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Appraising Grandfather Clocks Wall Mantel Clocks

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Posted August 29, 2009

1-800-4CLOCKS gets dozens of calls every day from individuals wanting to know “how much” their clock is worth. Even more complicated is people who call who already have had appraisals done on their grandfather clocks, wall clocks or mantle clocks. Aside from the fact that our website states we charge $100 an hour for research on clocks, all of us could spend all of our time researching clocks and answering fielding questions.

Aside from the fact that most people wanting to know how much their clock is worth are looking to sell it, and as dealers in antique and new grandfather clocks, mantel clocks and wall clocks, we would have an obvious conflict of interest in providing objective valuations, this does not deter the calls. Even worse, while there are some reputable appraisers out there, we find the large majority are appraising clocks and pocket watches for values much higher than the individuals would ever reasonably attain, even when looking at replacement value for clocks and watches, which is almost always the highest value anyone could justify for the timepiece.

And how does one value a timepiece? Aside from the most obvious fact today that we are living in difficult economic times where so many are looking to sell something of perceived value, and most all individuals are willing to pay much less than they have in recent years, there are also other clocks valuation factors at work. There is the Sotheby’s and Christies valuation, which generally require the clock to be perfect inside and out and as we understand it, may charge both upfront fees, e.g. for photos, and have a significant commission percent as well added to the eventual price (and no doubt factored in by prospective buyers). Then there is always the “replacement value”, which can be made to be quite high, especially for somewhat more unusual clocks or clocks or other timepieces with rare features. Then there is the what we call sitting in a high-end Antique Store for a Year price, which could be high. Another is selling it on eBay, marketing it well with great pictures and by a well-respected seller (remember fees and time cost apply as well here). Then there is simply putting it on eBay in a “throwing it out there” style, maybe well or not well described. There is also selling it locally, whether on Craigslist or perhaps even on consignment with a local shop. And don’t forget the garage sale or flea market sale, where many old clocks and other timepieces are actually sold.

The condition of the clocks or timepieces plays a critical role in its potential valuation, and more often than not, we find people have little knowledge of whether “grandfathers clock” even works, much less how to describe it or what clock model or pocket watch size or movement or case material (e.g. platinum, 18k gold, 14k gold, gold plated, sterling silver, etc.) it might be.

And don’t forget about counterfeit or reproduction clocks and watches and the risks posed by those. This is an increasing problem, with many better clocks coming from China, India, Western Europe, and no doubt the USA as well. Sometimes these clocks are “half-real” with original movements but reproduction cases, or vice versa.

And even with all of the above, prices actually realized can vary and be VERY hard to predict even when when has a good handle on all the variables. Another way of saying this is that the clock is worth as much as an individual or organization is willing to pay at that moment in time and under that set of circumstances, and based on the terms offered. One can make an educated assessment, but the reality may vary over time with EVERY OTHER FACTOR being identical.

Back to Appraisals — there are organizations out there that certify Appraisers, and some are considered to be as we understand it quite respectable. We will in a future blog post include a list of those whom we understand to be most reputable.

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As Of: 05/26/2024