Author Topic: Vintage Martin Freres Grand Prix advice  (Read 49 times)

Offline CarlaB

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Vintage Martin Freres Grand Prix advice
« on: February 06, 2019, 02:16:10 PM »
Good evening folks!

I have a vintage Martin Freres Grand Prix clarinet that I'm looking to sell. It was my Dad's, he bought it second-hand circa 1963, as he fancied playing it but he says 'I wasn't very good' so he didn't try that long! He's not a musician, plays no other instruments, so I'm not surprised.... Anyway, it's not been used or played since then - I'm a guitarist (with some keyboard skills!).

I've attached pics of the stamp (quite faded and difficult to read, sadly), and the whole clarinet. I think it's No 7 from the 1905 catalogue on the Martin Freres site here:

It measures 23" (58.5cm) from end of bell to bottom of mouthpiece. It's not clear what key it's in from the stamp - I'd have thought Bb, but what's in the stamp looks more like an A? It certainly doesn't look like it would have been a Bb or Eb.....but perhaps what I'm looking at isn't the key (I'm looking at the bit immediately under the logo, and above where it says 'Grand Prix'). Any ideas on exactly what it is, or how to find out, would be very gratefully recieved!

Dating is notoriously difficult with vintage Martin Freres, but it looks like 1905/6-1914 or so from what I can tell. Martin Freres seem to think these pre-1920 ones are quite rare if they can be played, and, if it is in A, it could be even more rare as I can find no reference to vintage Martin Freres Grand Prix Clarinets in A! Maybe I should contact them and see if they know what it is - or have seen one like it?! They don't seem that keen to get involved in vintage pieces these days, but are still researching so might be interested if it were something they've not yet come across!

Condition-wise, it's pretty good for the age. One key is missing (directly above the top finger hole), but I gather you can get spare parts from Martin Frere (I can at least check that with them)? One pad is missing, and another is detached from the key - overall it looks like it needs new pads and a good clean to loosen all the metal-work up (and shine it up), maybe one or two springs, but most of it seems to work as it should. There is also a chip out of the mouthpiece, which you can see in the photos. It has no case, maybe I need to buy one for it? That is if it's worth enough to justify it!

I've found what looks like a very good technician near me that will clean/repad for 120. I don't know what he'd charge for replacing the key (if I can get one). My question is: would it be worth at least cleaning/replacing pads and getting it repaired? What could it be worth if it was in good working order? I can't find anything similar for sale - and certainly not in A (if it is in A)!! Or do I just sell it as it is?

Also, what advice does anyone have over the best forum and means of selling it? I've seen the advice on here to use eBay, and a Buy-it-Now 50% above what you want, and accept offers. But, if it is rare and difficult to value, perhaps an auction might be better (which was the previous advice) - I could either put a reserve on it, or a reasonable starting bid? Or might there be a better forum to sell it on if it did turn out to be quite rare/sought after?

Any thoughts or advice anyone can offer would be so very much appreciated.....I don't want to give it away, I can't afford to, but I equally don't want to waste money having any work done to it if I'm never going to recover it!

Thanks for reading!

Kind regards
« Last Edit: February 06, 2019, 02:20:19 PM by CarlaB »

Offline DaveLeBlanc

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Re: Vintage Martin Freres Grand Prix advice
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2019, 06:45:56 PM »
Thanks for sharing! We are all happy to help.

First off, I believe you have a Bb clarinet.
The lengths of the standard, A=440Hz clarinets are:
Bb     23 3/8 inches        595 mm
A       24 15/16 inches   633 mm
C       20   inches             510 mm

So your 23 inches is almost certainly a Bb clarinet (unfortunately...)

120 pounds for a reconditioning is an amazing price! I am astounded you found somebody who charges so low.

A missing key is a real toughie. Sometimes, even the same key from identical models might not be interchangeable, especially for older instruments, which often varied slightly from piece to piece and had to be adjusted accordingly.

You may contact the Martin Freres company here:

Their price list is, I believe, quite optimistic. They valuations are for pristine examples being sold top-dollar to the highest possible bidder. More realistically, slash at least half of what they say for a more reasonable estimate.
They say $2,000 for a Grand Prix in Bb. I say, more like $500.

There are two schools of thought regarding how to sell unusual, rare, or oddball clarinets.
1. Set a Buy It Now for higher than you want, and accept offers. This guarantees that you will never sell it for less than you want.
2. Set an auction with $0.99 starting bid. Some of the most expensive clarinet sales I've seen have all started with a $0.99 bid. I suspect this is because such a low starting price helps spur a heated bidding war, and drives up price.

The problem with an auction is that sometimes, things can sell for absurdly low prices. I bought one of the rarest clarinets I've ever seen for just around $64 since it was on a low starting bid with no reserve. Very low interest for an oddball, and so I snatched it up for like a 95% discount over what I should have paid.
Once, I had a Bundy Eb alto clarinet for auction, starting at $0.99 with free shipping. It sold for $36.01 TOTAL, and I lost quite a bit of money. I never did an auction again.

If I was to do an auction, I would absolutely place a reserve around where you're hoping for. Otherwise, it's simply too dangerous.

Anyways, long story short, (assuming you can find a key that fits), I estimate an approx $500 sale for this clarinet. You will almost certainly triple your 120 pound investment.

Best of luck!
David Watson of the original The Clarinet Pages

Offline CarlaB

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Re: Vintage Martin Freres Grand Prix advice
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2019, 06:00:45 AM »
Thank you David for such a helpful and comprehensive response!

I have now contacted Martin Freres to see what they know/can tell me - and whether they can supply a new key....I will post an update on this thread if they come back with anything that might be of interest to others!!

Fingers crossed I can get this beauty back to good playable condition....

Thanks again