Welcome to the ABA! Bell Talk Forums Small Bells San Francisco Area Collectors?

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    • #11379


      I am hunting for a collector in the San Francisco Area. My dad was an avid collector of desk bells. I would say we have close to 200 desk bells. I would love to find someone to appraise them. There are far too many to take individual pictures. Does anyone have any ideas for me?

      Thanks for any suggestions/recommendations.


    • #15654


      It’s always difficult to price a bell, especially sight unseen. We can probably only offer you generalities here.

      Actually you have a number of choices, some more costly than others -as always! 😉

      Check out other articles here on bell collections and how to sell them – (search for key words in the upper right search box like ‘collections’, ‘selling’, …) There are a couple of good ones here!

      1. I would first divide the bells up into groups and subgroups to make your task easier – metal bells, glass bells, porcelain bells are a typical first pass.
      – then something like large bells and figural bells, bells from a certain company (ie. glass bells from Fenton are usually marked).
      2. Now you can take a photo of each group to show others for opinions.
      3. I would borrow a book from a library or pick one up from the book store. For example Dona Baker’s books on collectible bells has often been used on this site. This should give you a ball park figure for individual bells – you won’t get them all, but you will probably be able to estimate the others from what you do find. There are separate books for glass bells and metal bells as well.
      4. Once you have identified a few, Log into a few websites that sell bells and see what the going prices are. Google search the bell name, look on auction sites, that sort of thing.
      5. Alternatively, you may have to send the bells out to an ‘expert’ to get them appraised. You will be paying shipping costs and usually a fee for them to do the work for you though!

      Selling a whole collection intact is usually faster, but you won’t get top dollar for a number of reasons. Firstly your market is limited- most bell collectors already have a collection (surprisingly!) so would only want certain pieces – they won’t want to pay more for the others they don’t want. Secondly, many collectors specialize- I collect mostly metal bells for example- so don’t have a great willingness to pay a lot more for other types that aren’t collected. Thirdly is the simple cost – it’s a big price tag all at once. So your market is mostly resellers (who buy low and sell high to get a profit), New bell collectors – it’s how I started, and someone who spots a piece they simply “must” have.

      Individual sales take time and effort, but usually get you the best dollar price. That’s where you sell through an auction site for example. If you don’t want to do it yourself, then there are a number of people on the sites that sell by commission. How good a deal you get there depends upon your negotiation skills. :mrgreen:

      An alternative may be something like a museum. They usually don’t have a lot of money to spend on things like this, but a donation can get you a tax receipt usually, and can keep the collection together in many cases.

      Usually what I see is one of a few things. In big metropolitan areas the bells are put on a consignment dealer site are often a choice. Or they are offered on auction sites in smaller groups (ie. 6 figural bells) at a time. Or they are offered on sites like this one (we have a ‘for sale’ section!) as a whole collection with an estimated dollar value (i.e. if most bells are $10 ea and there are 30, the price might be $200) to try and keep the collection together. It really depends on your goals.

      And I haven’t even gotten into items that add to the value of the bells! Rarity, clapper types, Condition, Provenance (history).

      Hope this helps getting you started!


    • #15653

      Wayne Babbit is our expert on desk/tap bells. I don’t know if he participates in Bell Talk Forum, but he would be the best. He does not live in the Bay area though.
      Harry Long, MD

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