How to Determine the Value of Your Old Sewing Machine
Stories Expert advice How to Determine the Value of Your Old Sewing Machine
In collaboration with Francisco Alvarez Lloret | Last updated 2nd August 2018
The first sewing machines were made of bone or animal horn over 25,000 years ago, but the art of mechanical sewing as we know it today began in 1846 when Elias Howe was granted a US patent for his invention of the sewing machine. Not only is a sewing machine a very speedy way of making clothing and other material goods, they can also be very collectable objects. If you’ve inherited or stumbled upon an antique sewing machine, or perhaps if have one stored in the attic which you haven’t used in years, it could be worth some money. Find out how much here.
Factors that determine a sewing machine’s worth
The best way to be able to research a sewing machine’s worth is to first be able to identify who manufactured it, then consider its age, condition and the machine type.
One of the biggest and oldest names in sewing machine history is Singer. Around 1890, Singer dominated the sewing market, with about 80% of the world’s sewing machines being Singers. And to this day, the name Singer is almost synonymous with sewing. Some popular collectable Singers include Featherweights, the Singer 301, the Singer 66, the Singer class 127 and Singer violin shaped machines. There are of course numerous other brands of sewing machine as well.
Japanese Singer Clones
Following World War ll, many Japanese clone sewing machines appeared on the market. Funded by money from the United States, these Singer-clones were very often brightly coloured or ornately decorated. Note that although the style was almost a cookie-cutter copy of Singer machines, they were not counterfeit – they did attempt to copy the the name ‘Singer’. Many major retailers also purchased sewing machines and put their company name on them.
At their peak in 1906 and 1907, the New Home factory was producing 150,000 sewing machines each year. They ceased production in 1955 but made a wide variety of sewing machine types including hand cranked machines, the Parlor Cabinet Treadle and ‘Number Four’.
Wheeler & Wilson
Wheeler & Wilson was most famous for the production of its hemmers. The company won numerous awards during its period of operation including one for its buttonhole machines in the 1860s, which were capable of making 100 buttonholes in an hour.
Willcox & Gibbs
Willcox & Gibbs was founded in 1857 by James E. A. Gibbs and James Willcox. The company made treadle and hand-crank models for domestic use, but it was also well-known for the industrial machines it made. This included one machine which was powerful enough to sew together straw for hats and other purposes.
In terms of quality, White sewing machines were generally considered as number 2, just behind those manufactured by Singer. Today they are one of the most commonly found brands of sewing machine in the US. A particularly popular model to look out for is the White Family Rotary sewing machine, a piece of technology produced from the late 1890s through until the 1950s.
Other brands to look out for include Bernina, Elna and Pfaff.
AgeTo be considered antique, a sewing machine should be from before 1900. Often, extremely old sewing machines have been lost in time or thrown away. This is why an antique sewing machine can be worth so much at auction – because if they’ve survived, then they might be rare, and therefore quite sought-after. Note that Singers from 1960 onwards mostly have their model numbers clearly visible on them. Prior to this, Singers usually did not have the model number on them.
Condition. If your machine functions, and especially if it functions smoothly and efficiently, this is likely to have a very positive impact on a sewing machine’s worth. A damaged or broken machine is likely to be worth less. Also consider that a machine will likely be more valuable if the original wooden case is present and in good condition and that the machine has its original key. If it has all its original pieces, documents and instructions available, this is also likely to increase a machine’s value. Of course, if your machine no longer operates or has its original pieces, that doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t make some money. Sometimes collectors are interested in a machine because of its aesthetic value, and therefore are interested simply because of the way it looks.
Industrial vs Domestic Models. Your machine might either be a domestic machine, sold for home and personal use, or an ex-industrial machine, used in a factory to produce product on a mass scale. An industrial machine will likely be larger and more heavy duty that a domestic model, and able to stitch thick materials such as leather. Although these factor machines are no longer useful for manufacturer’s purposes, they still make very interesting and decorative collector objects.
Valuable Sewing Machines at CatawikiIt can be useful to understand what sells well at auction. Take a look at five of the most expensive sewing machines to have sold here at Catawiki.
- Singer Sewing Machine Model 222k – €405. The Singer Featherweight model 222K was made exclusively at the company‘s Kilbowie plant in Scotland. This machine is electric and the model was made from 1953 until 1961. In total, roughly 100,000 of this model were made. This one sold for €405.
- Antique Willcox & Gibbs Sewing Machine – €415
This American sewing machine was made around 1880 and is a great example of Willcox & Gibbs’ machines. Made from metal on a wooden base, it’s a simple and yet effective little machine. After 34 bids at auction, it was finally won for a respectful €415.
- Hand Sewing Machine – €523. In 1869, a man named William Jones opened a factory in Guide Bridge, near Manchester and called his company Jones & Co. Ltd. This type of hand machine was in production from 1879 to 1909 and was typically manufactured for export to tropical countries. A nice example of Britain’s contribution to the sewing industry.
- Antique Sewing Machine – 19th Century – €555. Made in the 19th century, this unknown brand of sewing machine is a heavy piece of machinery, weighing in at 10.2 kilograms. Its value lies in its functionality: it was sold in full working order despite its age. It’s a true antique, one which not only operates but also looks magnificent. And therein lies the €555 price tag.
- Original Express Sewing Machine – 1800 – €755
The top sewing machine on our list is this antique Original Express from 1800. It can be disassembled into 2 pieces, and was sold with original thread attached. Not only is it the most expensive on our list, it is the oldest. For any collector interested in true vintage treasures, this object is a real treat. This is what makes it the most expensive sewing machine to have sold at auction. Do you have something you think could be even more valuable? Read on!
Do you own a vintage sewing machine which you think could be worth a sum at auction? There’s only one way to find out! Why not offer it up for sale? Become a seller by registering for a free account. It’s free, it’s easy and it could be the first step you take to make some serious cash!
Inspired by the variety of sewing machines? You can discover the machines we have for sale at our online auctions. Explore today!