Where these are of interest and, indeed, come into their own, is for the player on a budget! The internet and Craigslist abound with old wood clarinets of low price and unknown provenance and many of them, after restoration, are good to excellent players.
Some are brands lesser known in America, like Couesnon, Malerne, Moennig or Rampone - good players all, when properly restored. Others are the true stencils, many made by the same companies or even by Buffet, Selmer, or lesser known workshops of high quality (like Thibouville Freres).
Some can be identified by comparison with keywork: Buffet and Thibouville in particular have easily identifiable keywork, if you know where to look. Some can't be identified at all (like the aforementioned Nameless Albert system) but are fine players nonetheless, especially if they have pro features like extra keywork, post lock-downs, metal lined tenons, solid alloy keys, and leaf springs.
Generally, they can be purchased for $25-85 and overhauled for $250-350. A good playing, wood clarinet for a final price of $425 or so tops? Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus! I've restored dozens of these for satisfied customers and purchasers worldwide, and there are lots more out there. Go find one and spend the other two grand on something useful!
I receive a lot of requests for valuations, and many of them are for 'stencil' instruments. I've explained it often enough, so I might as well explain it to you, too!
A stencil clarinet (or sax, trumpet, or other band instrument) is one that is manufactured by one maker for sale by another, or by a music store, catalog, or wholesaler. Some, like this old Albert system, have no logo at all. Others will have a made up brand name: Silvertone, Vocotone, American Professional, etc.
As the maker is not identified on the horn, serial number lists are often inconsistent or non-existent, and one brand name will be produced by different makers in different countries over a period of time, so attribution is uncertain! This can be bad news for the yard-saler who picks up a neat old wood clarinet for $30...only to find that, in its current, unplayable condition... it is worth about $30. Collectors rarely have interest in these horns, preferring famous makes and models, or oddities of construction, fingering, or decoration.
To be continued...
The Licorice Shtick Blog is the creation of the Vintage Clarinet Doctor, a Winston Salem, NC based woodwind instrument repair shop specializing in vintage and antique clarinets, saxophones, and the occasional flute.