Well, how long is a piece of string?
Obviously if you follow my social media, you’lll know I am obsessed with old sewing machines. On my last count I was up to about 25 in total (I’m sure I could fit another 10 or so in somewhere!)
Not my house, sadly - photo I took of a vintage sewing machine wall at a clothing retailer in the UK.
And because they are old, people usually assume they must be worth a lot of money. However, that’s not always the case. There have been literally millions of sewing machines manufactured since the first one was patented way back in 1830 by Barthélemy Thimonnier. If you have one of those in your attic, you’re probably sitting on a goldmine!
But generally speaking, you're could be looking at anything between £20-£1000. For a Singer from the 1930s-1950s, with common decals, especially if it’s been bashed around a bit - you’re probably looking at maybe £20-£30. Not much for a family heirloom passed down from Great Aunty, so you might be better off keeping it and treasuring it. I am working on another blog to give you ideas on how to clean yours up! For a Singer Featherweight 222k, you could be looking at over £1k as they are very rare. Some machines could even sell for thousands if it is one of only a few remaining.
So, how can you find out more about your machine? I find Singers are the easiest to identify, because there is a helpful database where you can enter the serial number and find out the year it was made, the model number and where it was made.
So this Singer’s serial number is Y7475035. I put it into an app, or check the charts on a site called Ismacs.net and I can see it’s a Singer 28k from 1930. It was registered on the 8th January that year, and it was made in the Kilbowie Singer factory in Scotland - I can tell that because of the letter ‘K’ after the model number. The vast majority of Singers you will find in the UK were made in that factory. They churned out over 36 million machines between 1884-1943.
Other models of sewing machine are obviously available. Singer is the best well known, at one point they were selling more machines than all the other manufacturers put together. (Isaac Singer was excellent at marketing!) Some of the more common vintage machine brands are Harris, Vesta, Jones, Pfaff, Bernina, Bradbury, Frister and Rossman, and Winselmann. There are lots of others as well. The more well known the brand, the more your sewing machine is likely to be worth.
Vintage machines aren’t just prized for how they look but also how strong they are and what they can do. Lots of people still use their vintage machines for sewing everything from silk right through to heavy duty leather. They do have a value as a working machine as well as a decorative item, so if you can find someone who wants to use the machine for its intended purpose then you may find a willing buyer.
The older the machine, generally the more valuable. If it’s in great condition, it’s going to be worth more than if it looks like it’s been sitting in the garden for a few years. (Here’s a tip - don’t leave them in the garden!)
So now I need to look at my machine. Are the decals (all the fancy gold paintwork etc) all in good condition? Does it look like any parts are missing? If you turn the handwheel, does the needle bar move up and down? What brand is it?
Now get online for a good snoop around. Usually I would google the make and model of the machine, for example “Singer 28k 1930 for sale”. You will see some crazy prices. I googled that phrase while writing this blog, and found machines listed for sale at anything up to £500 on Ebay. That particular machine is very common so in full working order, I would look a little lower than £500 and would expect around £50-£70. Check other sites too for a realistic valuation. If you’re after a quick sale, Facebook marketplace, gumtree, or Shpock could be good places to start. Look at what other people are listing their similar machines for. If you price it too high, you may find you need to hang onto it for a while.
Or keep it and enjoy it for what it is - a little piece of history!
My particular favourites are any old fussy, pretty decal machines from the turn of the 20th century. I particularly love “fiddle bases” and something like this is worth a little more, say £100. Whatever you do with your machine, please please don’t throw it away! There are always people out there willing to rescue them and give them a new life, even in the worst condition!
If you’ve got a machine and you’d like to know more about it, you’re welcome to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can see if I can help :)