Identifying and Valuing your Antique Clock

If you have an antique clock that is at least 100 years old, and one that you would like to learn more about, such as; is it authentic? is it all original? how old is it? who was the maker? Is it rare? what is the clock worth? Then the following information may be of help.

Clocks have several values, so it is important to understand the purpose of an appraisal, is it for insurance purposes? Are you planning to sell the clock and wish to know how much you might receive for it, or is the value for probate purposes? It is necessary to know the answers to these questions so that a correct valuation for the need is determined.


What is it Worth? 

Understanding the appraisal or valuation

How do you make sense of an evaluation that you see on the Antiques Road Show, of say $8,000.00 and a similar item that you have in your home that is appraised at only $3,000.00.  From your stand point, they are identical. 

Basically, appraising is neither finite, nor an exact science, some consider it to be closer to an art and subject to the valuer’s opinion.  A good appraiser will however give you a written report on his/her findings, the condition of the piece and the factors that contributed to the resulting value. 

At best, a valuation is an estimate, and an estimate made at the specific time of the valuation. An appraisal of a clock will include many factors, such as: condition of the piece, the maker, the age, the complexity of the mechanism, the provenance of the piece, the amount and quality of past restoration and repairs, the originality of the piece – meaning did the works, dial and case all start out life together as one clock, or has the clock been upgraded or modified with different components. 

To complicate matters even further, you need to understand the type of value being given. Is the value for insurance purposes? Is it the expected retail price? Is it an auction value (with or without buyer’s premium and taxes)? Or, is it what may be expected from a private sale of piece? All of these values will be different, and in some cases, very different. The current market will have an impact. In a recession more people are likely selling assets to raise money, and fewer are buying, thus depressing values. In better times, an auction value could greatly exceed the estimate if there are two bidders who are in competition for it. Before you ask for an appraisal, make sure that you inform the appraiser exactly what you want the appraisal for, such as for insurance purposes, or to estimate what you may realize in a sale of the piece. 

Do not accept a verbal appraisal. Value cannot be determined by just looking at the clock case or the name on the dial. Further, do not use an appraiser who has an interest in buying the piece, but do seek out someone who is experienced and knowledgeable on antique clocks and is recognized as an authority for appraising antique clocks. 

It is important to understand that the very same clock, same condition, at the same point in time can have several values. The value depends on the purpose of the valuation. There are always exceptions, however, the general variation in values does exist.

If you need to dispose of an item quickly, then value will likely be closer to the “liquidation” value. If you are selling at an auction, value could be somewhat higher than liquidation, but then, you must consider buyer’s (or seller’s) premium. Retail value should be expected to be higher since restoration and cleaning will likely have been undertaken. The auction price, plus restoration and overheads becomes the retailer’s cost, so the sell price may be much higher allowing the retailer to make a living. Insurance value would likely be the highest since it is considered the replacement cost of purchasing a similar item within a reasonable period of time. This is often higher than the retail price. 

There are indeed always exceptions. However, if you are buying, expect to pay somewhere between auction (hammer price) plus 20% and the retail price. If you are selling, expect to realize somewhere between liquidation and auction value. Remember that the value of any item will be subject to its age, condition, maker, previous restoration, provenance, originality and so on.