Antique grandfather clocks are extremely popular among amateur and professional antiques collectors. Most antique grandfather clocks for sale are substantial items that can have an imposing and impressive presence to a room – providing an amazing antique focal point for most homes.
Valuing an antique grandfather clock can be a tricky business and if you are wondering how to do it, this guide will explain everything you need to know to establish the value of your antique grandfather clock.
Some antique grandfather clocks don’t hold much value at all and it’s possible to pick up a common grandfather clock for around $200. Other antique grandfather clocks can fetch a lot more money and there have been clocks that sell for millions of dollars!
The trouble is, most antique grandfather clocks look similar at first glance, so how do you tell whether you have a common clock or a gem? You will need to inspect your clock carefully and there are several factors outlined below that will contribute to the value of your antique grandfather clock.
What are Antique Grandfather Clocks?
Grandfather clocks have been around since 1670 when William Clement (a clockmaker) designed a new type of clock form.
If you’re shopping around for a grandfather clock you may find it listed under another name. A grandfather clock can be described as:
- Longcase Clocks
- Tall Clocks
- Tall Case Clocks
- Floor Clock
- Grandfather’s Clock
A grandfather clock is known by its characteristics and will be freestanding, have a weight driven pendulum that is encased in the tower or ‘waist’ of the clock. There are three variants of grandfather clock that you can buy today, antique clocks (typically over a century old), analog clocks (under a century old) and modern digital clocks.
This basic information will help you identify whether you have a grandfather clock or another type of clock. Don’t be disappointed if you have another type of clock as other antique clocks can be valuable as well!
How Do I Value My Antique Grandfather Clock?
Now we have established you have a grandfather clock; you will want to know how to value it. Valuing an antique grandfather clock is important for three purposes:
- You might want to sell the clock for a fair price.
- You might need the correct value for insurance purposes.
- You might need to know the value if it will form part of your estate when you pass away.
Valuing an antique grandfather clock is a complex process. You can do it yourself and get a pretty accurate idea of the value, but most people opt to enlist the help of a professional antiques appraiser.
If you’re going to use an antiques appraiser to value your clock you should be aware they will charge you for the appraisal.
If your grandfather clock isn’t particularly valuable, you could end up paying more to the appraiser than the clock is worth!
When looking for an antiques appraiser, you should check their credentials and make sure they have experience dealing with grandfather clocks. Most antiques appraisers specialize in a specific niche of the antiques market and not all appraisers will be able to give you an accurate value for your antique grandfather clock.
You should also ensure the appraiser isn’t looking to purchase grandfather clocks. You won’t get an accurate value if the appraiser is also an antiques dealer who is looking to acquire the clock. In this respect, make sure your appraiser is independent of any future sales process.
Condition is Important
When it comes to antiques, condition is extremely important and is one of the major considerations when establishing the value of your antique grandfather clock.
Almost all grandfather clocks are constructed of wood and as you might have gathered, wood wears over time. General wear that is expected for the time period is normally acceptable, but more significant wear or damage can cause the value of your clock to plummet.
Damage normally consists of chips (where bits of wood have been lost from the structure), scratches and in some cases splintering or wood rot.
If you find your clock is potentially a valuable clock but has damage that will hurt the price, you should consider whether restoration is an option.
In most cases, restoration work won’t cost more than the price difference of your clock in its current state compared to its final achievable value. In rarer cases, or where damage is in complex areas, a restoration could result in you taking a financial hit in order to get it back up to full value.
If your clock is particularly ornate, you will want to source a restoration expert who can work with decorative clocks. Some restorers are good for general repairs, while others are master craftspeople who can work wonders.
Evaluating the Clock
To evaluate the overall condition, carefully move the clock away from the wall and make a 360-degree inspection. With antique wall mounted grandfather clocks, you will need to unmount it to inspect it properly as the back of the casing is still important. Any immediate damage should be instantly noticeable, and you can make a note of anything that is prominent.
Antique grandfather clocks are minutely inspected, so you will need to go a step further than a quick look over. Make sure you’re working in good light and get up close to your clock, paying particular attention to joints and details on your clock.
Once again, if you notice anything, make a note of it. By the end of your inspection, you should have a complete idea of where the damage (if any) is on your clock.
You can use this information to factor into your valuation by discounting how much it will cost to restore the damage.
Does the Clock Still Work?
Another important basic factor is whether the clock still functions. There are specific things to look at when deciding how functional your clock is as the mechanism will need closer inspection.
But in general, at this point, it is good to just get an understanding of whether the clock keeps time accurately. You can do this by comparing it to a modern clock and see if there is a difference between the timekeeping.
Digital clocks are a little more accurate than antique clock mechanisms so you can check an antique clock’s timekeeping reliably in this way. The closer the timekeeping to your digital clock the better.
You may realize your clock doesn’t keep time well or doesn’t function at all, if this is the case, check out the section on the clock mechanism below for more information.
Age/Dating My Antique Grandfather Clock
The next consideration for value is the age of your grandfather clock. In general, the older the clock, the more valuable… but this isn’t always the case. A reputable maker that is more modern than a less reputable maker that has an older date will be factored into your total value.
Dating an antique grandfather clock can be a straightforward process if the clock is in a condition that allows you to find distinguishing features.
First, you should look for a maker’s mark or manufacturers stamp. Some grandfather clocks from the Victorian period were mass-produced and will have a manufacturing stamp rather than a specific clockmakers mark.
If you find a manufacturers stamp, don’t be discouraged, you might find the model of clock you have was a limited production which can drive the value up – especially if it is a highly regarded manufacturer.
Once you have the manufacturer or maker established, the internet is your best friend for getting a general date. You will be able to establish a timeframe in which the clock was built, whether that be in the maker’s lifetime or the manufacturers operational history.
Some clocks are even simpler to date and bear the date of production either inside of the mark or alongside the mark.
No Maker’s Mark
If your clock doesn’t have a maker’s mark or it has been damaged beyond recognition, it will be a become a complicated process to date. You will need to establish what type of mechanism is in the clock and then get an idea of the date from that.
Clock mechanisms changed over time and were improved from 1670 for more accurate timekeeping. The type of mechanism will give you an idea of the date it was constructed.
If you discover an antiquated mechanism that isn’t particularly accurate, don’t panic, some unusual or older mechanisms add a lot of value to a clock. Mechanisms can be very difficult to identify without an untrained eye, you may need to call in an expert at this point rather than try to value the clock yourself.
Forums like Reddit may also be able to help.
Maker and Looking for a Makers Mark
The maker of your antique grandfather clock will be a big factor in its value. Distinguished makers can increase values by millions of dollars – for example, if you find your clock is made by Faberge, you will probably not need to worry about anything else in this article as the makers mark itself carries an extraordinary value.
Sought after makers of antique grandfather clocks are:
- John Alker – Lancashire, England (1797-1832)
- Bilbie Family – Somerset, England (17th to 19th Century)
- Peter Bower – Wiltshire, England (1721-1795)
- John Calver – Suffolk, England (1695 – 1751)
- Richard Donisthorpe – Loughborough, England (1797) used the makers mark Donisthorp
- John Harrison – Wakefield, England (1693 – 1776)
- Nathaniel Hedge – Essex, England (1710)
- John Knibb – London, England (1650 – 1722)
- Joseph Knibb – London, England (1640 – 1711)
- Timothy Mason – Gainsborough, England (1695 – 1734)
- Daniel Quare – Somerset, England (1649 – 1724)
- James Woolley – Derbyshire, England (1695 – 1786)
- Isaac Brokaw – New Town, NJ (1746 – 1826)
- Luman Watson – Cincinnati, OH (1790 – 1834)
- Simon Willard – Roxbury, MA (1753 -1848)
There are many more manufacturers and makers from all over the world who are renowned, so even if your clock doesn’t bear one of these makers, they can still be as valuable as clocks made by the makers above.
Examples of other sought-after nations who produce grandfather clocks are:
- Antique German Grandfather Clocks
- Antique Swedish Grandfather Clocks
- French Antique Grandfather Clocks
In fact, antique German-made grandfather clocks are extremely desirable, and you might find antique German grandfather clocks for sale at high values.
Once again, the internet will be your friend and you can search for the specific maker and find out their pedigree in the antique grandfather clock collector’s market.
The maker’s mark is normally on the clockface but may also be elsewhere on the clock. Sometimes you will find two makers marks on a single clock, this is where a clock maker has built the mechanism and clockface and another craftsman has built the body.
Don’t be dismayed if you find two makers, this practice was relatively common as carpentry and clockmaking are two separate specialisms and clocks with multiple makers can be more valuable than single mark clocks. Some of the best antique grandfather clocks are constructed by multiple makers.
Appearance and Overall Aesthetic
Some antique grandfather clocks have minimal decoration while others are extremely beautiful.
When looking at the overall aesthetic you should look for the following things:
- Is there carving work on the clock?
- Is the clock gilded in any way?
- Does it use precious stones in the clockface?
- Does it use precious metals (gold, silver etc.)?
- How well do the joints meet? Are they flush or seamless?
- Is the wood in good condition?
When these things are considered, you can gain an idea of how much more the appearance adds to the desirability (and therefore value) of your antique grandfather clock. It should go without saying that if the clock is more ornate or has high craftsmanship that incorporated precious metals your clock will be more valuable.
Remember any precious metals or stones have intrinsic value so even if the overall clock isn’t worth that much, the stones and metals used may be worth a lot of money.
The Clock Mechanism
Clock mechanisms used in antique grandfather clocks almost vary as much as the mechanisms found in watches. Essentially, mechanisms changed over time to improve time keeping.
If your clock mechanism has a lot of moving parts, it is normally a good indication you have a valuable mechanism as complexity of mechanism tends to add to the value. In antique clocks, complex mechanisms tend to be more accurate than simpler mechanisms as well.
Different clock makers used different mechanisms and even if the mechanism is broadly similar between makers, it is likely adaptations were made by the maker to make their clock more accurate.
What is a Clock Movement?
A clock movement is a technical term for the main clock mechanisms action. If you are asked about the movement by a potential buyer, you should look at the gears and plates on the mechanism.
Checking Your Antique Grandfather Clock’s Movement
The movement is normally on display from the clockface. Sometimes the movement is partially or fully obscured. To access a movement that is hidden there will be a panel to open about the clockface to study what’s going on below.
When checking the condition of the movement you want to look for smoothness. Jerky or harsh action of the gears or plates will typically mean the movement hasn’t been constructed well or is failing in some way.
What is a Pendulum?
On the tower (sometimes known as the waist) of the clock there will be a weighted pendulum. The pendulum swings back and forth and is typically made of brass or steel. If you find a steel pendulum you should look at the type of steel it is made of, stainless steel pendulums are a sign of a modern grandfather clock.
Some pendulums can be more ornate, or even be constructed of precious metals.
Checking Your Antique Grandfather Clock’s Pendulum
Your pendulum should swing rhythmically and regularly. Any movement that is unexpected will highlight an issue.
Likewise, if your pendulum moves too freely and doesn’t keep rhythm then you probably have a loose fitting at the top of the pendulum.
Dials and Clockface
Some of the most valuable antique grandfather clocks have ornate or intricate clockface design. Although this design might not be something that adds an immense amount of value, it could add desirability to your clock and collectors may bid on it more compared to a standard clockface.
You should check the dials function correctly with no hindrance and look at the overall condition of the clockface.
Checking the clockface condition is similar to checking the body condition and you will primarily be concerned with defects or damage.
Valuing Your Antique Grandfather Clock
Once you have accumulated the information above you should know the following:
- Who made it
- When it was made
- If the clock is working
- If the clock has any defects or damage
- How complex the mechanism is
Once you have these 5 factors you can value your clock. To do this you should check auction sites to see what comparable clocks are selling for. Look at eBay, Etsy, loveantiques, 1st Dibs, and Chairish.
Remember to add value for any unique or interesting aspects your clock has over comparable clocks and discount value for any damage.
This will give you a good estimate of your antique grandfather clock’s value. On rare occasions, you may find there are no comparable clocks, either because the clock is extremely rare or because comparable clocks haven’t come to market recently.
If this is the case, you may need to enlist an expert to appraise your clock. For rarer clocks it is often better to enlist a few independent appraisers to get a range of values to work from. An appraiser’s work is subjective it they likely won’t be able to give you an exact price the clock will sell for, which means getting multiple opinions will help you form a balanced view of your clock’s value.
How to Sell an Antique Grandfather Clock
Selling an antique grandfather clock is relatively straightforward. There are four main routes to market.
To an Antiques Dealer
Antiques dealers are one of the easiest ways to part with your grandfather clock quickly. Remember an antiques dealer will look to buy your clock at a fraction of its value to sell it on for a profit.
Using an antiques dealer can be useful though as you can avoid auction fees and get a reasonable price for your clock in most cases. An antiques dealer will typically offer you between 50% and 70% of your clock’s value.
To a Pawn Shop
Like an antiques dealer, using a pawn shop eliminates auction fees. Unlike antiques dealers, a pawn shop isn’t an expert in antique grandfather clocks and may not realize the value of the clock you wish to sell.
Typically, you can get 20% to 40% of your clocks true value using a pawn shop. The Pawn Stars video above gives you an idea of the price they’d expect.
Using an Online Auction Site
Most antique grandfather clocks are now sold using online auction sites. The fees for such sites are lower than physical auctions and the sites are suitable for achieving as close to market value for your clock as possible in most cases.
Typically, you can achieve 80% to 90% of your clock’s value after fees have been deducted.
Using an Auction
If you have a rare clock or a clock that you want to obtain the maximum value within a specific market it is worth using a traditional auction. This is because collectors receive auction brochures, and you might find a buyer at a traditional auction that you wouldn’t find elsewhere.
Traditional auctions typically have a 20% fee on anything sold, so typically you will achieve 80% of the value of your clock after fees are deducted.
The advantage though is you might find a buyer willing to part with higher amounts of money than elsewhere and your total profit will be markedly improved compared to other sales avenues.
We hope you found this guide useful! Good luck appraising and selling your grandfather clock – the resources listed above will be incredibly useful. Let us know how you get on in the comments below.