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Thread: Checklist for Buying Vintage Sewing Machines

  1. #1
    Super Member M.I.Late's Avatar
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    I saw this on another site recently and thought it might be helpful to post here.

    Vintage sewing machines are becoming popular for both home sewing enthusiasts and antique collectors. The reason for this is because they serve as both a decorative piece and also a functional machine. Known to be workhorses, vintage sewing machines are well made and some models are in high demand.

    Here are a few tips for buying your own vintage sewing machine.

    1. Don't spend too much.
    Many sellers believe that Grandma's sewing machine must be worth over $100 since it is an antique. Maybe it is worth that much, but the majority of machines found in yard sales and thrift stores are not worth more than $20. Learn the names and model numbers of the few that are worth big bucks by checking prices on ebay, then assume that all others are not worth a high price. Currently, the Singer Featherweight 221 fetches the most money on ebay with an average selling price of about $300. Most other machines are worth less than $50 with the majority valued at around $20.

    2. Check the condition of the machine.
    Carefully inspect the underside, the wiring, bed, and bobbin case of the machine. If you see rust, frayed or exposed wiring, or notice there are pieces missing, then think twice before making the purchase. Often the cost of repairs or replacement parts can be as much as the machine itself. It may be better to wait until the next one comes along and hope that one is in great shape.

    3. Take inventory.
    What is included in the sale? Decide if the machine comes with the right amount of attachments, bobbins, and instruction manuals. If these things are important to you then it's good to take that into consideration when deciding whether or not to buy the sewing machine.

    4. Keep looking.
    If the don't find the vintage sewing machine of your dreams today, keep an eye on Craigslist, your local newspaper classifieds and the local thrift store. With a little patience you will find the vintage machine of your dreams.

  2. #2
    Super Member dixiebelle162002's Avatar
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    Great information

  3. #3
    Super Member sewwhat85's Avatar
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    that is great

  4. #4
    Super Member Grama Lehr's Avatar
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    Just in time!! 8-)

  5. #5
    Power Poster sueisallaboutquilts's Avatar
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    Great info, thanks! :D

  6. #6
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    That is a good list but it is kinda off a bit because sometimes the decals can make a common machine not so common and therefore the price will be more. Also the condition of said decals play a big part in the price.

    But it is a good guide to go by if your shopping for a vintage machine, especially in the 50's and 60's.

    Billy

  7. #7
    Senior Member Mary M's Avatar
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    Would any one know if a Pfaff 130 or 130-6 would be of any value? Does any one know where I could get info on the date of it....519568? Thanks for the help.

  8. #8
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    Pfaff is a great machine and is the Ferrari of the sewing machine world! You can never go wrong with a vintage Pfaff!!

    Billy

  9. #9
    Junior Member JaKnits's Avatar
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    Is there a rule of thumb for treadle machine prices? I have seen sellers here asking anywhere from
    $80 to $350 for them, regardless of what shape the cabinets are in or if they even work.

  10. #10
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    Depends on them most of them I wouldnt go over $100 on if I had to. But there are some rare ones out there that I would gladly drop $500+ on.

    Billy

  11. #11
    Super Member quiltmaker's Avatar
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    Mary M, I have a Pfaff 230 with all the accessories and just love this tank of a machine. I have a dating chart but it does not work like the Singer charts in that Singer goes from #xxxxx to #xxxxx for a year and the number of machines made plus the model number. There is a great vintage Pfaff group on Yahoo you might want to consider joining them for information. For Pfaffies such as myself, price would depend on condition and how much one wanted the particular machine. I have seen people pay a considerable amount of money for one in great condition simply because they wanted it regardless of the price.

  12. #12
    Power Poster CarrieAnne's Avatar
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    thanks!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lostn51
    Pfaff is a great machine and is the Ferrari of the sewing machine world! You can never go wrong with a vintage Pfaff!!

    Billy
    interesting..when I moved to OK in 2005 there was a huge estate sale around the corner from our new home.
    I stopped by and nearly fainted...it was the home of OK's first Singer repair/shop man!
    The stuff that was there was a dream come true!
    On the last day everything was 1/2 price and I found a cabinet that was long and lean and wonderful..and only $12.00!
    I got my hubby to help me move it and it was heavy...got it home and found out that there is a vintage Pfaff in there..with all of her books & attachments! I have never cleaned it up, let alone used it!
    I have my Elna sitting on top of the cabinet!

    the cabinet now! it also has an extension on the right hand side, but I did not have room to open it because of the closet that is on the left of this pix out of sight!
    Name:  Attachment-163250.jpe
Views: 253
Size:  56.2 KB

  14. #14
    Senior Member Mary M's Avatar
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    Thank you very much for the inf. I will check into that.

    Quote Originally Posted by quiltmaker
    Mary M, I have a Pfaff 230 with all the accessories and just love this tank of a machine. I have a dating chart but it does not work like the Singer charts in that Singer goes from #xxxxx to #xxxxx for a year and the number of machines made plus the model number. There is a great vintage Pfaff group on Yahoo you might want to consider joining them for information. For Pfaffies such as myself, price would depend on condition and how much one wanted the particular machine. I have seen people pay a considerable amount of money for one in great condition simply because they wanted it regardless of the price.

  15. #15
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by M.I.Late View Post
    1. Don't spend too much.
    Many sellers believe that Grandma's sewing machine must be worth over $100 since it is an antique. Maybe it is worth that much, but the majority of machines found in yard sales and thrift stores are not worth more than $20. Learn the names and model numbers of the few that are worth big bucks by checking prices on ebay, then assume that all others are not worth a high price. Currently, the Singer Featherweight 221 fetches the most money on ebay with an average selling price of about $300. Most other machines are worth less than $50 with the majority valued at around $20.

    2. Check the condition of the machine.
    Carefully inspect the underside, the wiring, bed, and bobbin case of the machine. If you see rust, frayed or exposed wiring, or notice there are pieces missing, then think twice before making the purchase. Often the cost of repairs or replacement parts can be as much as the machine itself. It may be better to wait until the next one comes along and hope that one is in great shape.
    There are a couple machines besides the FW that are worth more than $100 though if you can even find one. The old Bernina machines go for quite a bit - Old Elna - watch for cracked gears and flat motor tires on the green ones. Some old Vikings are good some have cracked or broken cam stacks. Pfaff, Necchi, Riccar, Kenmore, J C Penny, Montgomery Wards - Old high end Singers - 401 & 403 (and their German made counterparts) plus Singer 500 & 503 and a Singer 301 are well worth some money if they are working right. Be sure to open any of them up and look to see if there is dried on oil - broken plastic parts - rust - frayed wires. Do they zig and zag? Do all the knobs work? Take a little time when you buy them to make sure they work - look up a manual on line before you buy so you have a clue how it works - some of the above are great old machines - some of them sew some amazing stitches - I also look at how well it was cared for - some times the ones that were "cared for" had 3 in 1 oil dried up in the control knobs - they won't turn. This can be fixed but you don't want to give them top dollar for something you have to fix or pay to fix.

    Then remember for that same money you can not buy a good new machine. Even if you buy an inexpensive old machine and have it repaired it could run for years and be a fantastic serviceable machine for you and your heirs. Please do a bit of research on line before you go buying one.

    There are galleries like http://sewingmachinesteve.com/gallery1.aspx you can find ideas of what fantastic older machines are out there. There are pics of good vintage machines on this Board as well.
    Last edited by miriam; 12-26-2011 at 03:11 AM.
    NEVER let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.
    good mothers let you lick the beaters - great mothers turn it off first

  16. #16
    Junior Member Linkbeth's Avatar
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    Wow! Thanks Miriam & MI Late Nice information.
    Quote Originally Posted by miriam View Post
    There are galleries like http://sewingmachinesteve.com/gallery1.aspx you can find ideas of what fantastic older machines are out there. There are pics of good vintage machines on this Board as well.
    Elizabeth

    Life is a Learning Curve!

  17. #17
    Super Member Candace's Avatar
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    I don't agree with the expecting to pay $20....that's not true. Once in a while you can find a treasure or someone just wants the machine gone. Yes, you can find machines for that, but the best ones usually cost more. Especially with all the attachments and working properly. I usually plan on spending much more than $20 for a quality, vintage machine. I'd also add the 319 to the list of expect to pay more for. 301's are also really gaining value now. The 70's made Singers can be had for cheap, because they don't have an especially good rep. and are made of plastic parts.

    Plan on spending a lot of money on vintage Berninas, Pfaffs, and Elnas.

  18. #18
    Junior Member Linkbeth's Avatar
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    Hi Candace, totally agree with your assessment regarding prices and expectations of cost/. I do think some sellers are dreaming when they price their vintage machines, but it's up to the buyer to be educated in what the 'going' rate is.. that is the hard part and it comes from doing a lot of shopping prices, reading, looking and working the vintage market. This thread and the board comes in so handy with wonderful links and is such an education in and of itself..
    Hope everyone had a Nice Holiday..and lets' bring on the new Vintage Year!!!
    Quote Originally Posted by Candace View Post
    I don't agree with the expecting to pay $20....
    Plan on spending a lot of money on vintage Berninas, Pfaffs, and Elnas.
    Elizabeth

    Life is a Learning Curve!

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