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Selmer Serial Numbers — Inconsistencies
Q.  Sir, My name is Robert. I’m a student and I play tenor and soprano sax. I recently got a mark VI soprano saxophone in excellent condition, but when I checked out the Selmer site for serials the number came up as in being in the Mark VII line. I’m curious if it’s just a glitch on the serial numbers, or something more significant. If you could respond I would greatly appreciate it.  The serial number on my horn is 258,xxx. Thanks, Rob …

A. That can be perplexing, but your sax is a Mark VI. A couple times in Selmer’s history they didn’t redesign the whole array of saxes at the same time. One of those times was when the Mark VII was introduced in the mid 1970s. Nowhere I’ve found does any official Selmer literature tell you this, but the Mark VII run was just altos and tenors. Soprano, bari & bass stayed in the Mark VI design until the Super Action 80 models were introduced.

Selmer has done this ‘run on’ model trick at least once before, with the bass sax. We have a documented Super Balanced Action Selmer bass sax with a Mark VI serial number. BTW, the early Mark VII horns are pretty good saxophones, much better than the general rep of the model, and these early Mark VIIs often represent bargains in a good vintage instrument.

Additional Comments
The Selmer web site has a list of serial numbers. The factory in France has records — unlike many of the other vintage sax makers where records have been destroyed or the companies no longer exist. If you write to the Selmer factory in France they will tell you what they have on record for a particular serial number. You would think Selmer would annotate their published serial number list to reflect such significant anomalies as Rob’s question raises. Maybe they will read this over in France and fix the problem …

We have learned more on Selmer serial number troubles: It seems they do have some records on the Selmer ‘New York’ horns of the post WWI era. Of course we all know (or should) that these aren’t Selmer saxophones at all. To recap another Q&A article dedicated specifically to this subject, these Selmer ‘New York’ horns were stenciled (Buescher, Conn, occasionally Martin) at a time when Selmer did not have a saxophone design that could compete here in the USA. I recently worked through a situation with one CS visitor where a Cmel obviously made by Buescher was reported from Selmer Paris to have been made by Conn. This brings out some interesting possibilities. If you assume that Selmer knows who they contracted with to stencil specific serial numbers from the Selmer ‘New York’ instruments, then Conn apparently subcontracted some of its stencil work to Buescher. Conn & Buescher enjoyed good relations into the 1920s, so this would be a feasible explanation. After all, there are documented curved sopranos of this same era bearing the Buescher name, but made by Conn. Of course Selmer could just be flat wrong, too. The Selmer employee who returned the erroneous information on this Buescher Cmel to our visitor also tried to tell him that because this saxophone bore the Selmer label it was ‘significantly more valuable’ than saxophones with the mere name of ‘Conn’. In your dreams, pal … :-)


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