Isacc Merritt Singer invented the first sewing machine designed for in-home, as opposed to industrial, use in the 1850s. The first Singer sewing machine was patented in 1851. By the 1860s, Singer Manufacturing Company was thriving, selling around 20,000 sewing machines yearly. By the mid 1860s, their sales had reached 180,000 units yearly. Singer Sewing Machines found success because of the quality and beauty of the machines and quickly made Singer a household name. Many vintage Singer sewing machines are still being used because of the exceptional quality of their craftsmanship.
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Vintage Singer sewing machines can often be found cheaply at yard sales, flea markets and estate sales. Some mid-level auction houses and online marketplaces will also often have them listed for sale as well, but prices may vary. Buying from yard sales and flea markets offer you the best opportunity to find a potential treasure at a lower price than the real value. By the same token, if you know the value of your sewing machine, some antique stores and auction houses are good places to sell your vintage and antique machines.
A sewing machine is considered ‘antique’ if it was manufactured at least 100 years ago. Newer machines can be considered ‘vintage,’ and may still be quite valuable. The age of your sewing machine can be determined by the serial number. Visit this or call Singer toll-free at 1-800-474-6437 or visit this comprehensive list of serial numbers for Singer machines to check the age of your machine.
The value of a vintage and antique Singer sewing machine depends on several factors including condition, functionality, age, and desirability of the model. Historical value can also bolster the value of your machine. Values can vary dramatically -- from $50-$500. But a very rare, functional, and exceptionally preserved Singer sewing machine can fetch two to four times that amount! A rare "Red S" Singer Featherweight in excellent condition with case and attachments recently sold for about $2,100. For more information about models and values of sewing machines, consult Antique American Sewing Machines: A Value Guide by James W. Slaten, particularly if your interest extends to other brands of sewing machines. Other factors that affect valuation of the sewing machine are: completeness of the machine (does sit have all its parts and accessories?), and where is it located relative to the seller of the machine (sometimes the cost of shipping can outweigh the value of the object). Despite these parameters, the machine is ultimately only worth as much as buyers are willing to pay for it.
Certainly the earliest models are very desirable due to their rarity and age. The early models are mounted on stands and the pre-1860 the Singer Model 1 and Singer Model 2 were large, however the succeeding model, the Singer Turtleback and the Letter A model, were both less cumbersome and more refined.
One of the most sought after, and lucrative for a lucky seller, is the 221 and 222 Featherweight, which are still popular with quilters, craftspeople, and seamstresses. Despite being 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” model was only produced between 1941-1947 and lacks the chrome pieces common on Singer machines due to the high demand of chrome during World War II.
The following is an explanation of the various conditions that may be used to to classify antique or vintage sewing machines: