Aussie man turns 'rare' charity shop find into $500: 'I had no idea'

Tom made an 'impulse decision' to buy the bargain Seiko watch at Vinnies not realising how much interest it would attract.

Seiko ABS watch found inside Vinnies charity store.
Tom found the unassuming Seiko watch, which had the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) logo, in a Vinnies store in Canberra. Source: Supplied/Google Images

Part of the charity shop appeal is sifting through the often crowded racks and shelves, hoping something fun or quirky catches your eye.

But Aussie man Tom had no idea a seemingly modest Seiko watch he found at a Vinnies store last week, priced for "less than the cost of a meal", would be so valuable after he spotted it in a glass cabinet in Canberra.

"It’s pristine and seemingly unworn," he told Yahoo News Australia. But what piqued his interest was a small detail on the dial — the words 'Australian Bureau of Statistics' emblazoned on it. "My guess is it was a corporate custom gift for someone at the ABS at some point," he suggested — and he was right.

The government agency confirmed to Yahoo News Australia that the ABS "previously recognised staff who completed 30 years of service by awarding them a watch". Now, ABS staff are awarded a "lanyard pin" for 20, 30 or 40 years of service. "These awards are presented at an annual long service award ceremony hosted in each ABS office," the agency said.

When Tom shared his find on social media, it got "a tonne of interest" he told Yahoo. After receiving "a lot of offers to buy it" he decided to list it on eBay where on Tuesday he sold it for over $500.

It's been about five years since the watches were handed out, the ABS said, perhaps contributing to the intrigue as they're now considered rare. "There are some enthusiasts who are very keen and they've been messaging me," Tom added.

The shopper said he had "no idea" it would be so valuable when picking it up in the store, adding "I just made an impulse decision to buy it. I had to leave and I just paid for it".

Seiko Australian Bureau of Statistics watch listed on eBay.
Noticing the interest, the shopper listed the watch on eBay where he sold it for $510. Source: eBay
Seiko Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) watch listed on eBay
The watch appeared brand new, never worn and still in its box with tags. Source: eBay

Despite Seiko being a reputable Japanese watchmaker, interestingly, the model of the watch isn't worth too much at all, Ari from First State Auctions told Yahoo.

"That particular model watch is not a very valuable one, maybe $50," he said. "So we wouldn't offer it at our auctions because we only sell (more luxurious) models" like Rolex or Cartier.

Ari said he was surprised by there being "quite a bit of interest" in the watch. It's likely because of the "unique ABS detail," he added.

Nick from Crown Auctions, which specialises in Swiss watches and fine Jewellery, agreed "the Seiko watch in question will not be worth huge money because the base watch is cheap".

Vinnies shop front.
The watch was found at a Vinnies store in Canberra. Source: Google Images

Nick said watches with company logos "were very common in the past," especially in the 70s. "Some of the notable ones include McDonald's, Dominoes and Google, which are still made today however less frequently and in very small batches," he explained.

Most recently, Australia Post came under fire for rewarding four senior executives $20,000 Cartier watches — while a corporate gift, they were not branded.

The added corporate name can sometimes make the watch more valuable," Nick suggested. At the very least, it can make a humble base watch far more interesting.

"The most valuable co-branded pieces are the ones that come from prestigious brands like Rolex and Patek Philippe which are expensive to begin with, and company branding can add extra value to a watch," he said. In Tom's situation "the ABS logo has added quite a bit of value to the watch" he added.

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