Here are seven factors to consider when determining the value of an antique clock.
Whether you found an antique longcase clock in your grandmother’s basement or you spotted an authentic Black Forest cuckoo clock at your neighbor’s garage sale, you probably want to know if you’ve discovered something of value that might appreciate over the years.
To determine the value of an old clock, first, you should know what makes something an antique. An antique is any collectible item — from a piece furniture or artwork to a ring or a clock — that has high value because of its age. Typically, the item must be more than 100 years old to be considered an antique.
But not every antique is valuable, and markets are cyclical, so what might be worth a lot one year might be worth something very different 10 years later.
Despite the unpredictable market, there are several criteria for assessing the value of your antique clock you own or are considering purchasing.
Type of Clock
First, you need to properly identify the type of clock. Examine the clock for the marker’s signature or label. Check the face, mechanism and case. Clocks that are labeled or stamped with the name of its maker or a trademark are more desirable than unmarked clocks. If you can’t find a label or a stamp, you’ll need to identify the type of clock yourself.
There are many types of antique clocks: advertising, anniversary, atmos, bracket, carriage, cuckoo, deck kitchen, lantern, longcase, mantel, pendulum, skeleton, wall. Each type of antique clock is valued differently. For example, ornate German cuckoo clocks are more collectible than mass-produced kitchen clocks.
Once you know the type of clock, do some research to determine if it has any historical significance. A clock with an interesting record of ownership and a distinguished provenance will be more valuable. Keep in mind, personal value is subjective, so although you might think your grandfather clock has a remarkable origin story, it might not attract the attention of an appraiser or collector.
Reputation of the Manufacturer
A clock made by a reputable artist or company will be, unsurprisingly, worth more. If the clock has the signature of an important clockmaker, the value will increase significantly.
Rarity can mean a few different things. Your clock might be rare if very few were made in the first place. However, it could also be rare if many exist but owners don’t want to sell them, so they are rarely found on the market. It’s all about supply and demand. An antique parlor clock, even o==ne that’s 150 years old won’t be as valuable because there are thousands of them. But an antique authentic Black Forest cuckoo clock is worth more because it is actively sought after by collectors.
For your antique clock to be worth anything, it must be the real thing. If it is a 20th-century reproduction of an 18th-century German cuckoo clock, it won’t be highly desirable. If you can verify the period it’s from, your antique clock will be worth more. Also, if it doesn’t have all the original parts, its value significantly decreases.
The type of material used also influences the value of the antique. For example, if the clock has components that look bronze but are really spelter, a combination of metals that look like bronze, it will be considered far less valuable.
Type of Mechanism
The more mechanically impressive the clock, the more valuable it is. For instance, an eight-day cuckoo clock is more desirable than one-day cuckoo clocks, which requires daily winding. A clock that gives the time and plays a melody is more impressive than a clock that simply tells you what time it is. A clock with moving figurines is also considered more valuable. If any of the mechanisms of the clock have been extensively repaired or if any of the movements are not original, most collectors will consider the antique worthless.
If your antique clock is worth anything, it will fall into one of three condition categories:
● Mint condition means the clock is perfect. There are no repairs, no missing pieces, no cracks.
● Excellent condition means the clock has minor flaws. Perhaps it’s been damaged but expertly repaired.
● Good condition means the clock has a few chips or cracks, discolorations, or signs of repair.
Common flaws that affect the condition — and the value — of an antique include breaks, chips or cracks; dings or gouges; discoloration; broken figurines on cuckoo clocks; missing parts; and signs of repair. Clocks that are in mint condition, even ones that aren’t as collectible or rare, can often be worth more than clocks that aren’t in textbook condition.
If you are planning to sell your antique clock, research clock shops, auction houses, online forums and eBay to find comparable clocks that have recently sold. This will help you determine a good starting price. You don’t want to make a mistake and give something away that could be potentially worth thousands.
Consult the experts, too. Professional appraisers have the experience and knowledge to come up with an objective value for your clock. Remember, the value you place on your clock might not match up with what the experts say. Ultimately, the value of your antique clock comes down to what someone is willing to pay.
If you have an antique clock you don’t plan on selling, on the other hand, then the value you place on it is what matters most.
Bob Ellis is the founder and owner of Bavarian Clockworks