"Can you tell me what my old (vintage/antique) sewing machine is worth?"
This is by far the most asked question I hear from my blog readers. Sadly, I am not an Appraiser and cannot give you an estimated value on your old sewing machine. But what I can do is give you information to help you get closer to finding a value on your own.
In some ways, putting a price on an old sewing machine can be subjective. How can you put a dollar amount on sentimental value? And is something worth money just because it is old? Actually, there are lots of variables to estimating the worth of an old sewing machine, so let's look at the most important; the make/model and date, the condition, and any extras that may be included with the machine.
IDENTIFY YOUR MACHINE
|A Japanese Clone tagged with the name "Morse"|
Once you know the specific brand and make or model of your machine, it makes it easier to search for more information about your machine. Use the links below to find out more about your machine.
There aren't any comprehensive lists for identifying models or manufacture dates for old BERNINA machines available online. You can try visiting your nearest BERNINA store to find out if they can help, you might get lucky and find an authorized BERNINA Technician that's been around forever and knows all about the older models. Or you can look at this brief history of BERNINA sewing machines at BERNINA.com to see if you can find a similar model to yours.
Visit the official Elna webpage to contact the company directly. You can also check out the NeedleBar's Elna page for nice photos of vintage models, and the ISMACS History of Elna page.
Visit the New Home webpage at the ISMACS website, (the International Sewing Machine Collector's website) or call Janome (New Home) at 1-800-631-0183.
Visit the Pfaff information page at the ISMACS website, which includes a chart for dating information based on serial number.
Singer was the leader in sewing machine manufacturers in the early 20th Century, and there are lots of resources for finding out more about your old Singer.
- Singer's official online database (scroll to the bottom right hand side of the page to find the database)
- A comprehensive chart at ISMACS based on your Singer's serial number to find out the exact model and date of manufacture.
- Learn to identify the specific set of decorative decals on your Singer machine.
- Find help identifying the specific Singer model through photos from Sandman Collectibles.
- Find a PDF manual for your Singer available at ISMACS.
Check out the White/Viking pages at the ISMACS site.
There were a small handful of manufacturers who made "generic" machines in the mid 20th Century (like the Morse pictured above). Many of them were based on a Singer class 15 machine, and are commonly known as "Singer Clones" - read a bit more about them here. See several photos and read even more here. If your sewing machine looks a lot like these machines but has an off brand name, chances are you have a generic or clone machine.
|Poor condition - it works, but has rust and damage to the finish.|
The overall condition of your machine is one of the biggest factors in estimating a value. Make sure to take a very thorough inventory of your machine and record the condition of the finish, any electrical cords or belts, decals, chrome or metal parts, motor, the inside working parts of the machine, and how the machine works or performs. Be sure to also look closely at the condition of the case or cabinet, including if it is still original to the machine and if it has been refinished or restored. The overall condition can be communicated by one of the following terms:
Mint = Still new from the factory, in original packaging or condition, and never, ever used. It is nigh impossible to find an old sewing machine in mint condition!
Excellent = In the best shape possible, but used. No chips, scratches or dents, no wear or tear, no rust or dust, in top notch running order. Complete with no parts missing.
Very Good = May have a few scratches or small cosmetic blemishes, dents or dings, but works well and does not need any additional work to use the machine. Complete with no parts missing.
Good = Some cosmetic damage to finish, but nothing to keep the machine from working. May be missing some accessories or manual.
Fair = A machine that has definitely been used, possibly not kept up as well as others. Usual wear and tear for a well used machine, pin scratches, some dings in finish, some rubbing off of decals, but machine should work. Some accessories missing or in non-working order, manual may be damaged or missing.
Poor = A machine that has been used hard or has weathered badly. Extensive damage to the finish like rubbed off decals, scratches from use, dings in the finish, possibly some surface rust. Electrical cords may be frayed, and machine should work, but is not in top-notch running order. Probably missing some or all accessories or manual, or parts like extra bobbins. Definitely needs a little TLC and possibly some restoration.
Parts Only/Parts Machine = Totally unable to be salvaged for use, and is being sold ONLY for the parts in the machine.
Most importantly, when you are comparing your machine to others just like it to try and find a value, refer to the conditions listed. Is your machine in comparable condition to the one you are looking at, or is it in worse or better shape? It goes without saying that the better the overall condition, the better the price and vise versa.
|A vintage 1940's Singer Buttonholer attachment|
Being able to identify which accessories, presser feet, or other "stuff" is with your old machine can be helpful, plus a machine with extras is generally worth more and sells for a higher price than just a stand-alone machine.
- Identify the most common accessories and presser feet with this photo from Offspring or check photos and instructions at the Singer Attachments and Accessories page at ISMACS.
- See a modern stitcher use each and every one of the vintage/antique accessories, giving you tips and tricks to be successful with them all. Check out the "Accessories" blog posts from Spare Time (For Sewing).
- Find digital reprints of instructions for some of the most popular Singer accessories at ISMACS, scroll to the bottom of the page for the accessories.
If you have the original bill of sale or other sales documentation with your old machine, count yourself very lucky! Keep this paperwork in a safe place, like a folder or envelope to keep the paper safely away from direct contact with the machine to avoid oil stains.
Many times manuals are not with machines or are badly damaged. If you have the original manual, store it in a folder or envelope to keep it safe from oil stains from your machine. If you're in need of a manual, check the ISMACS site for a pretty complete list of downloadable manuals from many brands and models.
If you have a machine that belonged to someone in your family, it may have been handed down through more than one family member. If this is the case, be sure to record as much as you can about the history of the machine; this includes it's origins, and any information about the various owners, and even what may have been sewn with the machine (family heirlooms, wedding dresses, christening gowns, family quilts, etc.). Keep this information safe in a folder or envelope, and keep it updated as much as you can.
ESTIMATING A VALUE
Take a quick look at The Difference Between Domestic & Industrial Sewing Machines. Vintage home sewing machines are not "industrial", "heavy-duty", "industrial grade", "semi-industrial", nor are they manufactured to sew anything other than regular home sewing projects. Be sure you understand the difference and know what you have!
If your machine is truly an antique (manufactured before 1900), or if you really want to be sure about the worth, you may want to hire an appraiser to value your machine. Have the appraisal in person, and get it in writing; it's well worth the cost, both for insurance purposes or to set a realistic selling price. Find a local auction or antique house near you and call to inquire about appraisal services. Or read more about appraisers in this article from CNN.
RESALE VALUE/SELLING PRICE
When you have as much information as you can find about your machine, you are ready to do some research to find a comparative market price. The key to this process is to find what machines just like yours, in the same kind of condition, have recently sold for.
The trick is to look in as many places as possible and find what seems to be the most popular or often seen price for a machine just like yours in the same condition with similar extras. If you see lots and lots of listings for your type of machine, it probably means that there were many manufactured and there is not a huge demand. Or, you may have a hard time finding a machine like yours it could mean there aren't a lot out there - in which case you might consider contacting a professional appraiser for help.
Where to look:
You can visit local shops that often carry old machines to see what local prices look like, and if there are any for sale like yours. Ask your friends that regularly go antiquing to help you look, too.
If you've got an eBay account, do a search for your machine and be sure to do an "Advanced" search, checking the "Completed Listings" box on the search page. This will show you auctions that have ended and the final selling price of the sewing machines.
There are lots of old, vintage and antique machines for sale on Etsy, but it can be more difficult to separate out over inflated prices from what an actual fair market price may be. Try to look at as many of the same model as possible and see what the price range may be. If you see 6 machines just like yours, and 5 are priced at about $100 dollars while one is $300, it's a good bet that a fair market value for the machine is in the $100 range.
Just like Etsy, it can be difficult to separate out over inflated prices on Craigslist from what a fair price is. But, keep your eyes out for a machine like yours for a period of a few weeks and you may be able to see what kind of steady prices show up for a machine like yours.
And, there are many more places you'll see on the web as well, even online stores solely dedicated to selling vintage machines. Like I mentioned above, find as many examples as you can for machines in similar condition as yours, and naturally your estimated price will be in the same ballpark.
Read even more about pricing or estimating values of old sewing machines:
Determining The Value of Old Sewing Machines from Sewing Machine Repair Tips
How Much Is My Sewing Machine Worth? from ISMACS
Value of an Old Sewing Machine from Vintage Sewing Machines
How Much is a Sewing Machine Worth? from Sew-Classic
Antique Singer Sewing Machine Value from Antique Singer Sewing Machines