Conn Saxophone recognition guide

Here are some pointers on Conn saxophones. The title is really a misnomer, because for the most part I will assume here that you can distinguish an alto saxophone from a tenor saxophone. What I will attempt to do on this page is give some explanation on the numbers and letters you see on Conn saxophones (and other woodwinds), shed some light on the names floating around for Conn saxophones from the different periods and I will give a table with some of the basic mechanical (!) differences between the Conn saxophones from various periods.

I myself am not a saxophone expert; for more information please see the Conn section of the Sax Pics website. Thanks to Pete Hales for creating saxpics.com. Buy one of his calendars here.

Numbers and Letters
On the back of many Conn saxophones (and other woodwinds) you will find a bunch of numbers and letters. The format varies somewhat depending on whether it is a New Wonder of Standard model.

New Wonder
For New Wonder models, the format should look like this:

PATD. DEC. 8, 1914
1119954
Eb
M153995
L

What this means is this:

Standard
On "Standard" series instruments (dating after about 1929~1934), the format is similar to this:

14 M
PAT.APP'D FOR
B
291249
L

What this means is this:

Pan American
On Pan American models the format is this:

PATD.SEPT.14.1915
1153489
T
51977
L

What this means is this:

Model names
I am not going to recite a complete list of all Conn saxophone model names here; the objective is to clarify same perhaps rarely used proper names or frequently used incorrect names.

New Invention. The "New Invention" is an official Conn model name, produced between 1910 and 1912. For all intents and purposes it appears to be a fancy "Wonder" model, differing only in finish and engraving.

New Wonder (I) and (II). Produced between 1917 and approximately 1930, Conn called these simply "New Wonder". The (I) and (II), or "Series I" and "Series II" is a much more recent addition to indicate significant changes.

"Chu" or "Chu Berry". New Wonder (II) models are often referred to as "Chu" or "Chu Berry" models, after the famous tenor saxophone player, Leon "Chu" Berry. The "Chu" or "Chu Berry" name is entirely unofficial; Conn never called these saxophones by that name. Also, I am reliably informed that Mr. Berry didn't play a New Wonder (II) model tenor saxophone, but a later "Standard" (or "transitional") model.

Transitional. Conn didn't have a model called the "Transitional". Logically, of course, something can only be called "transitional" from a historical perspective. These were either New Wonder models or "Standard" models. From what I understand the so-called "Transitional" models differ mostly from either New Wonder or Standard models in engraving. New Wonder models are those with split bell keys, Standard models have one-sided bell keys.

Standard. Conn called the saxophones that followed the New Wonder models the "Standard" model. This is a name that is rarely if ever used in saxophone circles as far as I am aware, but it is what Conn called them through at least 1950. In saxophone circles these are often referred to as either "M" models or "Naked Lady" models (q.v.). After probably 1955 they were renamed "Artist". The "Standard" models are those with one-sided bell keys.

Naked Lady. There is no Naked Lady model. "Naked Lady" refers to the style of engraving that often appeared on the instruments. In spite of persistent rumor to the contrary, Dr. margaret Downie-Banks, an acknowledged expert on all things Elkhart-Conn, insists that the presence or absence of a so-called "Naked Lady" engraving or the degree of naked-ness has absolutely no relation to the instrument in terms of quality or otherwise. These "Naked Lady" engravings are usually found on "Standard" series saxophones, hence the incorrect idea that the engraving signifies that model and/or a better built instrument. The Naked Lady engraving can also frequently be found on Conn euphoniums and sousaphones, but only very rarely on Conn cornets, trumpets or trombones of the same period.

Feature table
Here is a table of some of the mechanical aspects of the various saxophone models and how they differ from each other. I stress that this is not a complete list of all differences, and doesn't include anything related to finish or engraving. Also, this only includes the "mainstream" models and omits models such as the "New Invention" or "Connqueror".

Conn saxophone recognition guide
Feature Wonder New Wonder
(I)
New Wonder
(II)
Standard
(1930-1947)
Standard/Artist
(1948-1959)
Double octave key 1 - 12,xxx . . . .
Single octave key 12,xxx-41,xxx X X X X
Straight tone holes X . . . X
Rolled tone holes . X X X .
Split bell keys X X X . .
One sided bell keys . . . X X
Smooth G# key X X . . .
Nail file G# key . . X X X