Seeing that the old man was being honest, Li Du chose not to use any underhanded methods.
He brought both of the clocks forward and said, "You are right, Mr. Raymond. These two are the replicas, and those two are the real antiques."
Hans opened all the clocks. Although the four clocks had similar outer appearances, the clarity of the printed numbers and the level of wear on the parts were vastly different.
With the authenticity proven, next would be negotiating the price.
"Are you buying just the antiques or all four of them?" Hans asked.
Raymond laughed. "I'm not a merchant. I'm a collector. Replicas are worthless to me. The two authentic clocks are my sole desire."
Hans pulled Li Du to the side and softly said, "I just checked the price of the clocks on the net. From their era and quality, I think that selling them for 700 grand a clock is possible."
There were not many antique clocks currently on the market; even if placed in an auction, they would sell for an extremely high price.
"I've seen some news, the latest antique clock that was auctioned off was a 1850s, Athena, gold-painted, bronze monument French clock. At the Beijing Poly International Auction, during the special segment for watches and clocks, it sold for 600 grand." Hans finished his sentence with a smile.
"You're the expert in this field, so I'll respect your opinion," Li Du nodded.
With this, Hans felt at ease. The two walked to Raymond and stated their price. "The two clocks will be sold together, what do you think of 200 thousand."
Raymond smiled. "I don't think so, boys. You might not be aware of this, but at a recent auction at the Beijing Poly Spring Auction, there was an Athena, gold-painted, bronze monument French clock that sold for 600 thousand. That was in an auction, so realistically, these things are not as valuable as you think."
Hans said, "No, we know about this. We even know that that clock was made in the 1850s, half a century older than ours!"
Raymond said, "I can understand. But auctions and standard trades are different. So, 100 thousand. That's not too low, right?"
"But 100 thousand is too low. I can make it cheaper—180 thousand."
"No, no, no. That's too expensive. I'm a collector, not a re-seller, so I won't let you cut too much profit. Your clocks are nameless antiques, and not famous products like those of Williamson's, thus, they are not worth that much."
Li Du took out his phone and started searching Williamson. He realized that just from hearing short extracts of conversations, one could learn much.
Williamson was a talented master craftsmen during the eighteenth century in England. From 1769 to 1790 his prime works were made, and all the clocks that he made were classics.
His most famous work was related to China, where he made a bronze clock with gold plated writing to the Emperor Qianlong. The eight Chinese characters that were written read, "From All Eight Directions, Pays Their Respect To The Emperor." The "directions" referred to were the eight compass directions, including "Northeast," "Southeast," and so on. Emperor Qianlong was extremely fond of the clock and treated it as a treasure.
However, there were very few of his works that were still rumored to be around. Almost all were kept in the Forbidden City or famous museums in Europe.
According to the Association of Antique Clocks, from their records, there were only two of Williamson's works that had appeared in the market or an auction.
Of course, those were authentic. Each of those would stir up a storm in auctions, and selling them for millions would be no problem.
Hans tirelessly bargained, "We'll take 170 thousand, and we can't go any lower."
Raymond gave him a sharp look. Hans maintained his smile, and the two began a silent confrontation.
Li Du felt as if the two were Ye Gucheng and Ximen Chuixue, two wuxia fighters of the Forbidden City. He hastily took a few steps back to prevent himself from getting caught in the bloodshed.
"One hundred twenty thousand!" Raymond finally made his move.
Hans countered immediately, "Impossible— we'll take 160 thousand. I'm giving you a fair warning—this will be my final offer. Any lower and I might as well be your grandson!"
With a few more bargains, the last price was set at 145,000 dollars.
Once the money was wired into their accounts, Hans proudly smiled at Li Du. "Look, we got five thousand more than expected. How was the Big Fox?" Hans turned hesitantly to Raymond. "Are you Grandpa Fox now?"
"F*ck you! Haha!"
Oldest rule of bargaining: once the deal was done, both parties would become friends.
Hans helped Raymond set up the clocks. Raymond started telling them some collector's knowledge on antique clocks.
"For antique clocks, first, you have to look at the era it is from. Second, you have to find out the origin of manufacture. Third, what materials were used to make it. Finally, but most importantly, the craftsman, and whether it is authentic or a replica. This information tells you the era, origin, materials used, and all sorts of information on the design.
"Also, in Europe, antique clocks are known to represent nobility. After they became popular in the nineteenth century in England, most of them were mass-produced in Germany.
"Without a doubt, handcrafted ones from England were valuable. Those from Germany were not.
"Here's some trivial knowledge for you: When watching movies or dramas, antique clocks tend to show up on the screen. If they appear in the houses of the wealthy or royalty, then those were definitely made in England. If they are in houses of the common folk, then they were made in Germany."
Li Du let out a laugh; it turned out that the German-made products Europe was proud of were once considered cheap goods.
After sending Raymond off, they still had to deal with the two replicas.
The best way to deal with them were junk sellers. However, once Kevin looked at them, he shook his head and said, "These things aren't worth much. They're fakes. I'll buy one for 500 dollars."
"Such a significant difference?" Li Du was stunned. "The authentic ones went for over 70 grand each!"
Kevin scoffed, "These are gold-plated clocks, that's why they were worth 500 dollars. If they weren't, no one would buy them—even at 100 dollars each. Mass-produced goods... there are as many of these as there are stars in the sky."
With such a low price, they might as well have kept them.
After some negotiation, they decided to bring one clock home each as a souvenir of the profit they had made that day.
This profit was indeed enormous. In total, they earned 162 thousand, and Li Du's share was almost 100 thousand—just a little bit short.
Hans lamented and said, "So close, you could have almost accumulated your first 100 thousand in one auction. How about we just sell these fakes?"
Li Du shook his head. "It's ok, there will be chances in the future. Let's keep searching for info on auctions."
Hans flashed his phone and said, "I've already received a piece of info. In Phoenix, a storage company is having an auction. The date is next Tuesday."
There were only three days left. The two went to pack up some things and went straight to Phoenix.
Hans first took him to tour the storage company. This company was called Big Red Sparrow Storage Co. Ltd., with five units up for auction.
Li Du released the bug into the units. With ample time to spare, he thoroughly searched all five of them.
However, disappointingly, there was nothing valuable. Only unit 102 seemed decent, with a lot of chinaware.
If those were antiques, the china would make them rich overnight. A pity, though, because these were all modern china. The bug was uninterested and flew off immediately.
Li Du shook his head, saying, "Seems like we have to go home disappointed."
"Nothing of value?" Hans sighed.
Li Du tried to cover things up and said, "I couldn't see clearly. Let us wait until the units are opened to see if there is anything good."
Hans did not ask about how he was able to discern if there were any treasures. One of them was responsible for info on units and handling the goods, the other was responsible for sniffing out the treasures. No interfering, and mutual trust.