Question regarding process of appraising a pocket watch

Thread: Question regarding process of appraising a pocket watch

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  1. #1
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    Question regarding process of appraising a pocket watch

    First off, understand, I am not under any assumptions that my watches are worth a great deal of money. I just felt like this guy at a local shop was a little quick on dismissing any worth at all on them and would like some more information before trying more shops for opinions. And I'm not asking for a value or anything as I understand that is not something to be done online.

    My question is, is the guy at the shop I went to really looking at my watches properly to estimate their worth?

    So...I have a couple old pocket watches that belonged to my great grandparents. One is an Elgin and the other is a Waltham. I looked up the dates and such online by using the serial numbers from the moving parts and found they were from 1898 and 1916 I believe. So I took them into a small shop that deals with coins/jewelry/watches and asked for approximate values.

    He looked them over for a few seconds, opened them and looked at the face/hands (they are both the flip open types). Then he popped open the back cover and looked at the serial number that was on the case, not the moving parts inside, and made some mention about how many were made and that they were both common and basically worthless. He also said he had a huge box full of similar watches that were not worth much at all.

    He offered me $30 for both watches.

    Now, is this guy possibly trying to rip me off or could it be that he is just ignorant? Or am I the ignorant one? I was under the impression, after my online research, that the serial number on the case didn't mean anything and that only the stuff on the moving parts gave any indication of a watch date/type to determine its rarity?

    Am I wrong or is he? And if he is wrong, should I head back in there and examine the insides of his box o' watches that he thinks are worthless and see if there is really some value there?

    Thanks

  2. #2
    Member Outta Time's Avatar
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    Re: Question regarding process of appraising a pocket watch

    Well, if you can post some pics, that would go a long way to identifying the grade of the watches. There definitely were a lot of Waltham and Elgin watches made, but having said that, some are definitely more valuable than others. Are your watches fully jewelled? (15-17j) I'm assuming the cases are not Gold, or he would have given you the 'melt' value. We can't do valuations in here (see sticky) but at least we can identify the watches as to their grade and possible rarity. When I say 'we' I really mean the regulars here who are the Elgin and Waltham specialists.

  3. #3
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    Re: Question regarding process of appraising a pocket watch

    There is a paper back book called Complete Price Guide To Watches buy it.It's about 30.00 but it will give you a rough idea what they are worth.

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  5. #4
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    Re: Question regarding process of appraising a pocket watch

    Hi, try the e-bay completed auctions section, you can find the link at the bottom of any page,click on "site map". You did your homework by using the serial # to look up the specs. so use completed e-bay auctions and compare descriptions and photos to your watches, this will give you a general idea of their worth. Try to be as close as posssible in descriptions.
    Goodluck, Jim

  6. #5
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    Re: Question regarding process of appraising a pocket watch

    Thanks for all the tips coming in for pricing the watches and I'll try to get up some pics tonight or tomorrow and I will get up the serial's and specs I found associated with them in a little bit. And no, they are not gold.

    However, there is still a question unanswered here. Do you guys think that guy at the store failed at giving me a value when he never even bothered to check the real serial number? Or that he told me how many were made based on the serial from the case?

    I ask because if he doesn't know what he is doing, I may go back there and take a look at some of the pocket watches he has in his box full as some of them could be worth picking up for the couple bucks he believes they are worth.

  7. #6
    Member AbslomRob's Avatar
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    Re: Question regarding process of appraising a pocket watch

    Generally speaking, he's probably right. "Worthless" is a bit strong of a term, but most of the millions of watches made in that time frame weren't all that valuable; then or now. Are you sure he was looking at the serial on the caseback, and wasn't just looking at the other markings? The caseback stamps will tell you what the case is made of and its relative worth. A gold filled case warranted for 25 years would have been better quality then one warranted for 10, for example.
    My growing collection of "affordable" vintages: http://www.abslomrob.com

  8. #7
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    Re: Question regarding process of appraising a pocket watch

    I'm not sure he was even looking at the right case back. I have to open two things on the back of each of them to see the moving parts. He only opened the first and looked at the 7 digit number and told me that told him how many were made.

    BTW Here is more info on them.

    Elgin - from elginwatches.org serial lookup:
    Serial Number SN Range RunQty Name Year grade size code jewels Adj/reg/etc.
    -------------- -------- ------ ---- ---- ----- ---- ------ ------ ------------
    21273251 21273001 1000 1918 314 12s h3n2p 15j e


    grade total runs first yr last yr class size code jewels Adj/name
    ----- ----- ----- -------- ------- ----- ---- ------ ------ ----------
    314 323000 235 1903 1927 113 12s h3n2p 15j

    Waltham - any good lookup sites for this?
    I found model and grade from using this site (Serial Number)
    And year from oldwatch.com, based on serial number:
    Model: 1891
    Grade: Seaside
    Serial 8703665
    Year: 1898

  9. #8
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    Re: Question regarding process of appraising a pocket watch

    Unless the fellow who you brought the watches to actually looked at the movement he really couldn't have made any reasonable appraisal. My guess is that he was primarily interested in the case and whether it was solid gold. However your Seaside is a small lady's watch usually 7 jewels and not very collectible. Your Elgin is a very common 12 size moderate quality man's watch made to the tune of 323000 pieces. Neither watch is all that collectible or valuable. If a retailer purchases an antique/vintage watch that he can sell for $100 he might offer you half of that.

  10. #9
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    Re: Question regarding process of appraising a pocket watch

    Quote Originally Posted by RON in PA View Post
    Unless the fellow who you brought the watches to actually looked at the movement he really couldn't have made any reasonable appraisal. My guess is that he was primarily interested in the case and whether it was solid gold. However your Seaside is a small lady's watch usually 7 jewels and not very collectible. Your Elgin is a very common 12 size moderate quality man's watch made to the tune of 323000 pieces. Neither watch is all that collectible or valuable. If a retailer purchases an antique/vintage watch that he can sell for $100 he might offer you half of that.
    So would it be safe to assume, that since he did not in fact bother to look inside at the movement, that he could possibly have some valuable pocket watches sitting in his box of "Worthless" ones?

    And if so, would there be any easy to spot things I can look for if I go back and ask to inspect some of the pieces in his box? Such as, I believe I remember reading somewhere that ones that were Adjusted carried a higher value. Or if I keep some serial number lookup sites ready on my smartphone and punch them in as I'm inspecting, is there things I can watch for like more jewels? A certain number of production pieces to stay under? Etc?

  11. #10
    Member AbslomRob's Avatar
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    Re: Question regarding process of appraising a pocket watch

    High-jeweled (17+) lever set in 16 or 18s is usually worthwhile. Hunter cases (even gold filled) are increasingly scarce and are a good pickup. uncased hunter movments are less useful. Jewels that have been screwed down usually indicate higher quality. Look for more "precise" regulator systems (the arm on the balance that changes the speed of the watch).
    My growing collection of "affordable" vintages: http://www.abslomrob.com

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