Watches Gain Value in Timely Manner

Times Staff Writer

Question: I collect watches and heard that a watch recently sold at auction for more than $1 million. Is that true?--A.H.

Answer: You’re probably referring to a Christie’s sale last May in Geneva. The hammer price in U.S. currency on a 17th-Century floral enamel pocket watch made in Paris was $1,038,889, a record for such a watch.

Additionally, Christie’s noted in a recent newsletter, which commented on this sale, that wristwatches are becoming increasingly popular with collectors.

“Begun to be seriously collected only a few years ago,” the article said, “wristwatches are the end point in the evolution of the mechanical watch, and as the great early rarities disappear from the marketplace, they are spawning a new group of collectors who promise to revitalize watch collecting.”


Q: I have a deck of cards from the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 among my world’s fair collectibles. They’re in good condition and, I suspect, fairly rare. What sorts of prices have you heard of for such items?--C.M.

A: Dealer prices have ranged up to $50 for a deck of playing cards from that fair, which was held in Chicago to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage to the Americas. But if you have a deck from that fair that came in a fancy carrying case, the price could be double or more, according to one dealer.

Other items from that exposition are popular too.

Columbian Exposition milk pitchers have been valued at more than $100. Spoons have been priced at about $50. Even the official guidebook and post cards, according to some dealers, have been priced at more than $20.

Collectors should familiarize themselves with the physical setup of such fairs, collectors say, because oftentimes the name of the event won’t appear on the collectible item. Only a picture/drawing of a building at the fair may appear on the item, thus allowing the collector to research the exposition where it first appeared.

Q: How early can we date crochet work in this country in terms of calculating the worth of crochet pieces?--I.L.

A: Apparently, American pieces date to a few years before the Civil War. But the many different crochet patterns and styles are difficult to date with any precision, collectors say.

We have read that only in recent years has early American crochet work become popular among collectors--so prices still are relatively low. In one dealer price guide, we saw bedspreads listed in the $100-to-$150 range, but smaller pieces, such as doilies, were priced from $10 to $15.


Condition, of course, is important; for example, any broken threads should be mended and stains should be removed before any sale is contemplated.

Q: How much do wear marks impact the value of old ceramic, glass and metal collectibles? I recently bought several such items at a flea market.--S.E.

A: The fact that there are wear marks, or even chips, shouldn’t affect value if the items are properly restored or repaired.

What you have to watch for are items that may show artificial wear marks produced by unscrupulous producers to give the impression that they are antiques when, in fact, they are newly produced fakes.


Ceramic, glass and metal collectibles have had varied histories of identification markings that can lead to authenticating age and the manufacturer--information with which the collector should become familiar.