YALE WONDER CLOCK STRIKES IT RICH IN A CLASS BY ITSELF
The Yale Wonder Clock; coin-operated machine; oak; 94 ½ inches high; 1900; sold for $86,250. Photo courtesy of James D. Julia.
I love to run across unusual things I’ve never seen before. It’s a real treat.
When you’ve been in the field for years there’s the tendency to get jaded. Objects like the one I’m about to describe make me stand back and smile.
The Yale Wonder Clock is rare. Talk about gimmicks and options.
This peculiar oak clock stands about 7 feet tall. It’s a marriage of clock, music box, coin collecting, arcade machine and just plain fun.
When you insert a nickel-size, stamped aluminum coin into it--lights also flash, music plays, and a token drops into a reward cup potentially worth 5¢, 10¢, 15¢, or 25¢. It’s a genuine get rich quick scheme from another era.
While all this is happening within the case, three numbered tiny reels spin, generating a random number between 000 and 999.
The store displaying this unusual clock probably posted a list of lucky numbers on the wall which gifted winners with a cash prize. It’s quite the machine.
The inventor, Charles A. Yale, incorporated his company in Burlington, Vermont in 1900. The main product appears to have been this remarkable timepiece.
Less than 1,000 Wonder Clocks were actually made, probably more like 600-700. Of these, only about a handful survive today.
The Wonder Clock takes me back to the penny arcade machines of my youth. One of my favorites was “Madame Zita.” With a nod, the mechanical gypsy behind the glass case selected a fortune card for me, dropped it in the bin, and blew a farewell kiss.
The price for her advice went up over the years but my fascination with her never diminished. The rare 1896 Roover Brothers machine still shows up sometimes at flea markets and auctions.
The first coin-operated machine was introduced in Egypt in 215 B.C. Temple goers dropped five drachmas into a slot for a measure of holy water. In the elevated train platforms of 19th century New York; Thomas Adams also marketed his Tutti-Frutti gum through early vending machines.
The Yale Wonder Clock is in a class by itself. The one offered for sale at James D. Julia’s Winter Antiques and Fine Art Auction on Feb. 2, 2008, was early, with a low serial number, # 123. It was also really attractive.
The spinning arrow on the clock which stopped at various locations on the reverse painted numbered glass was one of the things you notice first. Next your eye was drawn to the 15 ½ inch diameter Regina music disc player below it.
Throw in a New Haven Clock Company clock, flashing lights, token awards, original crank, Edison light bulbs, plus music---and you’ve got the whole ball of wax.
There was even a place to display advertising. The clock offered in the auction was purchased by the consignor 30 years ago from the family of the original owner.
It had a recent cleaning. Some of the wood trim was replaced along with some exterior finish and paint restoration. But, it still works, and sold in the auction for $86,250.
Here are some current values for other clocks sold in the auction.
French Mantle Clock; miniature Lyre shape; brass movement marked Robert A. Paris; circa 1880; 13 ½ inches high; $748.
Figural Bronze Clock; Auguste Paris; Le Temps Et La Chanson; semi-nude maiden; on revolving base atop marble plinth; 29 inches high; $3,400.
English Bracket Clock; Regency carved mahogany; classical architectural form; retailed by Bigelow, Kennard & Co., 21 inches high; $3,600.
Tall Case Clock; mahogany; probably New jersey; stamped Wilson; circa 1815; 90 inches high; $6,037.
View Free Articles