Welcome to the ABA! Bell Talk Forums Small Bells Need Info About 4 Small Bells

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    • #12605
      Carolyn Whitlock

      George, an ABA member in Vermont writes:

      I would like to post a request for information on four bells that belong to a friend of mine. The first two come in red cloth bags a foot long by about 4 inches wide, which are labelled “Shreve & Company, San Francisco”. Above this name is an emblem of a bell, flanked by the letter “S” on each side. There is no inscription cast on either bell. The smaller one sounds a clear E flat two octaves above middle C (1262 Hz). The other one sounds a clear G two octaves above middle C (1578 Hz). Their match to the notes on the piano is very clear, as if they had been tuned.

      I also have a pair of two bells, again no inscription, attached to a bar by a hammered copper fitting. Each bell contains a triple clapper. Again, there is no inscription on them. Their pitch is lower than the other two bells and not quite as accurate. One rings about G an octave and a half above middle C (about 789 Hz). The other sounds E a 10th above middle C (about 654 Hz).

      The pair of bells appear to be forged rather than cast. I believe the individual bells were cast.

      Would anyone have an idea of the history of these bells and perhaps what they might be worth? I’ve attached three photos of them.

      Thanks for any help you can provide.

    • #18052

      Hey George! Good to hear from you!

      You have a couple nice sets of bells. Any chance of a close up of the mark you describe? I am including what I think you are describing below, if that helps. The first two bells appear to be sliver plated (worn a bit though, from rubbing in the bag or over polishing?). If the marks are similar to what I have below, and given your description of them, then you have bells from Shreve & Co (San Francisco) who are a still in existence (Jewelers) and produce silver plated objects of this nature. You can check out their website with a simple google search. (Remember the marks change over time, so even if it isn’t an exact match, check out the company’s other marks!)

      We cannot do evaluations on this site. The item really needs to be seen in person for a lot of small clues and for issues that may not be readily apparent (examples: substituted clapper? – less value, rare version of clapper? – greater value) so it would leave either an unusual range of values that would be useless or place us in the position of giving a guess that might be totally wrong for innocent reasons. Then you would be mad at us!

      Also, oddly enough, we all collect bells here so if I value it for you at $$$$ and want to buy it, is my estimate high or low? How would you know? I would essentially be negotiating with myself! So we don’t do that here.

      I suggest looking at on line sources for similar silver items as a start (auction sites for example). In this case, if the marks match, I would contact the Jewelry company directly (http://www.shreve.com) and find out the age (they can possibly tell by the marks) and original value of the bells. I would also ask them how much to refurbish them, that could add to the price! Having the original bags HELPS the value by the way!

      The other bells are typical sleigh bells that mount directly to the wagon or sleigh. The three clappers give a pleasant ‘jingle’ when in motion and the open mouth at the bottom Is to allow for dried mud or snow pack that splashes up to drop off (where a closed ‘jingle bell’ shape would simply pack in and become useless).

      The overall style or shape of the bell looks to be American, so I think it’s a local – not imported – bell, but I would have to get more details on it to be absolutely sure. For example: Do they hold a strong magnet anywhere? Do you have a shot of the inside? Any marks of any sort? ( I think they might be bells turned on a lathe vs hand forged but the photo doesn’t really give enough detail to tell.) How are they attached to the bar? how is the clapper attached to the inside? That kind of thing. The smaller profile seems to indicate it is for a section of or vehicle that is typically lower to the ground (so it won’t catch/drag) like a sleigh or dog/goat sled type but that does require more research.

      Typically, open mouth bells with one clapper tended to be installed in lower positions, while those with three clappers tended to be mounted higher to keep them out of the heavier mud.

      This is just a preliminary guess from what I can see from your description and the photos you did include though, more details may change things!

      I think that you do have a couple nice sets of bells, and I hope my ramblings help in your quest!


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