History Notes: Body number

History Notes : Numéro de corps

Do you know the difference between a serial number and a body number? From 1927 to the Balanced Action era, SELMER saxophones had two distinct numbers: one on the bell, the other on the body...

“Today I want to talk about body numbers on early Selmer saxophones.

The body number was located just below the low D tone hole. These started to appear around the 7,000 serial number. his is in the middle of the model 26. And it appears to me that the number started at number 1,000.

These are not a serial number. These are a separate number. And it makes perfect sense when I explain. his is a number used for internal inventory control for the time of production before the bell - with the serial number on it - is attached to the body. Now, it makes sense because otherwise you just have hundreds of bodies you can't keep track of one or the other.

So they started to appear around 7,000. As the Large Bore model was introduced, they had an extra suffix added, the suffix was C, around 11,000, the suffix changed to N, and then at 14,000 for altos, with the introduction of the Selmer Super Sax, the three S, the suffix changed to a letter X. So this implies that there was a difference in the body parts and that they need to be managed to put the right part, the right bell with the right body with the right bow.

Body Numbers

What is really interesting is at the Balanced Action, around 21,000, or for the first Balanced Action, the bell keys moved from the backside to the front side. This meant that there was a lot less space on the front of the bell. So for the altos, this was a problem. The serial number originally for the Balanced Action moved to the front of the bell between the low B and C cage bases. Then it very quickly moved to the back of the body, thus eliminating the need for a body number.

So the alto body numbers disappeared around 21,000 serial number. But the tenors and the baritones, they still had plenty of room for the serial number on the bell. So the body numbers continued right up through the Balanced Action period, right to nearly the end. At some point during the war, they stopped. I think it was about 1944 that they stopped.

Body number Balanced Action

These body numbers are quite fascinating to me because they would have been applied, you take a flat sheet of metal, you cut it to shape, you shape it into the body cone and you solder it, and then the number is applied. So the body number represents the numerical order of the beginning of production. The serial number represents the numerical order of the bell production, which could be entirely different process. And so they weren't put together in perfect serial or serial number order. It makes sense. There's a little bit of variation.

Other reasons it wouldn't be the same, sopranos didn't need a body number because the serial number was right on the bell. After the Balanced Action, the altos no longer had a serial number. So the gap between the body numbers and the serial numbers kept growing. In addition, after 1929, when Selmer Paris purchased the Adolphe Sax factory all the Adolphe Sax bodies that were produced by Selmer also had body numbers in the same range. So this had the effect of reducing the gap between the serial numbers and the body numbers.

So if ever you're looking at an old instrument, you'll see the two numbers. The one below the low D key is not a serial number. For all intents and purposes, you can ignore it. The serial number is on the bell, or it's on the back of the body.”



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