Helen the Canadian (yes, I call her that) has blogged at the Bassic Sax blog for a while now. She talks about bass saxes and other rare instruments. She teases me with pointers to sales of vintage instruments that I really can’t justify wanting, let alone buying. But she also, besides playing a mean sax, has the redeeming quality of finding and blogging about vintage sax toys. They tend to be less expensive and fun to buy. Here are three that I have purchased after reading her posts on the sales:
The Hohner Saxophone, made by the folks who are world reknown for harmonicas, sounds like a… you guessed harmonica. You can hear it here. It’s from about 1925 and has the key layout of a melodeon. A sister instrument to the Goofus, which I’ll talk about the one that got away below and the Harmonicar.
The Play-A-Sax was made by the Q.R.S. DeVry Corp. The SAX measures 12” long and has a 2 ¾” diameter horn. The music rolls are perforated and measure about 4.25 inches wide. The rolls wrap around the front of the sax to play 16 notes through the 16 slotted openings. Put on the music roll on, turn the crank and blow. The sax plays 16 note perforated music rolls with accompanying cords.
The crank turns freely in both directions. I don’ know how old this is, but I read these were manufactured and sold in the early 20th century up through about 1930. The Titles of the rolls I have purchased are: P101 Annie Laurie (I have not unwound this roll) and P119 – IRISH WASHERWOMAN.
California Raisin Sax Guy
I found this California Raisin Sax Guy that was a Hardee’s kid meal give-away in 1987. Not so rare, but kinda fun.
The one that got away:
Now I have bid on another oddity, the COUESNOPHONE OR “GOOFUS”, but the last one I saw when for over $500 in an eBay auction in Nov 2009!
“A French patent 569294 was awarded in 1924 to the brass and woodwind manufacturers Couesnon. The instrument is described in the patent as a “saxophone jouet” (“saxophone toy”), but was marketed under the name Couesnophone. This proved a little difficult for English-speaking people to pronounce, so it was commonly Anglicized as “queenophone”, but it was even more commonly known as goofus.
The instrument did resemble a sax, an instrument very much in vogue at the time, but it was actually a free reed instrument much like the harmonicor, with the reeds being selected by piston-like keys arranged in a similar manner to the keys of a piano – one row of keys giving a C major scale, the other row arranged in alternate groups of two and three to give the sharps and flats. It could be played whilst held in a position similar to a sax, but it also came with a long rubber tube that allowed the player to place it on a horizontal surface and play it like a keyboard whilst blowing it through the tube.
I have no idea how it came to be known as the goofus, but it did enjoy brief popularity with some early jazz musicians, most notably the multi-instrumentalist Adrian Rollini who even formed a group called The Goofus Five.” Read more at © 2004 P.Missin