Antique sewing machines are not only beautiful pieces of machinery but also tell the story of how people used to sew and make clothes in the past. These machines were the precursor to modern-day sewing machines and were an essential part of every household. Nowadays, while not regularly in use, antique sewing machine peak the interest of people around the world. As such, they’ve become highly sought-after and their value just keeps increasing; nowadays, these machines can cost thousands of dollars. From collectors to sewing machine enthusiasts, people are searching for the rare, and most beautiful sewing machines, and if you’re one of them, then this article is a must-read.
Antique Sewing Machine Value – Price Guide and Other Essential Purchasing Info
Only a hundred years ago, people used to make everything with their own two hands. Sure, the Industrial revolution made things much easier with the introduction of different technologies, which have developed in the last century to an almost unrecognizable extent. However, the handmade indication of any product still holds high value and the product is generally much more expensive than that made with a machine.
But, one machine remains to be at the very intersection between machine-made and handmade; it is the sewing machine. Many consider this technology very outdated, and not even a technology in the first place, while others believe that the very sewing machine brought a revolution to wardrobes and the way we dress. After all, it did make people’s lives easier, but someone still had to operate it, right?
Whichever side you’re on, we cannot ignore the fact that sewing machines are incredibly interesting, valuable, and highly collectible nowadays. Because the value of an antique machine depends on several factors, we’ve decided to go over all of the essential info, and a price guide for anyone out there embarking on this collector’s journey. So, if you’re looking to purchase an antique sewing machine, but don’t know where to start, this is the right place to be. Without further ado, let’s get sewing!
Antique Sewing Machine 101
How Sewing Machines Came To Be?
So, hand-sewing was the only way people made clothing back in the day; putting together clothes was actually pretty difficult until the 18th and 19th centuries. Luckily, the first sewing machine design was put together in 1790 by Thomas Saint, and the sewing revolution commenced. However, it was not until the mid-19th century that sewing machines became popular in households. It took a century from the very design to get to, what we nowadays referred to as a sewing machine.
It was William Newton Wilson who found Thomas Saint’s patent drawings and built a model himself, based on Saint’s designs. The first mass-produced sewing machine was invented by Isaac Singer in 1850, and this marked the beginning of the sewing machine industry. The Singer sewing machine operated at 900 stitches per minute, and by the end of the 19th century, Singer & Company became the biggest sewing machine manufacturer worldwide.
Types of Sewing Machines (and their value)
As sewing machines were developed and improved, people started categorizing them and using them for different types of sewing. Therefore, antique sewing machines are classified into three main categories: manual, electric, and treadle.
- Manual sewing machines –. These machines were prevalent in the mid-19th century and were usually made of cast iron, which made them sturdy and durable. They were operated by turning a hand crank. A manual sewing machine’s value depends on its condition, rarity, and manufacturer. A well-maintained antique manual sewing machine can fetch a price of between $50 and $500, depending on previously mentioned factors.
- Electric sewing machines – these machines were introduced in the late 19th century and revolutionized the sewing industry. These machines were powered by electricity and had a motor that turned the needle. They were faster and more efficient than manual machines, and as a result, became globally popular. Antique electric sewing machines are also popular among collectors. They are often more expensive than manual machines due to their intricate design and the fact that they were produced in smaller numbers. A vintage electric sewing machine in good condition can sell for anywhere between $100 and $1000.
- Treadle sewing machines – these machines were introduced in the late 19th century and were popular until the 1920s. These machines were powered by a foot pedal that turned a large wheel. The wheel, in turn, powered the needle, making the machine quick and efficient. Treadle sewing machines were made of cast iron and were sturdy and durable. These machines were often passed down from generation to generation and were treasured by families. A well-maintained antique treadle sewing machine can fetch a price of between $100 and $1000.
How To Determine Sewing Machine Value?
Determining the value of an antique sewing machine can be rather difficult for an untrained eye. And, of course, there are several factors that determine the value of an antique sewing machine, so we’ve decided to go over those factors briefly so you know what to look for when purchasing such an item;
- The machine’s condition – A machine that is in excellent condition, with all its parts intact, will be more valuable than a machine that is missing parts or is damaged. Many will also determine the condition of the machine by its color, for example, the fact that some machines were used for only leather and canvas material, while others were used for softer, cotton or wool materials.
- Machine manufacturer – Machines that were made by well-known manufacturers such as Singer, Pfaff, or Wheeler & Wilson will be more valuable than machines made by lesser-known companies. Other popular antique sewing machine manufacturers include Kenmore, National Sewing Machine Company, White, Bernina, and Juki.
- Machine scarcity – Sewing machines that were produced in smaller numbers or were only produced for a short time will be more valuable than machines that were mass-produced. You can easily check online when each of the manufacturers produced their machines (to the exact year of making), which can further help you determine whether the machine is worth the purchase.
Antique sewing machines are highly collectible and are often purchased by collectors and enthusiasts. Some collectors specialize in a particular brand or type of sewing machine, while others collect machines that are in pristine condition or have a unique design.
Many people still use antique sewing machines to create unique and beautiful pieces of clothing and other items, which is pretty cool. With the rise of popular online marketplaces, people started making and selling clothes and other items using their antique sewing machines. Some have even started their own brands and successful businesses.
In addition to their value as collectibles, antique sewing machines also have historical value. Especially nowadays. They tell the story of how people used to sew in the past and how sewing technology has evolved over time. Antique sewing machines were an essential part of every household, and they played a significant role in the development of the sewing industry, making the clothing and textile industry what it is today; a fast business, that is widely available and accessible.
The Most Valuable Antique Sewing Machines
Now that we’ve learned a little bit about antique sewing machines and their price points, let’s take a look at the most valuable machines of them all (we will use the past sale/auction prices as references, so bear in mind that the numbers can go lower or higher depending on the seller);
Royal Anchor 19th Century Sewing Machine
Royal Anchor is a British sewing machine produced by the Crescent Iron Works manufacturer/company. It was first produced in the 1870s, and nowadays it is considered to be extremely rare. The sewing machine is characterized by the intricate design and golden detailing all over the machine (which was a common design and detailing choice for that age). It features the manufacturer’s information, even the city where it was made, which is Manchester. Because of its rarity, this machine was sold for around 7,000 USD, making it one of the most valuable sewing machines nowadays.
We don’t know if such a machine is still functional today, but even as an exhibition piece, it really provides a deep insight into the machinery, technology, and thought put into making it such a long time ago. Learn more about this antique sewing machine on the Sewalot site, which is a specialized website for everything antique sewing machine-related.
Red Eye Electric Singer 1920 Sewing Machine
This might be one of the rarest, most valuable Singer sewing machines available for purchase nowadays. This machine is the 66/G series model and it is considered to be fully functional, even almost a hundred years after it was made. The machine is characterized by its revolutionary electric functions and the use of a foot pedal.
It is driven by an electric motor, to be more precise, and comes with its original needles, bobbins, and screwdriver. This machine was used for all sorts of materials, including leather, denim, tent, canvas, and sails. When it comes to its appearance, it is definitely made in the popular Art Deco style with a lot of intricate, floral detailing and line work. Nowadays, this machine is sold for around 3,000 USD, in its mint condition, and with full functionality.
Singer Blackslide Featherweight 221 1945 Sewing Machine
Another highly valuable Singer sewing machine is this 1945 Featherweight 221 model, which is super rare. If you’re able to find it or come across such a model in online auctions, you’re most likely looking at a fully functional sewing machine. This machine model is usually very well kept and taken care of, plus, the machine itself is super sturdy and resilient to wear and tear marks.
Despite all that, the machine features a lot of backside parts (faceplate, bobbin winding guide, needle, presser foot lever, and stitch length indicator). There is also the motor, and motor ports, which are all generally cleaned and greased by the seller. The Featherweight Singer model is known for its extremely precise sewing and stitching, which is this machine’s main strength. The price for such a rare sewing machine can start at 1,000 USD and go up to 2,400 USD.
James Starley Queen of Hearts 1873 Sewing Machine
James Starley is known to be one of the most important inventors of the 19th century. He is known for making bicycles and tricycles, but before he made those, he was making sewing machines. The Queen of Hearts is his most popular sewing machine, believed to have been made first in 1873. There’s only a handful of these sewing machines nowadays, making them super rare and highly valuable.
The machine is characterized by a simple mechanism, yet it is highly effective. The machine itself is beautiful; it features the popular golden details, with a touch of green highlight all over the machine. Nowadays, this machine is sold for around 2,000 USD, but the price is expected to increase since the machine is super rare and extremely difficult to come across. Often, it is not functional and simply decorative or used for antique exhibitions.
Other Highly Valuable Antique Sewing Machines
|Manufacturer of Brand name||Type of machine||Year of making||Price|
|Red Singer S 29K71 Walking foot Antique Industrial Leather Patcher Sewing Machine||Electric sewing machine||the 1940s||Cca $3,100|
|Singer 107w102 Zig Zag Irish Embroidery Industrial Sewing Machine||Electric industrial sewing machine||the 1940s||Cca $3,090|
|Centennial SINGER Featherweight 221 221k Sewing Machine Restored||Electric sewing machine||1951||Cca $3,000|
|BERNINA Record 930 Sewing Machine||Electric sewing machine||1980s||Cca $800|
|Singer 29K71 Cylinder arm heavy duty Leather Patcher Electric & Hand Crank Antique Sewing Machine||Electric/hand crank sewing machine||the 1940s||Cca $2,000|
|SINGER 66k cast iron sewing machine||Manual/hand crank||1920s||Cca $3,000|
Antique sewing machines are really something special. They’re a proof of human intelligence and ability to come up with solutions to make life easier. Sewing machines commenced what is nowadays a multi-billion dollar textile industry, and they’ve played an important role in overall industrialization of clothing production. Not only that, antique sewing machines look incredibly beautiful and are truly a piece of art. Hopefully we’ve helped you out in your search for essential info and antique sewing machine price guide. We wish you best of luck in your jounery to find the most valuable, and most beautiful antique sewing machines!