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The American Second Line Saxophones:
Conn’s ‘Pan American’; Buescher’s ‘Elk Hart’; King’s ‘American Standard’; Martin’s ‘Indiana’
Q.  I recently purchased a Martin “Indiana” model alto sax on eBay (pretty inexpensively). It has beveled tone holes and a serial number of 34101, which puts it in the circa 1922 period (if my research is correct). But the horn needs help — new pads and some repairs to the keys. I can’t find any information about the “Indiana” model. Is it worth putting money into for repairs? Thanks for your help! Marty …

A. The Indiana a second line of Martin. Most USA sax makers had these second lines up until the mid-1950s. The instruments carrying these secondary brands were either older models (meaning not the latest design innovations) or dressed down in some way so that they could be sold at a lower price point than the main line of branded horns. Serial numbers of these second lines and stencil products often did not follow the branded line s/n sequence. Charts on these alternate s/n sequences generally aren’t available. If you want to send in some JPEGs of your sax I’ll try to date it from its features.

While these second line saxes of the major American saxophone makers are always good horns when in top playing condition, the reality is that they are never highly valued in the vintage sax marketplace. For that reason we advise caution when considering sinking your hard earned money into restoring them. Just keep them in good playing condition — so far as you can — without spending major bucks. If you are confronted with a situation that will require a sizeable expenditure on a second line American vintage sax we strongly advise that you consider trading or selling the instrument, putting the proceeds toward a saxophone of sufficient pedigree (meaning respect & desirability in the marketplace) to warrant your investment. BTW, the working difference between an expenditure and an investment is that you can get your money back on a successful investment. An expenditure is a sunk cost that is gone forever, save the possible direct benefits you experience from the products or services for which you paid your money.

Additional Comments
These great American vintage second line saxophones are NOT in any way ‘student models’ (please visit our Q&A article on this subject for more information). At the time each second line design was originally produced it was the top branded model of that particular sax maker. The later Conn Pan American, for instance, is a ‘Chu Berry’ mechanism with low Bb moved to the left side. Buescher’s ‘True Tone’ (properly called ‘The Buescher’) became the ‘Elk Hart’ with that same modification. These are serious saxophones in every way…except for price. You have a distinct advantage when shopping for a bargain vintage saxophone when armed with this knowledge. The only trick is to assure the one you pick out is in good playing order to begin with. If not, you will face a similar problem to Marty’s: Whether to make a sizeable additional expenditure, or considering an upgrade to an investment quality vintage saxophone. If you intend to play your second line sax for an extended period of time — or if it has sentimental significance — then by all means don’t hesitate to have it restored. But go into the project realizing you won’t get all your money back if you want to upgrade later.

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