Clocks are a miracle of engineering. They have been used for centuries to keep track of time, a concept that has become integral in our daily lives. Nowadays, we have digital clocks that can fit in the palm of our hand, but many still appreciate the beauty and craftsmanship of antique clocks.

While back in their days they were mostly used for function, antique clocks have now become collectible items thanks to their vintage looks and history.

One company, Seth Thomas, has been a popular choice for clock collectors. Founded in 1813, the company produced clocks for over 150 years before eventually closing in the 1980s. If you’re wondering just how massive the company used to be, consider this: Seth Thomas was the official clock supplier for the United States Navy, as well as the creator of New York City’s famous clock tower at Madison Square Garden.

Because of the company’s history and popularity, Seth Thomas clocks have become highly sought after by collectors. Their value can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands. As with any collectible, the value of a Seth Thomas clock can vary greatly depending on its condition, age, and type.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what determines the value of a Seth Thomas clock and offer tips on how to start your own collection without getting frauded by counterfeit products.

The History of Seth Thomas Clocks

Seth Thomas Clock

The Seth Thomas Clocks company was founded by Seth Thomas, a clockmaker who learned the trade from his father. Seth Thomas refined his understanding of clockmaking in the early 1800s by working for Eli Terry, a company that had managed to mass produce clocks using interchangeable parts.

Seth Thomas owes its success to a massive breakthrough in clockmaking that happened in 1837, Sir Chauncey Jerome, who was employed by the company, invented a machine that could cut teeth in brass wheels. This allowed for mass production of clocks, quickly making Seth Thomas one of the largest clock manufacturers in the United States.

During the Civil War, Seth Thomas created clocks specifically designed for military use, as well as supplying wall and mantel clocks to both sides of the war. In addition to the United States Navy, Seth Thomas also supplied clocks to other branches of the military, as well as various government buildings and railroad companies.

The company also produced massive clock towers for churches, government buildings, and train stations. One notable clock tower was built for Madison Square Garden in New York City, which still stands today and is popularly known as the “Big Clock.”

Since clockmaking requires skilled craftsmen and polished materials, the city of Thomaston turned from a small farming community into a bustling clockmaking center during the company’s peak years.

Seth Thomas clocks were also popular for their decorative designs, often featuring carved wooden cases or ornate metalworks. The company even hired renowned designer Samuel Sloan to create case designs for their clocks in the 1850s, adding to their appeal as collectible items.

But as with everything, time eventually caught up with Seth Thomas. The company closed its doors in the 1980s, leaving behind a legacy of well-made and stylish clocks that still draw attention from collectors today.

The Decline of Seth Thomas Clocks

In the 1960s and 70s, Seth Thomas faced increasing competition from companies that were able to mass produce cheaper clocks using cheaper materials and less skilled labor. Additionally, the wrist watch had become a fashionable and convenient way to tell time, leading to declining sales for mantel and wall clocks. In 1979, the company was sold to the Colibri Group, who eventually shut down Seth Thomas’ clock production completely in the 1980s.

While this may seem like the end of Seth Thomas clocks, the company’s legacy lives on through the antique clocks that are still highly sought after by collectors. Their stylish designs and reputation for quality make Seth Thomas clocks valuable collectibles that often sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Determining the Value of Seth Thomas Clocks

Value of Seth Thomas Clocks

Let’s start with the first categorization you’ll run into: antique vs vintage. Antique is generally defined as being at least 100 years old, while vintage refers to items that are at least 20 years old. However, in the world of collectibles like clocks, the terms can be used somewhat interchangeably. Still, it’s important to be clear on the age of the clock you’re looking at, as it can affect its value.

A first look at the materials used in the clock already give you some indication of the clock’s age. Obviously, plastic is a no-go for an antique clock. If the clock is made of wood, brass, or porcelain, it’s more likely to be an antique.

Age is a massive factor in determining a clock’s value. After all, a clock built in 1820 that survived to the current day is way rarer than one built in the 1900s. Materials (especially wood) decay. Some people don’t take proper care of their clocks, leading to damage or disrepair. Add that these clocks survived multiple wars (the American Civil War and World Wars) and natural disasters, it’s no wonder why age plays such a large role in value.

Next, take a look at the condition of the clock. Is it in good working order? Are there any major flaws or damages to the case or mechanism? Is the body chipped or cracked? Clocks that are fully functional and in good condition will obviously fetch a higher price.

And finally, take a look at the rarity of the clock. Certain models or designs may be more sought after by collectors, leading to higher prices. For example, if a clock belonged to a famous historical figure or was built by Seth Thomas himself, it will be worth more.

It’s also worth mentioning that clocks with their original paperwork and packaging can also increase value.

Obviously, even when you consider all of the above points, there is still a layer of subjectivity when determining value. A collector may be willing to pay a higher price for a clock that speaks to their personal taste and interests.

And, naturally, make sure the clock is actually a Seth Thomas. The company’s clocks are often imitated or reproduced, so it’s important to confirm the authenticity before shelling out big bucks for a collectible clock.

Analyzing a Seth Thomas Clock’s Conditions

Clocks have a lot of moving (and unmoving) parts. It’s important to take note of their condition before making a purchase. Here are some things to consider:

  • The clock’s build condition — This is the wood/brass/porcelain aspect we mentioned before. Wood is the one most prone to decay, so make sure it doesn’t have any major cracks or chips.
  • The clock face — Is it cracked or discolored? Are the numbers and hands still clearly visible? Can you still use the clock for what it was intended for — telling time?
  • The clock mechanism — Is it still functioning properly? Can you hear any odd noises or notice any unusual movements? It may be worth getting a professional opinion on the inner workings of the clock.
  • Any added features — Does the clock have extra bells and whistles, like a pendulum or chimes? Make sure these features are all in working condition as well.

Overall, the main thing to consider is whether or not the clock still serves its original function and if it has any major flaws that could affect its value. As with anything collectible, a little bit of wear and tear can be expected (and even add character), but major damages can significantly lower value.

Making Sure the Seth Thomas Clock is Real

Fake clocks look so similar to their original counterpart that it can often be hard to distinguish them from the real deal. Let’s begin by saying that buying a fake that is recognized as a fake is not the same as buying a replica. A replica is an intentional recreation, while a fake is passed off as being original.

So how do you go about confirming that your Seth Thomas clock is the real deal?

The first step is looking at the label. Seth Thomas labels are inside the clock case and usually have the company’s name and location, along with the model or style number. If there is no label, or the label doesn’t have that information, it’s a red flag.

Next, inspect the clock’s bottom. Seth Thomas engraved the date the clock was built it on the bottom of the clock. If there is no date or serial number, it’s most likely a fake.

Editor’s note: The date was carved backwards, and the month was indicated with a letter from A to L. For example, “A” stands for January and “K” stands for November.

Another thing to look out for is the clock’s movements. Seth Thomas used specific types of movements, so check to see if yours matches up with those commonly used by the company. For example, Seth Thomas used the E.N. Welch Company’s “Cottage” clock movement from 1870 to 1877, and the Ansonia Clock Company’s “Royal Bonn” clock movement from 1886 to 1898.

Of course, it’s always a good idea to have an expert take a look at the clock before making a purchase or assessment of value.

But don’t just rely on these physical cues. Research your clock’s model and compare it to authentic clocks online, or consult with an expert in antique clocks. It’s worth taking the time to confirm the clock’s authenticity before investing in it.

Buying a Seth Thomas Clock: How Much Does it worth?

Antique Thomas Clock

Antique clocks give your house a unique charm and can also be a valuable investment. The first hurdle is finding an actual Seth Thomas clock, as they have become increasingly rare.

Antique stores and auction houses are great places to start your search. You can also try online marketplaces (like eBay and Etsy) or reaching out to antique clock dealers. Yard sales are unexpected but possible options for finding a Seth Thomas clock. Some people might just want to clear up space and sell their grandpa’s mantel clock without caring about its true value.

When buying a Seth Thomas clock, make sure you keep all the factors we discussed in mind — condition, authenticity, added features — and have an expert inspect it before making a purchase. And of course, consider your budget and what you’re willing to spend on an antique clock.

Speaking of budget, remember that Seth Thomas clocks, like any antiques, can vary greatly in price. A simple Seth Thomas clock can range from a couple hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. It’s a small price to pay to have a piece of American history grace your home.

Let’s see some clocks, their prices, and what makes them valuable. We’ll start with the lower-end ones.

Lower-End Seth Thomas Clocks

These clocks can be bought for less than $200. They are simple in design and may have some wear and tear, but are still functional and make a great addition to any home. If you buy one of these, we recommend considering bringing it to restoration, as it can increase its value and make it last longer. Oftentimes these clocks were poorly maintained, so a little TLC can go a long way.

  • Here is a country cottage Seth Thomas clock from ca. 1980 that sells for $50. Here’s another exemplary of the same model that sells for $99. This is one of the absolute last clocks made by Seth Thomas, as the company closed down production in 1979.
  • Here is an antique Seth Thomas mantel clock from ca. 1910 that sells for $124.95. As the mark on the back mechanism says, it uses an 89AL movement. This type of movement was used in Seth Thomas clocks from 1912-1950s, and is based on weights and pendulum.
  • This Antique Oak Seth Thomas 298B Series Clock from ca. 1900 sells for $120. Despite its low price, its design is way more curated than the previous two clocks. Its oak case adds a touch of sophistication to any room, and it is from the highly sought after 298B series which was made from 1900-1920s.
  • An interesting piece is this Seth Thomas Oak Gingerbread Mantle Clock from ca. 1890 that is being auctioned right now. While auctions can be wildly unpredictable, the owner is also offering the “Buy it now” option for just $150, so it’s unlikely it will fetch much more than that. Gingerbread clocks were popular in the late 1800s and often feature carved wooden cases or scrollwork designs. While this clock is impressive, it’s held back by its back which is quite ruined.
  • Rounding up our list is this 1893 Seth Thomas Grade 182 Model 5 18s 17j Eagle Dial pocket watch that sold for $179. We wanted to include at least one pocket watch in our list for completeness’ sake. Pocket watches were the predecessor to wrist watches and were used by both men and women. They are also often rarer than their mantel counterparts, as they were carried around and easily lost or damaged. This specific pocket watch is from the highly collectible series 182, which was made from 1878-1909.

Let’s now get into mid-range Seth Thomas clocks.

Mid-Range Seth Thomas Clocks

These clocks range from $200 to $500. They may have some minor flaws, but overall are in good condition and have unique designs that set them apart.

Going up the price point scale, we get to the high-end clocks.

High-End Seth Thomas Clocks

Clocks in this category are sold for over $500. There is no real ceiling for how much a Seth Thomas clock can fetch, as it heavily depends on its rarity and condition. The most expensive ones tend to go for around $3,000-$4,000.

Let’s see a few of the most expensive ones.

  • Here’s a Seth Thomas Maiden Lane, 25 Jewel, 18 size open face pocket watch that sold for $3,500. This is an incredibly rare find, as it’s from the Maiden Lane series made from 1891-1901. It also has 25 jewels, which means it has more intricate movements and is thus even more valuable for collectors.
  • This Seth Thomas Maiden Lane 25 Jewel Beautiful 2-Tone Railroad Pocket Watch went for $2,800. It’s another rare find from the Maiden Lane series, and its two-tone design adds to its uniqueness. Unlike most other Seth Thomas clocks, this one includes a dial for the seconds.
  • We haven’t talked much about wall clocks yet, so this Antique Seth Thomas Huge Gallery Time Wall Clock is definitely interesting. It sold for $2,600. It’s from the Gallery Time series made in the late 1800s, and its size definitely adds to its appeal. The most peculiar part of this clock, however, is that it doesn’t look like all that special. You’d expect a $2,600 clock to have some unique design aspect or rarity, but this one appears quite plain. This just goes to show that the value of a Seth Thomas clock is not always obvious at first glance.
  • This price point is where you see the more unique designs, of which this Seth Thomas “Fashion” Calendar Clock is definitely a huge representative. Sold for $2,425, it’s from the Fashion series made in 1884. As its name suggests, it includes a dial that tells you what day of the month it is. Plus, it has quite an elaborate design for its time, contributing to its value.
  • To round up our list, we have this Antique Seth Thomas Regulator #3 Wall Clock that sold for $2,077. This is the only full pendulum regulator clock on our list, and it’s from the Regulator 3 series made in 1884. It has a very classic design that still looks elegant today. This type of design became somewhat common soon after, but back then it was quite revolutionary.

Buying a Seth Thomas clock is definitely an investment, as their value tends to increase over time. But more than that, owning a piece of American history is something truly special. So, whether you’re looking for a collector’s item or just a beautiful addition to your home decor, Seth Thomas clocks are definitely worth checking out.

But buying one is only half of the battle. You also have to make sure it’s properly maintained and kept in good condition.

Maintaining Your Seth Thomas Clock

Once you have your beautiful Seth Thomas clock, it’s important to properly maintain it. First, keep the clock in a stable environment without extreme temperature and humidity changes. Avoid placing it in direct sunlight or damp areas like bathrooms.

Make sure to regularly dust the clock and its mechanisms, as dirt can affect its functioning. Don’t use any harsh chemicals or cleaning agents, and instead opt for a soft cloth.

You should also have your clock serviced by a professional every few years to ensure it continues running smoothly. This is especially important if the clock has intricate movements or is an antique piece.

Taking good care of your Seth Thomas clock will ensure it continues to have value and be a treasured piece in your home for years to come.

FAQs about Seth Thomas Clocks

What is the oldest Seth Thomas clock?

The oldest Seth Thomas clock in existence is believed to be from 1813, when Seth Thomas bought Eli Terry’s clock manufactory.

Are Seth Thomas clocks worth anything?

Yes, though it depends on the design, rarity, and condition of the clock. Some antique Seth Thomas clocks can sell for thousands of dollars, while others may only be worth a couple hundred dollars. The absolute cheapest models can be bought for around $50, sometimes even less.

Where can I sell my Seth Thomas clock?

You can sell your Seth Thomas clock at antique shops, online marketplaces like eBay or Etsy, or to a private collector. It’s important to research the value of your clock before selling it in order to get the best price.

Are there any famous Seth Thomas clocks?

The Seth Thomas Clock Tower in Times Square, New York City is a famous example of a Seth Thomas clock. It was originally installed in 1904 and has been keeping time for the city ever since. Another notable Seth Thomas clock is the “Old Clock Face,” located in the United States Capitol building, which has been keeping time for Congress since 1859.

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Wrapping Up

Seth Thomas clocks have a rich history and can be worth quite a bit, both financially and sentimentally. When purchasing one, make sure to consider its design, rarity, and condition. And don’t forget to properly maintain it for continued value and enjoyment.

Before buying, ensure you are buying a real Seth Thomas clock, as there are many replicas and imitations out there. Replicas are fine – they only cost a fraction of the price and still give you that vintage appeal. But if purchasing a true antique Seth Thomas clock is your goal, do your research and buy from a reputable source.

And if you inherited or already own a Seth Thomas clock, take good care of it and consider having it serviced to keep it in top shape. Whether you’re buying or caring for one, owning a Seth Thomas clock is truly something special.

Happy collecting!

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