Vintage Singer sewing machines



2015-06-26 10:33:54

Vintage Singer sewing machines are sewing machines manufactured by the American Singer company


The company was established in 1851 as I.M. Singer & Co by Isaac Merritt Singer and Edward Clark. Their first sewing machines were designed for industrial use, but in 1857 they produced their first domestic machine, the Turtle Back Family Machine.

Although not particularly successful, by 1863 they had created the Singer 12 New Family Machine which proved popular and the company renamed themselves the Singer Manufacturing Company that same year.

By 1867 Singer had opened their first overseas factory in Glasgow, Scotland, but by 1871 their success led them to relocate to a new Scottish plant in Bridgeton. By 1884 they had moved once again to Kilbowie in Clydebank, with a factory that employed 7,000 workers and produced 13,000 machines each week. It was the largest sewing machine factory in the world, and by 1890 the company had cornered 80 percent of the world’s market.

The next decade saw the company begin to produce early electric machines using Edison motors, and by 1900 they were offering 40 different models for sale. By 1904 Singer had opened factories in Russia, Prussia and Canada, and in 1908 the Singer Building in New York was opened. Acting as the company’s corporate headquarters, the building was the world’s tallest at 612 feet tall.

In the years leading up to the war the company also introduced their first Singer Centres, offering sewing courses, and introduced their popular Featherweight model at the 1933 Chicago Worlds Fair.

By the 1950s the company was producing thousands of different models, and today these are commonly found for sale in second-hand shops and online auction sites such as eBay. For collectors, the models made during the company’s first hundred years (1851 – 1951) are those which are sought after.

Collectable models

Singer machines are popular with collectors due to the wide number of different models available. The company regularly updated and restyles their machines, and this constant development combined with their strong marketing tactics made them the most dominant company in the world.

Although this means there are vast numbers of antique and vintage machines available on the market, some models are far more popular with collectors than others. They include:

  • The Singer Turtle-Back sewing machine (1856)
  • The Singer Model A sewing machine (1859)
  • The New Family Machine (1865)
  • The New Family ‘Medium’ Machine (1867)
  • The Singer Class 66 Machine (1908)
  • The Singer Model 99 Electric Sewing Machine (1921)
  • The Singer Featherweight 221 and 222 Machines (1933)
  • The Singer 201 Sewing Machine (1939)
  • The Singer Blackslide Machine (1941)
  • The Singer Model 95 (1949)
  • The Singer 301 Machine (1949)
  • The Singer 206 Machine (1952)

The value of an antique Singer sewing machine will depend greatly on the model, rarity and condition. As a rough guide, the majority of vintage models from the turn of the century to the 1950s can sell from $75 to $150, with some popular models (such as the Featherweight) reaching up to $300.

However, the majority of 20th century machines (‘vintage’ rather than ‘antique’) are sought after more as useful sewing machines rather than collectible items.

Estimating the value of a Singer sewing machine

Thousands of these machines had been sold to enthusiastic consumers since the 1950s. The technical superiority, the practical innovations, and the attractiveness of the cabinets made them must-haves for ordinary homes. Because of the high-quality of these early machines, it wouldn't be surprising to find that some of these vintage machines continue to be used today.

The value of an antique Singer sewing machine would depend on several considerations. The two most important factors are the model and the condition. There are models that are much desired by collectors and they can be valued at hundreds of dollars. Those that are less sought-after may be valued at around $100 regardless of how old they are. The value of machines can easily be estimated by recognizing what to look for, identifying their serial number and assessing their condition.

If the machine has been made prior to the 20th Century, then it is considered an antique. Vintage machines are those that are made after the year 1900. The serial number is a convenient way to know how old sewing equipment is. It is found on the right side of the machine.

The condition of the machine is the next thing to check. Does the balance wheel easily turn? Perhaps it is rusted or dirt prevents it from turning. These problems may be superficial and can be taken care of by applying some oil or grease. Are any of the parts missing? Maybe you'd like to acquaint yourself to the model more and find out if it needs repair. Most parts of a Singer sewing machine can be purchased at a local repair shop for sewing equipment.

Machines that are still operational are valued most although collectors also understand that older models naturally aren't in perfect working condition.

For a good assessment value, the following should be taken into consideration:

  1. serial number

    1.  needle functions properly
    1. color is correct
    2. the presence of all the parts including the casing if still available
    3. the design is intact


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