Wednesday, August 11, 2010

More on the Value of Old Sewing Machines

I had a chance to watch the HGTV show "Cash In The Attic" this morning where the host and an "expert" pick items from a family's possessions and takes them to auction to raise funds for a specific purpose or project. One of this morning's possessions was the lady's Grandmother's Singer sewing machine. The machine lived down in the basement, the finish was dull or extremely dirty and it was covered with cobwebs. Probably frozen solid from being in the damp basement for a prolonged period, too. It was a 15 Class machine, I think a 15-91 but I didn't get a good look at the backside to be sure. The "expert" asked the owner what she thought it was worth and she immediately said, "$400 to $500". The "expert" explained that everyone has a Singer sewing machine, they aren't rare and estimated the value at $50. Needless to say, the owner was considerably deflated, seeing her bathroom remodeling going up in smoke. I was a bit skeptical at the $50 estimate because I have never paid more than half that for a 15-91. It sold at auction for $5.

I run into this all the time - people visit antique shops and see treadle machines marked at $250, then think that because they have a similar black Singer with gold decals, theirs has a similar value. It just ain't so.

53 comments:

Jonathan said...

Have you ever sewn on a 15-91?
I was wondering how strong they are?
I passed one up at a flea market last summer for $10.
It was in a desk and it was filthy. I regret not buying it now.

Ed Lamoureux said...

I have sewn on several 15-91s. The 15 Class machines are among the strongest. I am told that the 15-91 was known as "The Farmer's Machine" because it was capable of sewing feed sacks and other heavy fabrics found on the farm. The 15-91 and 15-125 are gear-driven and have no belt to stretch and slip, so they tend to be able to sew heavier goods than belt-driven 15 Class machines - Ed

Anonymous said...

Hey Ed, I just got an old Montgomery Ward Signature sewing machine, Model URR 277D, comes with 12 cams. This machine is pristine, hardly ever used, but I can't figure out how to remove the cams, or the full cover.

The instruction manual says inorder to remove the leftside of the cover, you need to remove 2 screws....I only see one, but there must be another one as it's hung up somewhere. I am trying to open it up to oil it. It seems to have the original belt on the motor, translucent, red...seems to still be flexible enough. My biggest problem is not being able to remove the cam to switch it out. It is a metal cam for zigzag stitch. I can't sew everything in zigzag stitch. I can find the release levers just fine, but the cam doesn't want to budge. Please email me or respond on here thanks

oceanmoontigress@netscape.net

Alessandra

Anonymous said...

Hey Ed, just wanted to let you know I got the cam off. A bit of sewing machine oil and some light taps with a hammer and it came right off. Main thing is getting it oiled properly, which I cannot do unless I can remove the entire cover. Plus, if you have any info on age and manufacture of this machine that would be great. I got it from an estate.

Thanks
Alessandra
oceanmoontigress@netscape.net

Ed Lamoureux said...

I can't be of much help here, I have never owned a Signature machine and the pictures I find on the internet do not show any screw heads. You could try the Yahoo Vintage Japan Sewing Machine Group, perhaps someone there has more experience with this model. - Ed

Jonathan said...

Ed,
A friend gave me a free Singer Stylist 513 sewing machine. I used this machine to patch and repair 5 pairs of jeans. Surprisingly, with a size 16 needle, the machine had no problems going through heavy side seams and denim.

Later I learned that "stylist" were Singer's lower end machines and that my machine had nylon or plastic gears. I believe my Singer Stylist 513 has a newer set of gears. But I no longer use it for heavy fabric.

I know Singer made far better all metal machines in the 1950s and 1960s. And given the option, I would of course, buy an all metal machine. But my 513 was free. And I was impressed with it's performance. It's a little noisy but overall I think IF the gears have been replaced, personally, I would recommend the machine.

Have you owned any Singer sewing machines with nylon gears from the 1970s?
What are your thoughts?
Jonathan

JustGail said...

So true, except for certain models, or very pretty AND in excellent condition, most old machines dont' sell for much. It's rather like old cars, even for the same make/model, the year & style can make a big difference in value. My Singer 15 (paid $20 at an auction) is sweet, although she does need re-wiring. I repaired insulated coveralls with her, and she didn't hesitate at the seams, my much-newer Viking got stuck.

Andrea said...

Hi Ed!

Here in Germany we have the same kind of TV programs and the same situation happens! In general, people think that if they have old objects, or machines, that they are treasures and have good market value. What an illusion!

I see in E-bay gorgeous old sewing machines sold for quite nothing, specially the ones with cabinets, which muss be picked up! It is rare to see any vintage sold in auction for more €80.

Greetings,

Anonymous said...

Hello,
My question concerns German Made Singers (401G and 431G). Can the motor be removed for service? The motor top housing is not metal as are the American made Singers motors.

Ed Lamoureux said...

Don't have a Gernam slant needle machine in front of me but all the other slant needle Singers have motors that are very easy to remove. Just take off the bottom panel and remove the one screw holding the bracket directly below the motor. Disconnect the two wires on the motor and the motor should drop out. Sometimes the motors are stuck in place and require a bit of persuasion, but that one screw is all that holds them in place. - Ed

Mark said...

Hi i was wondering if you could help ? I just cleared out my old shed and found a very old and rusty looking Singer sewing machine stand is it going to be of any use to someone or is it just scrap ? (has a small crack in one leg but could be repaired !)Is there any way i can mail you a picture and see what you think ?

Ed Lamoureux said...

Sure. My email is StudioLUpholstery@gmail.com

Jonathan said...

Ed,
We never discussed old Kenmore sewing machines.
Do you own any?

I've got an all metal 158.1946 free arm from the late 70s. It does a few stretch and utility stitches, nothing fancy but I love it.

Jonathan

Ed Lamoureux said...

The reason is because there is no such thing as a Kenmore sewing machine, Kenmore (Sears) is not a manufacturer - Kenmore is merely a name slapped on machines made by White, New Process Gear Co., Soryu, Necchi, Janome, Maruzen/Jaguar, Gritzner-Kayser, or others. As you might imagine, some of these machines are better than others, merely because they were made in different factories. The numbers to the left of the decimal point in the model number indicate the manufacturer, so your 158 Kenmore was made by Maruzen. I have owned several 158 Kenmores in the past and found them to be above average in quality. Someday, I hope to find a 385 (Janome) Kenmore at a yard sale or thrift shop to compare with my Janome 6500P. - Ed

Amy said...

I have been given a a Singer Little Touch & Sew model #67A23 with no manual. I know the folks who gave it to me would really like me to use it,but the bobbins that came with seem to be pre wound. I am trying to find out how to wind a bobbin or if this machine only used pre wound bobbins. The bobbins themselves aren't standard by any means, so I can wind them on a regular machine. Any help would be much appreciated.

Amy

Ed Lamoureux said...

Go to http://www.singerco.com/accessories/manuals.html and type 67 in the space and you will be able to download a free instruction manual. - Ed

Jonathan said...

Ed,
I understood the older Kenmores were made in Japan. I didn't know what factories were assigned to the prefix numbers. Thanks for the info. I also have a Kenmore 158.17501. Very nice machine that takes cams.

Don't know anything about the 385 models. A local repair guy I know, loves the new Janome machines.
Jonathan

Jonathan said...

Ed,
Do you own any industrial sewing machines?
If so, which do you recommend?
Jonathan

Ed Lamoureux said...

I do have industrial machines, My interest in sewing machines sparked when I was doing upholstery as a sideline business while I was in the Navy. I started using family machines but soon realized that machines designed for the heavier fabrics would perform much better. I picked up a junk Singer 111W155 and had it professionally rebuilt. When I decided I wanted zig zag capability, I bought a Pfaff 138 off eBay. Since then, purchases have been more for collecting machines with different capabilities than because I needed them. I now have a Singer 29-4 shoe patcher, (2) Singer 111W155 upholstery machines, Singer 20U33 and Pfaff 138 zig zag machines, Singer 112W114 and Pfaff 144 double needle machines, (2) Singer 96-10, a Singer 31-15, a Pfaff 463, and a Thompson Mini-Walker for repair jobs away from home.

As for recommending, I would go with the American (vintage Singer) or Japanese machines (Juki, Brother, etc.) The European machines are very high quality but expensive to maintain. A feed dog for my Pfaff 144 costs $695 compared to a similar Singer item for $27. -Ed

Jonathan said...

Ed,
I started sewing because I wanted to be able to alter my own clothes. And quickly found myself just as fascinated with old machines as I was about learning to sew.

I recently purchased a SInger 591 straight stitch machine because I'm considering doing some tailoring on the side. I was going to buy a Consew from my local repair guy but I heard Consew doesn't make their own machines and that in the last 10 years the quality has been lacking.

Jonathan

Angela said...

I oiled up my 158 kenmore model 17501 and it ran great until I put the needle in. The needle butts up against the bobbin. Can you tell me how to correct this? Also, this machine looks very durable. I have overworked several singers, sewing through too many layers of denim and upholsrty fabric. Can you reccomend an old, cheap industrialmachine i should be looking for?

Ed Lamoureux said...

Are you absolutely sure you installed the needle in the correct position? Beyond that, I would need to have your machine in front of me to see exactly what it is doing.

Also need more information on the type of sewing you do to recommend an industrial machine. If you only use straight stitch on light-to-medium fabrics, old Singer 31-15s or 96-10s, 241, 251 and other tailoring machines are available often under $200. If you need zig zag and sew light-to-medium fabrics, Singer 20Us sell for $400 & up. If you sew heavier fabrics and only need straight stitch, upholstery machines like Singer 111W & 211W sell used in the $400 & up range. If you need something to sew heavy fabrics and also require zig zag, plan on spending $1000 or more.

Although I only mentioned Singers, there are Japanese clones with names like Juki, Brother, and Consew that are just as suitable. If you are trying to keep cost down, I would stay away from the European models (Pfaff, Adler, Bernina, etc.) -Ed

Jonathan said...

Ed,
The last time I posted about older Kenmores you mentioned that you were hoping to find a 385 (Janome) Kenmore at a yard sale or thrift shop.

I purchased a newer (non-working) 1997 Kenmore 385-19153690 from craigslist last night. It's surprisingly heavy and has 2 built in letter styles and over 60 built in stitches - which include a butterfly, penguin and flowers.
The machine is frozen and doesn't turn on when plugged in. I've oiled all the moving metal parts hoping to get it moving. I'm going to take it into my repair guy this weekend. If it can't be fixed I can sell the foot pedal, manual and accessories.
Any advice on working on newer machines?
Thanks
Jonathan

Anonymous said...

Have a small (looks child -size) Necchi,Supernova with case. Does anyone know something about it?

AngelQ said...

Hello,

Would you happen to know anything about "Whippet" sewing machines? My Dad (just like the scenario you describe in this blog) seems to think that because he can't find any information on it, that it must be rare and valuable. Markings on the machine are: 1777988 on the foot pedal and ES229464 on the motor. The only two pictures I have been able to find of a Whippet online show a machine with a wooden base....my Dad's looks very similar to those, except that his is a cast-iron base with fancy scalloped edges and it doesn't state "The Whippet" on the machine as the ones in the two online pictures do....his is only labeled "Whippet". If you don't know anything about these machines, could you please direct me to where I might be able to find more information on it? Thank You in advance for your time :)

fabricpixie said...

Just got a Singer 15-91 in cabinet with stool off Craigslist for $25. It has the knee arm instead of foot pedal. I see them on eBay today for considerably higher. I do NOT want to sell my new 'baby', I'm just happy to have my first Singer at what I think is a real bargain. I was looking for a featherweight when I found this one listed.

After searching the net for info, I found that it is a 1952 model, one year after my birth.

Now I need to clean and oil it and determine if the wiring is in need of replacement. It does work smoothly with a quick check but want to be sure it isn't in any danger cuz of potential wire problems.

warm quilt hugs, sue in CA

Ed Lamoureux said...

That is a good price for a 15-91.

A quick check for the wiring is to look at the wire going from the power socket on the machine to the motor. If the insulation is not intact, the wire should be replaced. Sewing machine oil reacts with the rubber insulation on the wire, making it brittle. The insulation breaks off leaving the conductors exposed. - Ed

My.quilted.life said...

I bought a Signature, MONTGOMERY WARDS, UHT J285C at a thrift store yesterday, mint condition, fifteen bucks. I can't find a manual, don't really need one, just curious about the cams I might be able to find. I have however found many "URR" models that look exactly the same in photos as the "UHT"'s. Can you tell me the significance in the UHT and URR lettering?

Danny said...

I just found an Apartment brand upholstery maching while cleaning out my father in laws shed. Does anyone know anything about them.

Anonymous said...

Ed, I just bought a singer 301 and saw that you have an adjusters manual. I am looking for one and wondered if you could email me the pdf. thanx a bunch
carmen

Ed Lamoureux said...

That would be a bit tough since you posted as "Anonymous" and didn't provide an email address. If you email me at StudioLUpholstery at gmail dot com, I will send a copy. - Ed

Lee said...

Hi Ed. I just inherited a 1952 Singer 31-47. I know it works because my Dad used it to sew the upholstery for the classic cars he restored. Any ideas about how much this machine is worth? I can send pictures if that would help.

Rebecca Miller; said...

Hi, my mother has a sewing machine that comes out from the table. it's very old looking, and it's by a company called premax. Have you ever heard of them? I have not been able to find ANY information on them.

Ed Lamoureux said...

I haven't heard of Premax but that's not unusual. Often sewing machine manufacturers provide unbranded machines to department stores and other retailers who affix their own name tags to them. Sears' Kenmore machines have at times been made by Janome, White, Necchi, and others. -Ed

Anonymous said...

Hi all
I have a gritzner sewing. Machine in a wooden cabinet.has the wooden lid on top when u fold it out the machine can be pulled out.I can't find any dates or anything .has original box with bits and pieces in it.is it worth anything.cheers

Ed Lamoureux said...

Gritzner is a German manufacturer that was absorbed by Pfaff around the 1950s. Probably a good machine, as all German sewing machines are, but I could never assign a value to such an uncommon machine without having "hands on". I doubt that it would be worth over $100 but could be way off base. -Ed

littleduckyqueen said...

I was given a Kenmore 117.3104 cabinet this weekend. I would love to get it up and running. I can not find any information online. I have no idea what Im getting myself into but the machine itself looks to be in great shape. There is a knob that has dry rotted so Im assuming there are parts inside that need to be replaced as well. I have looked it over serveral times in the past few days and I can not even figure out how to open it up. Any ideas?

AileenO said...

Hi! My mom has a Kenmore 158.17501 that my grandmother brought back from New York in 1962 or so. Do you have any or know where I can find some info on it? It would be great! Thanks! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Ed
Back in 2010 there was a comment posted about a Little Touch and Sew 67A23. I have downloaded the manual (thank you for that information - very helpful) and now find I need some parts. Any idea at all where to find them?
K.

B Baumgardner said...

My Uncle has a 1955 Montgomery Wards sewing machine,with the cabinet, and the chair is part of the cabinet the chair has storage under the seat. It has patterns, manuals, bobbins and it looks like everything that it ever came with. I don't think it was used much. Great condition. Does anyone have any idea what it is worth? He is sending it to auction soon.

Ed Lamoureux said...

I don't know of anyone who collects MW sewing machines. I'm guessing a 1955 model would be straight-stitch-only, so very few would want it for sewing. I think $25 would be optimistic. -Ed

Morgan McCormick said...

Does anyone know the value of a white zig zag automatic series 651 sewing machine? Table and all?

Diane said...

Hi Ed, Great blog you've got here! I've got a number of clones but mostly sew on a Precision Super Deluxe that I've had for 25 years. It started stitching poorly and I noticed the needle bar was slightly turned toward the rear causing the needle to strike the presser foot and also deflect from the hole in the plate. A small turn and consequent re-timing cured that problem. I've also gone through the tension assembly and it seems to be working OK. But the bottom thread bunches up and not consistently. This is MOT the loopy condition when thread isn't seated in the disc. Sometimes the thread breaks. The hook and race are clean of lint or stray threads. The thread seats fine in the tension discs. The bobbin is adjusted per the drop method. The thread is of sufficient quality as it works fine in other machines. I've inspected for burrs and have found none. New needle is matched with thread size. Any idea what could be causing this? Is this a symptom of incorrect timing? The needle bar has to be placed just so and there is very little tolerance in order for it to not deflect in the hole. It doesn't appear to be bent in any way and operation is smooth.

Thanks in advance!

Ed Lamoureux said...

My first thought is that the thread is not sliding unobstructed around the bobbin case. If you have found no burrs or rough spots, try polishing the hook and the face of the bobbin case with metal polish. Ensure that the shuttle is sliding smoothly in the race. See my march 26 post, "Singer 15-75" and check the gap of the shuttle cushion spring. -Ed

Anonymous said...

Hi Ed,
I inherited my great grandmothers old Singer Treadle machine. My mother said it will work fine if I can get a new belt for it. The belt on it currently has an old repair, but will certainly not hold. It seems to be made of leather? Can you tell me how to get a new one?
Thank you
Cathy

Ed Lamoureux said...

Treadle belts are leather and are readily available from anyone who repairs sewing machines for about $10. If you have no local source, search amazon.com for "treadle belt". -Ed

Karen Kirk said...

I have my Grandmothers 15-91. I love in Vermont. o you know where I can get it serviced?

Ed Lamoureux said...

15 Class machines are so simple and numerous that anyone who services any type of sewing machine should be able to get yours purring with little effort. -Ed

Carol said...

I have a old Montgomery Wards UHT 272 A sewing machine that was my mothers. I grabbed it out today to sew and I am sewing zigzag. There are a bunch of cams I have one that appears to be straight stitch, i pooped it on and i still am zig zagging. Any one have knowledge with the cams.. I have no manual. Id like to know how to use the cams. and be able to stitch straight. Thanks any one have a manual?

MaryJanet said...

I have a Montgomery Ward Sginature Zig Zag Sewing Machine Model URR 277D. I have all the cams for it except the zig zag. I have tried to find some for sale on the internet, with no luck. I was hoping someone on here could steer me in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

Have Kenmore 158.17300 what is it worth

Anonymous said...

I got a 1966 singer sewing machine looks like it never run brand new but old

Anonymous said...

There should be a lever near the cam..you push on it and it releases...hope this helps.