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 during this period nclude alto horns, mellophones, euphoniums, tubas, and sousaphones. Olds also imported woodwind instruments, but I do not know whether these shared the same serial number sequence.

Robb Stewart has further educated me on the status of production during the war: There were few musical instruments made during the war at Olds except for the surprising military order for Olds saxophones. (We do know that serial# 14005 Super trombone was made in May 1942, from the original warranty card, possibly made with on-hand parts that were manufactured prior to the war.) The plant's manufacturing capacity was otherwise devoted to wartime non-musical materials. This means that approximately 14000 horns were made before the war, and postwar production began in the #14xxx to #15000 range. The first serial number from the Robb Stewart article appears in January 1946 with #15066, and then #18501 in August 1947. According to Robb, both of these post-WWII serial numbers were obtained from original bills of sale so the horns may have been manufactured earlier than the stated dates.

Chronology of Olds s/n reported to me with original owner's firsthand report of a date:

I am slightly revising my estimates based on my latest reported data point: s/n 18,9xx in 1946. Based on this information, the 15000-19000 s/n horns had to be made no later than 1946, which pushes many of these horns at least one year earlier than I had estimated previously. The first postwar report I have received of the purchase of a new Olds instrument is for an Olds Super trumpet serial #18,9xx purchased in 1946. That was also close to the time that the first Ambassadors came to market. The earliest Olds Ambassador serial number I have received is for trombone #24,6xx. I have also received cornet #28,1xx. The dates of purchase / manufacture for these two horns are unknown (probably 1947). I have also received a report of ambassador #63,3xx being received new for Christmas in 1951. I have found another trumpet player who started on an Olds Ambassador cornet in 1949 (no longer possesses the horn). My current hunch is that Ambassadors were introduced mid-year in 1946, perhaps as early as #17000.

Below are my current guesses as to beginning-of-year serial numbers for the late 1940's. In arriving at these numbers I have attempted to reconcile the Robb Stewart data with the firsthand reports listed above. I welcome any evidence that can help me improve on these guesses:

It seems reasonable that there would have been a surge in demand after the war even without the immediate introduction of the Ambassador. It also seems that some time was required to prepare the plant to mass produce this horn. So I doubt that Ambassador production began immediately when the war ended. Perhaps they arrived in time for the 1946-1947 school year. More data is needed to nail this down.

It appears that Olds moved from the Los Angeles factory to the Fullerton factory in the last half of 1955. I have seen serial numbers as high as 149,6xx (July/August 1955) with Los Angeles engraved on the horn, and serial numbers as low as 146,xxx (summer 1955) labeled as Fullerton. I have also received a report of a warranty card #150,7xx stating that the horn was manufactured in Fullerton. Based on this information, the best I can guess is that they began making horns in Fullerton in August 1955. However it could have been earlier, and the #149,6xx could be a "hybrid" horn, with a bell made at the Los Angeles plant, but valve section and final assembly done at the Fullerton plant. Or, the two plants could have operated in parallel for a short time. At any rate, mid-1955 seems to be a reasonable date to use for the move. Robb Stewart reports that the mailing address was Los Angeles "until 1956" so my guess is that there was a transition period in the last half of 1955 where both plants were functioning in some capacity.

Super Olds horns retained the "Los Angeles" engraving much later in the serial number sequence than the other models did. I personally suspect that the production of Super Olds horns moved to Fullerton a long time before they actually changed the tone ring inscription, because I think I have seen "Los Angeles" on the tone ring of some horns that were obviously made after the move. At least by 217,xxx the Super said "Fullerton" in the tone ring.

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