Proll-O-Tone toy sax: an example of the vintage, plastic free reed toys of Proll Toys
These interesting vintage toy saxophones are actually free reed toys. According to harmonica player, teacher, technician and historian Pat Missin, the Proll company from New Jersey used all plastic construction in the manufacturing of the Proll-O-Tone toy sax.
Here is what Missin writes about the history of plastic free reed instrument manufacturers, and about plastic reeds in general:
…Finn Haakon Magnus, was the godfather of plastic free reed instruments, designing several harmonicas, small reed organs, accordions and other instruments that utilised plastic reeds and probably held more patents for free reed related designs that any other individual. He became involved in the business during WWII, when brass was in short supply due to munitions making and German imports were restricted. He devised some innovative manufacturing methods that enabled the production of all plastic instruments with a minimum of individual parts, with reedplates and full sets of reeds being injection molded in one piece. Many of his designs were later made by Proll Toys after Magnus devoted himself to the design of sea fishing vessels!
Surprising, plastic reeds do not sound radically different to brass reeds, although they do not seem to hold their pitch quite so well and the manufacturing tolerances that could be achieved with 1950s plastics technology were not as exact as those possible with metals.
Source: Heart of Ohio Antique Center
I happened to come this interesting ad in the Google News Archives. It is from the October 28, 1971 edition of the Toledo Blade. Apparently you could get these Proll-O-Tone toy horns for under a buck.
Source: Toledo Blade, Google News Archive
4-Key Versions Of the Proll-O-Tone Toy Sax
Here is what the No. 165 Blow Melodeon looks like in real life. Unfortunately there is no numbering stamped on the toy saxophone, so we don’t know what model it is.
In the summer of 2010 the following Proll-O-Tone appeared on eBay. This time it was No. 122.
The seller advertised the little horn like this:
VINTAGE TOY MUSICAL INSTRUMENT SAXOPHONE PROLL TOYS
Vintage Toy Musical Saxophone – 4 Reeds, Proll Toys, Inc. Newark NJ, about 9” high, plastic, comes in original box which has some wear to it. Like new condition and in good working order.
In the fall of 2010 another gold coloured, Proll-O-Tone saxophone appeared on eBay. Unfortunately there was no original box with it, so I can’t be sure that it is a No. 122, but it certainly looks like one. The pictures show remarkable detail.
In the summer of 2011 another 4 button Proll-O-Tone saxophone showed up on eBay. This one too had no box with it, and the seller did not provide a model number. It strongly resembles the No. 122, and is also 9″ long. The seller says it is 5″ wide.
A 3-Key Version Of The Proll-O-Tone Toy Sax
This Proll-O-Tone toy saxophone is model S-3 according to the seller. Apparently it was his toy when he was growing up in the 50s. This 3-key, 2-colour toy horn is approximately 8.5 inches long.
8-Key Versions Of The Proll-O-Tone Toy Sax
The Proll-O-Tone toy sax No. 500 appears to have been gold coloured. This is illustrated in the following 2 examples from different sources on the ‘Net. I’m starting to think that Proll Toys had as many model offerings as real saxophone manufacturers did!
The Proll-O-Tone No. 500 Saxophone above was advertised as like this:
Old Toy Saxophone in Original Box with Music and Extra Mouthpiece
Proll-O-Tone Saxophone No. 500 Proll Toys, Inc., 100 Verona Avenue, Newark 4, New Jersey
“Golden Musical Toys” with Easy Blowing Harmonica-Type Reeds
A pair of Proll-O-Tone saxophones appeared on eBay in spring of 2010. The one with the original box—the red one—resembles the Czech-made Haro toy sax and the German-made Hohner Saxonette. Both of these European toys also had 8 keys that required right handed operation.
The seller of these vintage saxophone collectibles described them like this:
Two generations of Proll-O-Tone saxophones—They are in great shape for their ages. The red Proll-O-Tone No.8 saxophone has the original box and a small sheet of music.
Here is another view of a red No. 08.
In the summer of 2011, a colourful Proll-O-Tone saxophone appeared on eBay. According to the seller, this red, white, and blue, 8 key version, is approximately 14″ long.
This rather patriotically-coloured toy sax, is roughly the same size as the orange one below—which also has 8 keys. I’m wondering if the No. 500 (gold coloured one in the box shown at the top of the page) was just issued in a wide variety of colours, and if so, if the model numbers were all the same. Unfortunately I have not yet stumbled across a vintage Proll-O-Tone catalogue in my online travels. If I ever do, perhaps this question will be answered.
The fall of 2011 brought a few more of these vintage toy saxophones out of their hiding places. This orange Proll-O-Tone also did not have a model number stamped on it, and its original box is long gone. However, its condition appears to be very good. Like the red, white, and blue horn above, this little toy sax also very closely resembles the No. 500.
This 8-keyed, orange, Proll-O-Tone toy saxophone is approximately 13.5″ in length. The seller says that it still works.
We know that Proll-O-Tone did not limit itself to making toy saxophones in only toy-like colours. As we saw in the gold coloured No. 500 and No. 122 above, some of these toy horns were coloured like the real horns they were small copies of.
The same is true of this silver, 8 key, Proll-O-Tone toy sax. Sadly, like the majority of these toys that appear for sale nowadays, the original box is long gone, so we don’t know what model No. it was given by the manufacturer.
Source: Heart of Ohio Antique Center
Source: Heart of Ohio Antique Center
Unlike so many of the Proll-O-Tone toy saxes that appear for sale sans their original boxes, the following, which appeared on eBay in the fall of 2014, still came in the original packaging. The model number for this Walt Disney Character Sax by Proll-O-Tone is 486. It is likely circa late 1960s. Note the original price tag that shows it having cost $4.25. According to the inflation calculator, that amount in 1968 (the year this Proll-O-Tone Toy Sax was patented) would cost $29.14 in 2015.
Source: ddzrave on eBay.com
The seller described these two gems from the past as follows:
…These are large plastic toys, each box is 17.25 inches long. The Sax by Proll-O-Tone has eight keys and is mint and still sealed in the plastic. The colorful box has Mickey, Pluto, Minnie, Donald & Uncle Scrooge . The plastic has one small tear at the edge. The Clarinet also by Proll-O-Tone has eight keys and is mint and still sealed in the plastic. The colorful box has Mickey, Goofy Dumbo, Donald & One of the Dwarfs. Both of these have the instructions on the back. Very light wear on the packages if at all. These were made in Newark New Jersey. Copyright Walt Disney Productions. The patent is from 1968…
Source: ddzrave on eBay.com
Still in the real saxophone colour category, there is this interesting sample. It has a honey gold colour. Reminiscent of a vintage Selmer perhaps? Maybe, but the seller claims it’s from the 1970s, and measures just over 13″ tall.
Junior Saxophone by Proll Toys with 4 open tone holes
In June 2014 this Proll-O-Tone Junior Saxophone appeared for sale on eBay. What’s interesting about this Proll-O-Tone toy sax is that its four keys are really nothing more than open tone holes. This is the first, and so far only, of its kind that I have seen like this.
Source: Auntie Janes Attic on eBay.com
Jr. Sax by Proll Toys with 3 keys
This Jr. Sax by Proll Toys appeared on eBay in its original packaging. The seller didn’t provide a date, but from the sticker on the package we can see that it originally sold for 99¢. From the package itself, we can see a couple of other interesting things: It is designated No. 10 by Proll Toys; and is marked Pat. No. 3,425,477.
A bit of Googling led me to the patent noted on this toy. The patent was issued to Proll Toys in 1969. The inventor is listed as Stanley G Novaco.
In their 1966 patent application, this is how this free reed toy was described:
ONE-PIECE AIR FLOW ACTUATED SOUND PRODUCING DEVICE….
ABSTRACT OF THE DISCLOSURE Novel sound producing devices for use in hollow resilient articles such as squeeze toys comprise an open-ended tubular body having a plurality of integral longitudinal panels disposed internally of the body and at an angle to the axis thereof. Each panel contains at least one longitudinal slot and an integral harmonic reed disposed to vibrate with respect to said slot. At least two of the integral harmonic reeds are disposed with their fixed and free ends in reverse relationship to the fixed and free ends of another of the reeds, whereby at least one reed is caused to vibrate by air flowing in either direction through the body, thus producing a sound on either Squeezing the toy or permitting it to expand to its normal state after releasing the squeezing pressure….
FIG. 1 is a side elevational view of a sound producing device or whistle according to this invention;
FIG. 2 is a top plan elevational view of the same;
FIG. 3 is a longitudinal sectional view thereof, taken on line 3-3 in FIG. 1, and drawn on an enlarged Scale;
FIG. 4 is an outer end elevational view as seen from the left of FIG. 3; and
FIG. 5 is an inner end elevational view as seen from the right of FIG. 3.
FIG. 6 is a longitudinal sectional view, similar to that of FIG. 3, but drawn on reduced scale, the same illustrating means for modifying the pitch of sounds produced by the reed or reeds of the device or whistle.
FIG. 7 is a side elevational view, similar to that of FIG. 1, but showing a modified arrangement of harmonic reeds therein; and
FIG. 8 is a similar view showing another modified arrangement of harmonic reeds.
FIG. 9 is a side elevational view, in part longitudinal section, showing a modified structure wherein a reed or reeds are integrally formed in connection with exterior Wall or walls of the one-piece whistle….
Source: Google Patents