The price of machines is a hot topic on vintage sewing machine forums. Members frequently lament how much they have to pay today compared to a few years ago. For collectors, bargain hunters, and resellers alike, the increase in popularity of vintage sewing machines and the resulting increase in price can be a source of aggravation.
This is mainly due to what I call "eBay-itis."
The Average Joe wants to sell Grandma's sewing machine and he's thinking of asking $50. But first he checks eBay and sees that one "just like it" sold for $500. Therefore, Average Joe concludes his must be worth $500 too. So he posts it on Craigslist for a "bargain" price of $300.
Because of this phenomenon, vintage sewing machines that sold for $25 a few years ago are now upwards of $150, even at garage sales!
But are they really worth that much more?
Not necessarily. There are several factors that should be considered when setting the asking price for a machine and I'll discuss those in detail in a future article.
For now, we'll discuss the difference between "as-is" and "retail value. "As-is" value is what the machine is worth when it's pulled out of Grandma's attic without any servicing or testing.
On the other hand, "retail" value is what the same machine is worth after it has been serviced, tested, and presented in the marketplace.
Retail selling price is a reflection of the time and effort that has gone into preparing the machine for sale. This includes servicing, adjusting, repairing, and testing to ensure the machine is "ready to sew, right out of the box."
Which means when OldSewinGear sells a machine for top dollar, we aren't just selling the machine. We are also selling peace of mind. The buyer knows they won't have to turn around and pay a repair shop to service a dirty or broken machine. Therein lies the difference between "as-is" and "retail" values.
For the collector or sewer who doesn't mind (or even enjoys) doing their own cleaning, adjusting, and repairing, the prices we ask for our machines may seem ridiculous. So they're not likely to buy a machine from us. Our customer is more likely the person who wants the joy of owning a vintage sewing machine but doesn't want to do their own servicing. They just want to open the box and get on with their project. So we've already done the work for them.
Unfortunately, the top dollar selling price for a fully serviced machine in excellent condition, with a complete set of accessories is what Average Joe sees when he goes looking for the value of Grandma's sewing machine.
Which brings us back to "eBay-itis." What's the cure? The cure is for buyers and sellers alike to educate themselves about the condition, completeness, and service history of the machines in question.
A future article will discuss specific aspects of appraising the potential selling value of a vintage sewing machine.
Happy Sewing! Barbara OldSewinGear...dedicated to helping you get the most out of your old sewing gear.
OldSewinGear is the collaborative effort of retired repairman Gary and daughter Barbara. We love old sewing gear and enjoy sharing what we've learned in our vintage sewing machine adventures. We are located in Roseburg, Oregon.