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The Grandfather Clock

1/1/2009


Time becomes most important on New Year's Eve.  Everyone who is still up watches with anticipation as both hands indicate the old is past and the new is welcomed.  Clocks around the world become the focus of the masses, but what better way for you to ring in the New Year than with the chiming of a grandfather's clock.


But what are the requirements that make up for such a clock?  Basically it is the case with a large face and long pendulum.  Originally such clocks were called "tall case clocks", "floor clocks", and "coffin clocks".   Not romantic terms, but certainly descriptive.  The "big boys" of the clock world stood between six and nine feet tall.  They had to.  There needed to be enough room and protection for the long, swinging pendulum and the weights.  Each full swing of the pendulum equals one second, and the early lead weights often weighted in at over fifteen pounds each.  It took a mighty strong case to house such a mechanical monster! 


Originally such clocks were made for the royalty and the upper classes who could afford them.  Even after the costs came down, only the well-to-do could buy them.  Since they were still expensive, only wealthy families could purchase one; therefore, they became a symbol of wealth and power.  The clocks were normally displayed in entry ways and/or in the parlor so visitors and the family would be reminded of the owner's status.


Over 130 years ago in Piercebridge, England there was a quaint lodge known as the George Hotel managed by two bachelor brothers.  In the lobby stood a "floor clock" that kept perfect time until the second brother died at the age of ninety and the clock stopped.  An American songwriter, Henry Work, enjoyed the story and composed a song about the clock and the fascinating coincidence that the clock stopped forever the moment the elder owner died. In 1876, the song "My Grandfather's Clock" became popular, and soon the "tall clocks" were given a new nickname that has stuck ever since especially in America.


Such clocks are affordable to families today, and they still are a mark of taste, class, and beauty.  Many of our clients have a grandfather clock in their homes today.  Some are antique, but most are newer models that add a certain charm to the home.  Most clock cases are made of walnut, mahogany, oak, maple, cherry or elm with mahogany and cherry being the most popular.


Early 19th century clocks that still work, have pristine cases, decorative faces, and a maker's name or label still attached have the greatest value.  If the client can provide provenance, the clock's value might increases.  Such clocks can range in value from $4,500 to over $12,000.  However, most of our client's have the modern clock with a case dominated in glass so that the pendulum and weights are displayed.  These clocks on the resale market average $500 to $1000. 


Hopefully, your clock works and it helped you chime in 2009!  


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