Tips on selling (or buying) an antique or vintage clock

If you are a collector or simply have a general interest in mechanical clocks and wish to sell antique and/or vintage clocks then, read on. I am not a seller but I purchase clocks to build my collection.

Although I do not advertise sales on my blog I sell the odd clock locally as a method of managing my collection. Most of the clocks I have sold have been serviced by myself and my only interest is recouping the time spend on cleaning and repairs.

Mauthe buffet clock C. 1950

Antique or vintage – the difference?

Let’s begin with definitions. Antique is anything over 100 years old and vintage is less than 100 years but more than 30 years old. Anything that is less than 30 years old may be considered vintage but more often it is called collectible. Try to pass off a 30-year-old clock as an antique and you will turn off a lot of prospective buyers.

one-weight Vienna wall clock
Miniature one-weight Vienna wall clock C.1870

Know your clock terms

If you are selling a mantel clock, it is mantel, not “mantle”. A mantel is a form or shelf and a mantle is what one wears.

A clock with two winding points (there are exceptions) is generally called a striking clock, that strikes and does not “chime”. 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 clock that is 6 feet or higher, and it is not a wall clock. A grandmother clock is a floor clock that is less than 6 feet high. Grandfather clocks are also called tall-case clocks, longcase clocks or hall clocks.

Gingerbreads and parlour clocks are distinct but both are generally classified as kitchen clocks.

There are many other styles but let’s leave it at that.

Honesty and full disclosure

In my view, the most important element in selling a clock is honesty.

Inform the prospective buyer by describing as much detail as possible about the clock without getting too wordy. 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, perhaps not immediately in your ad but as a follow-up.

If the clock is running and was recently serviced by a competent repair person, state such in your ad. If the clock is running but the movement requires cleaning it should be stated as such. If it is not running explain why and what issues it might have such as a broken mainspring, missing pendulum bob, missing winding key, and so on. If you don’t know why it is not running, say so but be honest about it.

If you are selling a clock and know nothing about it, say so. If you are selling clocks and know nothing about them generally, say so.

If your clock is rare, indicate why it is rare and support your claim with credible documentation including its provenance.

E. Ingraham shelf clock C.1878, not rare but uncommon

Fixing a value

Research auction prices to get a feel for the value of similar clocks that are offered for sale and the price realized. Sources are Kijiji, Facebook Marketplace, eBay, and any number of respectable auction houses.

There will be a range of prices and something in the middle of the range is a good guide though condition will determine what people expect to pay. A clock in poor condition is not worth as much as one that is in excellent condition.

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 also 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. English and German bracket clocks are not as popular in America as they are in Europe and priced accordingly.

Preparing the clock for sale

A clock in running condition will fetch a higher price than one that is not. A professionally serviced clock in excellent running order will command an even 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.

If you are handy at clock repair, servicing the movement or any case repairs will enhance the value of a clock you are selling. If you have serviced a clock state what you have done. The term servicing has many definitions. Sellers may claim a clock has been serviced if the only thing done to it is oiling.

However, among reputable clock repairers, servicing is defined as, taking the movement out of its case, disassembling the movement, cleaning the parts, addressing wear issues/repairs/parts replacement, reassembly, oiling, and testing prior to reinstalling it back into the case.

Sessions Raven time and strike shelf clock
Smiths Enfield mantel clock
Smiths Enfield mantel clock serviced and prepared for sale

Visual representation

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 close-up photos of those areas.

A dedicated camera with artificial light will produce better results than a cell phone camera.

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. Less information means fewer inquiries from prospective buyers. Too much information with technical terms will turn off prospective buyers. Try to anticipate the questions prospective buyers might have in order to limit the number of follow-up queries.

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. Along with your description state the approximate age. If you do not know, a picture of the maker’s mark on the dial or the movement will assist prospective buyers.

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

1860s era Seth Thomas column and cornice shelf clock

Where to advertise

There are a 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.

Mauthe wall clock circa 1899
  • Example of a poor ad for a clock Antique clock, comes with key, $250
  • Example of an ad that will catch people’s attention Scaling down my collection. Antique German time and strike clock made by Friedrich Mauthe, circa 1899. Original glass, mild refresh of case including new upper centre finial, repainted hands, new wall stabilizers and new arch piece. Cleaned and serviced in 2019. Hung for many years in a family home in Parsboro, Nova Scotia. Runs well and keeps good time, key supplied. $250
Juba Schatz time and strike clock
Juba Schatz time and strike mantel clock

Selling a clock can be a frustrating experience but it can be quite satisfying as well.

I sell locally because I do not want to deal with shipping costs and the hassle of having something arriving that is broken. I like to meet the buyer and answer any questions they may have.

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

2 thoughts on “Tips on selling (or buying) an antique or vintage clock

  1. Thankyou for such a good demo of how to sell a clock and thanks for the honesty and accuracy of description. Jim from AUSTRALIA. from Samsung tablet.


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