- Where to Buy
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.
I know of two long bell chimes currently being sold-- the NuTone C500 and
C501K, both of which
retail for around $450, but can be found for under $300. I advise these to anyone who just likes the idea of the "real" chime action, but is not
concerned about the vintage nature and style of the old ones.
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.
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
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.
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.
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. Note to Ohmega Salvage of Berkeley: let me know how that
works out for you.
But anyway, 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.
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.
"door chimes" above to see other related topics.
I am a
lot more skilled at fixing old door chimes than I am dealing with search
engine optimization, so here a a few terms and phrases that might help
surfers find me.
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