Pocket watches are like silver dollars

Thread: Pocket watches are like silver dollars

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  1. #1
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    Pocket watches are like silver dollars

    I hear a lot about the disappointing selling prices and interest lack in nice old pw's. The present attitudes remind me of 1959 when my wife worked at an old small town bank that was clearing the vault of silver dollars. Many acquired from mints before 1900. No longer in demand for users like the pw is today. So we bought for $1. each a bunch mostly unused selected for rarity and condition. Got a collection of 70 different plus a tire chain bag full left in my car while moving to a new job location. This was not an inside deal, others had same opportunity, but did not consider it so. I still have original collection and rare date ones. See the comparison? Nobody wanted the common silver dollars at that time. Even the rare ones were cheap. Imagine how much the selected 70 different has exceeded inflation.
    50 years ago silver $ in same situation as pw today. However, interest by age 40 and younger in pw mechanics, art, and precision work is increasing in my experience. Valuations are tending towards that for coins where new condition sells well and ordinary is ignored. Prestige auction houses still get outrageous prices for rare pw as they always have for coins. Hoard (bad word) rather than sell. The demise of the pw is greatly exaggerated.
    Last edited by artb; June 13th, 2010 at 19:57.

  2. #2
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    Re: Pocket watches are like silver dollars

    Good points. Condition is always mentioned as an important factor, but the quest for the best condition often sadly goes through switching of parts from several sources to make one good looking watch, which then will affect another important factor, originality. And when originality is gone it will affect a third factor, rarity. It doesn't help that the watch when new was made in small numbers if it has been mixed and matched with non-original parts.
    Erik_H
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  3. #3
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    Re: Pocket watches are like silver dollars

    Old is not always valuable. While the highly complicated and rare pocket watches have value, the ubiquitous models do not and the selling prices reflect that. Buy one or two that you like, but I have to disagree with hoarding them unless you're into them.

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    Re: Pocket watches are like silver dollars

    Correct; hoard (changed) is wrong word here; intended to mean keep rather than sacrifice cheap. I hope I am not a hoarder in the usual definition. A little gold hoarding I think is ok. Silver collectibles maybe ok, but the metal as a commodity is bulky relative to its intrinsic value. Gold pocketwatches are best. Art form, interesting technology, historical, useable, compact, durable, intrinsic value, and eventually a much more respected antique. Of course, as Erik says the antique value parameters need to be present. Originality, condition, rarity.
    Last edited by artb; June 13th, 2010 at 20:05.

  6. #5
    Moderator Public Forum John MS's Avatar
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    Re: Pocket watches are like silver dollars

    I hear a lot about the disappointing selling prices and interest lack in nice old pw's. The present attitudes remind me of 1959 when my wife worked at an old small town bank that was clearing the vault of silver dollars. Many acquired from mints before 1900. No longer in demand for users like the pw is today. So we bought for $1. each a bunch mostly unused selected for rarity and condition. Got a collection of 70 different plus a tire chain bag full left in my car while moving to a new job location. This was not an inside deal, others had same opportunity, but did not consider it so. I still have original collection and rare date ones. See the comparison? Nobody wanted the common silver dollars at that time. Even the rare ones were cheap. Imagine how much the selected 70 different has exceeded inflation.
    50 years ago silver $ in same situation as pw today. However, interest by age 40 and younger in pw mechanics, art, and precision work is increasing in my experience. Valuations are tending towards that for coins where new condition sells well and ordinary is ignored.
    In my experience vintage pocketwatches experienced a lot of collector interest in the late 1970's through the 1980's. Silver, silveroid and gold cased watches in average condition attained exceptionally high prices during that period simply because there were a lot of people chasing them. In the USA there was simply a lot of interest in Americana and antique stores opened like mushrooms. The market for pocketwatches eventually slowed, stopped and reversed it's growth aloing with the rest of the antiques market. It never really tanked, but it is probably back to reality pricing now. Condition, originality and rarity continue to be principal determinants for price. The Illinois 23 jewel Sangamo in a gold case will always attract a higher price that the common 17 jewel Waltham in a silver or silveroid case.

    Prestige auction houses still get outrageous prices for rare pw as they always have for coins. Hoard (bad word) rather than sell. The demise of the pw is greatly exaggerated.
    Prestige and common auction houses don't get outrageous prices unless they employ shills, phantom book bidders and the like. It would be unusual for places like Christies, etc. The ultimate price is usually set by the seller and one or more buyers.

  7. #6
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    Re: Pocket watches are like silver dollars

    Very intelligent insight into the whole situation. I am calling outrageous prices the usual level of bidding name watches not overrbidding. Seems like Patek and Rollex mostly exist only for prestige auction trading. I am sure owners o these fine but overpriced things disagree.

  8. #7
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    Re: Pocket watches are like silver dollars

    Gold pocketwatches are best. Art form, interesting technology, historical, useable, compact, durable, intrinsic value, and eventually a much more respected antique. Of course, as Erik says the antique value parameters need to be present. Originality, condition, rarity.[/QUOTE]

    Neglected to include the obvious parameter : Initial quality. Sorry about my sloppy writing confusing things.

  9. #8
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    Re: Pocket watches are like silver dollars

    Hi artb,

    I guess the price evolution of pocket watches in the last ca. 15 years was
    mainly affected by the emerging online markets. In the "pre-ebay time" it
    was simply not worth the effort to sell a useless (for the owner) watch of
    average grade. Nobody wanted to run an antque market stand just to sell
    one watch, or leave it to an antique dealer for few bucks. And so these
    items were kept within the family - for a nebulous future use.

    For expensive watches there was always a reasonable way to turn them to
    cash, and their prices ware just marginally affected. They only suffered to
    a certain extent from the falling prices for average stuff.

    But meanwhile you can notice a falling average quality of offered watches,
    and this means, most of the watches in good contition, digged out of
    drawers in milions, have a new owner. The over-supply will vanish, and the
    old balance between supply and demand will stabilize prices again.

    Of course, variations following trends will always happen. But the total
    number of old goods can't be increased, and the number of people
    prosperous enough to collect watches is increasing. So antiques will on
    long term always outscore the common inflation.

    However, watches are still a lousy investment. They don't earn money like
    other kinds of capital, and therefore can be used only for speculation
    (especially based on the presently low prices), but you can't expect a real
    return from them.

    Anyway, I collect watches since the early 80s, starting in the high-price
    time though. But I never felt uncomfortable, when prices fell. A collection
    is always floating, and it makes no real difference whether one sells and
    buys for low prices, or for high.

    Regards, Roland Ranfft

  10. #9
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    Re: Pocket watches are like silver dollars

    Appreciate your analysis based on experience and good judgement. I share your optimism. I am a little more positive about investment potential. I am locally known more as a fine and ordinary, old and contempory, guitar collector that are really a poor investment. Nicer for personal involvement (use) however, and there are a few $ winners with those. Once again, if you have the important antique parameters: initial quality, rareity,condition, originality, fine material they are about as good as the gold they are made of. Not maybe a best investment, but with personal good judgement at least a fine hobby that will gain value. I agree that the serious collector buys for specific reasons not investment; thus the reasoning for poor investment. I do both. I am not really well off and need value gain to help justify my otherwise too costly interests.
    Last edited by artb; June 15th, 2010 at 10:13.

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