2.10 Selmer saxophones - Mark VIs

Selmer saxophones are the source of constant debate. Many would suggest that they are the best saxes in the world. Some strongly disagree. I would suggest that Mark VIs (the most sought-after Selmers) are a fine instrument but not consistently so. See Jason Dumar's Saxophone Buyers' Guide for more information. Never buy a vintage Selmer without trying it! Here is a quick quote from the newsgroup:
"I'm a little depressed... why? A few days ago I picked a Bundy tenor and thought that it sounded better than my Selmer Mark VI (#83xxx). The Bundy had this weird gold/glittery-looking lacquer to it (I'm not quite sure if that was significant or not). It had no engraving, and I'm not even sure if the horn has a serial number. It's a little disheartening to see this. BTW... I heard a story about a series of Sonny Rollins recordings where he was seen carrying two saxophone cases while leaving the studio... and one of them was a Bundy... Doh! The lesson? Before you spend a bundle on an instrument (or look at a specific price range), try out a bunch of different horns. A Mark VI has the name... and the feel... but other horns just might have the sound."
Kevin W. Dolorico
Here's another posting from the newsgroup which explains some of the different things to expect from Selmer VIs from different eras. There were over a quarter of a million MKVIs made before (apparently) the machinery wore out. It helps to keep an eye on serial numbers when you're choosing a Selmer, but read on...
"Everyone is opinionated when it comes to Mark VI's, and what you may hear regarding the differences between the early, mid, and late models will often vary wildy from player to player or dealer to dealer. Joe Sax, for example, presents a common-sense view: each horn is different (even those with nearly consecutive serial numbers), so it is dangerous to play the serial numbers game (e.g. since my favorite player, Lenny X, plays a 96,xxx Mark VI, I should get one in that serial number range). There are some really bad hrns out there with serial numbers between 55,000 and 110,000 (the "five digits"), just as there are killer horns out there with serial numbers from 110,000 to 220,000 (the "six digits"), so Joe's warning is well-taken. There is no substitute for trying out as many horns as you can to see which one you like the best.
However, my repairman/dealer has noted some tendencies within serial number ranges that I have found to be quite accurate. He classifies the early Mark VI's (until the 80,000's) as ballad horns having dark, wide tones. Sure enough, I've played three horns within this range and this characterization held true for each of them. One of the horns, a 56,000 tenor, is in the same range as Joe Henderson's horn, and after playing it, I could hear why Joe sounds like he does on a horn of this vintage (listen to him playing on the State of the Tenor albums for how different he sounds on a Super Action 80). Once you get to the 80,000's, you're in the realm of the Michael Brecker horns: the tone is a little brighter and more focused, great for playing fast. The horns from 80,000 to 110,000 command the highest price tags, due a great deal to Brecker's example of what you can do with a horn in this series. The "five digits" are viewed by many as the best Mark VI's because of their consistency - most of these horns are really good or great. The next popular range of serial numbers comes at 140,000 and continues until about 150,000. These are the Sonny Rollins/Kenny Garrett/David Sanborn horns, with a beefy tone and a really free-blowing quality to them. The final series that he points to as special hovers at and just after 200,000. This is not to say that the serial number ranges left out don't contain great horns, these are just his observations of consistency in the mid to late models. To respond to your concerns, no, there is nothing wrong with late model Mark VI's, and the one you are considering purchasing may be a great horn. The later models just aren't as collectible as the older models because the values of VI's are linked to what series our musical heroes play or played, as well as speculations on consistency that are inexplicably borne out. Collectability aside, you can't go wrong if you find a good Mark VI of any vintage. Best of luck to you."
Luis Scheker

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