Chatelaine's Antiques & Appraisals Magazine
> Expert Tip: Antique Cuckoo Clocks: Still Hot after all this Time
Hickory Dickory Dock Bears Clock
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Antique Cuckoo Clocks
Farmers in the Black Forest region of Germany
began making chiming cuckoo clocks in the 17th century. By the late 18th
century clockmakers started using a set of bellows to create a cuckoo bird
sound in addition to the chime.
Today it's rare to find cuckoo clocks built before 1800, though the
same basic designs are still used. However, since the early 20th century,
cuckoo clocks have been mass produced — making earlier clocks more
desirable to collectors. So what makes cuckoo clocks so popular after
literally hundreds of years:
- What contributes to the value of a cuckoo clock?
It must be in full-working order, with strong sound for the strike and
the cuckoo, and it must have the original bone numerals and hands.
Two wooden pipes actually make the cuckoo sounds. The pipes are topped
by a lid with a cloth bellows.
The lid is lifted and dropped down, pushing air through the bellows
and into the pipes, and that's what makes the sound. But over time,
the cloth that connects the lid to the pipe wears out and makes the
sound weak. The old ones were made of fine kid leather that was only
good for about 75 to 100 years. Now they replace them with synthetic
materials such as nylon. Most collectors don't mind if the cloth
covering has been replaced to recapture the original sound.
The number of birds on a clock is important as well. An early
19th-century clock with one bird that sounds on the hour might sell
for $500, while one with a cuckoo and a quail that sound every 15
minutes could be worth around $1,000. And a trumpeter clock, which
looks like a cuckoo clock, but instead of a bird has a trumpeting toy
soldier, might be valued at $3,000.
- Why are cuckoo clocks still popular?
It's the quintessential clock. They're charming, and give a rustic
warmth that you don't get from a glass and brass clock. And they don't
just sit back and look at you. They do something.