Will antique clock prices go up or down in 2020?

About three years ago I wrote a piece on clock prices. At that time antique and vintage clock prices had taken a tumble. Where are we now? Have things changed in 2020? Are antique and vintage clock prices going up or down? Is this the time to buy or sell?

Let me come quickly to the point. Anyone who shops today for an antique or vintage clock is well aware that the clock market has been depressed for quite some time and continues on a downward spiral.

Follow me as I explore how clock prices are set, factors that affect the sale of a clock and the reasons why prices are dropping.

Two very desirable clocks from the American Clock and Watch Museum, Bristol Conn.
Informed buyers always make much better choices
30-hour Ogee shelf clocks, as nice as this one, can be found for a lot less than you think

Pricing is as volatile as it was three years ago. The pricing of a clock on an online site or a paper ad is just as murky and as confusing as ever. There is no true “standard” pricing for any vintage or antique clock. As with most objects, there is a price range that most would consider reasonable.

How are prices set?

Sellers use a number of metrics to set prices;

  • A seller will set a price consistent with prices achieved at auction,
  • The condition of the clock, whether it runs or not and if it has been serviced,
  • Their own personal experience buying and/or selling,
  • Offer clocks 2 to 3 times the value knowing that they will be negotiated downward,
  • Sellers often pretend to know very little about clocks, gloss over deficiencies and price them high to see who they can catch in their net,
  • Sellers know that most clocks are not sold to the serious collector and presume that prospective buyers actually think they are worth more than they are,
  • Impulse buyers make the clock purchases based on other factors, for show, an ornament, decorative value and are not necessarily concerned whether they run or not.

Factors affecting the sale of clocks

As most know, any object is ultimately worth what someone is willing to pay. Prices for many fine early American clocks continue to nosedive though high end and truly rare clocks have managed to retain their value. Market conditions and demand also play a significant role.

The buyer alone is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods before a purchase is made

For a truly rare clock, there is no real comparison. However, the term “rare” is difficult to define. Rare is what most “experts” generally agree upon. But, what was once considered “rare” based on largely anecdotal experience whether they are dealers, collectors or auctioneers has been changed by the “eBay effect” where rarity is challenged by thousands of similar clocks offered for sale. Indeed, online sales have been a real game-changer since the beginning of this century.

One such example is the 30-hour Ogee clock shown above, once considered rare, that has plummeted in value after many flooded the market in the 1990s.

At the end of the day, the buyer alone is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods before a purchase is made (difficult for online purchases) and informed buyers always make much better choices.

Prices for wall clocks such as this range from $60 to $300 and the condition does not always dictate the price

Of course, you can always purchase your antique at a clock store. A true clock store, if you can find one today, usually with repair services, commands higher prices for their wares, but the clocks usually come with a guarantee and the comfort of knowing that it will work well and will do so for years to come.

Internet stores lack the fixed and variable costs (and reputation) that a brick and mortar establishment has and, all things being equal, can offer their product at a lower cost. However, to make a true cost comparison, one should add the cost of shipping, packaging, currency exchange, duty, handling and insurance that must be paid by the purchaser.

My particular interest is in the Canadian market. I have observed homegrown companies like Pequegnat, Canada Clock Co., Hamilton Clock Co., Fleet, Forestville, and Snider take a dip in the past year.

Arthur Pequegnat Simcoe mantel clock
Arthur Pequegnat Simcoe mantel; prices have dropped by as much as 40%

Why are prices dropping?

  • Antique and vintage clocks have flooded the market in the past several years driving prices steadily downwards,
  • The new generation (generation Y) is not interested in antiques and cannot see the point in collecting them,
  • Analog clocks are irrelevant in the digital age
  • Modern homes do not have the room for clocks as floor and wall space is at a premium. For example, grandfather clocks are finely crafted and cost thousands but people do not have space for them and this is reflected in low resale prices,
  • The “noise” of ticking, striking, chiming can be very irritating for some,
  • Sentimental reasons aside, the cost of servicing far exceeds the value.

Don’t expect things to change much in 2020 or beyond. It is a buyers market, there are some terrific bargains out there but shop carefully and do your homework.