Collecting Wallace Sleigh Bells FAQ

by | Dec 9, 2020 | All Things Home, Antiques, Cleaning & care, Decorating, Favorite Finds, Holiday | 69 comments

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.

wallace sleigh bells | miss mustard seed

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.

Over the years, I’ve added a few bells each year.  I find most of them on Etsy and eBay, but I have lucked out and found a few at secondhand shops.

wallace sleigh bells | miss mustard seed

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.

wallace sleigh bells | miss mustard seed

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…

wallace sleigh bells | polishing tarnished silver plate | miss mustard seed

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.

wallace sleigh bells | goddard's silver foam | miss mustard seed

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.

wallace sleigh bells | miss mustard seed

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.

wallace sleigh bells | miss mustard seed

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.)

wallace sleigh bells | miss mustard seed

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?

69 Comments

  1. Taylor Shepherd

    These are beautiful and I think collecting them is a fabulous idea. I started a search online but I see they have names: Merry Christmas, Sprightly Elves, etc. Does each year have a different name or are they different patterns released within the same year? Thanks,
    Taylor (Richmond, Virginia)

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      Ah, yes! Good question. Each year has a different design around the bell. Some that I can recall are holly, trains, elves, sleighs, etc. You only notice the difference when you examine them. Some of them also note events in history, like the 200 year anniversary of the declaration of independence 1776-1976.

      There are a couple without years in the design on the band, but the year can always be found on the hallmark on the bottom of the bell.

      Reply
  2. Leslie

    Thank you for the reminder! – I had seen one of your earlier posts about these bells and loved the sentiment and how you decorated with them. Just now bought one from eBay ($20) for 1978 – the year I got married. Looks like I now have a new (non) collection (as Q for Quandie would say…..)

    Reply
  3. Isobel

    This is a question about yarn, not the stunning bells. Sometime recently I know you wrote something about thick yarn. The photo, accompanying this showed skein of red and a skein of a creamy white. If this rings a bell with you, I would appreciate finding out what type of yarn this was. Thanks for giving this your attention. I know you are one busy gal. I wish I had just a smidgen of your energy.

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      Oh, sorry, but I don’t think that was me! I don’t own any red yarn! 🙂

      Reply
  4. Karen

    I have a half dozen of these bells that I would get as Christmas gift from an uber Southern friend over the years, and I’ve always displayed them in a basket with large pinecones and burnt out bubble lights. When I put them away (I didn’t know to save the boxes) I “wrap them up in cling wrap, then some tissue paper, then pop them in a storage drawer, and put them in the attic”. *sips a martini*

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      Ha! I heard your quote in his voice. So funny!

      Reply
  5. Cheryl

    Marion, those bells are gorgeous!! 😄❤️

    Reply
  6. Verlene Hovland

    I have a gold colored Wallace bell, 1998, with lanterns around the outside. I assume they are much less expensive.I found it years ago in thrift store, still in it’s box. Any information on them?V

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      Yes, I forgot to mention that they make a gold version that is typically the same price as the silver plate bell. The Sterling silver bell is much more expensive, typically around $200.

      Reply
  7. Susan

    The bells are lovely! I collect the White House annual ornaments, each depicts something unique to a president. This year’s is a portrait of President Kennedy.
    I also enjoy buying ornaments when we travel.

    Reply
    • Cynthia Johnson

      Hi Susan~

      My parents gave my husband and I a White House ornament and I love them. I have a special tree just for them. I have started the same tradition for my daughter and her husband. The history that comes with each ornament is such a wonderful treat. Of course I love the bells too… I will just have to admire Marian’s!

      Happy Holiday everyone!

      Reply
  8. Nancy

    Beautiful sleigh bells! My grandmother was a bell collector so I loved this post! Just like you, I have a wonderful collection of bells from her. Question regarding your silver flatware: You mentioned that you use it daily, how do you wash it? I would love to use mine, but doesn’t it have to be hand washed since it will tarnish and get scratched in the dishwasher? Thank you, I enjoy your posts!

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      While there is some debate about it, the majority of information I’ve read says that sterling and silver plate are dishwasher safe. We just handwash ours because we got in that habit (and we go through forks at a pretty good pace!) We hand wash our pots and pans, sharp knives, and other things, so it’s not a big deal. We could put them in the dishwasher if we wanted to, though.

      If you love your silver, use it!

      Reply
      • Debbie

        do not mix sterling and stainless steel in the dishwasher. If they touch each other in the dishwasher, the silver will be chemically altered and will turn a hideous flat charcoal color which is not repairable.

        Reply
      • Anne

        Hand wash your sterling. It helps to keep the tarnish at bay. I have a dozen different sterling teaspoons and I used to hand wash and they looked beautiful, but then I started to throw them in the dishwasher and it ate away at the silver. They have this odd tarnished look now.

        Reply
  9. Patty

    Thanks for this info! I started collecting the Wallace Sleigh Bells because of your post a few years ago and I really love them. I have 3 now and my children get me one each year for Christmas. And I hate to put them away . . . they stay out long after the rest of my Christmas decor. Thanks for the tips on polishing and protecting them and where to find past years – I want the birth years of my 3 kids. You’re great Marion – thanks!

    Reply
  10. Jen C

    Love your Wallace sleigh bell collection. Absolutely beautiful. When I was in high school I used to work in my grandmother’s jewelry store in Pennsylvania and one of my jobs was to polish silver. She always told me that heat was unkind to silver because it causes it to tarnish. When storing silver, if possible, store in a cabinet away from heat and sunlight. Wrapping with a soft cloth definitely helps. Also, keep rubber, like rubber bands, away from silver as it will cause a chemical reaction causing marks. Usually silver polish will remove the marks. I always look forward to your blog.

    Reply
  11. Diane Smith

    Beautiful! I just bid on two…I did NOT bid on the 1973 I thought I’d get for my sister-in -law ($169-$220)! Yikes!

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      Oh yeah, just be patient and it’ll surface somewhere for much less. I never paid that kind of money for any of my bells, even the early ones.

      Reply
  12. Sue

    On the subject of using the ‘good silver’, I just put my silverware in the kitchen drawer. In the past it is as only used on special holidays. Now that my husband is gone I wondered what I was saving the silver, China and crystal for. It is beautiful and a reminder of many happy times over almost 50 years. I put everything in the dishwasher and enjoy it daily.

    Reply
  13. Jennifer

    I love your bells! My MIL started a collection of Reed and Barton Musical bells for me the year my husband and I become engaged. She stopped several years ago and now lives in a memory care unit. I had not continued them but when my husband and his sister were cleaning out the house a month ago they came across her set which is much more extensive than mine. They are quite sentimental. I love the sleigh bells as they can be used in a few more places as decoration.
    Thanks for sharing the video clip…that was hysterical and a needed belly laugh today!

    Reply
    • Sharon Rexroad

      Jennifer – I don’t know if you’re able to visit your mother or not, but if you can, I wonder if you can take some of the musical bells with you. I’ve heard that certain things from the past can trigger memories and this might be one of those for your mother. And blessings to you and your mother.

      Reply
  14. Sue

    I started buying Lenox snowflake ornaments for my daughter when she got married. I continue to add to her collection as well as starting personalized ornaments for her children. The kids pick out the ornaments in August and are excited to put them on the tree after Thanksgiving. It was fun to see how excited they were fro decorate last week.

    Reply
  15. Ronda

    Thank you for this magical and enlightening post. I had not heard of these bells, but will start to keep an eye out for them in the future.

    Reply
  16. Peggy

    I just saw that the 2019 silver plated bell is on clearance at Macy’s for $25.83. I have one bell that I received as a gift many years ago.

    Reply
  17. Janice

    At the encouragement of a friend, I began collecting sterling silver ornaments for my daughter in 1988, the year she was born. I’ve purchased a special ornament each year to commemorate a special event – a silver golf ball the year she was captain of her golf team, a cute kitten the year her beloved 21-year-old cat died, an angel the first time she got pregnant, etc. I added to the collection whenever I found ornaments on sale – would you believe Tuesday Morning and Craigslist? Just today, I purchased a Baby’s First Christmas rocking horse ornament for our second grandchild, born in October. It has turned into quite a collection and makes for a beautiful, if formal, Christmas tree.

    I love the way you use the Wallace bells in places other than the tree! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  18. Jennifer

    I have started a ‘collection’ of Christmas ornaments for each of my 3 children. Every year since birth I have bought one ornament for each of them. They are always related to that year in some way. Usually it’s one that represents they’re favorite thing from that year. My plan is that when they move out to start their own families, they will have ornaments to decorate with. Then they can tell the story behind each ornament to their children.

    Reply
    • JEAN

      Marian. We collect the ornaments that are sold every year from the White House Historical organization. We have about 30 years with; they started this in the mid 80s. We also collect the Swarovski crystal snow flakes and Mt St Helenes ash glass balls from Glass Eye Studio. I’m considering working on those bells next as I have a real fondness for silver – and things that sparkle. Love your collection – that has been a labor of dedication to track them all down!

      Reply
  19. Susan

    In 1973, the year I was married; my Mother-in-law gifted us with a Gotthard silver-plated ornament on a package that contained a hand crocheted afghan. It has a white background w/ green leaves and red poinsettias with a light yellow center . And, though she is long passed, these first gifts are among my most treasured Christmas possessions!

    Reply
  20. Carolyn Kellam

    These are beautiful! And, as always, your photos are beautiful, also! Merry Christmas!

    Reply
  21. Devon

    I just ordered my first bell! I got married and had a baby this year, and I’ve been wanting to start some type of ornament collection to commemorate the big year. This is PERFECT!

    Reply
  22. Patricia

    I have the year we were married ( thanks to Marion ), the years all my children were born and my grandchildren. Now, I’m filling in with any good deals I find. If you have the money or the interest, Wallace makes a bell in Sterling Silver that costs over $200. They also make the bell in gold, for about the same price as the silver-plate.
    They are beautiful and unique !

    Reply
  23. Mary Zeilinger

    Hello Marion, My search is showing Mikkassa Wallace bells. Is this correct? Or should it just be Wallace? Thank you.

    Reply
  24. Jennifer

    I love these and I love collecting things, too. So I’ve started with a couple of years. My only fear is that I’m afraid everyone is going to love the idea of collecting them, too. 😊

    Reply
  25. Jill

    I collected them too, but I specifically looked for my kids and grandkids birth years. I gave them to those families to have, so now I don’t have any! They didn’t make them when I was born…

    Oh, and this is random, but as I was writing this comment I kept hearing a bell ringing. It turns out I left my refrigerator door open and it was ringing for me to come and shut it!

    Reply
  26. Donna Doble-Brown

    I had never heard of them until you taught me about them! I then collected our birth years, marriage year, new granbaby’s birth year and some other significant years. I love and look forward to hanging them now every year. Thanks Marian!💚

    Reply
  27. Helen

    My son’s godmother gave him the Wallace silver bells from birth to age 13!!! Since he is married now, I gave them to him and his wife last year. I am going to share your blog with them so they can see how special they are to collect!!! Congratulations on completing your set and hopefully they will consider doing the same for their family. 🎄🎄🎄

    Reply
  28. Mary S

    Those bells are so beautiful. What a nice thing to collect and especially since they remind you of
    your Oma! Great idea!

    Reply
  29. Mary

    The Wallace sleigh bells are lovely. It’s so nice that you have a connection with your grandmother through them. I, too, have Kirk Repousse, and use it regularly. I put it in the dishwasher all the time, but keep it separate from any stainless. If they should touch with dishwasher action, the silver will develop spots that are almost impossible to remove. Also, do not use any dishwasher detergent with lemon or citrus in it. The acid will pit the silver. Try not to leave your silver in any egg or tomato dishes for too long. Avoid salt as well. I have a sterling salt cellar (now, I ask you, why would they ever make a sterling salt cellar?) that I put on the table but when we are finished with dinner it has to be emptied and cleaned to avoid pitting. Oh, and the ONLY sterling that can go in dishwasher are the solid silver pieces. My pieces that have stainless blades with silver handles (ie steak knives, regular knives) or wooden pieces with silver handles (salad servers, for instance) are washed immediately by hand. This also goes for sterling with mother of pearl handles. I store them in drawers that have silvercloth lining and polish them about once a year just to make them look good. The difference in cleaning and polishing is you clean them when you wash them, but polishing is done once or twice each year.

    Reply
  30. Katherine

    Marian – just and FYI for you and your readers re: the best storage for silver or silver plate. There is a flannel made that is impregnated with a tarnish retardant in it that is really excellent for keeping silver shining. All my Mom’s sterling came in bags made of his material and when my parents purchased their set of sterling flatware, the jeweler recommended special sleeves made of this material for storage. As the sleeves wore out with time, I bought some of the material by the yard and made replacements for her. At that time, it took a good bit of hunting to locate a source for the material but now it is available for purchase (yardage or made into bags)
    Amazon

    Reply
  31. MARY-ANN (FROM CANADA!)

    Your Wallace bell collection is beautiful, Marion! They just sparkle once you have cleaned them! Enjoy!

    Reply
  32. Michele M.

    I have a 2003 Wallace bell – the year we were married.

    I would never EVER put silver or silver plate in a dishwasher.

    Glad you got them all. I bet you kinda “cringed” getting a 2020. Yuck, what a year. Wallace would need to pay me to get one of those, haha.

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      I have always hand washed my silver, but I know many people, including my great-grandma, who put their silver in the dishwasher (which is part of the set I currently have) and it’s just fine.

      Ha, and I didn’t mind getting the 2020 bell. While this year has been a challenge, it’s still a part of our family’s story. 🙂

      Reply
  33. Mary Kaiser

    LOL the video made me laugh out loud!! I am so glad that you directed us to see the video, I needed that good laugh! Thank you, and I love your bell collection, they are so sweet!

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      Isn’t it so funny? He has several of those videos and they all make me laugh.

      Reply
  34. Misty

    These are absolutely beautiful, I love the idea of collecting them for special years. <3

    Reply
  35. Iris Hanes

    Love the bells, but, golly, you leave the water running a really long time.

    Reply
    • Deb Harris

      It made me cringe too! I was a farm kid raised in the 60’s – 70’s. Even then, during drought years sometimes we couldn’t get as many “heads” of water to irrigate the fields as we wanted. Water is more valuable to me than gold or silver bells…..

      Reply
  36. Molly

    I bought one for each of my children and one for us last year after reading about the bells, probably from your blog! I’m purchasing the 2020 bells for their stockings again this year. They make a fabulous gift. I’d like to go back and get some in our birth years. We’ll see how it goes!!

    Reply
  37. Lynda Schneider

    What a beautiful collection! Your Oma had great taste that she passed to you. I have one bell that was given to me but until reading this post, I had no idea they were made each year. Thank you and Merry Christmas!

    Reply
  38. Shannon

    Is there an easy way to tell the silver plate from the sterling on the bells? Are they marked in any way?

    Reply
    • Andrew Washburn

      Not in a brand new bell. But over time the silverplate bells will tarnish, and eventually the thin layer of silver will be polished away (though this will admittedly take many polishings)

      Reply
  39. Dee

    I didn’t realise how large they are until I watched the video of you cleaning them. I did search for them last year after your post about them but they don’t appear to be available in the uk

    Reply
  40. Deb Harris

    As I was reading this I thought, “I’ll be darned. I think I have one of those in my buffet.” It took me 2 days to remember to check. Sure enough! 1982. No packaging though. And horribly tarnished. ~:-D

    Reply
  41. Bobbie

    I love this blog. My Aunt started my sisters and my collection. We have Wallace and Reed & Barton. I got them out for the grands after we watched Polar Express. I was trying to think of new ways to decorate with them. We also were give. A silver bell nativity set. Each bell had a figure on top of a small a-line bell. Maybe I’ll put those in a dish too or mix with others. I used to put them on a sterling tray but wasn’t a different look. Thank you!

    Reply
  42. Kathy

    I fell in love with the bells after seeing your post. I get lucky and found my first Wallace bell at a flea market (peddlers mall). It was 2.00. It looked yucky nut i used tarnex on it and it now hangs in the living room. I was so excited that I finally found one. Now hubby (who loves junking almost as much as me) will be searching for me. Thanks for this post and all the great ideas

    Reply
  43. AnnTN

    Those of you searching for Wallace Bells, Amazon has them. I assume they are the same bells.

    Reply
  44. Marilyn Mitchell

    Hello, I have a Wallace round sleigh bell that I have been confused about. It does not have a year nor the embossed ring around it. It does have the Wallace logo on the bottom. I have not been able to ever find another one online like it. Do you think it was an error when it was made? Thank you

    Reply
  45. Claire Callaway

    I have every Wallace sleigh bell from the first year, 1971, through 2017 and have multiples of some years. When I first started buying these in the mid 1970’s, they were only about $25 each. There was no internet or eBay, so that was the only way to get them. We are down sizing and I am considering selling the entire collection. The problem is — I don’t know how to place a value on them. For several years, it was almost impossible to find the first year and when I did, it was over $800 ( again pre internet and eBay!). The antique dealer I bought it from allowed me to pay for it by the month! Any ideas or suggestions would be welcomed.

    Reply
    • Laura Matthews

      Please let me know if you decide to sell! I love my new collection and would love to buy some from you!

      Reply
  46. Caroline

    I received my first Wallace bell in 1973 from a boyfriend’s mother, I continued to buy them myself until the big box I store them in had no more room. Someone gave me a 1971 a few years ago. I decided not to get any more at that point because there is just too much stuff in this house. My sister has always admired them and when she offered to buy them from me and I starting looking online to make sure that I didn’t ask too much. She will leave them to her daughter, I’m sure. I enjoyed them for many years-putting them in a crystal bowl, using them in the garland that decorated the stair rail, on the mantel. I’ve had my fun so I’m not sad to see them go.

    Reply
  47. Diane Fagan

    Marion,
    I looked at every comment and no one mentioned this-in 2001 and 2002 the company Lands’ End began selling ‘annual’ sleigh bells . We bought them for both years and then they stopped the program. I loved the bells and their chimes. I was at an antique store just before Christmas and found a bell that looked remarkably familiar! It was the 1976 Wallace bell and that is how I learned that my other bells were made for Lands’ End by Wallace without a Wallace mark on them. They will fit right in to anyone’s Wallace collection!

    Reply
  48. Michele Obermeyer

    I have a collection of them and would like to sell them. Any suggestions you might have?

    Reply
  49. R Doone

    Does anyone know how long Wallace intends to continue making new bells for this collection?

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      I don’t know, but they continue to put them out!

      Reply
  50. Stella Lopez

    What a wonderful Website! I too collected Wallace bells. I started at the beginning & stopped in on late 80s. I’m 83 & moving to Virginia soon, & I plan to sell my bells, so if anyone is interested, please contact me. Thank you 😊

    Reply
  51. Andrew Washburn

    Great! You should start collecting the sterling bells!

    I am starting collecting the sterling bells. I just got my 2021! They cost a painful and whopping close to $300 per bell, but I know my family will never, ever throw them out. Non-current vintages go for more like 180-200.

    What motivates me is lasting legacy. I know these sterling bells will still be hanging on my descendants’ Christmas trees in 200 years, long after nothing but brass or tarnish remains on the silverplate bells and they are discarded.

    Reply

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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…

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