Advise on how to spot a good find

Thread: Advise on how to spot a good find

Results 1 to 5 of 5
  1. #1
    Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    91

    Advise on how to spot a good find

    What do you look for when browsing flea markets / pawn shops / auctions? How do you find that hidden gem? How do you stay away from a dud?

  2. #2
    Member Shangas's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    2,024

    Re: Advise on how to spot a good find

    Stay calm.
    Arrive early.
    Bring a powerful flashlight.
    A strong magnifying glass.
    RESEARCH.

    1. Research.

    You MUST know what you're looking at if you expect to get a good bargain. Before I got into pocket watches seriously, I researched the subject until my eyes dropped out, for about nine months solid. Know everything about what you want before you go and want it even more.

    2. When going to flea-markets...ARRIVE EARLY. If the market opens at nine, show up at seven. If the market opens at six, show up at five. If the market opens at noon, show up at ten thirty. Always at least an hour early, to get to see everything. Never show up late. Smart people show up early to snatch all the good bargains from people who are eager to make a quick sale and some fast money within the first hour of operation.

    3. Bring a good flashlight. Useful for searching for stuff in boxes or for closely examining stuff you're interested in buying. Also useful for not crashing into stuff if you're at a flea-market before dawn.

    4. Bring a damn good magnifying glass or loupe. Use it to scrutinise EVERY LITTLE BIT of the watch before you buy it. If it looks woozy...don't buy it.

    5. Stay calm. If you show the guys how excited you are, you'll lose out on getting a discount price. On top of this, be polite.

    Now general searching advice...

    1. Move FAST. Don't hang around in a place that doesn't have watches. If there's nothing there, neither should you be. Get moving. Find the watches fast.

    2. Look for likely places. In flea-markets, these places are big empty tables with stuff on display, big boxes full of crap or those ever-enticing glass display-cases which are full of nicknacks. Don't waste your time looking in a shoebox of Matchbox cars for the 1950s Rolex you can't find.

    3. Know what you want and know what you're looking for. If you don't know what you want or don't know what you're looking at, you're gonna lose out. You could be holding something awesome but put it back and someone else pinches it the moment you turn away to sneeze. The moment you find something you like, grab it by the balls and hold onto it until you've made up your mind you want it or don't want it. Putting it back shows disinterest and will open the gate for someone else to charge in.

    4. If possible, go to the same person several times and build up a rapport with them. There's a very nice lady at my local flea-market who is a dealer in jewellery. Diamonds, watches, gold, necklaces, rings and other pretty stuff. So far, I've bought...One pair of gold cufflinks, two pocket watches, one watch chain and one ring from her. All of them at a discount price because I was nice and we can chat together and have a conversation. Of course, not everyone is so nice, but you never know.

    5. Stay CALM. This bears repeating. If you see something that's awesome at a discount price...don't get jumpy. People will sense that you know something they don't and that'll jam the price. While I was at the local flea-market a year ago, I bought this:



    A complete, fully-functioning 1950s top-quality railroad watch for $160. The price was $200. I couldn't believe it. I'd never seen a watch this good for such a low price. By staying calm and examining the watch carefully, satisfying myself it was a good buy, I managed to beat down the price forty bucks and bought it.

    ...the person I bought it from the same person who sold me the cufflinks, ring, the other pocket watch and the watch-chain. So it pays to be calm and friendly and not to jump around like a bunny on crack.

    6. Visit places several times. When you're in a flea-market, usually people will show up with an entire truckload of crap to sell. They can't display it al at once on that piddly little table. Spend 2-4 hours at the market and just cruise it for bargains. Every few minutes do another round to see what else has been put up for sale. You never know. You might want that cute 1930s Hamilton wristwatch with the leather strap, but you went home before the guy had a chance to find space on his table for it.

    --- --- --- --- --- ---

    On searching for watches, keep an eye on...everything. Brand. Condition. Quality.

    If the brand isn't one you've heard of, or if it ain't one that you can find online...don't buy it.

    Condition and condition make quality. Check EVERYTHING on the watch. The hands. The crown. The quality of the movement. The case. The crystal. The dial. The lugs or watch-bow. The hinges on the case. Anything. Also...wind it up. All the way. If it winds up and runs, then it should be alright mechanically. If it's broken, then you have to think about how easy it is to fix. Buy a watch with at least seven jewels in the movement, preferrably more. As a rule, I never pay more than $200 for a watch, no matter what it is.

    Keep a look out for goldies. These are people who will automatically jack up the price just because something has gold on it. Even if it's just gold-plate. If you meet one...walk away. It's not worth your sanity to argue with them. They'll always be convinced that their watch, crappy as it is, is worth a thousand bucks because it has a one micron thick layer of gold on it. On the other hand, stay away from people who will charge a ridiculously high amount on something just because it's over 100 years old. That kind of price is unfounded and worthless.
    Last edited by Shangas; January 27th, 2011 at 06:07.
    "Pipes are occasionally of extraordinary interest...nothing has more individuality save, perhaps, watches and bootlaces."

    - Sherlock Holmes.

    'The Yellow Face'.

  3. #3
    Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    91

    Re: Advise on how to spot a good find

    Great advise! What are you looking for and how are you testing the watches to see if they are in good condition? What are things that are important to be in good shape and what are things that are easily fixed if they are damaged (like a strap)?

  4. Remove Advertisements
    WatchUSeek.com
    Advertisements
     

  5. #4
    Member Shangas's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    2,024

    Re: Advise on how to spot a good find

    Hi Douglas,

    I look for pocket watches. I haven't worn a wristwatch since I turned 21.

    What I say is related to pocket watches, so I don't know who applicable that is but...

    Test everything. Wind up the watch. How smoothly does it wind? Does the spring give way? Is it stiff? Does the watch tick? If the watch doesn't wind smoothly, or if it doesn't tick or ticks only after you shake it, it means that it's probably okay, but needs a bloody good clean. See watchmaker. If the spring gives way or if the spring slips, it's a sign that it's broken (or something else is broken) and needs fixing. Buy it at your own risk.

    Check watch-bows. A loose bow can usually be fixed. A handy hint for testing for gold - When buying a pocket watch and if you don't know if the watch is gold or gold-filled...look at the BOW and at the CROWN. Remember, this watch is about 60-120 years old. Years of winding the crown and years of the watch-chain scraping on the bow will wear off the gold. If the watch is gold-filled, the brass will show through in these places. If there's no brassing there, then most likely, the watch is solid gold. Always double-check by opening the caseback.

    Check casebacks. Do they open and close smoothly? Do they screw on properly? Not ALL watches open through the back. Some open through the front. RESEARCH.

    Check the crown. Does it move smoothly? Is it loose? Can you set the time and/or wind up the watch? Remember that not all pocket watches set by pulling up the crown. RESEARCH.

    Turn the watch over in your hands and listen to the movement. Does it rattle around inside the case? If it does, that's probably indicative of a loose case-screw. This can be fixed.

    Things that MUST be in good shape for pocket watches include...the case...the crown...the bow...the movement. If any of those are damaged, it can be a gamble getting them fixed. Some things can be tightened, cleaned, polished or replaced...some things can't. Mainsprings wear out after decades of use, so these are usually easy to replace. Hands and watch-crystals are also easy to replace. What's hard to replace is if you drop the watch and break the balance-staff or if a wheel is cracked or if the dial is broken. THAT is hard. I went to three watchmakers before one of them managed to fix the broken winding-wheel on my 1899 Waltham. I had ALMOST given up hope of ever getting it fixed. THAT was a lesson learned.

    Don't expect perfect watches. Remember that these watches are up to a hundred years old. Expect some wear and tear. Don't worry about it if it doesn't affect the running of the watch. The fact that you HAVE a pocket watch, or the fact that you have a mechanical wristwatch, is something so fantastic that most people won't care that it's got a dent in the case or that there's a small crack on the dial. My railroad watch (see above) LOOKS perfect, but the truth is, the caseback is worn, one of the hands has been replaced, there's two cracks on the dial and it's brassed on the crown. But then this was a WORKING railroad watch. Most of them were bashed up to hell and back.
    "Pipes are occasionally of extraordinary interest...nothing has more individuality save, perhaps, watches and bootlaces."

    - Sherlock Holmes.

    'The Yellow Face'.

  6. #5
    Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Posts
    24

    Re: Advise on how to spot a good find

    Thanks for that great advice !.......the thing about watches is that there is so much to learn .....and while the internet has really opened up the store of knowledge about both kinds of watches......you still have to find it ! ....

    and down to earth advice from someone who has learned how to do something like buying ....well it's worth a lot !

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

    Posting Permissions

    • You may not post new threads
    • You may not post replies
    • You may not post attachments
    • You may not edit your posts
    •