Modernity has swallowed up most aspects of our day-to-day lives. We use GPS to get around, replacements for nearly every household item we own, and our idea of a “night out” is quite different than it was even two decades ago. And smartphones have pretty much replaced clocks and watches for the majority of people.
But, as more tasks have been concentrated into a lower amount of devices, the older ones have increased in value. Mantel clocks are one of these devices.
Mantel clocks, also known as shelf clocks, were first introduced in the 16th century. They became popular in the 17th and 18th centuries as more and more homes were being built with fireplaces.
These days, antique mantel clocks are highly sought after by collectors and those who appreciate history and craftsmanship.
In this article, you are going to learn how to identify and categorize mantel clocks. Are they original or fake? How do you value them? And where is the best place to buy one?
Identifying an Antique Mantel Clock
There are a few key things you should look for when trying to determine if a mantel clock is an antique.
First, examine the materials. Mantel clocks were usually made of wood, brass, or porcelain. If your clock is made of plastic or steel, it is likely not an antique, but a modern replica.
If possible, closely inspect the clock. Are the materials well-made? Are the nails and screws rusted or corroded? This could be an indication of age. Plus, you don’t want to buy a plastic clock that’s been treated to look like a wooden one.
Some dishonest people will try to scam you by selling a modern clock pretending it’s an antique. Checking out the materials is the first step in being able to tell if a mantel clock is the real deal.
Another clue that you have an antique mantel clock is the face. Antique clocks usually have a porcelain, enamel, or metal face. The letters and numbers should be etched or painted on, not printed.
The face should also be free of any cracks or chips. If the clock you’re inspecting has a glass face, make sure it’s clear and not clouded over. A dirty or damaged face can devalue a mantel clock significantly.
Second, look for a maker’s mark or label. Many manufacturers stamped their name or logo on the bottom of the clock. If you see a name, do some research to find out when the company was in business. This will give you a general idea of how old the clock is.
Some of the companies that used to build mantel clocks that hold value today are:
- Ansonia Clock Company—Founded in 1851
- Ingraham Company—Founded in 1831
- Gilbert Clock Company—Founded in 1871
- Seth Thomas Clock Company—Founded in 1813
- Waltham Clock Company—Founded in 1850
- Waterbury Clock Company—Founded in 1857
- Ingraham Clock Company—Founded in 1831
Most of these companies have been closed for at least 60 years at this point. This means that their clocks are becoming increasingly rare, as they become progressively likelier to break down.
If you don’t see a name, that’s ok. Many mantel clocks were handmade, so they may not have a label. In this case, you’ll need to look for other indicators of age, such as the style and construction.
The Clock’s Movement
Check the clock’s movement mechanism. If it’s a pendulum clock, does it have an anchor escapement? If so, that’s a good sign. This type of movement was used in the majority of mantle clocks between 1680 and 1830.
If the clock has a brass plate with gears, it was made after 1830. These types of movements are less accurate than anchor escapements, but they are still considered to be antique.
If your clock has a battery-operated movement, it is not an antique. These were not invented until the 20th century.
Evaluating an Antique Mantel Clock Value
Once you’ve determined that your mantel clock is an antique, it’s time to figure out how much it’s worth.
There are a few things you need to take into account:
- Age: First, consider the age of the clock. The older the clock is, the more valuable it will be. If you have a clock that was made in the 18th century, it will be worth more than one from the 19th century.
Editor’s note: To be considered an antique, a clock has to be at least 100 years old.
- Materials: Second, consider the materials. A clock made of brass or porcelain will be worth more than one made of wood.
- Condition: Next, assess the condition of the clock. Is it in good working order? Does it need to be repaired? The better condition your clock is in, the more valuable it will be.
- Rarity: Finally, consider the rarity of the clock. If it is a mass-produced model, it will be worth less than a rarer, handcrafted clock.
Once you have all of this information, you can start to look up comparable clocks and get an idea of how much your mantel clock is worth. We have an entire section dedicated to this later in the article.
Remember, the value of an antique mantel clock is not set in stone. It can fluctuate based on a number of factors, such as the current popularity of antique clocks or the economy.
If you’re looking for a ballpark estimate, you can expect to see most antique mantel clocks to go for a price between $50 and $300. However, a few very rare and expensive models, such as the French Louis XVI-style ormolu mantel clock, can go for thousands of dollars.
If you’re thinking about selling your clock, it’s always a good idea to consult with an expert to get the most accurate appraisal. If you’re thinking about buying one, we recommend working with a reputable dealer to ensure that you’re getting a fair price.
An In-Depth Look at Clock Age Appraisal
Age is the determining factor of a clock’s antique status, so determining it with precision is of the utmost importance.
There are a few ways to determine the age of your clock:
- Documentation: The best way to date your clock is through documentation, such as a sales receipt, warranty or owners manual. If you have any of these documents, they will usually list the date of manufacture.
- Label: A label could be either a paper label affixed to the clock or a metal plate that is screwed, riveted or soldered onto the clock. If your clock has a label, it will usually have the name of the manufacturer and the location where it was made. Or, your label could be engraved near the face of the dial.
- Style: Another way to date your clock is by looking at its style. This can be tricky, as styles often overlapped and were used for many years. However, if you look closely, you should be able to narrow down the time period during which your clock was made.
- Construction: Another way to determine the age of your clock is by looking at its construction. This method is best used in conjunction with style, as it can help to confirm the date range. For example, if your clock has a brass plate with gears, you know it was made after 1830. If it also has an anchor escapement, you can narrow down the date range to between 1680 and 1830.
As you can see, there are a few different ways to determine the age of your antique mantel clock. The best way is through documentation, but if you don’t have any, you can still narrow it down by style and construction.
To get a better idea of your clock’s value, we recommend looking up comparable models and seeing how much they are selling for. You can do this by searching online auction sites, such as eBay, or visiting a local antique dealer.
Now that you know how old your clock is, it’s time to move on to the next step: appraisal.
How to Buy Antique Mantel Clocks
Buying an antique mantel clock is a bit different than buying a new one from a store. There are a few things you must be careful with, depending on where you intend to buy it.
You can find antique mantel clocks both online and offline. The buying experience is very different, as there are various factors at play here. Buying offline is usually more expensive and takes a little more work. But it’s also harder to get scammed this way. It’s great if you don’t mind spending a few extra bucks to secure an actual antique mantel clock.
Buying an Antique Mantel Clock Offline
There are 3 main ways to buy an antique mantel clock in the real world:
- Auction houses: these are a great place to find antique clocks, but you must be aware that they usually don’t give refunds. So, if you buy a clock and it turns out to be fake or in bad condition, you’re stuck with it.
- Antique dealers: these are a bit more expensive, but they are a safe bet. Dealers have to be careful with their reputation, so they will only sell clocks that they know are genuine and in good condition.
- Garage sales, thrift stores, and flea markets: these are usually the cheapest option, but you must be very careful. There are a lot of fake antique clocks on the market, and it can be hard to spot one if you’re not an expert.
If you decide to buy from a private seller, we recommend bringing along an expert to help you inspect the clock. This way, you can be sure that you’re getting a genuine antique mantel clock and not a fake.
Buying an Antique Mantel Clock Online
Buying an antique mantel clock online is usually cheaper, but comes with its own sets of challenges.
For starters, you have to be very careful with who you’re buying from. Do your research and make sure the seller is reputable. Buying from people with a proven track record of successful sales is a must here.
It’s also important that you inspect the clock carefully before you buy it. If possible, ask the seller to send you high-quality photos of the clock so you can closely inspect it. A video recorded from all angles would be even better.
Finally, make sure you’re buying from a site that offers some sort of buyer protection. This way, if you do get scammed, you can at least get your money back.
The main places to buy antique mantel clocks online are:
- eBay: one of the biggest online marketplaces in the world. You can find just about anything on eBay, including antique mantel clocks like this one.
- Etsy: a great place to find handmade and vintage items. Antiques are harder to find, since most people think of Etsy as a place for arts and crafts. But if you dig deep enough, you can find some real gems.
- Loveantiques: a site that specializes in antiques. They have a wide selection of antique mantel clocks, and you can be sure that all of them are genuine.
Editor’s note: You can find mantel clocks that look antique on Amazon, but most of these will be new or only a few years old. Even a model as expensive as this one is still brand new. It just looks antique. If you only care about looks, then Amazon is a great choice, but then you’re not really buying an antique mantel clock. Just a new mantel clock that looks like the old models.
The Clock I Bought Stopped Working, What Should I Do?
If the clock you bought stopped working, the first thing you should do is check the warranty. If it’s still under warranty, then you can have it repaired or replaced for free.
If the clock is not under warranty, then you’ll have to repair it. Here’s a video on fixing antique mantel clocks:
Alternatively, you can pay to get it fixed. This will usually cost between $50 and $100, depending on the severity of the problem.
How Can I Tell if an Antique Mantel Clock Is Fake?
Unfortunately, there are a lot of fake antique mantel clocks on the market. These are usually mass-produced in China and then sold as genuine antiques.
The best way to avoid getting scammed is to buy from a reputable source. If you’re buying from an auction site like eBay, then make sure the seller has a good track record.
It’s also important that you inspect the clock carefully before you buy it.
How do I Maintain an Antique Mantel Clock?
The first step is to dust it regularly. You can use a soft cloth or a feather duster. Once a week should be enough.
If the clock is made of wood, then you’ll also need to polish it every few months. Use a furniture polish and apply it with a soft cloth.
Finally, make sure to keep the clock in a cool, dry place. drastic changes in temperature and humidity can damage antique mantel clocks.
Where Can I Find More Information on Antique Mantel Clocks?
If you want to learn more about antique mantel clocks, then we recommend checking out these resources:
- The Antique Clock Price Guide: This website is a great resource for anyone interested in antique clocks. It includes information on prices, value, and history.
- The Official Price Guide to Clocks: This is a great book on antique clocks. It includes over 12,000 listings of different clock models.
- Clockguy: This website is run by an expert on antique clocks. He offers advice on buying, selling, and repairing antique clocks.
Should I Buy an Original or a Replica?
Since you are on this article, I assume you want an original. But realistically, if all you care about is to have a piece of furniture that looks cool in a room, then by all means get a replica. These will be cheaper and easier to maintain.
However, the originals will always be cooler and can be great conversation starters.