The King Super 21
The really odd thing is that from s/n 731xxx - 736xxx (1995 to 1996), King/UMI tried to revive the Super 20 with the Super 21: an "experimental" horn produced in limited quantities (see below) -- WHILE the Super 20 was still available.
The seller of the 735xxx horn documented it as a prototype made in approximately 1995. Let's look at the original eBay ad:
King produced this fantastic horn in very limited numbers in about 1995 with the hopes of reviving the legendary instruments of the King Super 20 series. Only about two dozen Super 21 instruments were made, and of those only a very few were actually Silver-Sonics, with a [sterling] silver bell and neck, as this example has. King serial numbers were assigned and this one bears #735,xxx. According to sources within the company, none were ever actually sold, though several were loaned out to artists for evaluation. When the decision was made to abandon the Super 21 project, those in circulation were not all reclaimed. This one ended up in a pawnshop in Tucson in nearly pristine cosmetic condition. I bought it and have had it professionally rebuilt and repadded. The action is open and responsive, with a very even tone throughout the range and that coveted smoky Silver-Sonic sound. lacquer is 99% original. There is a small flaw in the finish, under the lacquer, where a shim was added to bring a post up when the action was balanced, but it is almost invisible. As the photos show the horn is in brilliant new condition. This Silver-Sonic plays as well as it looks. It has a high F# key, plus beautiful engraving on the bell and the lower keycups, as with the early Super 20 Silver-Sonics.
Further description, from an e-mail the seller sent to the buyer, who sent it to me:
This [horn] is in beautiful shape and appears brand new. The engraving on the bell is of a flower. It has silver neck with a gold colored octave key. The silver bell is gold colored on the inside. Keys have faux mother of pearl, rollers are black plastic, the F and F sharp keys have a reddish plastic inlay (turtle shell?). The low E and E flat have filigree swirls engraved. The words on it are KING Super-21 Silver-Sonic -- USA. (The reddish plastic inlay on the F and F sharp keys had been replaced during the rebuild by the black lacquer finish shown in the photos.)
I received a number of e-mails about this horn questioning its authenticity. I suggested that yes, this could be a Yanagisawa that had custom metalwork and engraving done to it, but dismissed that as too complicated: you'd have to steal a new, unengraved Yani from the factory and then have $1000 of custom work done to the horn, for a slight return over the investment of the Yani.
Anyhow, I got an e-mail back from the seller, who agreed with me (and had heard the Yani theory before) and provided a bit more information from a King product manager:
We never cataloged the Super 21; it was an experimental design made in several configurations. There were instruments made in silver and others which were plated silver.
[The King] prototype shop had been in Nogales, AZ at that time. I do not actually have access to the configuration info by serial number, because many of the UMI records were misplaced, but if the neck is actually silver, the bell is too.
Now, looking back on some archived posts regarding this horn, it was suggested that there were at least 12 Super 21's released to the public: 3 of each pitch, alto, tenor and baritone -- and all the rest stayed in-house. No one had any verifiable sources for this, though.
I had thought that the above would be the last word on the Super 21. I was wrong. It took over a year, but I got another e-mail saying ANOTHER Super 21 was for sale. Here's the ad:
Saxophone Collectors Check This Out!
King Super 21 Silver Sonic Professional Alto Prototype
"One of Only Ten Ever Made!"
- Solid Sterling Silver Neck and Bell
- Extra Fine Detailed Engraving
- Custom Fitted Hardshell Gig Bag
Here's the story on this horn as I understand it:
King wanted to design a new high end sax based upon the great old Super 20 horns like the one Cannonball Adderly played. They made 10 prototype instruments, 5 for internal use and 5 for artist evaluation. The project was going well and everyone loved the horns BUT King was bought out by Selmer. Selmer didn't want to make a King sax that rivaled the Super Action Paris instruments so the Super 21 project was canceled. Out of the 10 saxes King made, only a few escaped to the outside world. Now in this auction you have an opportunity to own a very rare piece of saxophone history!
This sax is in MINT++ condition. It may have never even been played!
King purchased by Selmer, eh? That's interesting.
Finally, here's a quote from Steve Goodson's King history article:
In 1995, King excited the saxophone world with the Super 21, which was exhibited at various trade shows. About a dozen of these horns were made (under the direction of Canadian repairman John Wier), and it was decided not proceed with further development or production. These horns represented a natural evolution of the Super 20, but the economics just were not there.
Anyhow, it's obvious that the Super 21 was a "real" horn -- it's pictured below, so it obviously exists :) The debate as to whether this was a "sanctioned" UMI project still continues. All I can say is that it's a nice looking horn that does bear some resemblence to the Yanagisawa. Time permitting, I will attempt to compare the Super 21 to the Yani, Silver-Sonic and the Leblanc 880 prototype.