A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from October 15, 2008
“Nobody rings a bell at the top or the bottom of a market” (Wall Street proverb)

The New York Stock Exchange opens to the sound of a bell and then closes to the sound of a bell. It’s often pointed out that no one rings a bell to announce the top or the bottom of a market, however.

The Wall Street proverb appears to date back to around 1900. The proverb, like the bell, is still in use today.


Stock Maven
The Bell
Information provided courtesy of
The New York Stock Exchange.
One of the most familiar features of the New York Stock Exchange is the loud, distinct bell, which signals the beginning and ending of trading each day.

Bells were introduced when continuous trading was instituted in the 1870s. Originally, a Chinese Gong was used, but brass bells have been used since The Exchange moved to its current location in 1903.

There is one large bell in each of the four trading areas of the NYSE. The bells are operated synchronously from a single control.

The bells, measuring 18 inches in diameter, were manufactured by the G. S. Edwards Company of Norwalk, Connecticut. In the late 1980s, the NYSE decided to refurbish the bells and have an extra bell made as a back up. However, it was discovered that bells as large and loud as The Exchange’s were no longer made by Edwards or any other bell company. Edwards agreed to make a special replica for the NYSE and brought employees out of retirement to handle the job.

While this was being done, an older, larger bell was discovered in a crawl space above the main trading floor. Measuring 24 inches in diameter, this 1903 bell had most likely been put away because it was too loud, even for the New York Stock Exchange. After being cleaned and refurbished, this giant bell was toned down. It now gleams on a platform above the trading floor, ready for use should it ever be called into action.

The bell is a part of the NYSE’s heritage, and it is considered an honor to be invited to ring the opening or closing bell.

17 August 1899, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, pg. 13:
Keene is quick to turn a corner and it is not customary for him to ring a bell or hang out a red flag when he is about to turn.

9 October 1904, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, third section, pg. 3:
In that case the speculator will do well to keep his finger on the trigger, for while it is easy to learn when to get in, no one rings a bell or waves a red flag when it is time to get out.

24 March 1959, Connellsville (PA) Daily Courier, pg. 11, col. 1:
“Don’t forget,” he advises, “that the time to take a profit comes sooner or later. No one rings a bell to let you know when the exact top of the market arrives.”

6 April 1959, San Antonio (TX) Light, Sam Shulsky column, pg. 26, col. 1:
And this won’t be made any easier if the market does go down, for the simple reason that no one rings a bell when the bottom is reached. 

14 October 1964, Ames (Iowa) , “Investor’s Guide” by Sam Shulsky, pg. 7, col. 1:
Everyone would like to sell stock “at a peak.” Unfortunately, no one rings a bell or waves a flag when that peak is reached.

10 October 1969, Holland (MI) Evening Sentinel, “Investors’ Guide” by Sam Shulsky, pg. 2, col. 3:
No one rings a bell when the market “starts to recover.”

18 June 1974, Oakland (CA) Tribune, pg. 12, col. 2:
But the president of a bank in Columbus, Ga., offers this cautionary note: “Nobody rings a bell when the market hits bottom.”

Google Books
The Dean Witter Guide to Personal Investing
By Robert M. Gardiner
Published by Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
1989
Pg. 104:
(It’s a Wall Street saying that “they don’t ring a bell at the top of the market.")

Google Books
The Basics of Bonds
By Gerald Krefetz
Published by Dearborn Trade, U.S.
1992
Pg. 13:
To paraphrase an old Wall Street proverb, no one rings a bell when these stages start or end, or indeed when to buy or sell bonds

Google Books
Investment Illusions:
A Savvy Wall Street Pro Explodes Popular Misconceptions about the Markets

By Martin S. Fridson
Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons
1996
Pg. 3:
As another old saw has it, nobody rings a bell at the stock exchange to signal the end of a bear market.

Google Books
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Retiring Early
By Dee Lee and Jim Flewelling
Published by Alpha Books
2001
Pg. 174:
An old Wall Street saying goes, “They don’t ring a bell at the top or the bottom of the market.”