Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Determining the value of an old sewing machine

The second most common question I am asked is "what is this old sewing machine worth?" I get calls and e-mails every day from folks who have inherited grandma's old machine, or who were cleaning out a house and found a machine, or who picked up a machine at an auction or flea market. Or sometimes people are looking to buy an old machine. I hope this article helps. Also please note that this article applies only to household type machines. Industrial machines are a whole different ball game.

Let me first say that the vast majority of old sewing machines have minimal value. The sewing machine was one of the most popular products of an industrialized age of mass-production. They were made by the millions in factories all over the world. The sewing machine was also a tool made to be used, and so they typically were not set aside and preserved with a view to any future collectibility. And almost all the truly collectible "oddball" models have already been destroyed or snapped up by collectors. A good resource for information along these lines is "The Invention and Development of the Sewing Machine" Smithsonian Institute Press, or Carter Bays excellent book "The Encylopedia of Early American & Antique Sewing Machines".

I'm sure there are still a few truly valuable machines waiting to be discovered. But in 35+ years of dealing with thousands and thousands of sewing machines I can say that I have only encountered a mere handful of true collectibles.

Following is a very generalized discussion that may be of some assistance.

So, how to tell the value of your old machine? First thing would be to discover the model number. If you have difficulty, see my post in this blog titled "Dates of Manufacture.............."

Also, if your machine is not a Singer, a lot of what I'm going to say here will not apply.

Right away, you can know a lot based on the model number. An electric Singer 99 or 66 model will have almost no value. In fact, most electric or electrified machines are very low on the value scale...perhaps $25. to $50. Ninety % of the old machines I see fall into this category. A nice Singer 127 in a 7-drawer treadle stand will have some value, perhaps $250. to $500. in excellent (8 or 9) condition. Singer models made prior to 1900 tend to have a little more value than later ones, again if truly excellent. A very elaborate or unusual treadle stand can have considerable value as well, if it is in excellent condition, with no peeling or bubbling of the veneer. The common un-adorned 5-drawer or 3-drawer stands have no value at all, except the metal parts can sometimes be converted to decorative use.

A Singer head (machine) only with the "Sphinx" or "Lotus" decals is worth something if it is in excellent condition , otherwise a head-only has little value.

Secondly, what is the condition of your machine? At the bottom of this page is a chart that shows how to evaluate the condition of a sewing machine. It ranks machines from 1 (parts only) to 10 (mint). You may hear people describe their machine as "mint", but an old machine that can honestly be described this way is almost unknown in the world of collecting. Naturally, the higher your machine is on the condition scale the more it will tend to be worth, if it is a desirable model. A Singer 99 or 66 or 128 isn't going to be worth much in any condition.

Third, how complete is your machine? Does it have the owners manual? Are all the accessories and attachments present, and in their original box? Are all the working parts of the machine there? Are there any unusual accessories with it?

How transportable or shippable is your machine? Today's market is primarily driven by eBay and Craigs List, which naturally depend on easy and economical shipping. If it's going to cost several hundred dollars to crate and ship a machine, then that affects the value considerably. BTW, those two venues are a good research tool to help you determine what similar machines to yours may be bringing. Just be aware that many of the unusually high dollar "sales" that are reported never really happened. The online world is not all that it appears to be sometimes.

In electric machines, the Model 221 Singer Featherweights continue to be desired by people who generally want them to use. A good usable 221 that is complete and is in condition 6-8 (see chart below) will bring about $250 to $450. in today's market. A 222 (the free-arm version) is worth about $800. to $1200. The Slantomatics (401, 301, 500A, etc.) are gaining in value, mainly because they are some of the best quality sewing machines ever produced, bar none. The Touch & Sew models (600s, 700s, etc. ) are almost worthless as of right now.

As far as other brands of sewing machines; Bernina and Pfaff machines, unless they are the very old models, are gaining in value every day. Some of the Bernina machines such as the 830, 930, 1230, etc. will now sell for about what they retailed for new. A large factor in the value of the European machines such as Bernina and Pfaff, is usability and completeness. Some repair parts are not available at any price, and genuine accessories are very expensive. These machines are also heavy and difficult to ship undamaged. So buyer, and seller, beware.
For help with identifying or determining value, send just one photo please to me at
Old Singer & other brands parts and service

If you are the proud owner of a Kenmore, White, New Home, or Free "rotary" machine, then you have an excellent boat anchor, although some hardy souls do fix these and use them. The rotary models are characterized by a rough or wrinkle finish, and have a rubber friction wheel drive on the motor rather than a belt. One exception value-wise would be the rare models that were made in the 1930s of magnesium for light weight.

Finally, I want to say that sometimes value is in the eye of the beholder. If a machine just appeals to you, and you enjoy using it or looking at it, then who cares what someone else may say about it's worth! Or you may have had a machine handed down to you from someone who loved and cherished it, and it has great sentimental value for that reason. If it's worth something to you, then all the other opinions in the world mean nothing.

Parts & Service for old machines
Help with very obscure brand names (Graham Forsdyke)

Condition Rating Chart

10 Factory new, and perhaps in the original packaging. Not a scratch or mark anywhere. Unused. This is mint condition.

9 As with the 10, but with the small odd scratch or wear mark upon close inspection.

8 Excellent used condition. Good paint, bright metalwork, decals not worn, totally complete.

7 Very good condition, but some minor rubbing of the paint and/or decals, some needle tracks, complete

6 As 7, but more paint or decal wear, perhaps some surface rust, an accessory or two missing.

5 The avarage used-hard sewing machine, perhaps not too well cared for. Some accessories missing or non-functional, manuals missing or very worn.

4 Poor condition. Chipped or very worn paint, some rust, extensive wear or weathering, missing most or all accessories, but still functional. Wiring beginning to dry-rot some. If an electronic model, electronics still work.

3 In need of total restoration, but doable if a rare or unusual model. Non-functional.

2 Total restoration needed, only by an experienced and dedicated enthusiast.

1 Good for parts source only, and perhaps missing some parts.

Parts & Service for old machines


Kak Khaty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Curious Art said...

This is not on the post topic, but I hope you can help me!

I just tried a seldom used stitch on my 401a, & when I tried to return to straight stitch, the right (inner) stitch selector jammed. The other still works fine. I can actually see what appears to be an obstructing metal part through the arc path where the selector gizmo goes, at the "Q" point where the offending stitch was, but I can't figure out what it is or how to move it. I've tried oil, gentle jostling-- afraid to push too hard lest something snap. Any thoughts?

Many thanks,

Terra said...

Hi, My mom has a Singer Touch and Sew 600E in a maple cabinet with swing out compartment. It was her mothers. She has finally bought a new machine, I belive this machine to be in the 8 or 9 range on your scale.

Can you tell me why the touch and sews are "almost worthless" right now?

ruth said...

have belvader adler electric some tention nob missing will run but i am trying to replace the old plug it scales a 6 on your chart what is the history and what is it worth

SewSpecialFabrics said...

Sewing machines have almost become like microwaves in that having one repaired professionally costs about as much as replacing the sewing machine entirely. Of course, if you can fix it yourself, that's a whole different story. This site offers a lot of great helps on repairing sewing machines yourself. But if that fails, SewSpecialFabrics is a great place to get new Singer sewing machines at the best prices you'll find online!

Jan said...

So glad I have had a Bernina 1230 all
these years. Great to know they hold
their value. I love mine. :)

Rob Chrin said...

I really like the condition rating chart. Gives you a good ballpark idea on the condition of your machine. I also found some great information about what you need to know if you decide you want to sell vintage sewing machines once you found out it's value.

robbie said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Laura said...

Hi, I've recently acquired an old Pfaff 1229, but it is missing the side overlocker attachment. Any idea where I can buy a replacement? I've checked with Pfaff, unfortunately they do not have stock. I also tried ebay, but they come with the machine (which I already have). Please help me, maybe if you know of any source and the part number/code for this particular attachment?

kimberly said...

Sewing is a great activity and we can produce any desing just using a machine. I really like it, like this blog.I usually like to read about interesting things, that is why i enjoyed too much reading.

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Amber Schelle said...

Hi! I hope you can help....I was given an old sewing machine from a friend when her Great Grandma passed away. It's a Necchi 526. To be honest, I don't know anything about sewing machines. I have looked high & low on the internet & haven't found any information or the value. Any help would be great! Thank you!

Amber Schelle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
glowing said...

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katty said...

I really like sewing in my free time and I really enjoy this practice, when I get my house through costa rica homes for sale I knew it would many space in my house like to take a room as a workshop. And now I usually invite my friend to sewing in the afternoon. We spend a funny time creating new things.

jj594 said...

Hiya, I was given an old Singer sewing machine by someone and wanted to determine the value of it. The serial number is K10531943 and model number 281k23. It was made in 1959. I would be really grateful if you could give me a rough idea of the value - it looks as though it is in very good condition although I have nothing to compare it to. Thank you, Jay

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Dorothy said...

I have found an old New Goodrich pedal sewing maching in good condition. Seria number is 117528 from Foley & Williams MFG Co. Cinna, Ohio & CHicago. Any ifo on?

Dorothy said...

New Goodson type pedal sewing machine serial number 117528 made by Foley & Williams MFG co.

SSB9666 said...

I just had my seller flooded, My mother-in laws singer industrial sewing machine was completely submerged. The model # is AK242977
the number on the front is 241-12 (not sure what that means) It worked great until the flood as far as I know everything was there. Can you help with a value before the flood, and after.

Antique Sewing Machine said...

Even antique sewing machines can be repaired during the restoration process. Restoring a sewing machine can add to it's value. If it still works, the
patina showing its age can also increase its value.

Marllin said...

I have an antique Modernage sewing machine from family farm that is made in Japan of course, and does not have a model # on it. I would expect that it is 80 to 100 years old. However it does say "Precision Built" on a tag then has a stamped serial # on the side of: IS17240.
Does anyone know if this has more than scrap metal value?

Sandra said...

I have a 1904 Singer sewing machine and was wonder if anyone might know the value of a machine this old. It is quite good shape with only one missing part.


Sandra said...

I have a 1904 Singer sewing machine in average condition. Does anyone know what this would have for a value.

stargazer said...

I have a 1938. Singer 300-2 with original motor and switch. In working order, condition between 6-7. Mounted on commercial table.

I haven't found any comps online. Could anyone ballpark the value of this machine?

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Lucy Bell said...

This is interesting. We have an old sewing machine that my great-grandmother owned. It seems to be in mint condition, but we took it to a few machine shops in Vancouver to see if they could help us figure out how old it is and if they could make it run and they didn't have any answers for us. But this information was super helpful. Thanks for posting.

Bob Palmi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob Palmi said...

My grandmothers old machine says "Hackett's Beauty" on it. Is it made by Singer? It sure looks like a Singer model 27.


Harlin Quincy said...

Sometimes it is difficult to put a price on an old family item like a sewing machine, but sometimes it's better to not have something you don't use.

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andriusic said...

Nice tips! but you can always buy a new one from gritzner...

Guy Miflin said...

This is incredibly fascinating! I know it is just a sewing machine but I love antiques. I am one of those suckers who would pay too much for a worthless sewing machine but I love them! My grandma had one but it was destroyed in a chemical fire.

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Cory Trevor said...

My sewing machine is not exactly vintage, but it is definitely old. The needle has been getting jammed frequently. It is quite frustrating because it takes me about an hour to get it loose. It is probably time to start looking for a new machine.

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Hanna Mae said...

Great article! When I was young, I had the opportunity to learn how to sew from a very good teacher. I now regret not taking advantage of that. Having a family and knowing how to mend and do a little more than that would come in very handy.

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Mebel Murah said...

My sewing machine is not exactly vintage, but it is definitely old. The needle has been getting jammed frequently. It is quite frustrating because it takes me about an hour to get it loose. It is probably time to start looking for a new machine
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