Stencils and Second-Line Horns
What's a "Stencil"?
American stencil manufactures were generally:
European stencil manufactures were generally:
American stencils generally have the following characteristics:
European and Asian stencils generally don't suffer from the same problems of American stencils: they had mostly the same feature set (look and feel) of the pro OR INTERMEDIATE horn they were stencilled from, just different engraving. For example, the King Marigaux is a stencil of the SML Gold Medal "Mk. II". The only differences between the two horns is the engraving and that the Marigaux doesn't appear to have as many finish choices available for it.
These are general rules for stencils, of course. There are many interesting exceptions: Keilwerth made sax bodies for many different companies in Germany and not all these horns are exceptionally good. Lyon and Healy (an American company) occasionally designed their own horns, but had other companies fabricate them. The list goes on.
What's a "Second-Line" Instrument?
The best way of thinking of a second-line instrument is that they are student/intermediate horns sold by a major saxophone manufacturer. It is too complex to get into the subject of European and Asian second-line horns, so let's deal with the most common American second-line:
* The Conn Pan-American
In all the above cases EXCEPT for Conn, the name of the second-line instrument comes from the name of a company that was bought out (for example, the Indiana Band Instrument company was purchased by Martin). In all cases, these horns generally follow the rules for stencils, except that they were actually sold by the companies that produced them -- they just had different names on the bell.
How can I tell who made my stencil?
For European/Asian horns, as mentioned above, it's easy: they look EXACTLY like their pro/intermediate counterparts except for the engraving. The only exceptions are with Keilwerth -- because they never follow any one standard format. Look for the "JK" logo, lucite (plastic) keyguards, the Keilwerth name engraved somewhere, the slogan "The Best in the World" engraved somewhere, etc. In any event, Keilwerth stencils generally have at least a passing similarity to other Keilwerth horns, and with Beaugnier and Pierret, who "custom made" horns for the stencil market.
There are several relativrely easy-to-spot characteristics of some stencils:
There are several alternative ways toi determine who made your stencil. The best is to look at this EXCELLENT article from Dr. Rick's Music.
Of course, you can also look at pictures of a variety of pro horns and go from there. Just note that the most common American stencils were made by Conn and Buescher (in approximately that order).
How much is my stencil or second-line horn worth?
For European/Asian horns, the answer is: "As much as the horn it was stencilled from". For American horns, the answer is: generally not that much. The exceptions are horns with gold plated bodies and/or keywork, horns with extremely elaborate engraving, horns with "prototype" keywork, horns that were owned by someone famous (provided you can prove it) and sopranino, baritone and basses (although curved sopranos are starting to do well in this market). Broadly speaking, subtract about 25% off the value of the pro horn it was stencilled from.
The major exception to this value rule is brass, lacquer or silver C melody tenors (excepting odd designs). Don't expect to get more than $300 US for these.
This is not to say that stencils/second-line horns are all bad. Some can be extremely good. It's just that the ratio of bad to good is higher. ALWAYS playtest a horn thoroughly before you buy.
Final Comments: "Copycat" Horns
You probably have seen an eBay article or three touting a horn as being
"A copy of the Selmer Mark VI!" or "Has the same keywork
as the Selmer Super 80!" or something similar. These horns fall into
a couple categories:
Just remember: a copy is only as good as the craftsmen copying it and the materials that they use.
You also should beware of advertisements in ALL CAPS or that have too
many exclamaition marks!!!!