Bell Valuation

Most often when a person inherits or comes across a bell, after succumbing to the desire to immediately ring it, they ask the all-too-familiar question: What’s this worth? While the National Bell Festival can tell you a lot about your bells, we do not provide appraisals. We can, however, help you along the road to determining your bell’s real value.

Collectors interested in appraising their bells should pay attention to several qualifying strata, including:

Size
How wide is the diameter of the bell? Measure from lip to lip at the bell’s widest part. Larger bells tend to be worth more than smaller bells.

Weight
How much does the bell weigh? For tuned tower bells, the weight directly corresponds with the size of the bell. Heavier bells tend to be worth more than lighter bells.

Material
What is the bell made from? Bronze bells typically costs more than cast iron tower bells. For handheld bells, gold, silver, bone china, and crystal are highly prized materials.

Age
How old is the bell? Older bells command higher prices than newer bells, all other things being equal. Is the bell historical, antique, or modern?

Shape
What form does the bell take? Is it a standard cup shape, does it have balanced proportions, is there a uniqueness that sets it apart from other bells?

Handle or Canons
How is the bell affixed to its yoke? Are the canons finely decorated? For handheld bells, is there anything special about the handle?

Decoration
What decoration, if any, covers the bell’s surface? Are the decorations integral to the cast or were they engraved after casting?

Inscriptions
Do any inscriptions, dates, dedications, names, or other markings appear on the bell’s surface?

Clapper
Does the bell maintain its original clapper?

Hardware
Does the bell come with any original hardware, like a yoke or mount for a bronze bell or the manufacturer’s packaging for a smaller handheld bell?

Foundry
What bell foundry cast this bell or how was it manufactured? Was it made in your country or did it travel a long distance?

Purpose
Is the bell made to ring within a tower, on a desk, on a train, on a ship, or on a farm? How was the bell originally used?

History
What events has this bell witnessed? What stories unfolded while it rang overhead?

Provenance
Is there a clear chain of custody back to the foundry or are there questions, gaps, murkiness, or missing pieces in the bell’s past?

Condition
Is the bell in good condition? Do you see any evidence of scrapes, cracks, nicks, rust, or other imperfections?

Repairs
Have any repairs been attempted on the bell over the years? Are they good quality or highly noticeable?

Rarity
Was the bell produced in large quantities of the same style or is it one-of-a-kind or only one of a few?

Appeal
Is the bell desirable? Do you like it? Does it make you want to learn more about it or bring it home?

With these tips and notes in hand, you'll be better equipped to appraise the value of a bell, while feeling more confident in the latest addition to your growing bell collection. For a list of resources that might help you even more, explore our resources for collectors.

Cover image: A man inspects a handheld bell in an open-air market.