Often passed down from generation to generation, vintage sewing machines may seem priceless in terms of sentimental value. On the market, vintage sewing machines can fetch hundreds of dollars depending on the model, make and age, with auction website prices for ranging from $50 to $300 as of May 2010.
VintageSewingMachines.org states that you can consider a sewing machine "vintage" if manufactured in the late 1800s or early 1900s, during the height of the Industrial Revolution. Vital to the textile and clothing industries during this era, sewing machines increased production and reduced costs for consumers. Lightweight versions of industrial sewing machines became widely available to the public at the turn of the 20th century. Singer, the most popular model of vintage sewing machine, according to the website, is perhaps the most well-known brand of modern machines as well.
Knowing the exact type of the sewing machine you wish to sell or purchase can help you navigate the market. In addition to Singer, other common brands of vintage sewing machines include Jones, Frister, Muller and Bradbury. Being common doesn't tell the whole story, however. According to Sewmuse.co.uk, Bradbury sewing machines, largely forgotten after Singer began manufacturing sewing machines and now considered rare, typically fetch a higher price than a more common model.
Checking auction websites can give you an idea of how much people pay for a vintage sewing machine, if you can find a comparable make, model and year to the machine you wish to sell. If that proves impossible, an antique appraiser can come to your home to give you an estimate on the item in question. You could also list the vintage sewing machine in an auction--a bidding war can drive up its value.
Most sewing machines have their brand name printed on them. Singer and Jones machines, for example, typically have the manufacturer's name painted or embossed along the top. Model numbers were not commonly used until the middle of the 20th century. VintageSewingMachines.org states that Singer did not use model numbers until around 1960. However, a serial number can help identify a particular make and model of vintage sewing machine.
Most sewing machines, made by the hundreds of thousands in the 1800s and 1900s, have lesser value as antiques than other items from the same time period, according to Sewmuse.co.uk. As a collector, you usually can acquire a vintage sewing machine at a reasonable price, but if you have plans to sell an old machine, don't view it as a rare collectible.