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Clock collectors covet rare, special models

By Danielle Arnet, Tribune Media Services

The Smart Collector

9:30 AM EDT, September 30, 2013

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Q: My 1862 weight-driven Seth Thomas calendar clock is in perfect working condition. It has been in my family for generations. Value?

A: Photos sent with the query show a double dial clock similar to one seen in a photo accompanying this column.

Pittsfield, Massachusetts auctioneer John Fontaine (http://www.fontainesauctions.com) holds regular clock auctions at his auction house. The next, set for April 27, will include that clock. It and the reader's timepiece are known as the Seth Thomas No. 3 calendar clock. Founded by Connecticut clockmaker Seth Thomas in 1853, the Seth Thomas Clock Company operated until the 1950s.

One of the longest lived clock companies, ST made a wide variety of clocks, including regulators and later, marble case mantel clocks and oak kitchen clocks, chime clocks and, from 1863-1917, calendar clocks.

The date March 4th, 1862 on the reader's dial is not the date the clock was made. It's the most recent patent before the clock was produced. Fontaine dates the clock at 1863.

The company designated calendar clocks as No. 1 through No.10. So, No. 3 is a model number. After model 10, ST's production of double dial calendars stopped.

According to Fontaine, "The Seth Thomas No. 3 clock is fairly common. They were popular because the large faces were easy to read." Many were made, and many still survive. Fontaine estimates that he has sold around 25 in the past 10 years.

Smart collectors know that collector clocks are different from popular clocks. Popular clocks sell because they are affordable and sturdy, along with a myriad of sentimental reasons.

Clocks valued by collectors bring higher prices for any number of reasons. Perhaps they are rare or considered the best of their kind. Maybe they exhibit a particular refinement in clock works, or they come from a specific master clockmaker.

"Seth Thomas was a better clock," Fontaine adds, although the company did make "finer and lesser" examples.

Readers who follow this column know that when a good amount of any collected item is plentiful, buyers can be (and are) choosy.

"Condition is a huge issue with these clocks," Fontaine told us. Clock faces were prone to chip, as was veneer on the cases. In his career, Fontaine has seen either rosewood or walnut veneer on the No. 3. Topping poplar or pine cases, the glued-on veneers tended to warp or chip. On the plus side, the reader's original finish looks to be intact.

But the bottom dial has multiple spots where enamel has peeled and chipped. Ditto for the top dial, but less so. Damage impacts value.

Fontaine pegs retail value for this particular clock at $1,500. We keyed the clock model in the auction prices database http://www.liveauctioneers.com and found 215 recent results for ST calendar clocks. Quite a few No. 3 models sold in 2012 for $300-$900. Most sold around the $400 mark.

Q: I have two paintings by artist Daniel Moore, who was commissioned to create a painting of the Redskins win of Superbowl XXII in 1988. How do I determine value?

A: The reader adds that the artworks are signed by the artist, the team coach, and a quarterback.

The art is not paintings, however, but prints made expressly as collectibles. The signatures are also prints. Print titles tell it all: "The Last Pass," All on the Line," "Never Again," "The Kick."

Lavishly matted and framed, color lithography sports prints by Moore sell to sports fans in the high three figures. Some lesser prints cost less.

We found at least one online store devoted to retailing Moore prints. One specializes in his prints along with Thomas Kinkade art and Alabama football photos.

Moore is an artist the same way that Kinkade is an artist: Their work is not fine art. Outlets that sell the artists are master marketers. In the case of Moore, images are promoted as Open Editions, Large Limited Editions and who knows what else.

Cruise the Internet and you'll find owners trying to recoup original investment when they sell a Moore print. We found sellers asking for up to $950.

Our reader may find it worthwhile to pay for short-term use of the online database http://www.worthpoint.com. There, we found pages of Moore sports prints that recently sold on eBay for $19.95 to $275. The prints do have fans.

Dating from 1988, this print is vintage and may interest a collector.

COLLECTOR QUIZ

Q: Vintage California art pottery is a popular collecting genre. What El Monte pottery started in 1951 had its origins in Tudor Pottery, founded in 1927? The company made whimsical pottery miniatures plus a decorative line. It became famous especially for animal sculptures.

Winton

Freeman-McFarlin

Williamsburg Pottery

Kay Finch Designs

A: Freeman-McFarlin bought Kay Finch's molds, but it was celebrated on its own. Source: "Freeman-McFarlin Pottery 1951-1980" by Nancy Kelly (Schiffer, $29.99).

(Danielle Arnet welcomes questions from readers. She cannot respond to each one individually, but will answer those of general interest in her column. Send e-mail to smartcollector@comcast.net or write Danielle Arnet, c/o Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60611. Please include an address in your query. Photos cannot be returned.)