What's it Worth?What's my Old Sewing Machine Worth?
If there's anything that annoys the members of the various sewing machine collector's groups and boards on the Internet, its the subject of valuation. Although I'm no expert, I occasionally get a "What's it worth?" email from someone thinking that because I have a webpage about a given machine, that I must be the world's expert on everything about it.
So this is my little rant on the subject. Feel free to disagree if you like. I don't claim to be an expert on ANYTHING about sewing machines - I base my opinions on watching eBay, and a few local venues, for a number of years now. There is, of course, an exception to every rule - but more than likely, that exception does NOT apply to "your" machine. There are two kinds of idiots on eBay: Idiot sellers asking an order of magnitude more for an item than its worth; and idiot buyers who will bid an item up past what it can be purchased for brand new! They feed off of each other - don't fall for the game.
All comments assume that the machine is in good cosmetic condition and in good working order. It also means that it is a standard domestic "Sewing Machine" - NOT a serger or industrial.
If you think you have found a gold mine in Grandma's attic machine - you may have, but you probably have not. If old sewing machines were all worth something, you'd find more of them in antique stores - you find very few. Take a look at eBay and see what similar machines have SOLD for - NOT what some dreaming idiot is asking with zero hope of getting it. If its something so oddball that you can't find it on eBay or any information about it at "The University of Google", its probably not worth much. Rarity seldom drives the vintage sewing machine market - demand does. If you're convinced the "oh-so-RARE Bobble-blook Super Stitcher 5000" is worth $600 because you can't find any information on it - by all means list it for that price. If you get it, good for you! But if you do not, after a couple of tries lower the price SUBSTANTIALLY. All you're doing by keeping the price high is insulting everybody's intelligence - especially your own! Don't be a clueless idiot that lists a $25 machine for $250 or more for 7 years! No joke, they're out there!
The other problem with eBay is the sad fact that paying $35-$50 to ship a $10 machine keeps many otherwise beautiful machines unsold. If the machine is in a sewing cabinet, a seller may need to remove the machine to have any hope whatsoever of selling the machine at all! For these reasons, I personally think its better to try to sell locally - even if you only get $10 for it. You might actually get a bit more with a local sale to a knowledgable buyer because the buyer doesn't have to pay $50 to ship a "half ton" of cast iron. So split the un-needed $50 shipping charge with the buyer - both parties end up winning. Trying to sell a machine in a cabinet on eBay, even with "local pickup only" is generally an exercise in futility. The only winner is eBay.
An exception is if you're a dealer or have considerable experience with sewing machines (and can give potential customers assurance that you know what you're talking about), you can get more for many machines if they've been "gone through" and you give a good guarantee. I paid $75 for my 1976 White 690 from a LOCAL dealer who had done the above. Otherwise, it wouldn't have been worth the asking price - maybe half that as it was a relatively new machine.
If its a newer, non-"vintage" machine it "should" be worth a bit more - but don't expect to get $120 for a cheap, plastic Brother or "whatever" that costs $129.95 new. I paid $125 on Craigslist for my 1992 Pfaff serger - that cost an order of magnitude more when new - and is a serger, not a standard sewing machine - and wasn't that old to begin with.
This is the ENTIRE extent of my knowledge, and rather irritated and biased OPINION on sewing machine values. Please don't email me asking what your machine is worth - I'll either refer you here, or say "TWENTY FIVE DOLLARS"!
- Japanese machines. If it was made in Japan, its worth $25 - TOPS! This is a crying shame, because I see beautiful Japanese sewing machines from the 1950s on forward remaining unsold at this, and even lower prices. This is unfortunate, as most Japanese sewing machines are VERY well made - I'll stack one up against anybody's. Yet you find idiots on eBay trying to sell them for $100, $200, $300 or more! Possible exception: There are a couple of Japanese machines badged "Morse" that have gained a very slight cult status and may bid up slightly higher. I don't mean 2X higher either - just "slightly".
- National Sewing Machine Company. Generally speaking, also $25. I paid $9.99 plus too much shipping for my American Beauty Reversew - and I've seen others remain unsold at that price. For $9.99, I got a machine in decent, but not exceptional, cosmetic condition; but it was frozen up. Once I got it unstuck, it sews well. The day after I wrote this, it came to my attention that some idiot linked to my Reversew page - and is asking $170 for his. What. Ever. He's either clueless or is counting on the P.T. Barnum effect. UPDATE: It just came to my attention that some fool on eBay thinks s/he's going to get over $300 for a National Expert B.T. as the auction starts at $300 with "Reserve Not Met". RIIIIIIGHT...
- I paid $25 for my National "Streamliner" (no base or cabinet) - plus too much shipping. There may be a model or two built by National that can command more, but as I write this, I'm looking at an almost complete, no bids eBay auction for a "Damascus" at $15. This machine is far older than either of mine; so if anything, you'd expect it to be worth more. It obviously is not.
- Singer. Its way beyond the scope of this article - and my knowledge - to attempt to price Singers. Singer is the 600 lb. gorilla of the sewing machine world, collectable or otherwise. The famed "Featherweight" can command a price of several hundred dollars - yet the almost identical in size and function 99 is worth a fraction of that. I paid $25 for my 99K in very good condition at a local venue - I had to restore the portable cabinet and purchase a couple of minor replacement parts. I probably could sell it for $35 or $40 if the right person came along. I see very nice 99s and 99Ks going unsold on eBay all the time for similar prices, yet as I write this some idiot has one listed for $400 with zero bids. Geez, I wonder why no-one's bid on it?!?
- I also paid $25 at a local venue for the above pictured basket case Singer VS2 which I'm told is a decent price for condition - which is very "rough". I paid only $12 (with local pickup, YAY!) for my 185K which was a deal, no question. They seem to sell for $60 or $70 or so - sometimes.
- Bell. As noted on the Micro-Bell page, there are idiots trying to sell these "oh so rare machines" for prices upwards of $250. They never sell at these prices, but they continue to show up at those prices. They're worth at most $60 - and should be in EXCELLENT condition at that price. I recollect one dummy with a starting bid of $199 for one with missing parts and a broken case. Yea, right. At least the shipping on these is far more reasonable.
- Burroughs/Sewmatic/Precision. These 3/4 sized Chainstitchers seldom appear on eBay and seem to be in demand when they do. With a sample size of only 3 or 4, they seem to generally sell at just under $100, although I paid $112.50 (plus too much for shipping) for mine being that it was the best looking one I'd seen.
- Pfaff, Elna, Necchi, and other European makes. Beyond the scope here - many of these can command a pretty good price - the Pfaff 130 and the Elna "Grasshopper" come to mind. On the other hand, there are rarer and lesser known European makes that are worth - you guessed it! - $25.
- White, Montgomery Ward, Sears, PennCrest, and similar American, Taiwanese, and Japanese built machines. Generally EXCELLENT machines! With one or two possible exceptions (such as newer machines) - these are worth - repeat after me: $25!
- Let's not forget accessories, like the idiot selling a "Ultra Rare" Mercury Electric foot pedal for $40 that isn't worth more than $10 brand new!
Here's another page on the subject, a bit less irritated than mine: How much is my sewing machine worth (ISMACS)?