Whether you have inherited an old sewing machine or picked one up at the local thrift shop, you may be curious about its value. Antique Singer sewing machine values are determined by many different factors, including the condition of the machine and the desirability of the model. Determining what your Singer is worth gives you the knowledge you need to insure, sell, or just enjoy your machine.
Tools for Estimating Antique Singer Sewing Machine Values
If you are insuring your sewing machine or need an official value for another purpose, you'll need to have your Singer appraised by a local appraisal company. However, these sources can help you estimate the value to satisfy your own curiosity or set a reasonable sales price for your machine.
Current Online Sales
To get an idea of how much your machine might be worth to buyers, keep an eye on similar Singers at the following websites:
- eBay - This auction site lets you search recently sold listings, as well as items currently for sale.
- Etsy - A great place to find vintage items and antique sewing machines from individual sellers, Etsy has lots of Singers for sale at a variety of price points. You can search by model or just browse for one that looks like yours.
- RubyLane - Although it's not a huge site, RubyLane has prime examples of Singer machines from throughout the years. See if there is one like yours among them.
Past Sales Values
Current sales values can give you a clue about value, but sellers can ask anything they want for a machine. That doesn't mean the machine actually sells for that price. Consider the actual sales values as well, which can vary widely:
- A 1907 Singer Model 28 sold on eBay in 2018 for $275. It included the original case.
- You can find great deals, such as this 1890 Singer, which one collector purchased at Goodwill for only $19.
- An 1874 Singer with stand and fiddle-shaped base sold on eBay in 2018 for $175, while a similar 1887 fiddle-base Singer without the stand sold for only about $50.
- LiveAuctioneers lists a Singer BZ 9-8 from the early 20th century, which sold for $60 recently.
- A rare "Red S" Singer Featherweight in excellent condition with case and attachments recently sold for about $2,100.
- A child-sized hand crank Singer from 1920 sold on eBay recently for $67.
Local Antique Stores
Perhaps one of the best ways to estimate your machine's value is to consult a local antique store. There are two ways you can do this:
- Bring your machine to the store and see if they will offer to buy it from you. If they give you an offer, double that price to get the retail value.
- Find a similar machine in the store and ask how long it has been listed at that price. According to the International Sewing Machine Collectors Society, you can then halve the original price on the machine for every three months it has been for sale.
Books and Publications
Stop by your local library or order the following books on sewing machine value:
- The Encyclopedia of Early American & Antique Sewing Machines: Identification & Values by Carter Bays - Over 600 images help collectors identify and value their machines, including Singers.
- Featherweight 221: The Perfect Portable and Its Stitches Across History by Nancy Johnson-Srebro and Frank Srebro - This book is specific to Featherweight Singer models.
- Antique American Sewing Machines: A Value Guide by James W. Slaten - A good look at values of various machines if your interest goes beyond Singers.
Assessing Your Machine
The value of your antique Singer sewing machine is decided by several factors, including the sentimental value it has to you and your family. If it has been handed down through several generations, then the value remains priceless. If, however, you have purchased a machine or are interested in selling one, consider some of the following information before taking it to an appraiser.
Is It Really an Antique?
First, know that a sewing machine is considered an antique if it was crafted more than 100 years ago. Newer machines are considered vintage, but they can still be extremely valuable on the collectibles market. To find out when your machine was built, call Singer toll-free at 1-800-474-6437 or visit this comprehensive list of serial numbers for Singer machines. Have the machine's serial number handy. You can usually find it stamped on the right side of the machine, but the manufacturer's website discusses alternative placements. Singer can use this information to tell you the year your machine was produced.
What Is Its Condition?
Next, take a good hard look at the condition of the machine. According to Sewing Machine Repair Tips, condition can have a dramatic effect on value. You machine will fall into one of these categories:
- Excellent - A machine in this condition has very few small scratches or marks and has shiny paint and metalwork. All decals are present and undamaged.
- Very good - This machine shows some signs of gentle use, but it is functional and attractive. There may be a few medium-sized scratches and needle marks. There should be no rust, and all parts must be present.
- Good - Many antique Singers fall into this category. They may be a little rust and a few missing accessories. All major parts should be present, and the machine should function well.
- Fair - This machine shows significant wear, including worn or very damaged paint, some rust, and many missing accessories. The machine still functions. It's a good candidate for restoration.
- Poor - This machine is non-functional and very worn. It may not be repairable and may be good for machine parts only.
How Desirable Is This Model?
The next factor is the desirability of the machine. How popular is it among collectors? Just because a machine is old does not make it a valuable antique. Very desirable antique Singer sewing machines will have some detail that attracts the collector. It may be the design, a unique color, certain stenciling, or any number of other factors. The following models or time period will add to the value of your machine:
- Early Models - Early Singer machines were mounted on stands, had only one pedal, and had lock-stitch vibrating shuttles. Pre-1860 the Singer Model 1 and Singer Model 2 were large and primitive looking. After these first two models came the Singer Turtleback and the Letter A model, which were both much more refined.
- Singer 221 and 222 Featherweight - One of the most sought after Singer machines is the 221 and 222 Featherweight, which are still popular with quilters, craftspeople, and seamstresses. While only a vintage machine, built in the 1930s - 1960s, they still work well and are a testament to the quality of the Singer product.
- The "Blackside" - Only made during 1941 and 1947, the "Blackside" is a pre- and post-World War II model that lacks the chrome pieces usually found on Singer models. Chrome was in such high demand during the wars that they began to make the chrome parts, including the face plate, presser foot, bobbins, chrome thumbscrew and some attachments, out of black metal.
Is the Machine Complete?
In many cases, you'll encounter antique Singers that were separated from their original cabinets. This can greatly reduce the value. Conversely, the presence of a manual and the original accessories can add to the machine's worth.
Where Is It Located?
Due to their size and weight, sewing machines aren't easy or cost effective to ship. This makes the machine's location an important factor in its value. Certain machines are just more popular among collectors in certain areas. The best way to find out what your machine is worth in your area is to talk to local collectors and appraisers. They will have an idea of what the various Singer sewing machines are selling for in your area.
Does It Have Historical Value?
Most sewing machines on the collectible market today will not have any real historical value. The machines that get sold for thousands of dollars are generally rare items that belonged to an important historical figure or were significant in sewing machine history. The latter machines are mostly going to be museum quality sewing machines from the mid 1800s.
Evaluation Is Not an Exact Science
No matter what value you are able to assign to your Singer, it is important to remember that your machine is only worth what you can sell it for. The prices can change from day to day and location to location. For the most accurate evaluation, you should contact a professional appraiser.