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Author Topic: Selmer Contra Alto  (Read 1985 times)

Offline wrms

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Selmer Contra Alto
« on: June 09, 2018, 07:57:32 PM »
Recently a Selmer Contra Alto (T592) came into my possession. It is complete.The case is in good vintage shape.
There is a repair estimate tag form a local shop from 2016 that says; Adjust $100, 5-10 pads up to $200, 2 tenon corks $40, Floor peg reattachment $100
up to $440. Full re pad around $1000

I will be passing this on. My questions are two fold; Should I repair and sell (how much repair) or sale as is?
And, of course, the big question....whats it worth either way? How would I sell this?

Thanks,

Mark

Offline DaveLeBlanc

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Re: Selmer Contra Alto
« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2018, 12:56:50 AM »
Is this one of the rosewood models with a huge bell? If so, you could probably milk $4,000 out of it in good condition. I have seen these sell for as low as $1700, but that was a very one off event and probably at a bad market time to boot.
I suppose the investment would be worth it.

I guess $1,000 isn’t terribly unreasonable as far as shops go. They’re notorious for charging a great deal, especially for speciality instruments like a contra alto. Supply and demand at its finest.

Assuming it plays, you could sell as is for  $2,000 or more easy.   With a $1,000 investment you should be able to sell it for $2,000 more, so you’d double your investment.

Then again, if it’s NOT a rosewood model, and is a Selmer USA/Bundy student model, then your sale prices are much, much less.
I purchased my Bundy contra alto, which was advertised as recently serviced, for just $850. I previously purchased a different one in “working, but needs work” condition for $500. You’re hard pressed to get more than $1200 or so for these. More likely you’ll be chilling in the $1000 range for a freshly serviced one. In this case it would most certainly not be worth a $1000 repair charge, if you intend to sell.

Should you sell it at all? Well it certainly depends. These are not as commonly used as the sizes up and down, the bass and contrabass. The philosophy behind these is similar to the unpopularity of the standard alto: the full range is covered by the bass and the contrabass, so there is really no niche that can’t be filled with either of those two. A pro bass clarinetist probably has a contrabass as well, but would find it hard to justify a contra alto as well.

Then again, If you do happen to play contra alto (like myself) then you’re a hot cross bun when composers are really want a full low wind section. I’ve been invited to multiple performances for no other reason than I both own and play contra alto (it’s certajnly not due to my skill level!)

Final thoughts: unless you’re a dedicated low clarinetist or want to specialize in a niche instrument, then keep it. If not, then definitely sell it and use the funds towards something a bit more useful.
David Watson of the original The Clarinet Pages
Irvine, California, United States

Offline BLMonopole

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Re: Selmer Contra Alto
« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2018, 09:29:30 AM »
I followed the Selmer Paris Rosewood Contra Alto market on eBay for quite a few years, and agree with Dave that you could repair and re-sell it for a handsome price.  Lately, they have been selling for $4,000 and over unrefurbished, and quite a bit more with a complete overhaul.  I found mine in apparently good condition -- but needing an overhaul -- for somewhat less than that and considered it the steal of the century. 

Look carefully for damage, however....I carefully examined mine before purchase, but still wound up finding several cracks that needed fixing when we overhauled.  It's worth it -- it's a gorgeous horn and plays like crazy.  But I refurbished out of love....harder to make the big investment if you plan to flip it. 

Please note, however, that there isn't a huge market for these.  So, that limits re-sale (not that I'm looking to sell mine in the near future).

I also agree with Dave that those prices are pretty steep for a Bundy contra alto.  But since it's almost the same instrument in plastic and with a smaller bell than the rosewood, it's hard to feel that it's unfair since the work and materials would likely be similar. 


Offline DaveLeBlanc

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Re: Selmer Contra Alto
« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2018, 10:46:17 AM »
Thanks for the price correction. It has been quite a while since I've even looked at contras, especially since I already have my (very decent) Bundy.

Now that I come to think of it, I think the $1700 sale was a metal LeBlanc contra alto. Still, absolutely absurd.

I had the good fortune of playing a rosewood contra and I was incredibly impressed. The bell must surely have something to do with it, as I was able to achieve an insane level of sound projection.

Reminds me of the extended-bell low-C bass clarinet I have. The sound waves travel a mile and it's a great feeling.
David Watson of the original The Clarinet Pages
Irvine, California, United States

Offline wrms

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Re: Selmer Contra Alto
« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2018, 11:17:39 AM »
Thanks for the reply's. The bell is 6 3/4" in diameter and appx 18"in length. Its says series 9 on it.
When I look at pictures of rosewood contra altos, that's what it looks like. :-\
The only number that I can find is T592. Were there wooden models other then rosewood?
Any idea how to date this? (I don't think "yo, baby" will get any positive response). ;)

Mark

Offline DaveLeBlanc

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Re: Selmer Contra Alto
« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2018, 12:01:07 PM »
Wow, a series 9? That's gonna be an oldie. I'd say sometime in the 1960s.

I was thinking of the Model 40, a more recent model that still sells new.

Here's a listing on Reverb for what appears to be a very nice 1963 Series 9 contra alto:
https://reverb.com/item/2158062-1963-selmer-paris-series-9-contra-alto-clarinet

This one was listed at $3,495, but I'm not sure if it sold or not.

Like Monopole said, there is a very limited market for these. When they do sell, it's for a lot, but sales are few and far between. Which is a real shame.

I personally find the contra alto to sound significantly nicer than the contrabass.
David Watson of the original The Clarinet Pages
Irvine, California, United States

Offline BLMonopole

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Re: Selmer Contra Alto
« Reply #6 on: June 10, 2018, 01:29:14 PM »
That's a Selmer Paris....all Series 9 are!  The T serial number would be from 1963 or 1964. 

There were some contras made in grenadilla, but these would be even more rare than the rosewood ones.  If you post some photos I can help determine exactly what you have...

I agree with Dave that the Selmer Paris contra altos are remarkable -- they sound like big bass clarinets!  I find them much preferable to other contras, including the cool looking, but impossible to overhaul paperclips. 

Offline DaveLeBlanc

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Re: Selmer Contra Alto
« Reply #7 on: June 10, 2018, 02:12:42 PM »
I've always wanted a paperclip, but yikes. Looking at one up close, the mechanical linkages are insane. If you thought overhauling saxophones was tough...

Grenadilla contra altos are very quite rare. I'm pretty sure that Buffet makes (or made) a grenadilla model, but I have never seen one for sale on eBay. I'm not sure if wood material really makes that much of a difference in sound or performance - probably only for price.

I personally prefer the unique look of reddish-orange rosewood. There are too many black-colored clarinets so its good to put a splash of color in there.
David Watson of the original The Clarinet Pages
Irvine, California, United States

Offline wrms

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Re: Selmer Contra Alto
« Reply #8 on: June 10, 2018, 03:33:47 PM »
Well, its not black like my R13, so it must be rosewood. I'll try to organize some photos.
Given that the market is small, how would I best sell this? My local store will sell it on commission but
I have no hope that that would work. Ebay is a possibility. I'll eventually put it up here after I decide what to do about repairs but what other options are there.
Where will I be most likely to sell it at a good price? Clearly getting more eyes on it will be helpful, but I only need one buyer. ;)

Mark

Offline DaveLeBlanc

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Re: Selmer Contra Alto
« Reply #9 on: June 10, 2018, 03:55:18 PM »
It really depends on how much commission is being charged by the music shop, and what they're expecting to get for it.

Remember that eBay charges significant fees for sales:
10% is taken right off the top by eBay itself (this includes the TOTAL sale price, including both item and shipping costs. For example, if you sold it for $3900 and $100 shipping (or $4000 with free shipping), they would take $400 in fees.
Then, add in the 3% that PayPal takes, and that's another $120.

Let's say that you sell it for $4,000, all in. You would lose: $400 from eBay, $120 from PayPal, and then you'd have to factor in your shipping cost. Let's say that it costs $100 to ship.
You would net: $4,000 - $400 - $120 - $100 = $3380.
You lose $620 off the actual sale price.

Reverb.com is another place to sell, but in my experience you don't save THAT much over eBay. See here for a breakdown I did on the sale of a $350 oboe on Reverb compared to eBay:
http://clarinetpages.info/smf/index.php/topic,1285.msg8261.html#msg8261


Something that I've always considered but have never pursued, is selling it to a local university. I am very close to UCLA, which has an extraordinary collection of instruments. I don't know how their purchasing department works, but if your local university needs a contra alto, they could be an option. High schools and middle schools will not have enough money or use for something like this, so no need to waste your time with them.


Craigslist might be tough, as again it's an extremely niche instrument and there simply aren't that many buyers in the market at any one time.

eBay and Reverb will get you the largest audience. But do remember you're losing a significant of potential profit on any sale on these sites.

If the local music shop takes LESS than 13% commission, then it might be a good option. I've personally never done that before, but it could work.

I occasionally sell instruments on commission, but I've never tried to sell something like this, it's always been popular, liquid clarinets.
David Watson of the original The Clarinet Pages
Irvine, California, United States

Offline wrms

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Re: Selmer Contra Alto
« Reply #10 on: June 10, 2018, 07:27:40 PM »
Dave,

That should be a sticky somewhere! Lots of good info. I could just play it myself and find community orchestras that don't have bassoons! :D

Here's my confession, I'm a band director that teaches clarinet students, but play...................trumpet ???. Clarinet is my best ww instrument and I have played clarinet with my HS pep band on occasion, usually when a student challenges me. Realistically, I shouldn't have valuable woodwinds. The R13 isn't going so the contra alto will.

Mark