How to Appraise an Old Cuckoo Clock

Trash or treasure?
Trash or treasure? (Image: Old Clock image by Maria Bell from

The value of an antique cuckoo clock, or of any old and interesting item, depends entirely on the purpose of the valuation. The following are the most common reasons why antique items are appraised. First, an antique can be valued as part of an inherited estate to determine the inheritance tax that is owed on the item. Second, an antique can be valued as a charitable contribution, where the value determines the amount of a personal tax deduction on the item. Lastly, an antique can be valued for insurance purposes or for personal records. Valuation for tax purposes is determined by "Fair Market Value." Valuation for insurance purposes or personal records is determined by "Retail Replacement Value." These values can be vastly different.

Things You'll Need

  • Price and Identification Guide for Clocks
  • USPAP qualified appraiser

Determine the purpose of the appraisal. If your cuckoo clock is being appraised as a part of an inherited estate or a charitable contribution, then you will need a qualified appraiser. In both estate and charitable contribution valuation, the Internal Revenue Service requires that a qualified appraiser determine value for tax purposes. An USPAP qualified appraiser is certified in Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice and meets the IRS criteria for a qualified appraiser. If the appraisal is being done for insurance or other purposes, a qualified appraiser is desirable, but not necessary.

Find an appraiser appropriate for your situation. If you require a tax-related appraisal for your cuckoo clock, the following organizations maintain lists of USPAP qualified appraisers and give referrals: The Appraisers Association of America, the International Society of Appraisers and the American Society of Appraisers. If you are doing an appraisal for insurance purposes, or if you want an informal appraisal for your own records, you can either find a qualified appraiser or take your item to be appraised by a local antique or collectible dealer.

Do research on your item yourself so that you are an informed appraisal customer. Use a Price and Identification Guide for your cuckoo clock to get an idea of value. Understand the terms that are used in appraisal. "Fair Market Value" is the value that you would get for your clock on the open market. Appraisers usually interpret this as the auction market and not the retail market. It is the lowest" reasonable price for your item. "Retail Replacement Value" is the highest* price that it would take to replace your item. These values can be quite different. The value that your appraiser uses depends on the purpose of the valuation.

Tips & Warnings

  • The condition of your clock, or any antique, affects value. Honestly assess the condition of your item to decide if it is worth appraising. Understand that sentimental value, age or history can be irrelevant to the value of your item. Some antique items can be worth very little despite great sentimental value or great age. Lastly, an appraisal is a "snapshot" of value at a particular time and under specific market conditions. Values can and do change. Tax appraisals are not good forever and must be redone periodically for significant items.

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