Welcome to the ABA! Bell Talk Forums Small Bells dug up revolutionary bells – maybe

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    • #10996

      I’ve been buying a few more bells of late. Been pretty busy so haven’t had a chance to do much posting though.

      Here’s a set of bells I found of interest.

      Apparently they were dug up by a metal detector sleuth working a field in eastern Canada where known military campsites were prevalent. At least that’s what the seller says and he didn’t want to divulge more!

      I figure I either got taken in by the story or he was legit and trying to protect his source (he has dug up other items). He has been selling musket balls, buckles, old weathered out rifle pieces, (and I do mean pieces, not much left of them!) etc.

      The classic shaped bell is about 4.5cm tall by 4cm at the skirt. The harness bells are decorated similarly to the others of this style (the whorl pattern) but I don’t see a number size stamp on them. One still has the iron bead inside, all the others are rusted out. The bells themselves are brass (not magnetic).

      The classic one is interesting, not sure where it was used. I am still trying to wrap my mind about where/how they would be used in a military encampment. I’d think they would want to be as quiet as possible during actions and wouldn’t be tempted to carry noise makers with them!

      Any opinions out there on these items? Think I was bamboozled?


    • #14184

      These do appear to be old. The crotal bells show evidence of wear. The crotal bells are horse bells (“sleigh bells”) that were used to notify others on a road that the horse was coming. The small size suggests that they were from a strap of similar sized bells and could have been part of a neck strap, a saddle strap, or belly strap. The cup shaped bell is also small and probably was used on horses as well. since these bells must hang down in order to ring, they were usually used under a shaft or on a “Martingale” that hung from the horse’s bit or neck band, between the front legs, and attached to the belly band. The cup shaped bell could have hung as a single bell from a neck band of a cow or small animal such as a goat or sheep to identify their location in a pasture.
      Harry Long, MD

    • #14185

      I can’t get a good look at the design on the crotal bells, but here’s a site I use to sort of date them:

      The metal detectorist didn’t reveal the location he/she found the bells because he/she is finding good things there.
      Metal detectorists protect the locations of their sites for several reasons, the most common being they don’t want others in there tearing up the ground, taking everything and leaving a mess. It happens more often than metal detectorists would ever accept (we have a zero tolerance for those making a mess of grounds and creating a poor name for the general metal detecting community). Those who make such messes are simply uneducated in the hobby. Very rarely is there a metal detectorist that doesn’t care. Not that you would go in and do such a thing, but if you told someone, they told another, etc… so we protect our sites. Sorry for the brief digression… now back to the subject at hand….

      I have no idea what you paid for the bells, but they are definitely dug.
      I haven’t sold any bells I’ve found. I haven’t sold anything I’ve found, including a 1790s early militia button.
      If you are satisfied with what you paid for the bells, then I’d say you did fine.
      The crotals are worth more if the dinger is still inside and operable.

    • #14186
      Peter Hyde

      I wish I had come across the UK web site earlier. I have sold nearly all my crotal bells. That section of my collection has been reduced to one.
      Well done Snowy.

    • #14187

      Looks like you have some good bells there.

      I have about three hundred old crotals in my collection, some hundreds of years old (Asian), some from Europe and North America that are old, but not as ancient as the Chinese bells.

      The wear, color, and design of your bells are consistent with old bells that I have studied. Chances are they are genuine.

      If these came from eastern Canada, they are probably from Europe/British Isles. The shape and style suggest that too. The bell-shaped one is remiscent of tunic bells that were traded between Europeans and Africans several hundred years ago, though it’s hard to tell from a picture whether it is actually that kind of bell.

      The crotals are commonly called rumblers in the U.K. and were probably brought over from the “Old World” starting in the early 16th century and increasing as traders and colonists ventured west over the Atlantic. The eastern seaboard was settled earlier than other parts of the continent (the B.C./Washington state area wasn’t significantly settled until after 1853).

      You can increase the historical and monetary value of your bells by recording where and when they were found. Even a photo or simple map of where they were dug is helpful. I don’t know if the seller wants to divulge this, but even general information, if you can’t get specifics, will help historians, or a bell collector who might inherit your bells a decade or century down the road.

      They don’t look like 20th century bells, more likely 19th or 18th, although close examination would be necessary to date them accurately.

    • #14188

      @Peter Hyde wrote:

      I wish I had come across the UK web site earlier. I have sold nearly all my crotal bells. That section of my collection has been reduced to one.
      Well done Snowy.

      Thanks, Peter.
      I’m no expert when it comes to bells, obviously.
      I’d dare say those bells are 1700s, maybe late…. possibly earlier, but as BellSage said, it’s hard to tell without closer examination.
      My husband and I find such bells fairly frequently. Crotal bells are easy for us to date than other bells.
      We never sell the bells we find, but there is no reason. They hold no monetary value to us… it’s the priceless historic value we refuse to release.

    • #14189

      Wow, This is some excellent information from some very knowledgeable people! Thanks!

      You have given me a lot to go on and digest. I too agree that the main thing is to enjoy them, ( I am not buying them with resale in mind,) which is why I don’t get overly upset if I miss-purchase one. I just like to put some history and general information about the bells with them, so if they are fake, I like to note that too. I get a lot of visitors that like to look through my collection and they find the notes I put with them of great interest!

      I understand why the person who sold them was being coy, and appreciate it. I’d like to have specifics to keep with the purchases but recognize that I am unlikely to get it in this case. He doesn’t really know me and would have all the concerns you spell out here.

      I’ll have to look over that website for details on the bells I have. It sure looks interesting!

      I think they are a great set, although the classic bell shaped one is a particularly curious find.

      Thank you all for this great information!


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