I have shared about Wallace Sleigh Bells on my blog (HERE) and social media for a few years and I get the same questions about them regularly, so I thought I would answer them all in one post! For those who aren’t familiar with them, Wallace Sleigh Bells are collectible bells that were introduced in 1971 by the Wallace Silversmiths. My Oma, who was an avid collector of anything she wanted to collect, bought one and started a collection she added to each year. When she passed away and we were cleaning out the attic of her home, we divided her ornament collection, which included the Wallace bells, some antique glass ornaments (like the one commemorating man’s first moon walk), and vintage German ornaments she bought when she visited us in Germany.
I ended up with three Wallace Sleigh Bells from her collection…my birth year, Jeff’s birth year, and a random bell.
Those bells were among my favorite ornaments, but I didn’t even consider adding to the collection. I didn’t even know they were still made each year until my great-aunt, who is a very classy southern lady with amazing taste, gave a monogrammed bell to each of my boys when they were born. That kicked off my efforts to build a complete collection of Wallace Bells to add to and carry on what my Oma started.
Wallace Bell Pricing
When shopping for Wallace Sleigh Bells, know that the prices can vary dramatically depending on the year, the seller, and whether the bell is Sterling silver or silver plate. I collect the silver plate bells, which are obviously less expensive and easier to acquire than the Sterling bells. They look exactly the same, though.
I have paid between $10-50 for each of my bells, but the majority of them have been purchased for around $25. You will see crazy prices in some listings…well over $100 for one bell! Just be patient. I was even able to get the first bell (1971) for about $25. The ambition of the seller seems to affect the price more than the year or even condition.
I often bought tarnished bells, because they were priced much lower, or ones without the boxes or bags. When they are hanging on the tree, it doesn’t matter if I have a box to put them in or not and, even the darkest, most tarnished bells I’ve purchased have polished up nicely.
Polishing Wallace Bells
Because the bells are silver-plated, they will tarnish. I don’t have to polish them every year, but I’ll polish the ones that need it every 2-3 years. Last year, I wasn’t doing as much because of my shoulder, so I didn’t polish any of them. I just hung them up tarnished and they are pretty in their own way.
Polishing the bells is easy, though…
I use Goddard’s Silver Foam, which is my favorite for polishing my silverware, too. (I use my inherited Sterling silverware set as our “everyday” set, so it needs to be polished about once a year.) I like that it doesn’t have a strong smell and it works quickly.
Here’s a little video showing how quick and effective the polish is. It takes about 20 seconds or so to polish each bell.
Once they are polished, I rinse them off and put them on a towel to drip dry for a few minutes before I dry them with a clean, soft towel.
Storing the bells
If you purchase a bell in its original packaging, it comes in wrapping to prevent it from tarnish, a velvet bag, and a box.
As I was taking a picture of this, it made me think of the “packaging guy” on Instagram. Have you seen that? If not, go watch one of them HERE when you’re done reading this post.
But, it made me think of all of this packaging!
“How should we package Wallace Sleigh Bells?”
“Wrap them in a little piece of tissue and then put them in a plastic bag that you twist at the top. And then put that bag in a little velvet bag with a drawstring and then put that bag in a box that opens in such a way that if you grab it from the top, the bottom will fall out, and then put that box in a cardboard sleeve. There. Do that.”
(Just watch the video and then you’ll get it.)
The tissue and plastic bag really do serve a purpose, though. If you store the bells in tissue and air-tight plastic, it won’t tarnish. I’ll admit to being a little lazy about that, but I’m going to do a better job at it this year!
Lastly, I’m so happy to share that I completed my collection this year! I just needed a few bells and the oddly elusive 2011, but that final bell just arrived on Monday. I have all fifty bells and even a few duplicates. My Oma would be so happy that I have a full collection. Not only do I love the look and the pretty ring of these bells, but I think of her when I get them out each year.
If you want to start your own collection, I would suggest starting with years that are meaningful to you and let the collection grow from there. They are also great gifts for weddings and baby showers, especially if you have them engraved.
Do you have any other questions about Wallace Sleigh Bells that I missed? Does anyone else collect yearly ornaments?