Selling an antique mechanical clock – preparation and advertising – how to

How to sell an antique mechanical clock

If you are a collector like myself there will come a point when there are just too many clocks and not enough walls and mantels. I manage my collection in two ways, some clocks are gifted while others are sold. I am not in the business of selling clocks but occasionally I will sell a few to trim my collection.

The objective is to recoup my initial investment and any time I put into a particular clock plus, make room for new acquisitions.

Juba Schatz time and strike sold in 2018

I hope you find these tips useful when preparing to sell your clock.

What does “antique” mean: The general standard for considering something as an antique is that it must be least 100 years old. Based on this definition a clock made on or before 1920 is an antique. Anything under 100 years but more than 30 years is vintage and anything 30 years or less is considered collectible. However, you will find sellers using the word antique when clearly, the article is vintage. And some consider anything that is old to be an antique.

Vintage Mauthe Westminster chime sold in 2019

Value: Research auction prices to get a feel for the value of similar clocks that are offered for sale and the price realized. There will be a range of prices and something in the middle of the range is a good guide. Know that a clock is only worth as much as someone will pay. If you price your clock too high you will know it soon enough.

Rare and desirable clocks, as well as clocks with an interesting provenance, will command higher prices.

Clocks vary in price according to the geographic location where they are sold. Generally, clocks that are made in the same location as the clock is sold will command higher prices.

Preparing the clock for sale: A clock in running condition will be worth more than one that is not. A professionally serviced clock in excellent running order will command a higher price. A clock case cleaned of grime will present better than a dirty one. Missing hands or dial glass will adversely affect the price. Items such as these can be replaced and parts are available from clock suppliers but it becomes an extra cost for the buyer and for many it is a deal-breaker.

Disclosure: Honesty is key. Tell the prospective buyer as much as possible about the clock. A clock that is a marriage, a case with a similar but replacement movement, should be stated as such. Replacement glass, newer dial, replacement crowns and finials, case repairs or full case restoration should also be disclosed. If the clock is running and was recently serviced by a competent repair person, state it. If the clock is running but the movement needs to be cleaned, state it. If it is not running describe why and what issues it might have (poor previous repairs, missing parts etc.). If you do not know, state it. Describe excessive wear, damage or missing pieces such as crowns, finials and trim pieces.

If your clock is rare, indicate why it is rare and how your research supports your description.

Jauch wall clock
Jauch wall clock may look antique but it was made in the 1970s

Where to advertise: There is any number of ways to sell a clock. Facebook for-sale sites, local online for-sale sites, eBay, flea markets, consignment shops and auction houses are popular places to sell a clock. Setting up an account for most online sites is a pre-requisite but there is usually no cost.

Photographing your clock: Few cell phones are capable of capturing a detailed image of a clock but for many, it will have to do. Out of focus photos are a no-no, however.

Several images from different angles as well as a photo of the inside of the clock case are much more helpful than one photo. During the daylight, place the clock near a window and position yourself between the window and the clock to take a series of photos in natural light. If there is damage or wear take closeup photos of those areas.

A dedicated camera with artificial light will produce superior results.

Determining the age of a clock by the movement from a Gilbert mantel clock is easy. It is stamped on the plate (1925)

Collectors are interested in certain makes. Along with your description state the maker and the approximate age. If you do not know, a picture of the makers mark on the dial or the movement will assist prospective buyers.

Description of your clock: Crafting an ad is an art in itself. You must be concise and accurate and not overly wordy. There is a balance between too little and too much information. More information means fewer inquiries from prospective buyers. Too much information with technical terms will turn off prospective buyers.

State the clock’s maker if known, the model if possible, the year it was made, the type, (time-only, time and strike, chiming clock), the style of clock (mantel, wall, shelf, parlour, Ogee, tall-case etc.). as well as any interesting features, for example, a steeple clock with an alarm function or a clock with a second’s hand.

There is no need to provide a reason for selling but sometimes it helps the ad.

Junghans Crispi time and strike wall clock
Junghans Crispi German time and strike wall clock, circa 1899

Example of a poor ad for Mauthe clock pictured below

Antique chiming clock, comes with key

Example of a good ad 

Scaling down my collection. Antique German time and strike clock made by Friedrich Mauthe, circa 1899. Original glass, mild restoration including new upper centre finial, repainted hands, new wall stabilizers and new arch piece. Cleaned and serviced in 2019. Runs well, key supplied.

Mauthe wall clock

And finally

Know your terms: If you are selling a mantel clock, the word is mantel, not “mantle”. A clock with two winding points (and there are exceptions) are generally called striking clocks, that strike not “chime” on the hour and half hour. A chiming clock generally has a quarter-hour musical tone such as Westminster or Whittington and often has three winding points (again there are exceptions). There is no such thing as a Tempus Fugit clock. Tempest fugit means “time flies”. A grandfather clock is a tall-case clock 6 feet or higher, not a wall clock. Gingerbreads and parlour clocks are different but both are often called kitchen clocks.

Though certainly not a definitive guide to selling, I hope I have provided some pointers and ideas when you decide to sell your antique mechanical clock.