Q: How do I go about selling an over 100-year-old Tiffany regulator mantle clock? It has six Baccarat crystal columns and has been appraised twice for between $20,000-$40,000. It works perfectly.
A: Our reader adds that the clock stands 17 inches tall by 12 inches wide by 7 inches deep. That makes it an impressive piece; originally it might have been part of a 3-piece set called a garniture.
Corbin Horn, a specialist in the Furniture and Decorative Arts Department at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in Chicago, www.lesliehindman.com, has sold many clocks of all types, including a garniture centered by a clock very similar to the reader’s. More on that later.
The clock seen in images sent is, in a word, spectacular. Horn, the professional, calls it “fabulously decorated.” He IDs it as late 19th century and probably French. The jeweler retailed many high-end French clocks at the time.
Made of bronze gilt, onyx, glass and champleve enamel, it features attractive variegated green onyx, a large amount of enameled surfaces, a handsome double column mercury pendulum, etched and fluted glass, multiple finials, a decorative carved onyx urn on top, and of course, the Tiffany and Co. name. The glass may well be Baccarat, but we cannot call it that unless it is marked.
But — and this is vital — our reader needs to understand that the large appraisals quoted were probably rendered as insurance value. Smart collectors know that replacement values vs. resale values are very different.
Insurance values are higher because, if something happens to an item, the owner would have to buy replacement at retail where costs are higher. Plus, to find a comparable clock, rug, painting, or whatever, the owner would have to hunt high and wide perhaps for years, and that can be a serious inconvenience.
Selling the clock constitutes resale, and that means aligning with current market values for the commodity.
“Since the advent of the Internet,” Horn told us, “Everyone knows what’s available and what everything is worth.” One can literally comparison-shop any antique or collectible online, instantly.
Because the Net makes it easier to find available goods at all levels, dealer and auction prices have leveled. Today, if you elect to buy a fine clock from a reputable seller, you’re banking on their expertise and reputation.
Happily, items with the best workmanship bring the most money at resale today, Horn adds. Auction buyers, especially Middle Eastern and Chinese buyers, pay top dollar for items that demonstrate quality, luxe and what he calls “show-off value.”
If I owned the clock, I’d sell at auction because that’s the best way to reach a global audience. Goods are bought from all points with a keystroke. Plus, the auction/Net combo is how motivated buyers hunt for goods.
Our reader has health issues and must avoid hassle. But she must also find an auction house that can give the clock the kind of exposure needed for max results.
I suggest a good regional auction house with a solid record selling high end decorative arts and furnishings. Selling costs are higher at major houses on both coasts. Perhaps a family member or friend can help with research.
Remember that garniture Hindman sold? It brought $7,440. Horn estimates that this clock could fetch $4,000-$6,000 or $5,000-$7,000.