Every clock owner wants to know what their clock is worth. Unfortunately in this unpredictable market it is almost impossible to determine the value of a clock. What you think your clock may be worth may not align with what the experts say and what others are willing to pay.
The other day I saw a mid 1990s Howard Miller grandfather clock for sale on a Facebook site. The owner originally wanted $3000 but a few days later said they would take “no less than $1500” when it was obvious the ad was not attracting prospective buyers. Personal value tends to be subjective and while the owner might have paid over $3000 or more for that grandfather clock at one time, its present value is not close to what he thinks it is worth. Even an appraised value is the subjective opinion of an expert assessment based on condition and collectibility which is always subject to shifts in the market. A Howard Miller clock, while very nice, would be difficult to sell and even in excellent condition the owner would have trouble getting a third of the adjusted asking price. My Ridgeway clock is in excellent condition and looks stunning in my home but I know it is not worth much.
The following are a number of things to consider when assessing the value of your clock. I will use clocks from my collection as examples to illustrate my points.
- Is it original?
The value of a clock decreases if the parts are not original. Sometimes determining whether or not a clock is original can be difficult to ascertain. I see hundreds of “Vienna Regulator” clocks on EBay which are missing parts, or have had parts added, crowns, finials, dial faces, hands and even movements and weights that are not original to the clock. Who knows if you are really getting a %100 original clock even when the seller seems to suggest that it is. However, some of the reputable auction houses I have visited seem to have a more accurate description of the clocks they are offering for sale and mention if some parts are questionable.
- What type or style of clock is it?
I really like American style mantel and wall clocks but they are not worth nearly as much as a English bracket clock or an ornate French mantel clock. Wall clocks tend to command higher prices than mantel clocks.
- Does the clock have a label, trademark, or name?
Clocks that have a identifying label or trademark are more desirable than those that do not. Collectors often ask, is the label intact or does the movement have any significant markings?
- Is it from the correct period or is it a “knock-off”?
Is it original or a reproduction? I have seen excellent examples of wall clocks which look very much like period clocks from the early 1900s that are relatively recent reproductions that are no more than 20-30 years old. Seth Thomas made a reissue of the venerable Regulator #2 in the 1970s which is not nearly as desirable as the original.
- Does it have provenance?
Does the clock have a story or does it have historical significance? This Arthur Pequegnat Canadian Time clock spent most of it’s life in a train station not 30 minutes drive from my home. In the early nineties when the station was decommissioned it was taken out by a collector and was in his hands until I bought it from him about 3 years ago. This is an important selling point.
This Ingraham Huron shelf clock had been with a family near Bridgewater, Nova Scotia since the 1890s before I acquired it earlier this year. These clocks seldom come up for auction and are valued by collectors because of their interesting design.
- Is it collectible
This is a tough one. Rare clocks are rare because few exist or rare because few owners want to sell them. OG (Ogee) clocks are clearly antiques, some more that 150 years old, but because thousands were made they are not as collectible as a one-of-a-kind French lantern clock. Parlor clocks are very common; there were so many of them but those made by the Hamilton Clock Company in the 1880s are highly desirable. I collect Arthur Pequegnat clocks and whether it it is a wall clock, mantel clock or kitchen clock they will always fetch significantly higher prices than similar clocks because they are actively sought after by collectors. Martin Cheney clocks made in Montreal (Canada) are highly collectible, of exceptional quality and are very rare. I don’t want to get into semantics here but true Vienna Regulators clocks such as a Biedermeier made before 1850 are very desirable, reflected by sky-high asking prices.
- Mechanism type
Generally three train clocks (time, strike and chime) are mechanically more complex and are normally valued higher than two train (time and strike) clocks. Three-weight Vienna Regulator Grande Sonnerie clocks generally command higher prices that a single or two weight VR. This Sessions Westminster-A tambour style clock has an unusual 2-train chime movement (usually chime clocks have three trains) was made in 1927, needs work but I see these fetching good prices on the auction sites.
The key is doing your research. Check EBay, the auction houses, your local buy-and-sell sites, clock shops, antique stores and online message boards to get a feel for prices and bear in mind that markets are quite variable. Ask lots of questions before you purchase your next clock and provide a good (and honest) description of your clock if you are selling it. Consider this; if you have what you think is a prized Daniel Dakota wall clock and you are asking over $100, potential buyers may not be beating down your door.