Five Vintage Mutes you should consider buying now……

If you are new to the world of vintage trumpet mutes – then you should know that there are a lot of options available. However, these five are the ones I would recommend buying now while they are still affordable.

These will not only offer you a choice of tonal colours, but will also last you a career if you look after them well.

In no particular order….

1) The Shastock Straight Mute – It was a toss up between this one and the Ray Robinson straight – but the Shastock wins out on the fact that it looks much cooler with the Maple bottom and the snappier sound profile. These are still available for reasonable prices. Try and find an original with it’s label and original corks. (Restored are fine too).

2) Ray Robinson Cup Mute – yes, there are two cup mutes on the list. The standard most people start with would likely be the Humes & Berg Cup, or say a combo cup/straight like a Denis Wick. The Robinsons are a fantastic cup mute that muffles the sound slightly with it’s velvet like cup interior. The result is a mute with a softer edge and not quite as much pop or snap.

3) Shastock Cup Mute – With the metal cup and hardware at the end of the mute these are much heavier than say the Robinson. The trade off it that you get a louder cup with a little more edge to the sound. There are various designs from different eras – the 1940-60’s models with the nut at the end likely being the more common as they lasted better than the earlier models.

4) Harmon Mute – commonly refrred to as the Wah Wah mute.  Not all are created equal. Most commonly used today are likely the Jo Ral Bubble or the Humes & Berg Wah Wah. Look for the earlier pre 1950’s models which lack the horizontal lines.

 5) Shastock Solotone Mute – these are an unusual mute that is called for on a lot of show books. The solotone has a slightly bigger and crisper sound than the Humes & Berg Cleartone. These mutes are getting pricey as they are hard to find in good condition and demand is high.

Get them now before the prices really start to move upwards. While there are reproductions available – originals, and sympathetically restored versions will still command a premium as the sound standards were set a generation ago with quality recordings.

Do you have an old Vintage Mute that needs restoration?

Try Smith Mute Restorations

Occasionally vintage mutes are for sale at , or you can contact us directly to see if we can source one on your behalf.

The Concept of Value – High Brass Instruments


Here’s my take on the concept of value, and how it pertains to the subject of trumpet values and collectibles.

First off, I think that the main things that drive value can be broken down into 3-4 main ideas – which are as follows:

  • Supply & Demand
  • Functional Value
  • Condition & Originality
  • Provenance & Historical

Let me break those down a bit further……..

Supply & Demand: This is the basic Economics concept of if you have limited supply and high demand you can command a premium price as you have multiple parties interested in the same object/instrument. Likewise, if you have low demand and an ample supply then your market price is bound to be low.

I think the key word here is essentially desirability. Just how desirable is the instrument that you have in the market when you are considering to sell it?

As with anything collectible there are trends, and aspects go in and out of style (think 10 or so years ago with the heavyweight instrument fad – are they still desirable today, or are manufacturers making instruments that are lighter?, 100 years ago the Cornet pretty much ruled supreme – that is not the case today)

This would apply in general to various collectibles – but we also have some other factors at work here.

The nice thing with brass instruments is that they in basic terms have a Functional value – in that they are built to make and perform music. The easier it is to create a certain tone, pitch the notes of the scale, flexibility in colors of sound and durability of the item all create their own sets of values within this one area. If we take the Olds LA Ambassador Bb Trumpet as an example – this instrument was mass produced in great quantities to serve the student market – however tick all the boxes on durability, ease of use, sound quality this drives the value up and down on a frequent basis as people fall in and out of love with it’s affordability vs. functional value.

Condition & Originality: This could be argued that it really falls into the subject of supply and demand – but it needs to be spoken about separately in this instance. Bottom line is players and collectors alike try to look for original examples that are as close to new as possible.  Collectors more-so will want everything completely original – where a player might regard a certain small tweak as being more desirable if it adds a functional value. Factory modified items that were ordered as a custom job at the time may also be more sought after. Conditions can vary greatly and are highly subjective from person to player to collector to retailer. This is one of the reasons I created my own guideline to assist myself and potentially those I deal with so we have an established understanding of how I value conditions of items

Provenance & Historical value is absolutely a thing! If you have an instrument and the documentation, photographs, letters that match the horn with a Historical/Cult Icon of the era then people will seek that out also. They will do this for multiple reasons 1) It will make them feel more connected to that player in some way 2) It makes a great story and talking point (we all like to talk right?) and finally it has a cultural significance that connects us with our past.

So there’s my quick snapshot on what I think in terms of valuing an item. Ideally you’d want something that ticks all four areas.


As with anything these values will tend to ebb and flow up and down depending on larger trends and what is in demand.

If you want an informed opinion about current value I would recommend you seek out the people who specialize in your particular brand for help and to help maximize your returns and educate you on the real market value at the time you are ready to sell.

Top 5 vintage trumpet picks when you are on a budget

I see this question a lot from players who are looking to upgrade from a starting instrument, or want a back up instrument. As there are lots of opinions in regards to this – so I thought I would give my point of view on this as a player and someone who recommends instruments on a regular basis.

For the purposes of this I will talk about Sub $500 instruments (If you ask me the sweet spot is somewhere between $600 – $900 for a solid used instrument, this would also allow you entry level professional instruments).

A few points to start out:

  • If your instrument is a Yamaha student level instrument or equivalent you may not get much extra for you money. The Yamaha 232, 2330, 2335 etc. are built pretty well and offer a lot of bang for your buck. You might be better to wait and make the leap into the next price point.
  • Bottom line is you will be looking back in time – it won’t be common to find say a Bach Stradivarius in this price range unless you get really lucky.

Top 5 Options when you are on a Budget from my experience (Ranked in no particular order, and at the time of writing – Feb 2018)

Martin Indiana Trumpet: This is just a solid option in a horn. Look for pre 1958 versions of this horn as they used a lot of spare parts left over from previous models. (Be sure to check the slide action and 3rd valve piston action is particular as I have seen several with slightly warped valve casings which cause sluggish valves). The sound profile will be more suitable for Jazz, small group and band playing.

Olds LA Ambassador: These are currently on the rise – so may not stay sub $500 for long. Look for the Los Angeles on the bell and the rounded mouthpiece receiver. These were built at the same tolerances and level of care as the professional models and share several characteristics and parts. Look for the best condition you can find. If you need to repair then spares are still plentiful and inexpensive. These horns are also popular for lead pipe modifications, or the valves used as donors for frankenhorns/hybrids as they are robust and widely available. Useable in a variety of situations. One popular modification is to replace the leadpipe with a Bach 43 pipe. (I personally have not tried this – I have tried a Pilczuk pipe swap and saw large gains with that)

Conn 22B (The earlier pre-war versions): Another mass produced horn – but worth taking a look as these were the professional mainstream horn of their day in the 30’s-40’s but offer excellent buying. The key here is to look for good condition instruments – be sure to check valves for wear and tear and all slides are operational. If not, move on and look for another. A great option for an all-rounder from this list.

Blessing Artist (Pre 50’s): These horns barely scrape into this list, but the prices fluctuate quite a bit. In essence this is very close to the Super Artist (valve casing is different, all yellow brass. They are large bore and play with a big full sound. Would make a great small group/soloists instrument. From time to time in this price point you might find a tired Super Artist that needs work (I recommend you stick to the Artist)Holton Lewellyn Bb Trumpet: Often referred to as the ‘Poor man’s Committee’ – that title is thrown around a lot – but for this horn it does have the tone to back it up. These are excellent horns if you want your tone to be a little softer and more rounded (subject to mouthpiece choice and player of course). The only thing you need to watch out for on these early horns is that the mouthpiece receiver is not optimal for modern mouthpieces – so you have to adapt the mouthpiece receiver, or look at your mouthpiece shank and the gap.

So those are the top 5 vintage picks under $500. What are your thoughts, and do you have any suggestions as to what could make the list?

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