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Conn Serial numbers with ‘M’ and “N’ as a prefix
Q.  I pulled my Conn tenor sax out of storage tonight and spent quite a bit of time reading through your website with the intent of learning how to clean up and restore her.  I haven’t played since the late 80’s, and I’m frankly amazed at what good shape she’s in considering the horrible job I did of storing her. She still plays well, but I wanted to clarify what year she was manufactured in. The serial number markings are:

T
M201xxx
L

The one thing I’m confused about is that the serial number lists state that ‘M’ prefix saxophones were manufactured in 1969, but in a prior message you indicated that M 242xxx was a 1930’s serial number.  Based on that information, this saxophone could have been manufactured in 1927.  I’ve had it since the mid-70’s, so either date is a possibility to me.  I’d also like to thank you for your wonderful website.  It’s marvelous! Kiara …


A. It’s good to hear from you again, Kiara . As always, your kind words about our site are much appreciated. I concur with your 1927 dating on the tenor. The old Conns are quite resilient, being built in such a simple & rugged way. That could be a valuable saxophone (especially if it’s in gold or silver plate finish), so I would advise you to seriously consider a professional restoration by someone that knows (and cares) about these wonderful old treasures. You could probably handle a simple cleanup, but if the sax is heavily corroded or badly tarnished in hard-to-get-to areas you will be better off letting a resto shop (like ours) handle the job. As far as pad & setup work, unless you have experience making play adjustments to a saxophone mechanism (and a bench stocked with the expensive, special purpose tools required to do a professional job) I cannot encourage you to attempt the project on a DIY basis. That instrument is simply much too significant not to treat it with proper respect. But enough of my lectures … :-)

The seeming s/n discrepancy is easy to explain. Conn began using an ‘M’ to precede the sequential s/n at about 145xxx, which corresponds with the introduction of the nail file G#. That’s the traditional ‘Chu Berry’ demarcation. The ‘M’ prefix continued as long as did rolled tone holes, which is to say, mid 1947. Later, in the 1960s, Conn changed its s/n assignment method so that 6 digits (or characters) could be maintained. This was as the numbers approached 1,000,000. 

The scheme Conn adopted consisted of a letter followed by a 5 digit sequential number. At the turn of each 100,000 the letter increased by one character, and the numbers started over. This scheme ended when Conn ceased USA operations, at which time the sequence was up to ‘N’ plus xxxxxx. So there are 99,999 Conn instruments with an Mxxxxx s/n that have nothing at all to do with the great Conns of old. This makes for some confusion, except that these very late Conn instruments bear only a general design resemblance to the ‘good’ Conns. They are mostly cheaply made horns with the shooting stars engraving pattern & stamped metal keyguards. There may be a few 6-10-12M models in the group, but those will have straight tone holes.

Likewise, there is confusion over the horns with the ‘N’ prefix, since all the MexiConn saxes, made in Nogales, Mexico, also have s/ns that start with ‘N’. This mystery is likewise easy to solve, cuz the Mexican horns are stamped ‘Mexico’ under the s/n. It’s all very esoteric, I know — but clear as can be to a real Conn-oisseur. 

Additional Comments
CS currently accepts prime vintage saxophone carcasses for professional restoration in our fully equipped resto shop. Completion time is subject to shop load & varies, depending on how much detail work is required to do a quality job. This detail work can often not be anticipated until an instrument is torn down, cleaned up & polished out. The twin saxophone antagonists, time & grime, are often quite skillful at hiding their handiwork. Suffice it to say that quality of output always trumps expediency here at CS. We would be pleased to issue a provisional quote on your treasured vintage saxophone restoration, subject to examination once the sax is received here at CS. We specialize in the silver & gold plated horns, and also in instruments built in the key of C. We stock both Conn Res-O-Pads and Buescher Snap-Ons (which is Buescher referred to this pad innovation in their literature), plus we have the equipment & expertise to replenish faded or buffed out bell washes (either 24k or rose gold).

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