Technical Advice - Where
to buy Vintage Chimes
I get all sorts
of questions about how to find a vintage door chime. Occasionally
people tell me that they went to Home Depot and were surprised to
discover they couldn’t find one to replace that fifty-year
old vintage chime like the one that they just threw out. Look, these
things are old and the only way to get one is the way you get any
vintage thing—through a lucky find and often at a high price.
many of the chimes I renovate come from eBay. EBay is a beautiful
thing, but all of the problems described on this site were found
on items purchased on eBay. Some were honestly described as being
basket cases or good for parts, some were described as “condition
unknown”, some described as “worked fine when it was
removed”, and the description I enjoyed the most was "the
only thing I know for sure about this is that it works"-- and
when I got it found that it clearly had not worked in decades. While
we're on the topic of eBay, here is some info that may be helpful
to you. I’ve been buying and selling on eBay since almost
the beginning and I have figured out what some commonly used terms
really mean. For example, “Eames Era” means 20th century,
+/- 25 years. “MIB” means it’s in a box. “Bakelite”
means its made of plastic and is older than the person selling it.
“Deco” doesn’t really have any meaning, it’s
a conjunction like “a”, “an” or “the”.
“Complete” means whatever is there is completely there.
ANYWAY...you can generally count on the fact that most people selling
chimes on eBay come by their total cluelessness honestly, although
there have been a number of occasions when I have informed the seller
of a misrepresented item and yet the description remained unrevised.
So if you find a bargain, maybe it is… maybe it isn’t.
One thing for sure, it is extremely rare to find a vintage chime
in perfect working order, regardless of what the seller tells you.
Then some people
write with the underlying message to the effect of “ I really
really want one of those long bell chimes but I can’t afford
your prices, so what can I do?"
There is a lot
of demand for these, so any of the common ways of finding vintage
things, like eBay in particular, is not a viable place for finding
bargains. The good news is that outside of that immediate market,
there is little recognition of the potential market value of vintage
door chimes, so bargains can be had for those willing to look hard.
That leaves all the places where people who lust for dusty rusty
old junk spend their weekends—flea markets, garage sales,
thrift shops, architectural salvage stores, low brow antique shops,
etc. They can be found, sometimes for just a few bucks, but it takes
patience and perseverance.
I had always
thought that if a person were to take a weekend and scour all the
likely places in any sizable metropolitan area, a few chimes could
be found. I recently put that theory to test during a four day weekend
in the SanFrancisco Bay area. I hit flea markets, thrift stores,
antique shops, a few salvage stores, one huge outdoor antique show,
and a specialty deco collectables event-- and came up with a grand
total of two long bell chime finds. So I guess the theory is proven,
but also proven that good finds are rare. As for the quality of
those particular finds, one was a very desirable NuTone Trinity-4
lacking bells and in need of extensive service, but priced fairly--
a solid buy. The other was a low end 2-bell, missing essential mechanical
parts and covered with multiple coats of wall paint, and the best
part of all -- the price was $250.00. My sense: the decimal point
was in the wrong place by two clicks. But more power to 'em.. I
have since seen others at Ohmega for the same price and in similar
shape. Seems to be their set price for old chimes in horrible condition.
here’s the harsh reality: typically a chime is removed because
it stopped working, so one you find is likely to need service. If
you find one in the great scrap heap of unwanted cast-offs, you
are likely to be faced with the next challenge of getting it to
work, and if you care about such things, making it look good too.
All the free DIY advice available on these pages may be enough,
but if you are not so inclined, you may have to resort to professional
help, so anticipate the cost of some specialized labor.
The truth is,
if you are looking to buy a vintage chime certain to be in perfect
working order and with excellent appearance, I honestly know of
no other place than right here.