx. 40% intact. Comes with original and KB neck of buyer's choosing. 8700.00 USkbsax.com
Mark VIBari95XXXOriginal lacquer? Hard to tell from the 3 pix provided. Low Bb Sounds like it had a total overhaul. 8500.00 EUselmer.fr
Super Balanced ActionAlto37XXXPossibly original silver plate? But looks too new. Completely restored at Selmer Paris 4500.00 EUselmer.fr
Mark VIBass122367Mostly delacquered16,500 EUselmer.fr
Balanced ActionAlto22487Likely silver plate may have been re-done at some point4900.00 EUselmer.fr
Mark VITenor97XXXSilver with gold plated inside of bell and special engraving. Stunning. Complete overhaul done.13,900 EUselmer.fr
Super Balanced ActionTenor38922Delacquered10,650.00 USjlwoodwindrepair.com
Balanced ActionAlto31198Original silver plate4500.00 USjlwoodwindrepair.com
Super Balanced ActionAlto52XXXOriginal lacquer9000.00 USjlwoodwindrepair.com
Mark VIAlto106315Original lacquer. Low A alto8900.00 USjlwoodwindrepair.com
Mark VITenor95552Relac. Just had overhaul at JL Woodwind.8300.00 USjlwoodwindrepair.com
Mark VIAlto214XXXOriginal lacquer. 7800.00 USjlwoodwindrepair.com
Mark VITenor149658Original lacquer6995.00 USjlwoodwindrepair.com
Mark VIAlto171XXXOriginal lacquer, with lots of wear. Freshly overhauled.8095.00 USjlwoodwindrepair.com
Mark VITenor118307Original lacquer7800.00 USjlwoodwindrepair.com
Mark VITenor226439Original lacquer. Fresh overhaul in house.6650.00 USjlwoodwindrepair.com
Mark VIBari163XXXOriginal lacquer. Freshly overhauled in house Low Bb11,500.00 USjlwoodwindrepair.com
Balanced ActionAlto27880Relac.3700.00 USusahorn.net
Mark VIAlto1997XXOriginal gold plate. Mint condition19,500.00 USusahorn.net
Mark VIAlto187624Original lac. with fresh repad with Noyek resos. Low A6500.00 USusahorn.net
Mark VIAlto135151Original lacquer? Doesn't mention it is. Pic not clear enough to confirm. Pick up in neck. Has its Maestro effects set-up available from 1966.7000.00 US`usahorn.net
Mark VIAlto174599Original lacquer5850.00 USusahorn.net
Mark VIAlto227262Original lacquer quite spotty. Comes with full overhaul.5095.00 USusahorn.net
Mark VIBari228980Original lacquer. Offered with or without an overhaul6500.00USusahorn.net
Mark VISopranino364197Original lacquer. Keyed to high F#6195.00 USsaxquest.com
Super Balanced ActionSoprano45079Original silver plate pristine. Lovely condition. 10,500.00 USsaxquest.com
Mark VI Soprano113072Original silver plate in excellent condition. 9500.00 USsaxquest.com
Balanced ActionAlto24795Original Perma-Gold finish. Gold mostly worn off leaving the zinc plating visible below. Lost its original neck, so paired a similar era BA neck. Fresh overhaul included in price.4800.00 USsaxquest.com
Mark VIAlto71815Original lacquer. 8595.00 USsaxquest.com
Mark VIAlto135777Relac. 5495.00 USsaxquest.com
Mark VIAlto142762Relac.4595.00 USsaxquest.com
Mark VIAlto150315Original lacquer only 5-10% intact. Full overhaul included in price.5495.00 USsaxquest.com
Mark VIAlto177361Original lacquer. 5800.00 USsaxquest.com
Mark VIAlto183254Original lacquer5749.00 USsaxquest.com
Super Balanced ActionTenor42284Old relac with re-cut engraving. Fresh overhaul.10,500.00 USsaxquest.com
Mark VITenor63661Original gold plate. Recently overhauled at Saxquest. 15,500.00 US saxquest.com
Mark VITenor100129Original lacquer10,500.00 USsaxquest.com
Mark VITenor104952Original lacquer. Fresh overhaul prior to shipment to new owner.8595.00 USsaxquest.com
Mark VITenor105368Original lacquer. Needs some work. Offered in current condition for this price. Or, for more depending if the seller wants an overhaul.6950.00 USsaxquest.com
Mark VITenor106953Original lacquer. 10,500.00 USsaxquest.com
Mark VIBari88587Gold plate 99% intact. Stunning instrument. Saxquest believes the horn may have started as a lacquer horn that was sent to the factory for gold plating, since the engraving is too perfect. Low Bb16,000.00 USsaxquest.com
Super Balanced ActionAlto21XXXRelac? Engraving doesn't seem that crisp.5500 EUdawkes.co.uk
Mark VIBari167573Original lacquer. Very nice.7990.00 USsaxalley.com
Mark VIAlto214323Original lacquer. Nice condition4490.00 USsaxalley.com
Mark VIAlto67416Original lacquer. 4990.00 US saxalley.com
Mark VIAlto118221Relac.3990.00 USsaxalley.com
Balanced Action Alto27XXXRelac.2995.00 UStenormadness.com
Mark VI Alto208768Original lacquer. Needs a bit of work.4495.00 UStenormadness.com
Mark VIAlto225632Original lacquer.4995.00 UStenormadness.com
Mark VIAlto60683Relac. Engraving was re-cut. No evidence of buffing. Needs overhaul4495.00 UStenormadness.com
Mark VISoprano211XXXOriginal lacquer. Needs overhaul3995.00 UStenormadness.com
Mark VITenor182276Original lacquer. 6500.00 UStenormadness.com
Mark VISoprano183058Original lacquer4700.00 USdcsax.com
Super Balanced ActionAlto55121Original lacquer. Recent overhaul6700.00 USdcsax.com
Mark VIAlto213XXXOriginal lacquer5975.00 USdcsax.com
Mark VITenor94392Original lacquer. Recent overhaul12,200.00 USdcsax.com
Mark VITenor147466Original lacquer. Looks amazing!7999.99 USkesslerandsons.com

I will leave it to you to look through the various data points and find what’s interesting to you. I am not interested in the horn prices per se, rather how they compare to professional instruments that other musicians would have to buy.

Disregarding Roberto Winds’ $75,000 5-digit Mark VI tenor that once belonged to Bob Berg—which seems to me is really being used as an advertising gimmick, more so than an actual sales item—the most expensive vintage Selmer is the nearly totally original Mark VI bass #331XXX, currently on eBay. Bids are to start at €18,500. According to xe.com, today’s price would be $21,613.25 US. 

The second most expensive horn is USA Horn’s Mark VI gold plated alto #1997XX, for $19,500 US.

Keeping in mind the professional bassoons, flutes, and strings that our musical colleagues have to buy if they are looking for the same level of instruments, how is the pricing of vintage Selmers out of line? Please someone, enlighten me.  

Not all vintage Selmers are equal

I am in no way saying that every single Mark VI, BA, or SBA is worth X. That would be folly. 

The problem is the Internet has made everyone as expert. Everyone with access to Google looks up pictures of a make and model of a particular saxophone and presto, they think that a saxophone in their possession is suddenly rare, valuable, or even desirable. Further complicating matters are those who learn how to fix things by watching YouTube videos, suddenly thinking they know how to do overhauls on their own. 

And therein lays a huge problem in this Selmer debate. To paraphrase my colleague Matt Stohrer: When you are playing a vintage sax, you are not playing it like it came from the factory. Rather, you are playing the work of the last tech who overhauled it. 

Many horns out there have been overhauled by less than competent techs. Other players neglect their horns altogether. Some vintage horns have never had an overhaul in their lives. For other horns, it has been decades since they’ve been in the shop—let alone had an overhaul.

Add all these variables into the equation, and it’s no wonder that there is so much variety in the vintage Selmers out there.

Here are a couple of other variables that can affect the way any vintage horn plays:

  • Some horns have been played A LOT.
  • These were mostly handmade instruments, so variations among them is quite common.
  • The company made design changes over a model’s production run.

Putting both sets of these variables together, you have a virtual cornucopia of variations possible that can explain why horn X plays differently than horn Y of the same model of only a few serial #s difference.

Bottom line

In the end, you have to play a horn and determine for yourself if a particular Selmer X is right for you. If you don’t have the coin, don’t bitch about it. It’s not the horn’s or the market’s fault you are short of cash.

If you really want want a particular vintage model, see about being creative in how you can raise the cash. Or conversely, buy a modern Selmer, or horn from a different pro horn maker like JK, Yani, or Yamaha. Then at least you are getting a horn made by an established manufacturer of professional instruments. Used modern versions of current production horns by all these manufacturers are often available for less than you would pay for something new marked “pro horn” of unknown pedigree. 

Whatever you do, I always advise players to buy from a reputed store that stands behind their products. That together with doing your homework ahead of time, are two ways to avoid falling victim to counterfeits. This statement applies to both new and used, modern and vintage, pro model saxophones of ALL brands. 

14 Comments

  1. I object to your characterization of vintage Selmers that are on eBay as not being of the same quality as ‘reputable dealers’. That can be true, but there are reputable dealers, namely myself, who have made a business decision to use the internet as our primary sales channel and eBay is a huge part of that strategy. Every horn we sell on eBay, though, has been through our shop, is ready to play, and has an unconditional return policy. I think it would have been better to note that NOT ALL Selmers you find on eBay are sold by reputable dealers, but there are at least a few of us here.

    1. Absolutely Matt. Point taken.

      I know everything you sell is top notch. You are a shining beacon in the eBay sea of a lot of crap, and lately, these days more than ever before, misrepresentation and counterfeit. I know that if I bought Selmer, Yani, or anything else from your shop, it would be the genuine article, and it would play.

      My apologies for the way in which my article was worded. I was indeed thinking more of brick and mortar stores.

  2. Tenor Lady

    Thanks for this article, certainly something to think about. I wonder if sax players are tight because most of us (if not all?) Double up on something, even if it’s another sax, or all of them plus a few other woodwind instruments!

    Added to that, the perception of value does tend to be relative, so we can only really compare our costs with those of the other musicians that we work with. I’m mainly into rock n roll and my instrument costs far outstrip those of my band mates for example.

    1. It’s funny, b/c I played with a guitar player who used a Gibson “Gold Top”. It cost waaaaaay more than any of my saxes.

      Really good kits costs more than saxophones. The drummer I worked with in the blues band bought a new D.W. kit that was enormous, and had every kind of drum, cymbal, and doodad you could think of. The cost? Again, way more than my saxophones.

      Those 2 exceptions aside, I don’t know what the prices of truly pro keys, synths, guitars, drums, bass guitars, etc are. I do know that for those musicians, the choices are far more plentiful than what saxophone players have.

  3. Woody

    Excellent article. Thanks for putting this together. I have a SA80ii that I bought used in mint condition. It was either that or a YAS-62iii. I got the Yamaha first, and it had issues (bought from online retailer). For almost the same price, I got my Selmer from the tech I brought the new Yamaha to because of it’s playability issues. Initially I was unhappy because I had always played Yamahas. But I grew into it, and wouldn’t part with it for anything. It’s not a Mark VI. So what? It’s become MY voice and I didn’t break the bank to buy it.

    1. Hey there Woody. Welcome to The Bassic Sax Blog. 🙂

      I think that there are some smoking hot Selmer horns that aren’t BA, SBA, or Mark VIs. My VIs have all been with me for decades, but if something were to happen to them, I don’t know what I would do. I know I wouldn’t necessarily replace them with VIs again.

      I have played some amazing Mark VII tenors. I absolutely love the horns. I was actually going to buy my friend’s tenor about 10 years ago, but stuff happened. She became ill, and her husband was a real jerk. Don’t know what happened with the horn. I suspect he sold it like he sold off all the rest of her music stuff. She had a basement full of rare Hammonds. The Mark VII was almost worthless compared to the rest of musical collection. (She was a keyboard player/teacher who dabbled in saxophone.)

      That trip down memory lane aside, my all-time favorite Selmer that I didn’t own, belongs to my friend Jim. It is a Reference 36 tenor that he got from Kessler & Sons. It plays, feels, and sounds just like my VI. I have talked to Dave Kessler about the horns he sells, and understand what they do with the new Selmers that come in. (They are only 1 of a couple of Selmer Pro Shops in the US.) I know if I ever had to replace any of my horns, Dave would be my first phone call.

      1. Woody

        Thank you Helen for the welcome. You mention Kessler & Sons. When I bought my used (and mis-used) SA80ii Tenor, I knew that it would need work. I bought it with the intention of having it overhauled by Kessler & Sons. It is because of them being one of the few Selmer Pro Shops that I went to them, and also because of Dave’s description of the work they’d be doing. The horn I got back was as good as new as far as mechanics and playability. I, too, would go to Dave before anyone else were I to buy a new horn.

  4. Theo

    In defense of the saxophone players: Selmer, Conn and Armstrong lost the student saxophone market to Yamaha. But it was not only price related, the set up of the Yamaha student saxophone was just better.

    1. While that might be true in the student world, it doesn’t really explain the attitudes of buyers looking to purchase pro level saxophones.

      I get what you are saying Theo. A lot about the Yamaha student model horns was better for years. However, since Yamaha switched their production for their student horns away from Japan, and Selmer student horns have stepped up their game over the past few years, I don’t find the differences all that drastic.

      I am continually impressed with the new Selmer student altos and tenors we get in the shop. Why? More than 90% play straight out of the box with 0 adjustment needed before they go out on for a school year rental.

      The shop where I work is a Selmer dealer. On any given year we get about 10-15 new Selmer student model saxophones to top up our rental stock. Over the past 5 or so years, the Selmer products have improved a lot.

      1. Theo

        Around 2015 I also noticed improvements with the Selmer student range. The present Selmer company has made some good choices. Still there is a generation of saxophone players who’s left pinkie can’t find the G# on a 6M.

        Recently I looked for Conn and Keilwerth influences in an 1988 Armstrong saxophone. With a good set up it could have been a better saxophone than the Yamaha, but marketing choices made the look more important than the performance. In the end this difference in marketing approach has influenced the choices of a whole generation.

        A good set up is both expensive and valuable so it is a good choice to learn new sax players the difference between a good set up and a wall decoration on a rental.

  5. John

    Good stuff!

    My SBA tenor (a good relac) cost me 3k, SBA alto (really worn-almost no lacquer) 1.5k and a early 21xxx BA near mint alto was also 1.2k!

    They all have their place – along with a 161xxx conn burnished gold sop that outplays any selmer (and I have a few Selmers)

    So. they are really a deal vs. that Schreiber contra bassoon that I sold for $25k

    Getting into Haynes or Powell flutes- or Stradivarius violins…nuts!

    1. I only have one relacquered/refinished horn. It is my UGLY Mark VI bari—talk about someone getting too friendly with a buffing wheel. The low Eb tonehole is barely there. Yikes!

      That said, its tone kicks ass! I bought it for its sound. I played others, and choose this ugly duckling with its hideous relacquer over pristine examples b/c of its tone. It does classical bari, sweet ballads, electric blues/rock, and every form of jazz equally well. Loves every MP you put on it. As my sax teacher from NY once said: It has that quintessential bari sound, don’t ever change its set-up. It has THE sound jazz players are looking for. Go figure…

      Funny thing, when I bought it, it wasn’t a whole lot cheaper (only 1K) less than original lacquer models. Why? I’m guessing that when the guys in the shop played it, they realized that this bad boy from 1967 sounded like a killer VI—regardless of what it looked like.

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