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The ophicleide was made in tens of thousands for every musical ensemble from the mining bands of Merthyr Tydfil to the leading orchestras of European cities, but their obsolescence led many to the scrapyard and others to attics and junkshops. However, they are worth rooting out and dusting down, with a market value that varies according to condition and manufacture from £600 into the low thousands of pounds.

The ophicleide illustrated here appeared at Finan and Co’s biannual sale in Mere, Wiltshire on October 5. It bore the engraved shield of a London maker – J. Pask of 441 West Strand – although the trade thought that the style owed more to a French manufacturer like Halary, who invented the instrument in Paris in 1821 (some writers dispute this date).

“The ophicleide was really a pre-cursor of the tuba, which also played the bass-line in the keys of B-flat and C,” said London dealer Tony Bingham.

“The tuba superceded the ophicleide in part because of valve developments.” Even so, the great composer Richard Wagner wrote the ophicleide into his harmonic romanticism; Mendelssohn and Berlioz were also fans of the instrument.

At brass band level the ophicleide was overtaken by the euphonium, partly because it was easier to play but also because manufacturers often awarded them as prizes to ophicleide players in brass band competitions.

This 3ft 31/2in (93cm) example was hardly in good condition, with a split in the rim and several dents, but it had retained its original mouthpiece and sold, as expected, for £850 (plus 15 per cent buyer’s premium).