I haven’t had a lot of time lately for hobbies, so on the weekends I usually find something that is going to keep me busy for a few hours between naps, football, and work. As of late this has taken the form of browsing thrift shops for cool shit. A month ago I bought a bunch of 70’s and 80s LPs (mostly Blood Sweat and Tears, and Simon and Garfunkle). Before that I bought a poker table I refinished and redecorated. Well technically I got the idea for that while at a thrift store but then found a cheaper one online.
Last weekend, I bought a trumpet/cornet from the Salvation Army. They wanted 79 bucks for it, but I talked them down to $59.00 for it. It looked fairly old, the vales seemed to just need a little oil, and there was section of the bell that was a little bent. Aside from those things it looked pretty good with the exception of it not having that polished shinny metal look that new instruments have. Plus it had all of the accessories in the case from what I could tell.
I got it hoe and blew a few notes and was surprised at how good it sounded. Maybe this was just me not having played a musical instrument in over a decade and being more surprised I could still blow a half decent note than it was that the horn actually sounded nice. I read some articles on cleaning up old horns and started by giving it a bath in warm water with a little bit of CLR and Baking soda mixed in. This seemed to do wonders and the cornet looked like this:
It still has that old school look which I was ok with since I was planning on just hanging it on my wall over the piano I never got around to tuning or learning how to play. But then I read an article that talked about how to polish old horns that did not have any lacquer on them. I had always thought that the shinny look new instruments have is because of the way they are varnished or painted or plated. Turns out that old brass instruments can look just as good, they just need to be polished. The modern instruments get that shinny look the same way the old ones do, with the only difference is a clear seal coating is put over the outside on the newer stuff.
So I stopped at walmart on my way to the hotel and bought some all purpose metal polish from the automotive isle. I then spent the first 2 hours at the hotel polishing my horn until it looked like this.
Glad I decided to take a before and after. Close up it doesn’t look quite as good as the picture does, but it is still startling how different it looks. I also polished the accessories.
That one mouthpiece was basically black before I polished it.
I tried to find out how old the cornet is, but I’m having a little bit of trouble with the serial number. If you go by just the 6 digit number on the 2nd valve (122698) then based on every website I could find this horn was made between 1911 and 1912. I don’t know enough about Conn instrument design from the turn of the century to say whether what I have could fit in the category, but one thing does give me pause. If you look right above the serial number this is the letter “L”.
There are a lot of models in later years like the 60’s and 70’s that begin with a letter prefix, but never an L. Also here are some other pictures showing some of the markings.
I did some more digging however, and I think I found evidence that this is over 100 years old. Take a look at these model drawings I got from a Conn-Cornet fansite of sorts:
The horn on the bottom left is almost identical to mine from everything I can tell. So I think I have a 1911 Perfected Wonder Solo Cornet.
Here are some more links to back that up: http://cderksen.home.xs4all.nl/ConnPerfWonderC-wo-mechanism1910image.html
So now the real question is, “How much is it worth?”
This listing has a starting big of $159 http://www.ebay.com/itm/Very-Rare-Antique-CG-CONN-PERFECTED-WONDER-Cornet-100-years-old-SURVIVOR-/131670676187?hash=item1ea82f12db:g:t~cAAOSw37tWCumT but no one has bid on it yet. Interrestingly the Serial number on that listing has an M floating above the serial number which is 6 digits and starts with a 11.
This one might be even closer to the horn I have, http://www.ebay.com/itm/Very-Rare-Antique-CONN-Trumpet-with-case-/262182737387?hash=item3d0b4f15eb:g:kuUAAOSwu-BWQfcE The case is the same from what I can tell, and the serial number is a higher number than mine (starts with a 19) meaning mine would be older. He wants $300 based on his “Buy it now amount”. He said it has been in the family probably from the 30s or earlier.
This last one is the one that is the most similar I think and the most expensive at almost $600 bucks. http://www.ebay.com/itm/Antique-Conn-81A-New-Wonder-Cornet-with-Mechanism-Gold-Plated-/271835063099?hash=item3f4aa1e33b:g:FiwAAOSwpDdVKEhc
Wait I take that back. That is a more recent model than the one I have judging by the serial number.
Anyways, the point is, that this is a pretty cool find!