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How to determine the value of your old sewing machine

Written by Laura, in collaboration with Francisco Alvarez Lloret | Last updated 21st February 2020

So you’ve inherited or stumbled upon an antique sewing machine. Or perhaps if you have one stored in the attic which you haven’t used in years. Well it could be worth some money. Read on to find out how much your sewing machine could be worth, and what factors can increase a sewing machine’s value.

Factors that determine a sewing machine’s worth include:

Manufacturer

Singer

One of the biggest and oldest names in sewing machine history is Singer. Around 1890, Singer dominated the sewing market, and around 80% of the world’s sewing machines were Singers. Some popular collectable Singers include Featherweights, the Singer 301, the Singer 66, the Singer class 127 and Singer violin-shaped machines.

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. Many major retailers also purchased these sewing machines and put their company name on them.

New Home

At its 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 made its name as a producer of 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.

White

Today White sewing machines are one of the most commonly found sewing machine brands in the U.S. 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.  

Age

To be considered antique, a sewing machine should be from before 1900. Many antique sewing machines have not survived into the present day, which can make them rare and highly 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 the machine’s worth. A machine is likely to be more valuable if the original wooden case is present and in good condition and that the machine has its original key. Another thing that can increase a machine’s worth is if it has all its original pieces, documents and instructions.

If your machine no longer operates or has its original pieces, that doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t make some money. Increasingly we are seeing collectors bidding in sewing machine auctions who are interested in a machine because of its aesthetic value.

Industrial vs. domestic models

Your machine will either be a domestic machine – sold for home and personal use – or an ex-industrial machine – used in a factory to produce products on a mass scale. An industrial machine will likely be larger and more heavy duty than a domestic model, and able to stitch thick materials such as leather. Although these factory machines are no longer useful for manufacturer’s purposes, they still make very interesting and decorative collector objects.  

How much can you expect to get for your sewing machine?

It can be useful to understand what sells well at auction. Here are a few sewing machines that have sold well on Catawiki:

Antique Willcox & Gibbs Sewing Machine

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. And it can sell for up to €415 at auction.

Jones & Co. Hand Sewing Machine

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, it can reach €523 at auction.

Antique Sewing Machine - 19th Century

Made in the 19th century, this unknown brand of sewing machine is a heavy piece of machinery, weighing in at 10.2 kilograms. The value lies in its functionality: it was sold in full working order despite its age. Because it still operates and has an intact finishing, it reached €555 at auction.

Original Express Sewing Machine - 1800

Recently an antique Original Express from 1800 was sold with the original thread attached. The machine sold for €755, making it one of the oldest and most valuable sewing machines ever to sell on a Catawiki auction.

Unknown Model, Iron Sewing Machine - 1880

A sewing machine doesn’t have to be made by a well-known manufacturer to have value. In 2019 a cast-iron decorative sewing machine of unknown origin sold at auction for €1,000. It’s important to note that the machine in question was well-maintained, clean and still in working order. 

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Do you own an old sewing machine that fits the descriptions above? Register as a seller with Catawiki! Or if you’re interested in owning your own antique sewing machine, check out our weekly Brocante auctions.

Discover more Antiques | Home Textiles | Brocante

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