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Finding an old Mao Zedong Clock at a Flea Market

Updated on January 3, 2014

There is Old and Valuable and Then There is Just Plain OLD

Old things are popular and many people enjoy collecting them.

There are different classes of old things that people collect. Antiques are old, well crafted and rare. They are also very expensive and tend to hold their value and often appreciate in value.

Collectibles are usually out of date but not very old. While some will eventually move into the antique category, most enjoy a period of popularity due mainly to their nostalgia appeal. These can range from inexpensive to very expensive but don't necessarily hold their value like antiques.

Then there are things from the relatively recent past that have some passing value as curiosities. It is this category that the Mao Zedong (or Mao Tse-Tung as we used to spell it) clock that my son recently purchased falls into.

Hub 7 for 30 Hubs in 30 Days Challenge

My dog, Chika, and I trying to write and publish 30 Hubs in 30 Days
My dog, Chika, and I trying to write and publish 30 Hubs in 30 Days | Source

A Visit to the Annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show

My twenty-one year old son (who writes under the name of Sith Penguin on HubPages) accompanied my wife and me to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show this past weekend.

The Gem and Mineral Show is not so much a show as a huge annual event with shows all over town from January through the beginning of March.

What started out years ago as gem and mineral dealers from around the world coming to Tucson in the winter to both enjoy our beautiful weather and do deals with each other, has grown into a massive event involving dealers, wholesale buyers and sellers and retail sellers.

The range of products has expanded to include everything rock related from rare gem stones to inexpensive factory produced beads. It has even gone beyond gems, minerals and jewelry to include vendors of other somewhat exotic or unusual wares.

Mao Clocks for $15

This is where my son's Mao Zedong clock comes in.

Among the hundreds of vendors at the exhibition area we visited was a large one run by a couple of fellows from Delaware (their business card had a 302 area code for their telephone number which is in Delaware - they didn't have any other contact information on the card) whose business card indicated they were in the business of Antiques, World Wide Imports, Sales and Consultations.

They had one of the large tents along with three or four large tables outside the tent, all of which were loaded down with mostly Chinese antiques, collectibles and miscellaneous other junk.

My wife, having recently developed an interest in jewelry making, was attracted to their bead display which consisted of a large variety of beads selling for $1 to $5 per string. China, I learned from talking with some other vendors, is a major supplier of factory produced beads.

While my wife looked through the beads my son and I strolled among the other things and came across a table of clocks with Mao Zedong and Red Guard face plates. The clocks themselves were interesting propaganda pieces from a bygone era. They looked old but did not appear to have been pre-owned.

A Souvenir Mao's Reign of Terror During the Cultural Revolution

My son has studied some history and knew who Mao was and where he fit in 20th century history (I listed Mao in my Hub, Anarchy Reconsidered, as one of the twentieth century's mass murders who together murdered over one hundred million innocent people).

However, my son was unaware of little details like Mao's Cultural Revolution and associated Red Guards and Little Red Book containing quotations from Chairman Mao.

The Cultural Revolution, which was a period of internal terror and chaos unleashed by Mao Zedong on China and its people, lasted from 1964 until about 1976 and, during that time, according to WikiPedia, between 5 and 6.5 billion (that's Billion with a B) copies of the Little Red Book were printed making it the most printed book of the 20th Century.

While Little Red Book was popular among left wing student protesters in universities around the world at the time, the bulk of the Little Red Books were purchased by people in China as Mao's Red Guards were known to beat up and/or arrest any Chinese citizen they caught who wasn't carrying one of the books.

The also had Large Porcelain Sculptures of Mao Zedong

Porcelain sculpture of  Mao Zedong
Porcelain sculpture of Mao Zedong | Source

An Ancient Style Timepiece

When it came to the clocks themselves my son was even more surprised. He had never seen one that had to be wound up by hand rather than running on a battery or with an electrical cord.

The knobs on the back for setting the time and alarm manually were also new to him. Even I was surprised to see the two bells for the alarm on the top of some of the clocks. The only place both my son and I had ever seen clocks like that was in cartoons from the 1930s and 1940s.

After looking the clocks over he finally settled on one of the ones with the alarm bells on top. The clocks were priced at $15 each but, since it was the last day of that particular part of the festival, the exhibitors in that booth were only charging $10 when we went up to pay as they wanted to sell as much as possible to reduce what they had to ship back home.

While my son was paying, I got to speak with one of the owners and he explained that the clocks were indeed new in that they had been manufactured in the 1950s and had been in storage ever since.

The face plates had been manufactured separately and, according to this fellow, importers could order almost any type of face plate they wanted.

These particular face plates were most likely manufactured in the late 1960s and early 1970s as, in addition to the images of Mao Zedong, the other graphics depict the Red Guards and Little Red Book both of which are associated with that era.

My son now has this relic of the 1960s on the bookshelf in his room. When he remembers to wind the clock it seems to run and keep fairly accurate time.

Knowing that his clock will stop if he doesn't wind it up and not really trusting its accuracy given the cheap looking materials and workmanship, it remains simply a decoration and memento of.a previous era in more ways than one.

Meanwhile, he continues to rely on the more recent electric clock (made in the current century in neighboring Japan) to wake him up for school and work.

A Revolutionary Tea Set
A Revolutionary Tea Set

A Table of Clocks

Even the large rectangular clocks are simply one of these mass produced 1950s clocks inserted into the back of this face plate.
Even the large rectangular clocks are simply one of these mass produced 1950s clocks inserted into the back of this face plate.

A Close-up Look At the Knobs on the Back of the Clocks

My Son Examining the Clock Before Choosing

The Clock That Ended Up in My Son's Bedroom

© 2010 Chuck Nugent


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    • Michael Shane profile image

      Michael Shane 

      10 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama

      Great Hub Chuck! It is a "Timepiece"

    • meteoboy profile image


      10 years ago from GREECE

      Pretty nice hub. Thank you for sharing. Greetings from Hellas.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      There is a motel called CLOCK TOWER MOTEL, in Rockford, IL, and it has a collection from one of the rich families, of clocks. They are on display and not for sale. The motel is about 90 miles north of Chicago, IL. Interesting article.

    • Ohma profile image


      10 years ago

      I knew nothing of these clocks even though every room in my home is cluttered with clocks. My husband loves to repair and rebuild clocks and we have a number of them that fit into each group you mentioned.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      10 years ago from California Gold Country

      Very nice! I wonder if my kids remember wind up clocks -- I certainly do.

      My grandfather, Andrew Dreger Sr., repaired clocks and watches (among other things), but his pride and joy was the large electric, four-sided street clock he built. It stood at Knott's Berry Farm for about 50 years. After it vanished, my son found it for sale on eBay.

      The history of clocks is interesting.

    • Chuck profile imageAUTHOR

      Chuck Nugent 

      10 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      dahoglund - I agree with you about clutter. You should see my son's room - it is all clutter.

    • Fitria Manggiasih profile image

      Fitria Manggiasih 

      10 years ago from Surabaya, Indonesia

      Nice! I dont know much about antiques but i really like reading it. If only the clock could speak, it would tell you interesting stories you have never heard before.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Some great clocks there, thanks for sharing them

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      10 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Collecting can beinterestng. However in our house it becomes clutter.I remember once havibg to get a wind up alarm because power failures made the electic unreliable.

    • Paradise7 profile image


      10 years ago from Upstate New York

      Very interesting, my uncle Johnny sent a clock home like the caption photo from Germany during the war (WWII).

    • Springboard profile image


      10 years ago from Wisconsin

      Don't much care for Chairman Mao, that's for sure. But they are definitely interesting pieces.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      10 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Very interesting hub. I like your pictures of the clocks.

    • bobmnu profile image


      10 years ago from Cumberland

      Interesting Hub. I remember the news from that time when gangs used to run around and take the people from the cities to the country to relearn about history and the truth according to who ever is teaching. It was a dark time for China.

    • Darlene Sabella profile image

      Darlene Sabella 

      10 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

      Great article Chuck, this is much more work then I planned LOL anyway, I love the 50 and 60. You son must be thrilled to find such a deal. Those shows can be a blast. Keep on keeping on...

    • gramarye profile image


      10 years ago from Adelaide - Australia

      Good one Chuck! Keep up the good work!


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