A number of customers contact Klockit in regard to old or antique clock assemblies that they happened to come across at rummage sales, pawn shops, etc. In most cases, people are seeking information on the clock itself, such as the manufacturer, year of manufacture, and value.
I like to use those pieces of information – identification, dating, and value – to learn more about an antique clock assembly. In general, I start by identifying the clock case.
Identifying antique clock assemblies can be quite the mystery. There is a long line of history associated with all the various clock manufacturers throughout time, and clock manufacturing dates back well over 300 years or more.
This being said, the best option for identification is to carefully examine the case inside and out. Manufacturers had various ways of branding their clock assemblies, and many manufacturers from the early 1800s and up did so.
This form of identification could be represented via a paper certificate (usually attached to the case back), wood burned logo, stamp, etc. If the case assembly should happen to verify the manufacturer, information can be searched on the Internet to learn more about that manufacturer.
Note: In some cases, people will come across a name on the clock face. It is important to understand that this will not usually be indicative of the wood case manufacturer. Many store retailers would have clock faces branded with their name/logo as a means of selling the clock as an item exclusive to their store (as shown below). Also, some signatures on older clock faces that were hand-painted may reflect the artist of the clock face rather than the clock case manufacturer.
Dating clock assemblies can be much easier than identifying the manufacturer, as the style of clock is one of the main aspects used to help estimate the date of manufacture. For example: Steeple style clocks were first introduced in the 1840s. Black mantel (or Temple) clocks were developed in the 1880s. Since certain style introductions can be dated, this helps to establish a date range for clock case production.
With an idea of the style of clock, it is not too complicated to estimate a date range within 20+ years. There are also other aspects that can establish a general time span for any given antique clock’s production. The more common examples include the following:
- American made shelf / mantel clocks housed wooden movements up until the 1820s
- Brass movements became standard around the 1830s and up
- Marking the country of origin was required for all clocks imported into the USA after 1896
- Plywood was first used in clock case assemblies in 1905
- Chime rods were introduced to clocks around 1890
Whether you are interested in selling the clock for profit, estimating value for insurance purposes, or simply interested in what your antique assembly might be worth, value is one of the more commonly asked questions.
Unfortunately, clocks are like any collectible where resale value is a subjective matter. While condition of the assembly, rarity of the assembly, and originality of the movement/components can certainly affect value – value is primarily determined by demand more so than anything else. Just because an antique clock assembly could be identified to be worth $1,000, it does not necessarily mean that someone will pay the full $1,000 value. In most cases, people will generally offer a starting price that is considerably less than the value.
The best idea for obtaining current market value comes from various online auction sites. It is here that you can get a general idea of what any antique clock assembly would actually sell for despite it estimated value.
For insurance purposes, value is far less subjective. In these instances, consider contacting someone experienced to appraise the clock for value. They may also be able to authenticate the assembly, as well as provide a bit more information and history about it. Additionally, you may look into various books, publications and/or websites devoted to antique clock assemblies. Clock forums can also be an additional resource for further information.
Written By: Chris Akright
Chris is responsible for the kit, plan, and finishing technical support, which he has provided to Klockit customers for over 14 years. Chris also contributes new product designs, composes written/illustrated assembly manuals, and works to develop new kit and plan products for the Klockit catalog. Chris’s experience is the culmination of years of training under his mentor, and Klockit Designer, John Cooper.