Over-the-Shoulder Saxhorn, ca. 1865

Value (2008) | $4,000 Retail$5,000 Retail

GUEST:
I found it in a little junk shop in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1967. And I knew enough about instruments... I was attracted to the rotary valves because I knew they were unusual. And then I realized it didn't look like any instrument I'd ever seen before, and so, I got it. I was in college, took it back to school, took it to the trumpet player, and he played it and said it's really nice and found out that it's in the key of E-flat, and beyond that...

APPRAISER:
Okay.

GUEST:
I've seen pictures of similar horns with Civil War regimental bands, and that's about all I know.

APPRAISER:
How much did you pay for it at the junk shop?

GUEST:
No more than $5. I was a college student that couldn't have afforded more than $5.

APPRAISER:
Okay, well, it's an over-the-shoulder E-flat soprano saxhorn. It has three string-actuated rotary valves, with all these top action rotary valves, and when you press down, the string turns the valve. And these are amazingly complete. You almost never see them this intact and this complete. It's just missing... there's the little cap... screw cap-- you're missing these two little screw caps, but unbelievably intact and original. Period-wise, about 1865, could be 1870. But we generally think of these as Civil War-period horns. Over-the-shoulder horns are played, as you know, in front of the army.

GUEST:
Yeah.

APPRAISER:
And you'd have every different size of... of over-the-shoulder horn, from the little E-flat soprano up to the big bass horn, which would stand about this tall.

GUEST:
Wow.

APPRAISER:
The material is German silver.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
They were made in both brass and German silver-- German silver is a nickel silver and it would have been the higher grade horn at the time. And this has the extra garland around the bell, which was a reinforcement, and that's probably why the bell is undented. Usually these are a mess and this one is incredibly intact. This bell garland is also German silver-- sometimes, you'd see them in a different material.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
It says "Peters & Bro." And that's all it says, nothing else, and that probably is original to the horn. But I tried to figure out who Peters was-- I've never heard of Peters. My guess is that Peters are music merchants rather than manufacturers. And the form of the horn and these interesting braces-- that curlicue brace-- and you've got another one right here-- I see a lot in the Boston manufacturers, especially a guy named E.G. Wright, who was a very, very famous Boston maker, and some of the New York makers are doing it, too, like Stratton. And I'm not really sure which one it is-- it could be a Boston, it could be a New York. Sold through a merchant. This is a beautifully crafted horn-- it was not made by guys who made a few horns. This is a major manufacturer, beautifully done.

GUEST:
Yeah.

APPRAISER:
It has just a few little dents. And it's the rarest of all of the over-the-shoulder horns.

GUEST:
Oh, wow.

APPRAISER:
I think that, if you were to see this in a musical instrument shop for sale, it would probably sell in the range of $4,000.

GUEST:
Oh, wow.

APPRAISER:
Perhaps even $5,000.

GUEST:
Wow.

APPRAISER:
And I should really hold it up the way they'd hold it, which is just like this. Like that, over the shoulder. Unfortunately, missing the mouthpiece, but you can find a mouthpiece for it. It's... it's such a beautiful little thing.

GUEST:
Well, thank you very much. I appreciate it. It's good to know.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Vintage Instruments, Inc.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Appraised value (2008)
$4,000 Retail$5,000 Retail
Event
Chattanooga, TN (July 19, 2008)
Period
19th Century
Material
Metal, Silver

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