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    Auction Finds

    Reader asks about Singer Featherweight sewing machine

    Friday at Auction Finds is readers’ questions day. I try to guide readers to resources to help them determine the value of their items. I’m not able to appraise their treasures, but I can do some preliminary research to get them started. So, these are market values based on prices I find on the web, not appraisal for insurance purposes that I suggest for items that have been determined to be of great value.

    Today’s question is about the value of a Singer 221 Featherweight sewing machine.

    Singer 221 Featherweight

    A Singer 221 Featherweight. Photo from singersewinginfo.co.uk.

    Question:

    How much is the Singer 221 Featherweight worth in working condition?

    Answer:

    This reader had come across a blog post I wrote four years ago about vintage sewing machines, which I love because some of them are works of art rather than functional equipment. And those early ones can weigh a ton.

    I’ve met up with a few in my years of visiting auctions and have learned that Singer was far from the only one with a past. I’ve seen machines made by the White Sewing Machine Company and Willcox & Gibbs, and the distinctively green Elna 2, a new arrival that was introduced in 1940. Elna’s original Lotus machine from 1965 is in the design collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

    The International Sewing Machine Collectors’ Society has some lovely antique machines on its website, and information about the companies that made them.

    The Featherweight appears to still be one of Singer’s most popular sewing machines and one of its least heavy. It’s a cute compact machine, and when one comes up at auction it is usually in its original case with accessories. Owners of the machines usually have taken very good care of them.

    Singer 128 machine

    A Singer 128 sewing machine with red and gold filigree designs, and a front plate embellished with grapes and leaves. It was manufactured between 1926 and 1928.

    They are snapped up quickly, with at least two to three bidders at a time vying for them. Those in the know know that the machines are very easy to sell.

    It has seemingly been that way for Singer machines from the beginning. The company was founded in 1851 by Isaac Merritt Singer and  Edward C. Clark, a New York lawyer,  after Singer improved on the shuttle of another machine already in use.

    The first Singer machines were manufactured in New York two years later and sold for $100, according to the company’s website. They were immediately popular, and Singer became the leading manufacturer of sewing machines in the country. The machines became affordable to more people after the company started an installment plan for buyers in1856. A year earlier, it had taken its machines to buyers overseas, starting in Paris.

    At auction a year ago I bought some lithographic postcards as part of a lot that included a Singer machine called the Lotus. They were postcards of people from various cultures around the world in traditional dress with a Singer sewing machine front and center. The cards were dated 1892.

    The 221 Featherweight was introduced in 1933 at the Chicago World’s Fair. The company discontinued making sewing machines during World War II, using its factories instead to manufacture weapons.

    singer3

    A white Singer Featherweight sewing machine for sale at cindysantiquequilts.com.

    The 221 was followed by what one site called the ultimate Featherweight, the 222 Free arm. Later came a limited run of green and white models that were manufactured until 1964. Beige and tan ones were also made at plants in Scotland and Canada.

    As for the reader’s machine, I decided to check eBay, where I knew the machines sold very well. A search of the 221 Featherweight turned up 2,750 entries.  I found 221’s with accessories that were sold for as high as $1,000 and 222’s for more than $1,000. Two beige 221’s were sold for $800. Some repainted ones – red, blue, purple – sold for $500 or more. Many others sold for much much less.

    I would suggest that she check eBay and find a comparable machine to determine the value of hers. Search for “Completed Listings” for sold prices.

    Here’s a website to determine the precise date your machine was made, based on the serial number on the machine, and how to gauge condition.

     

    A Singer child's machine

    A Singer child’s machine.

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