The big ‘reveal’ tells us so much about values. Where do you sit?
On the Antiques Roadshow it is all about price – ‘I suppose you want to know what it’s worth?’ the expert teases. And the item’s owner salivates at the prospect.
The Repair Shop has a different reveal and it’s all about sentiment – retrieving moments of joy from the past. Money is never, ever mentioned.
It won’t surprise you that I link to a number of amateur clock interest forums on social media. They are a mixed bag. But when newcomers arrive and put up their first post, it usually contains the phrase ‘Can anyone tell me what it’s worth?’
It is a perfectly reasonable question. Often it meets with wildly differing answers.
There are those old-stagers who post replies almost immediately, frequently disparagingly too. They are quick to point out that the clock pictured is probably a Chinese copy or a hopeless marriage and certainly worthless.
Alternatively, some go the other way. They had a clock quite like it (but theirs was always so much better of course) and they sold it for a near fortune – with the convenient admission, often, that prices have plummeted since then.
Thankfully, amidst it all are plenty of genuinely helpful folk who try to apply some meaningful evidence to support their carefully caveated suggestions. In terms of value, those people are worth their weight in gold.
Passport to untold riches?
I guess those newcomers, who usually preface their comment with an admission that they know nothing about clocks, have come by their timepiece perhaps as a gift or a bequest. Understandably they want to know if it is their passport to untold riches. Old things often look as if they should really have great monetary value. More often than not they don’t. And they are not that old either.
And that’s where the nub of the question really comes into play. How much is it worth?
Well it depends how you calculate value. In monetary terms, the only good answer is ‘it is worth what someone is willing to pay for it – nothing more, nothing less.’
But real ‘worth’ is measured in so much more than pounds or dollars. Let me explain. For insurance purposes I did once seek a professional valuation on a clock that had been gifted to me by a client when I retired from my day job.
I was truly shocked by the significant amount for which it was suggested I insure it. But its true value to me is in the thought that had gone into researching it as the ideal gift for me and then taking the trouble to source it. That is what is really so precious about it.
It is beautiful. I have loved tracing its history. I take huge pleasure in looking at its ornately stylish intricacy and listening to the loud insistent tick of its original 18th century verge escapement. I revel in its artistry and engineering. But as I do, mostly I treasure the sentiment and consideration that went into locating it and presenting it to me. Its every tick makes my heart beat more strongly.
Elsewhere on the blog I have written about my Waltham pocket watch, a family heirloom. The face is damaged, the gold plating is just that – not gold but wafer-thin gold plating – and very worn. Monetarily it is worth virtually nothing (I suspect – I have never checked). To me, it being my late grandfather’s, and the only physical item of his I possess, it is priceless.
That, I guess, is the secret behind the phenomenal success of the BBC’s The Repair Shop. The items restored rarely have any significant monetary value. Certainly no one could financially justify the time and effort that the expert team puts into restoring them. In terms of return on investment for work undertaken, it simply doesn’t stack up.
The things owners bring to The Repair Shop for restoration matter because of what they signify to the bringers and their families. Ultimately, whether it is a clock or a watch, a piece of furniture, a picture, a teddy bear or an old bike, that’s where its worth lies.
The programme has provided a calming balm of slightly schmaltzy sentimentality in the distressing time of Covid, when so many people have found themselves reassessing what, deep down, matters to them. It has helped people understand the real value of ‘things’.
And, for what it’s worth, there are those who would say you simply can’t put a price on that.