The Selmer Prototype & Stencil
I always wondered about the missing 750 horns between the introduction of the Selmer Modele 22 in 1922. I got my answer a couple of months ago when there was a very odd looking Selmer for sale on eBay, which had a serial number of 656.
Anyhow, I immediately started bidding on this horn and ALMOST won. I missed by just a bit. Oh, well. I had the pics and started to do research.
I was happy to see that there was then ANOTHER of these horns on eBay, almost a year later -- and a more ornate one, at that!
I have seen a bunch of French horns that have won these "Gold Medal" awards: A. Sax himself, Cousenon, SML, etc. These are ALWAYS horns produced by the manufacturer indicated and would have been released in limited quantities around the date the medal was issued. I also knew that Cousenon won in 1900 and Gautrot won in 1896, so that made a date of 1904 logical1.
Plus, I knew that Selmer moved to their Dancourt address in 1900.
I sent a couple of e-mail messages to a couple other collectors and they suggested I try to do a bit more research through www.selmer.fr, Selmer's French website. I found it to be significantly different than the US website. I didn't find anything about saxophones produced before 1922, though.
I was browsing the Selmer website and stumbled upon their clarinet timeline. There in big, bold type: "1904 Gold Medal Winner, St. Louis." I had my confimation.
The number one thing I had to do was make sure this horn was NOT a Selmer, NY horn (a Conn stencil). Aside from the lack of the Mercedes-Benz keyguard on the low C key (a Conn tip-off), this horn looks very similar to the A. Sax, Jr. horns crossed with a Modele 22. The lack of split bell keys, which were common for Conns in the early 1900's, confirmed that Conn didn't manufacture this horn.
Plus, Selmer's French website mentions that they changed their logo around 1910 because it looked too much like Buffet's -- and this horn's engraving looks like that found on Buffets produced in the early 1900's.
According to a variety of websites, books and magazines, Selmer supposedly sent entire saxophone "kits" (I always assumed a body and keys) to Conn and Buescher for them to assemble and sell in the US. Unfortunately, I never had seen any horns that looked significantly different from the Conn or Buescher horns (i.e. the Selmer NY model or the Conn-made Geo. M. Bundy models) and looked enough like the early Selmer 22's or the above prototype.
These horns are a bit different, however. The C soprano has an actual Selmer stamp on the bell, something that I haven't seen before on the other horns that Selmer used as stencils. The alto looks too different from a Buescher or a Conn.
I'm not NECESSARILY saying that either horn was produced by Selmer, but they certianly give you pause...