F. E. Olds and Son Serial Numbers

The following analysis is based on some of the serial-number-related highlights from Rob Stewart's article, plus reports I have received from original owners with serial#'s and year purchased.

It is important to note that the serial number sequence we are analyzing includes trumpets, cornets, trombones, and a few french horns prior to the war, and eventually expanded to include alto horns, mellophones, euphoniums, tubas, and sousaphones. Olds also imported woodwind instruments, and actually manufactured saxophones during the war, but I do not know whether these shared the same serial number sequence.


Data is very scarce on prewar Olds horns. Here's my current thinking based on the information I have received so far. I'd appreciate any feedback or new information--just send me an email. .

Note, I recently received data indicating that #9626 was made in 1941, according to the original guarantee card. That implies that the charts below need to be adjusted...but time does not permit me to do so right now. Draw your own conclusions...

Here are the earliest data points, all from Robb Stewart's article:

(Only trombones were produced prior to 10/1928, and separate serial numbers were used for trombones and trumpets until 1932 according to Robb Stewart)
TROMBONES

I doubt the accuracy of #6000 because Robb also indicates expansion of the production rate to 200/year between 1915 and 1920 (which puts an upper limit on 1920 s/n at around 1260). It would take a rate of 1000/year to reach 6000 in 1925. And then you get a drop to 100 units/year between 1925 and 1931. I don't think that's what happened. So I'm throwing out the 1925-6000 data point. Also, we have a positive date for purchase of trombone number 4094 in late 1926. Since these were very likely being made to order at that time, this probably means trombone number 4094 was actually made in late 1926.

#6602 in 1931 indicates that they must have made over 5000 trombones in 11 years, averaging close to 500 horns a year during the roaring 20's. Starting at a rate of 200/yr, they must have accelerated to even more than 500 a year at some point.

Robb Stewart reports that cornets/trumpets were first sold after F.E. Olds' death in October 1928, starting probably with #101. That means they had no more than 12 months of production before the stock market crash in October 1929, which marked the beginning of the collapse of the economy. (The effect on Olds may have been delayed due to a variety of economic factors.)

Known early Olds cornets/trumpets:

One visitor to this site has informed me that his father purchased a Super Olds #46xx in 1932 from a gentleman who had purchased the horn new earlier that year. From this we could estimate that trumpets / cornets were being produced at a rate of roughly 1200-1500 a year during the first four years of production (1929, 1930, 1931, and 1932).

Evidently the two 6xxx Super's preceded the merger of the serial#'s, because trombones reached 6602 in 1931, and the earliest reasonable date for super cornet #60xx is 1932, when the super was first introduced. Assuming that Super's were introduced in 1932, and that trumpets made after 1932 were from the merged s/n sequence, both of the early super cornets had to be made in 1932. That also means that 6600 trumpets were made between October 1928 and the end of 1932, or about 1600/year. That is fairly close to the estimate above (1200-1500) based on the report of Super #46xx. #46xx might have been made in late 1931 and purchased in early 1932, which would be consistent with a rate of 1600 horns a year. So I feel pretty safe in proceeding with that number.

I'm assuming that the trombone s/n reached 7000 in 1932, and that the merger happened at or before 7000 in 1932 (maybe late 1932).

I'm assuming that the 7514 Super Recording was made a few years before it was sold. The bill of sale is from CMI so perhaps they kept it in inventory for the intervening years.

Moving forward from 1932 we have the following data:

We know now that serial number 14005 was made in May 1942 according to the original warranty card. That means we go from 1933 #7250 (approx) to near 14000 by 1942. For now I'm allocating these numbers evenly across that span of years at a rate of 750 horns a year. I'll revise the estimate as more information becomes available.

I have a report of Super Cornet #60xx being purchased new in 1939 for $169. Given other available data, it seems that this horn must have sat on a store shelf for as many as seven years. Thus with all reported purchase dates, we must allow for the possibility that the horn could have been made much earlier. Also, this price is higher than the catalog price for Super Cornets in 1941. Perhaps the store charged more than catalog price, or perhaps there was a price cut in 1940 or 1941.

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