A Pig in a Poke

“A pig in a poke” is an old expression but it still has relevance in the clock world today. What does it mean? It means something that is bought or accepted without knowing its value or seeing it first. Or, another way of putting it, a deal that is foolishly accepted without being examined first. If you have been to a live auction you might have experienced winning a bid on that seemingly expensive hall table, for example, only to find it was made in Indonesia.

My own personal example. I bought an antique wall clock (100+ years old) on EBay a year ago and from the write-up it looked great. I was eager to see it. When it arrived I began to notice a few things right away and little details later on despite the description that it was “all original”. The glass on all three sides was said to be original, clearly it was not. The clock hands were off of an Ogee clock and poorly attached, The movement was made during the same period the clock was made however the pendulum sits very low in the case leading me to believe that it (the movement) may not be original. The rod gong was probably added later. Normally the gong is in back of the pendulum. There are two different styles of weights though the differences are almost imperceptible. I could go on but the point is this: do not trust any seller absolutely in your online dealings. Luckily for me the clock works and shows well.

Gustav Becker two weight regulator
Gustav Becker two weight “Vienna Regulator”

Typically sellers will describe just about everything they feel the buyer needs to know but leave out essential details. This is called omission. It means that something in the description is deliberately left out for whatever reason. Is it unethical? Perhaps. However, sellers do not have an obligation to tell you everything about an item you are interested in since there are no disclosure laws in online dealing. That is why it is important to ask questions, lots of questions prior to any purchase.

The other day I followed postings on Facebook regarding a clock purchase. The person was quite proud of the fact that he had an attractive Art Deco clock coming in the mail. He provided only one photo of the clock showing its face and base. The style was similar to this clock.

Kienzle World Time clock
Kienzle World Time clock

It was the only photo provided by the seller and with good reason. It was advertised as an 8-day clock because that is what it said on the clock face. It arrived several days later. This individual thought he was getting a mechanical clock but discovered when it arrived that the original movement had been taken out and replaced with a cheap quartz movement. Naturally he was dismayed. Caveat Emptor some would say but in this case the seller could have been more forthright. However, let me reiterate, the time to ask key questions is before the purchase.

The other day, again on Facebook, a fellow had bought a German box clock very similar to this one from my collection. When it arrived he proudly showed off his new acquisition.

after a good cleaning (4)
U M Muller German “box clock”, time and strike

The clock was keeping great time though the pendulum was very high up in the box and could barely be seen through the front glazing. It looked very odd. When he presented a photo of the inside of the clock it was clear that the seat board was handmade and it was obvious that the movement was originally mounted within a much smaller case.

Some weeks ago I was looking for banjo clock and I saw a couple on a local for-sale site. One was very intriguing. The only photo was of the outside of the clock; nothing showing the movement. I thought if it is weight driven it would be an excellent deal. I contacted the seller by email and  I asked if it were weight driven and he said he thought so but he also mentioned that it came with a winding key for the spring. Thanks I said.

Let the buyer beware. If you buy something you take responsibility to make sure it is what you intended to buy. Ask enough questions so that you are absolutely satisfied you know what you are getting otherwise you may be getting a pig in a poke.

Let me know if you have had similar experiences.

2 thoughts on “A Pig in a Poke

  1. I really liked this post, and the stories behind it. I think the fact of ‘pig in a poke’ could be often find in stamp collecting as well, because when you buy from eBay, you must assume some risks. Regards, Catalin

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