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Vintage Yanagisawas

Howdy.  Pete, here.

The below is the original article from Ed that was written on February 18, 2008.

This page is no longer being maintained.

Starting in June 2014, I’ve been busily writing an updated version of this page with a lot of information that Ed didn’t have available to him back in 2008.  You can see what I’ve got so far HERE.  I’ve also posted some updates to the Yanagisawa serial number charts.  I also have a Forum topic where I talk about my current progress.

I now return you to your original post ….

The Vintage Yanagisawa Saxophone Page

A Brief History

Yanagisawa has been making quality saxophones since the introduction of their first model the T-3 in 1954. They have strived to make each model better than the last. Their first few models showed that they were very influenced by the vintage American horns of the 1940’s and 1950’s as well as the Selmer Super Balanced Action and Mark VI. As their designs progressed they began to innovate with unique features such as the introduction in 1985 of the world’s first detachable neck soprano. Today, they build around 8,000 saxophones a year available in a variety of finishes and body compositions ranging from standard Brass to Bronze to Silver which allow for a variety of tonal shadings. Their top of the line horns have robust features such as double arms for the bell keys.

During the 1960’s and 1970’s Yanagisawa provided horns to a variety of distributors in the United States who stenciled a variety of names on them. Some of the most common would be Whitehall, Dorado, Astro, Carot, and Artist. Additionally, the Buescher “Super 400″ sopranos are stencils of the S-6. Leblanc took over the distribution of Yanagisawa in the U.S. in the 1970’s and stenciled horns with the names of Martin (after purchasing Martin) and Vito (the VSP models and the Vito sopranos stamped Japan on them). Around the time of the introduction of the 800/880 series of horns Yanagisawa began putting their name on the horns that came to the U.S. market via Leblanc.


In 1966 the A-4 and T-4 (1966-1975) were introduced. The 4 series shared many design elements with the 5 series. According to Leblanc the 4 series was the entry level pro model while the 5 series represented their top of the line horn ala todays 99x series. The 4 series of horns have a very centered tone and shows a major amount of influence from the Selmer Mark VI without being a true copy. It has a similar bore as well as many keywork and design elements that evoke the memory of the VI. The left pinky table is of a different design but shows selmer influence as well but differs from the 5 series horns. It is a non-floating mechanism that appears to be “selmer” like but on steroids as it is quite a bit larger than your standard modern left pinky table.


In 1965 the A-5 (1965-1975) was introduced, the T-5 (1966-1975) tenor was released in 1966. The 5 series represented their top of the line horn ala todays 99x series. These horns were all hand made. The A-5 series of horns have a very centered tone and shows a major amount of influence from the Selmer Mark VI without being a true copy. It has a similar bore as well as many keywork and design elements that evoke the memory of the VI. The left pinky table is of a different design but shows selmer influence as well. It is a non-floating mechanism that bridges “vintage” and “selmer”. The horn has light action and an even response thoughout the register. The right hand palm key placement (specifically high D) is a little lower than it should be and does not hit my hand where I would prefer. These horns evolved over time and late in the run they have very similar keywork to the A-6/T-6 series of horns.


The first Yanagisawa soprano. This horn is a very good copy of the Selmer Mark VI soprano. It has the same slightly awkward palm keys as the VI soprano and plays much the same. These horns have a couple of advantages over the VI. First, they are much more consistent. VI sopranos vary greatly in performance. The second advantage is that they are considerably cheaper than a VI soprano. The horns that Yanagisawa produced after this handle much better and have even better tone and response.


The A-6 and T-6 models appear to have been influenced by the Selmer Mark VI design to the point that many people consider these horns to be really nice copies. The models that I have played have a slightly different core to the tone than a Selmer Mark VI but I was pleased with how good they sounded. They also seem to be well made.

500 Series

The 500 series was Yanagisawa’s attempt to produce a beginner/intermediate horn. These were only available in alto and tenor. The series was introduced in the mid to late 1970’s and continued into the mid 1980’s.  The typical way of identifying one of these is to look for the stainless steel springs used on the horn rather than the blued springs used on the higher end models of this time period.

600 Series

Here’s one for the record books – in 1980 Yanagisawa made 50 horns labeled A-600. Here’s the quote from the fax that Chris in the U.K. received from them, “Please be informed that your Alto Sax #03803437 was made by us, Yanagisawa Wind Instruments Co. Ltd, Tokyo, Japan in April of 1980, and its model number is A-600. A-600 model were made only 50 pieces, and it is a standard model like A-901. Only the material of G key bar is different and is made with German Silver but not brass.”  I also have documentation from a Yanagisawa catalog of a SN-600.  The 600 series sopranino was later revised and improved as the SN-800.

800/880 Series

In 1978 Yanagisawa began placing their name on their U.S. exported product with the advent of the 800 and 880 series of horns. There are still examples of stencils from this line of horn especially from Martin and Vito (specifically VSP’s). This new line featured a total redesign of their line rather than an incremental change. The 880 models typically have underslung necks and double arms on the low bell keys.

These horns are the logical next step after the 6 series. Again, the design shows that the Selmer Mark VI was the horn they were trying to emulate. These horns are a further refinement to the 6 series.

90x/99x/99xx Series

A further refinement of the 800/880 series of horns. These horns feel more like a Selmer than the modern Selmer’s. They’re very comfortable to play and have a wonderful core to the tone while remaining a flexible horn. The Bari’s and the Soprano’s are the brightest stars in the line. The difference between the 900/990 and the 901/991 models comes down to tone hole placement which was modified slightly on the 901/991 to improve intonation.

S981 versus S991 Sopranos

A common question that gets asked is what is the difference between the S981 and S991 sopranos. The main difference is that the S991 is keyed to high G. Otherwise the horns appear to be identical.

Model Numbers Through The Years

There appears to be a fair bit of overlap between the 4 series, 5 series and 6 series horns. I’m still collecting data on all of these horns to further refine the years of production. Some people have questioned why the short run for the 6 series horns. I haven’t been able to verify this to be a fact but some people contend that Selmer sued Yanagisawa over the 6 series horns because they were too much like the Mark VI.

1953-1965 T-3 – top tenor
1956-1965 A-3 – top alto

1965-1975 A-5/T-5 – top alto and tenor
1966-1975 A-4/T-4 – lesser pro alto and tenor

1966-1978 B-6 – Baritone (including Low A)
1968-1978 S-6 – Soprano
1968-1978 SN-600 – Sopranino

1970-1978 A-6/T-6 – top alto and tenor

1977-1984 500 Series horns – intermediate horns

1980 600 Series horns (probably altos only)

1978-1990 800/880 Series horns

1990-1998 900/900u/990/990u Series horns
1998-present 901/991/902/992/ Series horns


1972 – 12729030
1973 – 12731254
1974 – 12745400
1975 – 12753382
1976 – 12764553
1977 – 12775790
1978 – 12781317
1979 – 12791801
1980 – 00102143
1981 – 00106981
1982 – 00111892
1983 – 00117142
1984 – 00122663
1985 – 00128485
1986 – 00134903
1987 – 00141658
1988 – 00148774
1989 – 00156006
1990 – 00162968
1991 – 00170073
1992 – 00177116
1993 – 00184318
1994 – 00189050
1995 – 00197400
1996 – 00205400
1997 – 00213000
1998 – 00219500
1999 – 00228250
2000 – 00235000

In 1971 it appears that the serial number format is 17111xx. The format during the 1960’s appears to start with a 0 and the second and third digits indicate the year of manufacture.

I have also seen serial numbers start with 2, 3, and 4. The key indicator of age prior to 1980 is that the second and third (or sometimes third and fourth) numbers denote the year the horn was made. Further identification is possible by looking at the engraving and the design of the chromatic F sharp key.

What Should I Buy?

I get asked regularly about the quality of vintage Yanagisawa’s. While each horn has it’s own individual personality I will try to give my general advice. Remember that it’s possible to find great playing student horns and lousy playing pro horns. Again, these are just my opinions. Form your own and make your own decisions.

Personally, I prefer the horns that from the 6 series and after. Generally speaking the quality of the horns continues to improve each generation and as a result the modern day horns are better made and have a lot more options available such as Bronze, Brass, or Sterling Silver (and let’s not forget Pink Gold) horns.

The 6 series horns are a bit more inconsistent in quality than the 8xx or 9xx horns. The Bari’s range from decent to great depending on the example. The 6 series soprano is better than most Mark VI sopranos I’ve played. The altos and tenors can be very nice playing. I played a bare brass T-6 a few years ago that blew me away. I’ve also played a couple that were fine pro horns but weren’t memorable.

The 8xx series horns have a nice compact and centered tone. Some people feel they’re a bit on the polite side. I have a 800 bari and I really love the way it plays. In fact I prefer it over just about any other bari I’ve played.

The 9xx horns are in some ways nicer than any of the horns that came before from Yani. The key touches and ergonomics are very comfortable and the Bronze horns have a great dark tone. They also offer Sterling Silver horns that are really expensive but look amazing. Yanagisawa is a company that seems to take great pride in improving it’s product and the 9xx series of horns are a testament to that philosophy.

So in the end, play as many horns as you can and buy the one that helps you get to the sound that is in your head. If you’re a funk bari player you are probably not going to like the 800 bari no matter how dirty of a mouthpiece you put on it. Get a Keilwerth (I own a couple of these as well). Enjoy the hunt for the perfect horn – or at least the perfect horn for you.

Click here to view pictures of Yanagisawa Saxophones
in our gallery


This page was last updated on January 31, 2008


Vintage Yanagisawas — 74 Comments

  1. I have just been working on an old Yanagisawa. The low key spatulas are more like a Buescher.

    There is an unusual, wide, folded metal guard over the keywork of high E & High F#, between the high E key cup and the small C key’s cup. It has the Yanagisawa motif on it.

    There is no sign of a model number.
    The serial number is very clearly 670291. No leading zeroes.

    “Go figure!” as they say.

  2. I just purchased a used yanagisawa in a pawn shop
    The serial # is 12781322
    On the back, near the bottom is a little logo, under that is the word “Japan”, under that is the serial #
    On the front of the bell is the logo again, the words “Made by Yanagisawa”, and a floral type design inscription
    There is no model number
    From the info on your website I’m assuming it was made in 1978
    The springs are straight pieces of wire that are black so I’m again assuming that it is stainless steel. It doesn’t look blue
    So I’m thinking it is a 500 series
    How can i tell if it is an 800 series?
    I paid $700 plus $65 tax
    It needs some work done
    I estimate around $100 – $200 (hopefully)
    What is the normal price range?
    Did I get a good deal?

  3. All I can tell you without seeing the horn is that it was made in 1978.

    If the springs are silver in color then they are stainless. If they are a blue/gray darkish color then they are not. The 800 series had a huge oval bell to body brace.

    If you want to post photos, I would encourage you to join the forums at http://www.woodwindforum.com/forums

  4. Dear Sirs,
    I read your article very interesting.
    Also found old Yanagisawa photos.
    I have A-4 alto and T-3 tenor, those my Dad used to use. I used T-3 when I was school band.
    Many years since, I re-started play saxophones, bought Taiwanese made curved soprano, that believed Yana’s copy.
    Last week, I went to get old Alto and Tenor from Dad’s home, because now I want to play Tenor again.
    Tenor has “1100 8865839” Alto has “300 336134”
    I rang up Yanagisawa (As I am Japanese!, easy) guy told me that Alto should be A-4 and Tenor is T-3
    I would like to upload photos.
    I joined forum though, not let me to make new thread.

    Anyway, I would like to see more of old Yanagisawa, and exchange knowledge.

  5. in 1994 I bought a used Whitehall Bariton Sax in Chicago and tock it home to Germany.
    It still has a very good sound.
    The serial # is 376517.
    Can someone tell me what model number it could be, and in which year it was build in Japan?

  6. Thomas,

    Your horn is a B-6 made in 1976. I play a couple myself. They are built in Japan.

  7. What about this serial number: 00777675? It’s the number of a Tenor but it doesn’t fit the rule of the double 0 before 1971. What kind of Yani do you think it is? It looks like a 500 but I’m not sure.

  8. I am going to be selling my Yani Curved Bell Soprano (no longer playing) and am needing to find out the model. The serial # 00169996 would say it was manufactured in 1990, but I can ‘t seem to find if that means it’s a SC901, or SC991 or exactly what. I haven’t played a lot of other horns, but this is one sweet to play horn and sounds absolutely great.

  9. I keep having a YANA T-880 whose the serial number is : 00152782, probably from 1988-89. A real grat vintage horn with a real great warm sound like with the King super 20. I play it with a 10* Otto Link. Since Iam French, I have been playing lots of french instruments like SELMER MARK 6 , 7 and SA 80 series I & II, and also DOLNET UNIVERSAL PARIS from the 50th. Since I repair the instruments, I had to restore very old french saxes like, Pierret and Henri Dolnet from the 30th, and indeed some great americans like King s20 and Conn 16m and 10m. Anyway, this T-880 is my favorite one, a true friend, and I can’t get started (no joke) with a new one like a T-991 or 992.

  10. I bought a used Yana bari in 1998. I love the horn and the sound, but have not been able to find any model information on it. The bell has “Made by Yanagisawa” engraved on the side. It has the ring-braced bell like the 9XX series, but the serial number is 6763XX (no leading zeroes) over a simple stamped “JAPAN” (no Yani lyre like I’ve seen on newer ones). From the date I bought it, I’d suspect it’s a 900/990, but I can’t reconcile that with the s/n. I hope you can help! (I’d like to know what to look for if something ever happens to this one!)

  11. It’s difficult to identify a horn without pictures. Serial number seems to indicate it being made in 1979.

  12. I bougth an Yanagisawa bari sax at number 107916XX and I don’t know what model it is. Can you figure?? I suspect it is a 800 series. IS that a vintage horn???

  13. Likely an 800 series horn. Generally people consider any horns over 25 years old to be vintage so your would now be considered vintage. Enjoy it. Nice horns.

  14. I’m a little bit comfuse… why 107916XX???? … would be 127916XX the correct?

  15. Pro horn. Dont’ know anything about Schmidt.

    Yanagisawa wasn’t always good about the formatting of serial numbers. They tended to vary a bit even with the 8xx series horns. The guidelines are just rough guidelines for the serial numbers since Yanagisawa has not released a serial number chart for the older horns.

  16. I have a Yanagisawa curved soprano that is identical to what some people call a SC900, it has the silver rods, and rounded rectangular front F. It originally was silver plated, not much remains. The case has a darker brown lining similar to some 880 alto’s I’ve seen – not yellow/orange like a 1988 S-800’s I’ve seen. But… most unusual is the serial number… only 6 digits and not the 00xxxxxxx format like 1980’s upwards… Serial number is just 018xxx with Japan underneath it. Fantastic round and open sound. Any suggestions about when it was made? The case makes me think… old Yani… but it looks exactly the same as SC900’s with later serials… except the odd 018xxx serial…

  17. I have an a992 with a serial number of 00271520 but i cant figure out what year it is? Help please!

  18. I am the student who use sax from my school….Yamaha , Jupiter,Armstrong.. all student model. From these tree sax , I like armstrong most.
    Now I deside to buy yani A-4 dorado 500 SN 1077xxx. I don’t know that my decision are right or wrong.
    I have 500 – 600 $.

  19. What are the differences between the 800 series and the 990 … I’m talking about the bari sax. What would you prefer??

  20. Hi again, can you check the year of fabrication of a 990 BAri (00213908)?? thanks

  21. I bought Vito soprano sax in a Pawnshop, it said Japan on it, only $300… Im not sure if the serial no. is true, its #772530? its almost like Selmer Mark VI… is it real Vito or just replica?

  22. Hello,I want you help me .I have bought my “yanagisawa” and it’s number was 00322081 .I want to know whether my sax is quality -good ?

  23. Hi, I´m interest in a tenor with the serial 00168612 Do you know wich model that is? How hold is that horn?

  24. I have a Yanagisawa Tenor sax serial number 176263 to the left of that Japan with music lyre above it, the to the left of that the number 5 but the 5 is at an angle. On the bell it says Made by Yanagisawa. Any idea the age or model of this instrument?

  25. Hello,

    I just bought a baritone saxophone. On the bell there is “Prima made by Yanagisawa” with the Yanagisawa logo. The serial number is 673105.
    Do you know something about this model because I didn’t find a lot of thing about it.

    Thanks a lot,

  26. Hi!
    I have Yanagisawa Alto with serial number 01803164, big ring in the middle. With engrave “Yanagisawa” upstears and “Japan” downstears. Can you please tell me about model and year.
    Best Regards

  27. I have recently purchased a used Bflat Soprano with the only brand identifier being the name Martin engraved alonside the two bottommost keys. The serial number is 11797135 with Japan located below the serial number. It is a wonderful player with gold plate or laquer in fine condition with some wear near the upper stem or neckpipe area and I am unable to find any other identifiers or information. Does anyone at the Yanigasawa have any records of Martin Stencils to research? It has what appear to be mother of pearl on the keys and black rollers. All palm keys are solid metal. Thanks for any help anyone might be for information.

  28. Hello
    I aprciate some advice because I search for a good used tenor.
    There are three in shops which caught my interest.
    1. T800 which is overhauled and costs 1500 euro
    2. T500 (they say its a T800 but I doubt that when I look at the pics) costst 750 euro not overhauled
    3. T901 good shape, costs 1000 euro

    For all three of them I need to travel 200km

    Which would be agood choice to try
    thank you in advance

  29. I have Corton de luxe labeled sax. Lower there is text t-4 Yanagisawa logo and JAPAN. Serial number is 273201. Is it a real Yanagisawa or some king of Copy? If it’s real I think it’s made 1973?

  30. Hi. I have a pre-owned Yanagisawa Soprano. Serial # starts with 975. It’s a straight soprano with straight neck. Has Japan engraved near the thumb rest and the “made by Yanagisawa”. Also a “U” on the bell. Brass (I think) that is etched on the bell area. It’s been in the family since the 1980s (and it was used then). Any idea what model this is? Thanks.

  31. I just bought a Yani Alto 880, serial #00136293 at a pawn shop for cheap, real cheap,thinking I got a good deal based on what I read about the 880’s. I looked up the serial# and based on that I think it was made in 1987. Are these considered Pro horns?

  32. I meant to say that the finish, pads, and cork are in good condition and it plays beautifully as well.

  33. I have a Yanagisawa alto that I bought in 1985 it has a 5 then the emblem with Japan below serial numbers 2761163 to the right. I am assuming it is an 880 series but what does the 5 stand for and is there anything special about this horn other than when a slapped my Berg on it WOW? Believe it or not I never went back to my Mark VI.

    Also, would like to try a Vandoreen Java Blue but they are getting harder to find for under $200.

    Great site, enjoyed it.

  34. im lookin at a4 alto sax to buy serial number 1171199
    can you tell me anything about it,year,how much should i pay?thanks

  35. Hi I’m looking for an A990u made in 1995. I’m finding it very difficult on the web. It’s constantly showing me sold ones. It could be that there arent many being sold or I’m not looking in the right places so I thought I’d ask the question if you know. Can you help please.

  36. I bought a vito VSC made in japan bari sax in very very good shape serial nuber 575757 i thing it wa made in 1975 my question is is it a student ,intermediate or a pro sax can anyone help me please

  37. hi I have an alto Yanagisawa Astro with serial number 970140. Could you give me details about this sax? buy it for $ 700, I can not find anything about this particular saxophone not even the year it was made.

  38. I bought an antique store a saxophone Yanagisawa T4 with number 1073257. Can enlighten me on this isntrumento? What is the year of construction, and it is interesting?

  39. I bought a solid silver tenor sax unmarked with the serial number
    Can anyone give me any info on this beautiful sax ?
    Thank you

  40. Saxaphone came into our auction in rough shape. It is marked Dorado 600 with the numbers T-5 Japan 1071290. Could you give me more information

  41. Please help me !!! I buy Baritone Yana number 2 781 286 and I don’t know what is model & Year this my sax. Merci & regards

  42. Hi,

    I have a Prima a-50 with serialnumber 00128175. What year was it built? Is it considered to be a good horn?

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