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Conn Transitional Model Saxophones
Q.  I have a Conn Alto Sax, serial# M253779. It is A-L, for Alto, Low Pitch. It is plain jane, inscribed ‘made by C.G. Conn Ltd., Elkhart Ind. USA’. No bell inscriptions other than the Conn name. It has rolled tone holes, G# trill key, no fingernail file G# key, underslung octave key. I imagine it was made in about 1932. It is different than my Conn 6M & Conn Chu Berry saxes. What exactly do I have? It plays good. Regards, Kirb …

A. You have described pretty well what you have already. In Fact, the model is known as the ‘Transitional’, because it bridged the gap for a couple years between the Chu Berry horns and what we have come to call the ‘M’ series. The serial number range for these Transitional Conns is 240,000 to 259,999. These are fine saxophones that are very highly regarded. They usually sell for more than their ‘M’ model counterparts. Part of this is rarity (only about 20,000 made, all together), and part is that they play and sound so well. The engravings on them vary a lot, from plain (such as yours), to art deco patterns, to the later ‘lady face’ pattern as seen on the ‘M’ horns. The altos differ from the 6M in that they don’t have an articulated G# and in that they have an adjustable thumb rest. Like the 6M, the ‘Trannys’ have the left bell holes and the underslung octave mechanism. There are other distinctions, but those are the easily recognizable ones.

The transitional tenors are perhaps the most prized by players. These saxes still carried the staggered low B and Bb tone holes, so they are sometimes confused with the Chu Berry horns. The ‘Tranny’ tenors have the sweetest sound Conn managed from a tenor in the eyes (and ears) of many Conn aficionados. The Transitional baris have two right bell tone holes and are keyed to high F, but do not have a front F key. Sopranos, C-Melodies and Basses are extremely rare, though they were listed as available from Conn. You definitely have a great old Conn there to enjoy …

Additional Comments
‘Tranny’ Conns were built from late 1930 through the end of 1933. In 1934 the Conn serial numbers started the ‘M’ or ‘lady face’ series at 260,000, which implies that all 20,000 of the Transitional series numbers were not assigned. The Great Depression was in full force during the Transitional run, which is another reason less than 20,000 of these rare instruments were made in the three-plus years before the ‘M’ series began. By contrast, Conn built an average of 18,000 saxophones per year during the 1920s, topping out at 27,000 in 1926. The 1930s were a very different time for American saxophone makers. Between 1930 and 1935 every U.S. sax builder completely revised their design in order to compete with the Selmer juggernaut from France. It was a very trying time, but the results were splendid. Some of the finest saxophones ever made are dated in the years just prior to World War II. Play the horns built between 1937 and 1941 whenever you get the chance. They will put a smile on your face.

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