Lost and Found
Posted by cann0nba11 on October 3, 2007
In March I was robbed. Two saxophones were stolen from the trunk of my car. Yeah, I know… I should not have left them in the trunk; I should have carried them inside when I got home. My hands were full when I walked into the house and I fully intended to go back out and get them, but having two young kids can often be distracting. Needless to say I didn’t make it outside again that evening. The next morning as I walked to my car I noticed that the trunk was partially open. I knew right away that they were gone.
To put this in perspective, these horns are top of the line professional instruments worth thousands of dollars each. I’ve owned each of them for 20 years. Professional musicians become one with their axes like baseball players to their glove or jockeys to their horse. It’s a bond that is hard to explain and is equally hard to break. Think of that NRA “pry it from my cold, dead hands” bumper sticker and you get the point.
The night that they were stolen the theives canvassed our street and painted racist graffiti on some of the brick houses and the sidewalk. I was the only one that lost anything of value. Paint can be removed, but recovering stolen instruments is not so easy.
After completing a police report I blasted emails to my musician network and posted messages on a few web sites including www.saxontheweb.net. Then I printed out a flyer and visited every pawn shop that I could find, about 20 in all. I was absolutely bummed out. My alto is a cream of the crop vintage 1960 Selmer, and my soprano is a fairly limited edition Yamaha that is highly sought out. Also, my father gave me this soprano when I got to college, and he passed away ini 1999. Lots of sentimental value. The thugs had absolutely no idea of the value of their illgotten booty. My fear was that they would be pawned for a hundred bucks, or worse, be recognized as too valuable to sell and then tossed into a dumpster. Either way I expected to never see them again. My wife, known for the occasional premenition, felt differently. She thought that we would get them back.
About two months later I got a phone call from a fellow sax player in town. He said that he thought he found my horn. I gave him my detailed description and serial number and asked to see it. I learned that he heard another guy talking about “finding a saxophone in the road on the south side of town.” He called the guy and it was in fact my horn. I was stoked! Then he told me that it had a dent at the bottom of the body. Oh well, at least I have my alto back. It is the more valuable of the two, financially speaking.
When I got the horn back I saw that there was more damage than I thought. The hardshell case had a dent the size of a quarter at the base, and the energy that created this dent was transferred to the instrument. A saxophone is a highly complex instrument with many rods, keys, springs, and more importantly many properly aligned and spaced tone holes that are closed by precisely aligned pads. Even the smallest air leak out of a closed key makes an instrument not respond properly. My alto was seriously misaligned. The body was not only bent, it was slightly corkscrewed. This pulled the holes away from the keys and made for a very manually intensive repair job. Fortunately I’ve got one of the best repairmen in the business (Ken Beason) and he has repaired my horn. The $700 repair cost is well worth it given the vintage of this sax.
So I got one of my horns back. That is pretty friggin’ incredible. Who woulda thought? Then last Sunday evening I got an email that literally jolted me out of my chair:
From saxontheweb.net: Your post indicates that you had a Yamaha 62R with a serial number of 0319. If that’s so, then it’s being sold by someone on ebay right now.
Holy crap! I ran downstairs, told my wife, and we both grabbed our laptops to log on and see. There were only 33 minutes left in the auction! I freaked… my heart was racing. Do I bid? Do I contact eBay? I called the detective on the case, but it was 11:30 on a Sunday night; there’s no way he will answer. I decided to bid super high on the item to make sure I won and then deal with law enforcement later.
I placed a bid of $5,000, and had another browser window open with an $8,200 bid ready just in case. Sue was ready with a $10,000 bid under her ID just in case someone came in at the last minute. There’s no way we were going to let this slip away. I won the auction with a price of $3,050. Now the fun begins.
I emailed the seller acting as if I didn’t know it was stolen. At this point I didn’t know if the seller was the thief, or just a guy that found it in a pawn shop. Through eBay communication I asked for the sellers address and said that I would be paying with a cashiers check. I also asked if the shipping fee could be waived since I lived in the same city as the seller. The next day he responded he would, but only if I paid via PayPal instead of a cashiers check. I countered with the “I don’t trust PayPal” argument and offered cash. He then asked for my phone number. Hmm…
By this time the detective had finally made contact with me. I called him and told him where we were in the deal and he said I should try to get the sellers phone number so we could track him down. The detective had requested an expedite from eBay to get the seller’s contact info. Anything I could do to find the guy would be quite helpful to the case, since eBay might take a week or so to get the detective the info he needed. It turns out that the seller responded to me outside of eBay and the email address was a fully formatted military address at Lackland Airforce Base. This gave the detective what he needed and the next day he contacted the seller directly to tell him that he had sold a stolen horn.
The seller denied that it was stolen. Then, in a smart move, he called the local police to verify whether or not the detective he spoke with was really a detective. Once this was confirmed he then wanted proof that the horn was in fact mine. Since it was purchased 20 years ago I definitely didn’t have any sort of receipt. Fortunately I gave the serial number of the horn to the detective on the day that we reported the horns stolen. For a moment this wasn’t good enough… apparently non-musicians don’t know that instruments have valid serial numbers. I then described more of the contents of the case as well as the stickers that were on the case. This sealed the deal since they were not shown in the pictures used for the auction.
The detective then learned that the seller bought the horn at a local pawn shop for $100. Seriously… a $3000 instrument for $100. It was pawned the day after it was stolen. The person that pawned it was Jesse Gomez, a thug already wanted for a few crimes. I’m waiting to hear back if this guy gets arrested. If he pawned lots of other stuff they should have enough evidence to launch a thorough investigation on him.
What pisses me off is that it looks like the pawn shop sat on the horn for five months before putting it out for display/sale. Assholes. And, I may have visited the store where it was sold during my initial tour of pawn shops the day after I was robbed. I plan on visiting the store this weekend to see if this is the case.
Ultimately I am a very luck and blessed person. To think that I would get not just one but both of my horns back was unimaginable to me. But my wife was confident that we would get at least one back. She actually had a strong feeling that we would get the soprano back, not the alto. Heck… nobody’s perfect. 😉