December 14, 2010 at 6:50 pm #11676rosebudParticipant
I was given a collection of what looks to be mostly Asian bells. I am not a collector so I have no idea what they are worth or how old they might be. I was wondering if anyone had any idea or could give me any info at all about these bells. One looks like it might have cinnabar on it and a couple have the word “China”, “Japan” or a number etched on it. Any info at all would be greatly appreciated. (I think they were purchased at an estate sale in Hawaii if that helps)
December 15, 2010 at 2:41 am #16204
First, welcome! Hopefully you will become a regular member of this forum, you are starting out similarly to the way I did. I came across some interesting bells and wanted to get some details on them so I came here. The history and construction is fascinating and this group is a great bunch of people to get to know! Next thing I knew I was hooked.
Someone has bequeathed you a very nice starter set of bells! I’ll talk about three of them to get things started! I am sure others will want to join in. (By the way this posting will probably be moved to the discussion group on small bells, as that’s what these are.)
The claw bell in the back left of your photo is a fine example of an elephant bell. It’s a bit plainer than most I have seen, the design on which will likely indicate where it came from more exactly than I can tell you myself. I believe it would probably have been used for the elephant’s day job “working” straps. I am sure that one of the members here will add details. The top part fits through a button hole slit in the leather strap like a shirt button, which is then buckled to the elephant. They come in a variety of sizes and decorations, the more elaborate ones for the animal to wear in celebration type activities such as parades. Those can be quite elaborate, some even gilded and filled with enamels. The bottom is a ‘tiger claw’ style and it is believed that the bells were used to help protect the animal from predators. I have been told that older versions have small pebbles for clappers inside, I find though that newer ones use brass or iron pellets instead.
In front of it and to the left is a lady with her right arm crooked and head tilted. You can find this one on page 101 of Donna Bakers “more collectible bells” book. It should be quite heavy. It’s from Korea and is believed to be made from spent shell casings. An interesting cottage industry arising from the refuse of war! Most have a crudely molded (at least all the ones I have seen!) clapper in the shape of a pair of shoes or boots welded together. No real legs, just the boots. She is supposed to be holding either a fan of kindling or a long knife. The ones I have show slight rusting (indicating poor quality brass) and the inside of the skirt is very rough ( porous and unfinished looking) with scorch marks as if it came out of a fire. That is consistent with it being a cottage industry in a low tech country setting!
To the Korean’s left and slightly forward is an ‘old lady with a cane’. She can be found in Donna’s book on page 114 and is of Sally Bassett (Bermuda Slave) and should have a registry mark on one side of the skirt (English mark!). Apparently she was burned at the stake in 1730, accused of poisoning her master’s family.
She comes in a smaller version too.
I recognize a few other ones too. I will be interested in seeing what others say about them, particularly ones like the Welsh Shepard Lady, it’s the first one like that I have seen with an added Shepard’s crook. (I have only seen ones that are molded on or don’t have any.) The lady with the folded arms in the back is one I haven’t come across yet, hopefully someone will talk about her too!
December 19, 2010 at 3:51 am #16203
Ok, I’ll spring on a couple more of these bells, hopefully to help get others talking too!
The small girl bell in front of Sally Bassett is commonly called the “Kentish Maid” (English). Some interesting trivia: Apparently all girls born South of the River Stour in Britain were called “Kentish Maids” while all born North were “Maids of Kent”.
The rooster and the fish bells, I would want to get some better photos of them, but they look to be either Korean or Chinese in origin. Both animals have spiritual significance in the Asian cultures (an easy Google search if you are interested). I would want to see any markings and manufacturing hints before I could try and suggest origins closer than this. The long hanger bar on the top of the fish allows the rope to be attached in a way that, by pulling one end forward and the other back, it holds the fish swimming in the same direction. Directions also have a cultural significance so that is an important feature. In most cases this is accomplished by having two loop hangers (one front one back) on the bell, so your style suggests an early form. The way the line is attached to it shows how it would have been hung – one line going forward the other back – to hold the fish in one position.
The little dutch boy, behind the tail of the fish, is a nice Holland souvenir bell. There are a number of variations of this bell, including a female one as well as a style where both are formed together side by side.
By the way, you appear to have a bell or two hidden behind the rooster. You might want to retake their photo and post it here too.
Hope you are enjoying your bells!
December 30, 2010 at 8:07 pm #16207rosebudParticipant
Hi, Thank you so much for responding to my post! First off, I went to Barnes n Noble to find that bell book you referenced, Garry, but they did not have it! (they actually didn’t have any books on collectible bells, so it was very disappointing)
The Korean bell’s clapper looks pretty worn down and is like a clunky trapezoid, so it definitely could have been some shoes at one point.
I am posting some more photos so you can see the rooster and fish bells a little better, but I can’t find any identifiers on them at all.
It’s so fascinating to find out a little of the history and uses for these bells. Thank you again for your post. The bell behind the rooster is one that came apart when they were shipped. I’ll put it in the photo as well.
December 30, 2010 at 10:43 pm #16206Carolyn WhitlockParticipant
You can find Donna S. Bakers two books on bells at amazon.com and at alibris.com. Both sites have new and used copies of the book. I’m sure there are many other online sites where you can buy these books.
Looking at your initial posting, you say that you are not a collector so you have no idea of what they are worth or how old they may be. May I ask your motivation, please? Are you thinking about selling or otherwise disposing these bells or are you thinking about becoming a collector? Some of these bells are fairly rare and are highly collectible; others are quite common. One thing is for sure – your friend gave you a nice gift!
If you would like some information on ways of disposing of your collection, please send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for help. If you simply want to know the value and something about the bells so you can post them on an auction site, that is not a service the ABA provides.
We’d love to have you become an ABA member so you can research and enjoy the beauty of bells and meet a whole bunch of nice people who share the same interest as you do.
January 2, 2011 at 3:30 pm #16205
Another source is on line auctions.
I have a second book that I like to use as a cross reference: “The Collector’s Book of Bells” by L. Elsinore Springer. You might want a copy of that too.
Then I move to specialty bell books such as Warman’s “Fenton Glass” or Schiffer’s “Glass Bells” books to go more specific.
There are a couple members here who have written some nice books too. I am still trying to get some of them – the Crotials book, for example, is only available to US addresses (which I have not). Still trying for that one!
Max’s El Camino book looks interesting and I am hoping to get a copy soon.
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