Musicians who play, sell, and collect vintage saxophones always pay close attention to the instrument's serial number. Knowing the serial number can help confirm the brand, model, and the location of the factory where the sax was made. The manufacturer's original stamp typically will also display the maker's name and logo. Saxophone serial numbers differ from model numbers in that serial numbers are longer and contain mostly numbers. As an example, an Aristocrat Series II is a model number made by Buescher; the serial number might look like 294125.
Saxophone serial numbers can tell you quite a bit about an instrument. If you wanted to find out when your Beuscher Aristocrat Series II sax was made, you would cross-reference the serial number. Performing a Web search will lead you to several websites that have comprehensive free lists of saxophone serial numbers and information about them. By looking up the serial number of your Buescher Aristocrat II, you would discover that it was manufactured from 1941 to 42. You would also learn another interesting tidbit; production of Buescher saxophones was halted soon after due to America's entry into World War II.
To find your saxophone's serial number, first check underneath the thumb rest. The thumb rest is a metal hook found six inches or so below where the body tube attaches to the neck. A manufacturer's stamp usually appears on the opposite side of the body tube near the low D key. The stamp will have several sets of letters and numbers. Generally this will include the patent number, model number, serial number and letters for key and pitch.
The key and pitch stamps are imprinted either above or below the serial number and are commonly misinterpreted as being part of the serial number. T stands for Tenor, C is a Melody, and A is for Alto. You will also see either an L or an H: L stands for low pitch (A=440); H is for high pitch (A=456). Many horn manufacturers sometimes imprinted the serial number on or inside the bell, typically right next to the logo. This can be found by looking under the bell's rim. Also check inside the bell for any brand names or imprints.
If your saxophone's serial number can't be found in either of these places, check any instructions and documentation that came with the instrument. This is not always an option with used or vintage saxophones; the original documentation may have been lost years ago. Taking your instrument to a vintage horn dealer, music store or repair facility may yield more information. There are several experts to be found on the Internet who have knowledge to share on certain brands of saxophones. Posting your question and serial number on a saxophone forum or message board can sometimes result in the answers you are looking for.
You may also want to contact the person who sold you the instrument, if possible. The seller should be able to help you find the serial number or possibly explain why your instrument doesn't have one. Although it’s rare for a saxophone not to have its serial number stamped on, the absence of one does not necessarily mean that your instrument was a fake or cheap copy of a more famous brand.