how do you value a bell?
May 7, 2017 at 11:40 pm #25356susieqParticipant
Hi! I’m looking for some help valuing a school bell from the 1870’s (for inheritance purposes) and your group was recommended to me. We have been the only owners since it came off the school. How do you value a cast iron bell? There is quite a range of pricing on the internet! It is a #7. Measures 23″ across, and 14″ high. We have the cradle. There has been a repair. The clapper is in it. I’m in Ontario, Canada but I’m hoping you can still give me insight as I believe it is an American made bell.
May 8, 2017 at 12:29 pm #25361kcoonenParticipant
Starting with the bell’s material, cast iron is the least valuable material for large bells, behind bronze and brass.
Size is the next factor, with 23″ diameter in the mid range, sounding better than a smaller dinner bell, but not as nice as a larger church bell. This size is easier to handle, though it still takes two to handle this one.
The founder may have some influence on value, though that element comes into play more often with bronze church bells. I’m not aware of a premium among cast iron bell foundries, unless there is a personal connection. I am not aware of a premium of a Fredrick Town bell over a Fredericktown bell, different towns, different states, different foundries.
Condition is crucial. It must ring clear without a buzz from a crack in the bowl, or it’s just yard art. The break and repair on the yoke appear to be very old, hand forged and riveted in place. If it is solid and the yoke is straight, it becomes a matter of aesthetics, and therefore subjective. Some enjoy the bell carrying its history. Others seek complete and original, devaluing with any repairs… subjective.
Completeness is important, and yours appears original and complete, though not restored.
Restoration is another subjective component in appraisal. Some prefer that it will only look this way once, others demand a like-new appearance which certainly costs to attain.
Iron bell asking prices vary greatly as you notice. Sale prices have only a slightly more defined range.
Valid research includes looking at the “Sold” or “Completed” listing prices.
Fully restored, complete and original 24″ iron bells have sold for $1800 and more in 2016.
Repaired barn finds similar to yours have been sold for as little as $300 – $500 in the same year.
A value for family to agree to, and make an equitable division over, might be somewhere in between, though familial sentimental value may override any market appraisal, in which case, you’re on your own!
To avoid family friction, a professional appraisal can be purchased from Brosamer’s Bells, but the cost to do so may prove to be half the appraised value of this particular bell….
Remember, your question was, How do YOU value a bell? Well that’s how I value bells, derived from only ten years of iron bell collecting, but backed by extensive reading and discussions and actual trade of many dozens of bells as a hobby.
Not applicable in this case is LOCATION. Shipping or travel to pick up has to be considered in costs, i.e. a bell just down the road is worth more to me than the exact same bell 500 miles away.
Hope that helps.
I had fun anyway…
Our similar bell restoration, and now in another Forum participant’s personal collection:
May 8, 2017 at 2:06 pm #25363susieqParticipant
Thank you so much! This is exactly the kind of information I needed, and I truly appreciate you taking the time to answer in such depth. Thank you for explaining everything so well. Have a great day!
May 12, 2017 at 10:16 pm #25370kcoonenParticipant
Only too glad to help, Susieq, just giving back, after gleaning so much from these ABA Forums myself.
…and having done a complete restoration on the identical bell made replying too irresistible.
Good luck, hope the bell rings with enjoyment and not, umm, between rounds…
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.