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 my old clarinet
Author: Carol Williams 
Date:   1999-07-07 18:49

I have a very old clarinet, i started playing in elementary
school back in 1949, my mother got the clarinet from
a relative so I guess it was old then. It was made by
Holton and it is Silver? Would anyone know if it has
any value. i took it to a music store many years ago and was told those are the kind we throw away! I do know that
in all of my school bands I was the only one that was
different. Can anyone help me with this? Thank you very

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 RE: my old clarinet
Author: Dee 
Date:   1999-07-07 20:21

Metal clarinets were made by the ton in the early part of this century for the student and marching band trade. The heydey of these instruments was from roughly 1920 to late in the 1930s. Of course they were made before and after this period (I read that one company made a metal clarinet as late as the 1960s).

Since the majority were aimed at students and marching bands, they were generally built to be rugged and durable but most were student quality instruments. There were some intermediate instruments made and a very, very few pro grade instruments made.

Based on the numbers of these that I see on the auction sites, Holton made a lot of metal clarinets so it is probable that yours is a beginner model (the Collegiate *may* have been an intermediate mode). Depending on the condition, they seem to be selling for anywhere from $50 to $75. It is very doubtful that it would have been made of silver. There is a possibility that it was silver plated but it could just as easily have been nickel plated or even chrome plated.

People do buy them just to have a piece of clarinet history but the value of them is relatively low unless of course you were to have one of the quite rare pro instruments made.

Metal horns in general gained a poor reputation just by the fact that they *were* geared towards students (listen to people put down common student plastic horns today, same deal). So they had the usual student compromises built in. On top of that, they did have some of their own unique problems. The corners where the tubes join the body caused poor flow characteristics sometimes leading to possibly poor tone quality. Only the metal tuning barrel could be pulled or pushed since there was usually no center joint. This limited the ability to tune the instrument in difficult situations. Then of course some of the older ones were built to different pitch standards, which in turn caused severe tuning problems if a player had one of these.

They probably are no worse than the student woods from the same era actually but since they could be easily identified, they perhaps received a worse reputation than they really deserved.

They are fun to have. I have an old Italian made one that seriously needs an overhaul. However it is playable so I've tried it out a bit. It really doesn't play that badly. I've checked it against my tuning meter and it is poor but no worse than an old wooden Pan American student clarinet of about the same age that I used to have.

I wouldn't throw it away and I wouldn't turn it into a lamp. It could be fixed up and played or sold to some one who wants one for their little bit of clarinet history.

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 RE: my old clarinet
Author: Carol Williams 
Date:   1999-07-08 14:36

Dee. Thank you for the information, this was just what i was looking for.

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 RE: my old clarinet
Author: Lelia 
Date:   1999-07-10 19:56

I believe Holtons have a reputation as solidly-made but not exceptionally good. I have two old Holton catalogues, from 1932 and from about 1941 (undated, but it's clear from the text that the USA was on the verge of entering WWII). I also have a Holton Collegiate pamphlet dated 1931. The Collegiate is not covered in the catalogs but is mentioned there as the student model. In all three of these publications, the company states that its wooden clarinets were "made for us" in France. The metal clarinets apparently were made at the Holton factory in Elkhorn, Wisconsin.

According the the 1931 Collegiate pamphlet, "Holton Collegiate band instruments are popular-priced editions of Holton Originals and embody the traditional Holton quality of tone, tuning and ease of playing. They come only in Finish D which is silver plated sand blast finish with inside of bell gold plated and hand burnished throughout." However, I have seen a Holton Collegiate wooden clarinet for sale (date unknown), so these specifications did change over time.

The 1931 Holton catalogue lists the Holton Model 220 "New Professional" Bb metal clarinet as Boehm system with 17 keys and 6 rings, with a tuning ring (a screw device to lengthen or shorten the neck). It was available in Finish D (nickel silver with silver plate and gold wash in the bell) for $95, Finish H (sandblasted gold-plated) for $150 or Finish (polished gold plated with sandblasted engraving) for $175. These models were promoted as professional clarinets, but I don't believe they were accepted as such by professional clarinetists.

The 1941-ish catalog lists the Holton Model 221for $75 as a 17-key, 6-ring instrument made of nickel silver with silver plate with gold wash in the bell; and the Model 223 as the same but with 17 keys and 7 rings, to provide the forked fingering for Eb/Bb, for $85. This catalogue does not state whether these instruments are intended for professional or student use. Generally when a catalogue makes no claims that instruments are professional quality, that means they're student quality.

I have no personal experience with Holton metal clarinets, but Holton instruments in general were pretty solidly made, though not up to top-quality professional standards. As a rule (for companies other than Holton, too), anything in the model name indicating a college, university, etc., actually means the instrument was being marketed as a step-up model for younger kids who would find such a name attractive because it made them feel more grown-up.

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 RE: my old clarinet
Author: Carol Williams 
Date:   1999-07-14 23:23

thank you for the information i guess really need to do
some research on this. Thanks again

Reply To Message
 RE: my old clarinet
Author: Kenneth L. Gray 
Date:   1999-07-18 21:59

I learned to play on a Holton metal clarinet in the 6th grade
about 1946..of course I don'tknow about the quality..BUT a few years ago, found a similar metal clarinet...a "Champion" with a serial #AB45xx..in an antique store. I bought it for
$35 and paid about $150 to get it repadded. I think that I get reasonable tone and enjoy taking it occasionally to Indianapolis Municipal Band practice for a lark...Some of the younger players have asked "what's that"..having never seen a metal clarinet. I've been told that it's about 1920-1925 vintage. Enjoy your horn.."they don't make them like they used to.


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