History Notes #11: The Mark VII
« For the past 30 or 40 years, serial number charts that have been published tend to list the Mark VII as starting at 231,000 serial number. This is incorrect but there's a rational explanation as to why it happened.
The first prototypes of the Mark VII started appearing around 195,000 Mark in 1972 a full three years before production there were further small test batches of production at 205, 212, 206, 219 these would be little runs of 10, 20, 30 instruments that would have been done for a variety of reasons: testing out production, testing out new tooling, whatever. Most of these instruments were not sold until the production so they would be held at the factory for several years but what happened at 231,000 was a fairly lengthy test run went on over 100 instruments and then further ones at 232, 236 but these were all test runs that were held back.
The actual full production launch of the Mark VII happens roughly around the 240,000. In total there were about 1000 Mark VII Alto and tenors built before the full rollout of the Mark VII production, only about 15 examples of these 1000 instruments were sold prior to 1975, so while lots of people see earlier examples they weren't sold years earlier they were only built and then marketed once the rollout happened. For the Altos, full production was up and running by about 241 and it ran to about 317,000. For total production of about 35,000 Mark VII Altos. For the tenors it ran a little earlier from around 239,700 up to about the same time 317,400 roughly. So there are some Mark VI after 240,000 and there are some famous examples, they will dribble out, there's a 246,000 Mark VI I've seen but production of Mark VII was basically started on the tenors just prior to 240,000. Total production on the tenors was about 28,000 instruments.
This brings us to the topic of Mark VII baritones and Sopranos. Did they exist? Well, officially they didn't but there are a few instruments out there that are stamped as Mark VII baritone and soprano, essentially they are Mark VI stamped and marketed as a Mark VII and the numbers are so small, there's less than 50 of each of them. So for all intents and purposes, no, there really isn't a Mark VII baritone and soprano but for a lucky few collectors and musicians, if you find one, play it and play it with pride and get to say you have one of only 50. »