When we talk about any kind of working machine, some rational thinking is that the new and improved models and technologies have primacy over the old models. However, that is not the case whit sewing machines.
It is not a secret that antique sewing machines are more precise, create stronger stitches and seams, and that they are in general more durable. That is the main reason why a lot of seamstresses are constantly in search of a good old sewing machine, and why if they own one they don’t want to sell it to collectors.
If I think about it more, I don’t know about any other vintage item that is in such demand because of its functionality over its historical value. Since these items caught my interest, my next step was logically to do thorough research and learn how valuable these machines truly are.
If you are passionate about sewing, or you are hunting for a good vintage sewing machine then you’ll appreciate this article. Behold, the comprehensive guide, and list of the most valuable antique sewing machine.
Antique Sewing Machine Brands You Need To Keep An Eye On
The best way to start our journey is to learn more about the most reputable brands among the sewing machine makers and learn more about the key characteristics of every vintage brand. There are three different groups of brands that produced sewing machines:
- European brands;
- American brands;
- Japanese brands.
I can freely say that a lot of people have heard about the Singer sewing machine brand, and this is by far the most popular choice for both vintage and new models, as well as among collectors and seamstresses. Now let’s quickly do a little rundown about each significant brand.
The two most popular European brands, until this day, are Bernina and Pfaff. Both companies date from the early 1890s. Both brands are well known for manufacturing the best high-end sewing machines. If your plan is to acquire some of their most popular models you need to be ready to spend a few thousand dollars at least.
Most sought-after Bernina models such as the 730, 930, and 800 series were and remain very expensive, but this is the investment you want to make. The Bernina sewing machines are made by exquisite craftsmen and from solid metal parts that rarely fail.
On the other hand, we have old Pfaff machines that are best known for their durability and precision. Make sure you pay attention to models such as 130 (the best machine for zigzag stitches), this model can reach a price on the auction of up to a thousand dollars.
There are a lot of vintage American brands that are worth mentioning but since we only want to narrow our search to the best of the best. I will mention only the following brands since my opinion is that they are the best to invest in as collectible items or working machines:
- Singer – Let’s start with this brand, which still holds the title of the most reliable sewing machine brand after so many years. The brand was founded in the 1800s and it produced so many great models that no matter how old your Singer is you will still manage to find an original part for it. This is crucial for vintage machines. Their models 66 and 201 are still ranked as the best vintage machines ever!
- White – In the early 20th century Singer got feisty competition in the White brand. Their machines were more affordable than Singer machines but still provided the same efficiency, quality, and precision. Unfortunately, this company no longer exists today, but this is why most collectors are interested in them, they are a unique and better option as collectibles since it is very hard to find original parts for them.
I must mention brands like Kenmore and National Sewing Machine Company, which are both founded in the 1890s and produced a lot of “badged” machines. This means that their machines were sold by some large retailers and manufacturers under their brand’s name such as Sears, Montgomery Ward, etc.
These two brands never recovered after the crash during WWII and aren’t operating today. However, their machines can still be found on the market for a couple of hundred dollars.
Japan is a leading force in many industries, one of which is manufacturing sewing machines. After the end of WWII, a lot of sewing machine companies stopped working, so they seized the opportunity and invested in a new massive sewing machine industry. Their most recognized brands are Janome and Brother.
Brother was founded in 1908 as a sewing repair shop. They did create some industrial sewing machines before WWII however those didn’t sell well on the market. Luckily, after the war, this company invested a lot of money in upgrading and expanding its products which result in becoming one of the leading brands in this industry.
They were so good that company like Kenmore bought their machines and sold them under their brand name. What made Brother stand out is the pattern stitching options, for instance, their Galaxie 22 sewing machine can produce a stitch that looks like a goose.
Janome on the other hand was founded a bit late. Their first machine was released in 1950 and after that, they produced many bagged models for Kenmore. Also, Janome is known for producing the first programable sewing machine in the world.
Both brands are available on the antique market nowadays, and their average prices match the prices of Singer.
List Of The Most Valuable Antique Sewing Machines Worth Investment
|Name of the brand and model (Images)||Best known for||Type of machine||Year of production||Price|
|Red Singer S 29K71 Walking foot Antique Industrial Leather Patcher Sewing Machine||Best known for its versatility and parts that can move for 360-degree||Electric sewing machine||the 1940s||$4,092|
|Singer 107w102 Irish Embroidery Industrial Sewing Machine Head Only||Embroidery settings and four rows stitching||Electric industrial sewing machine||the 1940s||$3,090|
|Centennial SINGER Featherweight 221 221k Sewing Machine Fully Serviced & Restored||Best known for excellent piercing power even through thick materials like leather and jeans||Electric sewing machine||1951||$2,947|
|BERNINA Record 930 Sewing Machine||This was the first model with a stretch stitch function and powerful engine.||Electric sewing machine||1981-1982||$2,500|
|Singer 29K71 Cylinder arm heavy duty Leather Patcher Electric & Hand Crank Antique Sewing Machine||Best for leather workers and cobblers||Electric/hand crank sewing machine||the 1940s||$2,338|
|SINGER 66k cast iron sewing machine with wooden case||The Singer 66 and 66k machines are best known for their precision in straight stitching.||Manual/hand crank||1907-1939||$2,100|
|SINGER 402G Vtg ZigZag Treadle Sewing Machine Restored & Serviced||Excelent zigzag stitches||Electric sewing machine||the 1950s||$1,498|
|Vintage Japan Heavy Duty Zig Zag Sewing Machine||Specialized for creating 6 different zigzag type of stitches||Electric sewing machine||1970||$1,376|
|Antique Singer Queen Victoria Jubilee model 27K hand crank sewing machine with Tiffany/Ginger bread decals||Best known for her durability and ability to produce straight stitches even on leather||Manual/hand crank||1905||$906|
|BERNINA 217 6mm. Industrial &Zig-Zag& Heavy Duty Sewing Machine||High-speed vertical rotary hook machine best for producing precise straight, zigzag, and decorative stitches||Electric industrial sewing machine||the 1970s||$900|
|BERNINA 125 Electric Sewing Machine||It is well known for making excellent blind hems and stretch-stitches||Electric sewing machine||1953||$760|
|Vintage PFAFF 1222 SE IDT Dual Feed – Heavy Duty Electronic Sewing Machine||The first machine made with integrated dual feed, as well as Electronic Needle Piercing Power.||Electric sewing machine||1968||$715|
|Singer 306, 306K zig-zag Semi-industrial Heavy Duty Sewing Machine||Best for producing zig-zag stitches||Electric semi-industrial sewing machine||1954-1961||$695|
|Vintage Singer 99, 99K Hand crank Sewing machine c1938||Declared as the best sewing machine for straight stitches||Manual/hand crank||1938||$567|
|Vintage Singer 201, 201K4 hand crank sewing machine||Proclaimed as the best overall domestic sewing machine ever made||Electric/hand crank sewing machine||1935-1961||$555|
|Pfaff 31 Vintage sewing machine Head only||Strait stitching||Electric sewing machine||the 1950s||$555|
|Vintage Janome 560 Sewing Machine- exc. cond. Heavy Duty||Smooth quiet stitching and duable construction||Electric sewing machine||1961||$500|
|Singer 401G semi-industrial multi Decorative stitch sewing machine||Best machine for creating decorative stitches||Electric/ semi-industrial sewing machine||1956-1961||$461|
|Vintage PFAFF 360-261 Domestic Sewing Machine||Straight stitches and smooth rotating||Electric sewing machine||1930||$345|
|Vintage PFAFF 130 Automatic Zigzag Sewing Machine||Among the first machine that featured automatic zigzag sewing setting||Electric sewing machine||1932||$300|
|Vintage BROTHER 881 Sewing Machine||Overall great machine for domestic use||Electric sewing machine||1965||$269|
|Vintage BROTHER 661 Sewing Machine||Great for straight stitches||Electric sewing machine||the 1960s||$249|
How To Identify The Manufacturing Date Of Your Sewing Machine?
It can be really hard to identify how old your sewing machine is. There is one thing you need to know before we start, vintage and antique sewing machine is not the same thing. Sewing machines that are produced before 1900 are classified as antique, while machines produced from the 1900s until 1970 are called vintage.
However, since we are in 2023, all machines that are manufactured before 2000 are considered old and valuable collectible items. Now that we learned that it is time to find out how to identify if your sewing machine is antique or vintage.
Things to look for when you are buying an older sewing machine
There are some very useful tips and tricks that can help you determine if the sewing machine you came across is vintage or antique. All you need is a bit of knowledge, patience, and a good eye.
Straight stitching only – First thing first, antique sewing machines are very simple and primitive to say so. In most cases, they are limited to only straight stitches.
But there is a good side to this limitation, antique sewing machines can pierce through all kinds of materials no matter how thick they are. They are built differently this is why they are so durable and long-lasting. Many of these antique machines are still in use.
The era of the zigzag stitches – On the other hand, vintage sewing machines are great for creating zigzag ad decorative stitches, but not all of them can handle thicker materials like denim and leather, which can be considered a flaw. The rare and early vintage machines have only one or several cams so make sure you pay attention to this.
Look for peddles and hand cranks – If the machine you are looking for is a treadle type then you scored a deal. Before the sewing machine evolved and start using electricity for power, they used peddles and a flywheel. Some antique machines even used hand cranks. In both cases, the machine was powered by external motion that you as a user provide.
Check the serial and model number – If you know these numbers you will be able to search online registries or manufacturer websites for the production date of your machine. Brands like Bernina, Janome, and Singer offer a lot of online information. Or if you can’t find it on their web page you can always go and post a question on some online community chat, someone will recognize it for sure.
Check the books and publications – I’m sure that this seems a bit strange to you but visit your local library and check the books they have about early and antique sewing machines. You will be surprised how much information you can find in them. These books contain descriptions for more over 600 antique sewing machines.
After all, if these tips don’t help you out, you can always pay a specialist to thoroughly examine it, no matter if you are a seller or a buyer.
How To Determine The Value Of Your Antique Sewing Machine
Like with all antique items and vintage collectibles it is important to know these things – how desirable the model is and its real condition.
Take a good look at the condition of the machine since it has a significant effect on the value. There are five different categories:
- Poor – A very worn-out machine that doesn’t work at all. In most cases, these sewing machines are not suitable for repair and maybe only used for parts, if even that.
- Fair – These machines are still in function and they can be repaired back to their glory. Mostly, they are pretty worn out and missing a lot of parts. The paint job is damaged and scratched, while some rust will show as well.
- Good – When your machine is missing some small parts and has only a few patches of rust or paint damage, and works perfectly it is classified as good.
- Very good – Sewing machines from this group are functional, do not miss any parts, and have no or only a few small rust patches. Overall they look fresh and beautiful, with only small scratches.
- Excellent – A sewing machine that was graded as excellent has very few scratches, no rust, all parts, shiny paint and works perfectly!
Also, if the sewing machine is not complete the value will drop. This means if your machine is missing an original case, manual, some small accessory, or a mounting table the price can be reduced even by half. Check the machine for the following before you make a purchase:
- If it’s the electric type of machine plug it in and run it to see if it actually works.
- Always check on your own if the machine operates. To do this turn the handwheel and see if the needle bar rises up and down. Also, when you turn the handwheel check if the bobbin rotates as well.
- Make sure you know all the information about the particular model so you can find out if something of the accessories is missing and if it comes mounted to the table or not.
- Check overall condition, and investigate all the stains, rust patches, chips, or scratches.
You want to find the most-wanted sewing machine
Naturally if the sewing machine is very popular among collectors the price will be higher. As I said, there are over 600 old sewing machines but not all of them are valuable. Usually, the most desirable antique sewing machines have something special that will attract the collector.
That can be the date of manufacturing, material and design, rare color, stenciling, or because of their special features. For example, the early Singer models of sewing machines that are mounted on stands and have only one pedal are very sought-after.
Also, Singer machines that are manufactured for handling thick fabrics are in demand among both collectors and craftspeople which additionally adds to the price. If the machine is good-looking and works perfectly, trust me, seamstresses and cobblers will pay a lot of money for it which only raises the competition for you as a collector.
Where Should You Search For Vintage And Antique Sewing Machines?
When it comes to buying old sewing machines I always recommend in-person buying, well in case you are buying it for actual use. If you are looking to buy a vintage sewing machine only for purpose of decoration then you have a lot more options and price ranges.
Of course, most people will run to buy vintage sewing machines from online sellers such as Etsy, Ruby Lane, Live Auctioneers, eBay, or Etsy but this can be very risky. You’ll need to trust the seller that the sewing machine is in working condition and looks exactly as in the pictures.
Investing in a machine that you can’t examine before the purchase to make sure it runs is not the only downside of the online treasure hunt. Sewing machines are large yet fragile items that will need to be shipped to your address. They can be damaged in transportation, especially if it travels across the seas and countries. Finally, you’ll also have to pay a high shipping fee due to their massive size and weight.
When you shop in person, you don’t have to worry about damages and shipping, however, you will need to spend a lot of time searching from antique shops, thrift shops, flea markets, auction houses, different shows, yard sales, etc. In the end, you might not find what you are looking for, but I’m sure you will find a great substitution instead.
No matter which way you prefer to shop, make sure you do online research anyhow to check for the average prices so you know what you can expect.
Which antique sewing machines are the most expensive and the most popular?
Almost all antique and vintage Singer models are very valuable nowadays. The absolute champion is the Red Singer S 29k model. After that models like Singer Featherweight 201, Singer 107, and Bernina 930.
Make sure you try to find Singer 401 and 403, as well as Kenmore 30 since these are very much popular among collectors, and people are ready to pay a nice amount of money for them. Also, less popular brands can be very valuable as well, since in most cases these are Janome or Brother machines under other brand’s names.
How hard it is to find parts and repairmen for vintage sewing machines?
A lot of old machines are very durable but after decades of constant usage some parts will eventually break, and what then? The good news is that popular brands are covered with parts as well as technicians who know how to determine the problem.
If something breaks on your SInger machine or Bernina, for instance, always check eBay, Etsy, or the manufacturer’s website to find the best deals.
Keep in mind that some parts can’t be replaced and needs to be repaired. If you aren’t able to learn on your own, you’ll need to find a good repairman. These interventions can be pricey so you better start learning.
Are Antique Sewing Machines Valuable?
I hope that after the time you spent reading my articles you all learned that every antique item is valuable. Some will bring you a lot of money, and some will bring you less, but one thing is for sure all of them will make you happy if you are a passionate collector.
There is something about collecting old sewing machines that can’t be explained. Moreover, serious collectors are willing to pay thousands of dollars to get the one they want. Luckily, most antique and vintage sewing machines have a typical price range of $500 up to $1500. Considering how old (some are over 100 years old!) and how durable they are, these prices are a great bargain if you ask me.
In case you are an expert in this field and you have some valuable information to share with us, please do not hesitate to do so in the comment field below. The more the merrier!