OLDS Central

Assorted discoveries, facts, and theories relating to trumpets made by F. E. Olds & Son.

eBay Important notice for eBay sellers or anyone else selling instruments Please read!
New! Super Evolution A great new article by Clay Collins from Centex Brass on the evolution of the Super Olds trumpet!
1939 Catalog!
The Selection of an Instrument
More newspaper articles on Olds (PDF):
Instruments Made Here Used Throughout the World
Flugelhorn added to the lineup
R.E.Olds passes away (1970)
Plant closes (1979)
< Remembering Howard Wilson, an Olds craftsman thanks to Dale Olson.
Olds History by Dale Olson, at Robb Stewart's site or here on this site.
Interpretation of the 5-digit codes on Custom Olds trumpets! Thanks to Dale Olson and Bill Harris for this priceless data!
The Olds Register has gone offline but here is a copy of the pdf database The Olds Register (PDF)
(Thanks to Eric Hamelin)
You can also explore the Olds Register at the Way Back Machine
Pictures of The Olds trumpet #144, thanks to Stan Ebin
Pictures of The Olds trumpet #145 in original silverplate, thanks to Ron Redding!
Pictures of my The Olds trumpet #150 in original gold plate
Two early The Olds Trumpets, from Robb Stewart
Above link also has a picture of the Olds Ivory Rim Mouthpiece!
Amazing two-bell Olds cornet! Thanks to Tom Meacham for these pics!
F. E. Olds and his original precision lathe! Thanks to Robb Stewart!
Bernie Marston's article about making valves for Olds Thanks to Bernie Marston!
Warranty with original purchase date for 1926 Olds trombone!
Thanks to Joel & Shauna Meinhardt for this information!
Technical leadpipe and mouthpiece specs, thanks to Robb Stewart!
Olds leadpipe specs for Super, Special, Ambassador
Custom mouthpiece specs
Mendez mouthpiece specs
See Robb Stewart's more recent serial number data for Olds cornets and trumpets 1929-1949
My original trumpet serial number estimates 1929-1952
Lars Kirmser's posting of the published serial number list beginning in 1952 at The Music Trader
Surveys of eBay closing prices for olds horns:
survey done in 2000
Survey done in 2002 Thanks to Gerry Rhoades!
Survey done in 2003 Thanks to Ingrid Halonen!
Survey of Ambassador prices done in 2003 Thanks to Ingrid Halonen!
Two surveys from 2004 Thanks to Clay Collins and Ingrid Halonen!
Survey from 2006 Thanks to Bill Deibert!
Olds price calculator!!!(Now with 1929,1941,1947,1957,1960,1962)
Olds product reviews! Including reviews of Custom High Range trumpet (CHR) and the Opera cornet (thanks to John Hudspeth)
Finding a mouthpiece to fit Olds cornets with the large receiver pipe
1947 Olds warranty (Special trumpet) "Lacquer not guaranteed!"
1954 warranty showing Fullerton address
1977 Olds warranty (Shepards' Crook 6a Ambassador)
Ads and Celebrities
Biographical articles on F. E. Olds and R. B. Olds, provided by Robb Stewart
Download an article (Microsoft Word doc, 215Kb) describing work at Olds from the inside!
Or view it online here
Chuck Madere describes his experience working on the production line from 1962 to 1972. A fascinating perspective.
1979 newspaper article covering the final auction of Olds assets after the plant closed in 1979. Thanks to Chuck Madere for this material! NOTE: This page has about 500k of jpg images
The real "house of Olds!"
Robb Stewart's article on Olds history
Notes from a conversation with former plant manager Don Agard
Comments on Olds production in the late 60's and 1970's
Recommendations for excellent brass repairs and restorations
Sign my guestbook! (now fixed! 2/2/2001) | View the guest book
1927 Olds Trombone catalog
provided by Robb Stewart
1929 Olds Brochure Introducing "The Olds" Trumpet!
provided by Paul Ayick
Early 1930's CMI catalog showing Olds trumpets, cornets, trombones!
provided by Robb Stewart
1932 Olds catalog, with trumpets, cornets, trombones!
provided by Robb Stewart
1939 Catalog with trombones, trumpets, and cornets
1941 Olds Catalog: Cornets and Trumpets
provided by Nick DeCarlis
1947 Olds Catalog
Provided by Stan Chappell
1949 Olds Catalog
Provided by Bill Harris
1957 Olds Catalog
Recording Cornet and Trumpet provided by Bill Kasper
Complete 1957 catalog with all brasses and woodwinds! provided by Alan Shelton
1960 Olds Price Listfor all instruments
provided by The Band Museum
1962 Olds Catalog: Cornets and Trumpets
provided by Nick DeCarlis
1966 Olds Catalog: Cornets and Trumpets
provided by Bill Harris
1967 Olds Price List
provided by Bill Harris
1970 Olds Trumpet Brochure
Provided by Yoshino Kazutaka
1973 Olds Price List
1973 Reynolds Price List
1977 Olds Catalog: Cornets and Trumpets
provided by Bill Harris
1978 Olds Price List
provided by Clifford Crain

I have been trying to improve upon the generally-available serial number lists for Olds horns. Click here to see my current serial number estimates and reasoning. I'll update this as I receive significant new information. If you have anything to add to this please send me email , including the serial number, the date manufactured or bought new, and the source of the information (memory, receipt, etc). Thanks!
Robb Stewart has compiled an article (click here to view article) on the early history of the F. E. Olds & Son company. I've used this as a framework on which to add new pieces of information I have gathered.

F.E.Olds began making trombones around 1910. Shortly after his death in 1928, the company introduced its initial trumpets, under the leadership of his son, Reginald B. Olds. The earliest trumpets were simply called "The Olds". Also introduced near the beginning were the French Model and the Military model. Around 1932 The Olds became the Standard model, as the Super and perhaps the Special were introduced. The next addition was the Super Recording, with the offset valve cluster like the later Recording, but having a tone ring like the Super. The 1941 catalog shows the following models and prices: Special $110, Standard $135, Super $150, Super Recording $175.
Here's a link with Consumer Price Index data which can be used to convert these prices to current dollars. In 1999 dollars the range is about $1,243 (Special) to $1,978 (Super Recording)
Olds produced about 800 horns a year before WWII, and perhaps 2000/year immediately after the war. Shortly after the war they introduced the immensely successful Ambassador line. Production immediately increased to around 10,000 horns a year, and accelerated to about 27,000 a year before moving to Fullerton in 1955.
Many people believe that the Ambassador remains the best student trumpet (or cornet) ever built, rivaling many modern pro trumpets. It is a very open, responsive horn with great intonation, excellent tone, and fantastic valves. At least one designer and builder of custom trumpets begins every horn with an Ambassador valve section. He claims to have disassembled and worked on virtually every brand of horn on the market, and finds the Ambassador valves to be the most reliable, trouble-free, smooth-playing valve section ever made.
According to an email message posted from Zig Kanstul, the models of trumpets made by Olds in the late 1940's, 1950s and 1960's all were made with the same bell mandrel, to the same specifications -- from the Ambassador all the way to the Mendez. (although some models used different materials). The only exceptions were the Opera (which had a larger bore) and the Custom. According to another former Olds designer, Olds was a "one tolerance shop" -- in other words all models of horns were made to the same tolerance. In particular, it is said that this was true from the Ambassador trumpet all the way through the Mendez. The Ambassador and Mendez were designed at roughly the same time, and were intended to be essentially the same horn (even using the same brass, with the same thickness of metal), made to the same tolerances. Kanstul seems to remember that the Ambassador may have had a different lead pipe. But for those who are not put off by the fact that the Ambassador was a student model, there are some truly great horns available at bargain prices!
Models introduced in the early 50's include a redesigned Special, the Studio, the Opera, and the Mendez. The Mendez horn was a copy of the famous French Besson, built in order to add to the lineup a signature model for this famous artist and Olds endorser. 1962 prices for these cornets and trumpets: Ambassador $154, Special $189, Studio $225, Super $260, Recording $310, Opera $345, Mendez $360. In 1999 dollars, these range from $847 (Ambassador) to $1,981 (Mendez).
Interestingly, while the top-of-the-line price remained constant between 1941 and 1962 (the 1962 Mendez is priced almost identically to the 1941 Super Recording in inflation-adjusted dollars),the constant-dollar-price for the redesigned Special dropped about 25%, and the Super (seemingly the same design in both years) dropped about 15%, as they attempted to address a broader spectrum of target markets. The 1962 Studio is priced almost identically to a 1941 Special, in constant dollars.
In 1947, Foster Reynolds sold his company to Roth, and came to work at Olds. One of his first actions at Olds was the design and introduction of the Ambassador models. Reynolds was regarded as one of the top brass instrument designer in the country, and was responsible for the introduction of many of the finest Olds trumpets and cornets. I am told that Zig Kanstul had such high regard for his mentor that he named one of his sons after Mr. Reynolds.
See ElShaddai's web site The Contempora Corner with historical information on F. A. Reynolds and his company.
In 1952, Mr. Reynolds brought Don Agard to Olds. Don continued at Olds until the plant closed in 1979, at which time he was the general manager of the plant.
In 1953 the company was joined by a young Zigmant Kanstul. He learned the art of brass instrument building at Olds from the great F. A. Reynolds, who served as plant supervisor during this period. When Reynolds passed away, Kanstul assumed leadership of the plant and remained at Olds Fullerton until 1970. more info , and still more info When Foster Reynolds passed away, Zig Kanstul took over leadership of the plant from his mentor.
Production fluctuated in the late 50's, then accelerated to almost 50,000 Olds horns a year during the 60's and continuing into the 70's.
Around 1964, Olds and Reynolds were acquired by Norlin Music. They began making parts for both brands of horns in the Fullerton plant under their separate labels. By the end of the 60's Olds and Reynolds were producing two separately-labeled lines of nearly identical horns. So the Fullerton plant was producing not only the 50,000 Olds horns a year but also parts for approximately 10,000 more Reynolds horns a year. Some Reynolds production had been moved from Cleveland to Abilene Texas, possibly to a facility Norlin had acquired from Caldwell Products. (Thanks to Jeff Mansfield for this information). The Fullerton plant was producing Reynolds parts and shipping them to Abilene for assembly.
According to Robb Stewart's article, quality began to suffer by the end of the 60's due to the high production rates and Norlin's emphasis on mass-produced, high-volume student model horns. In 1970 Zig Kanstul left the company to become manager of the nearby Benge plant. However, Olds production continued at a brisk pace until 1979 when Norlin stopped production of both the Olds and Reynolds product lines. Presumably the declining quality together with strong competition from Yamaha, Selmer/Bach, Conn, Holton, etc left the company unprofitable.
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