Friday, September 23, 2016

Still On the Prowl, But Not Having Much Luck

As I mentioned in my last post, I have found that the vintage Singer sewing machines I covet are getting harder and harder to come by at the give-away prices I used to find.  I guess the secret is out!

Anyone who has followed my blog knows that

1. I don't hoard machines, and

2. I don't buy/sell them solely to make money.

Its a hobby, and the little bit of profit I gain just goes back into the hobby.  Whatever I make from buying a machine, fixing it up, and re-selling it goes towards the vintage sewing notions, attachments, and fabrics that I actually use.

Here is just one example of a one-of-a-kind item made from a piece of random, repurposed vintage print fabric:
Seriously, now, how cute is this?  I bought the piece of fabric at an antique store for a few dollars and the size and shape of it (it is identical on both sides) could be nothing but a tote bag.  I added my own decorative stitching around the print and a button from my collection.

Back to the machines: I have had two experiences lately which gives me an idea of where the trend is heading.  I subscribe to and the advantage is that it gives me a heads-up on sales and includes photos and lists of the items. That way I can save time skipping sales that don't have what I'm looking for.

The disadvantage is that they don't list the prices up front.  So last week I saw one of these pictured at a sale.
(Not the actual machine I saw)

Now while I haven't particularly wanted a white Featherweight, I had to go take a look.  Best case scenario I bring it home, have a blast playing with it for a while, then find it a new home and replenish my hobby fund.

I drove 20 miles to get to the sale at 8:30 and I was the second person in line.  The man ahead of me was there for - you guessed it - the white Featherweight.  But then we saw the price - $495!  That is at least the full asking price you see on eBay so I took a pass.  When I left the sale, I heard the other shopper trying to talk it down to $250.

This week I saw a Rocketeer 503 in the cool modern table with the brass tipped legs like this:
(not the actual one I saw)

Once again,  I got to the sale at 8:30.  Again I was second in line but this time it was the guy behind me who was there for the sewing machine.  (I'm not fighting other women for these machines, its the men who are after them!) This one was priced at $125, which is also about fair market value but not in my budget so I deferred to the other buyer.

What I'm seeing in this trend, then, is that these machines are being used as bait to get buyers to the sale (and it clearly works.)  Its also clear that Estate Sale professionals are doing their homework and asking top dollar.  But it was only 3-4 years ago that I was picking these up for $40 or $50.

What I want to know, is how did everyone suddenly catch on to this?  ;)


  1. I hope it is a fluke (or pair of flukes), but time will tell. The cabinet is one of my favorites. $125 is a good deal for someone who needs a sewing machine, especially if the attachments are included. But for people like us, who need a "fix", $125 may not be the deal that makes the hunt worthwhile, unless you've been hunting for that particular table or a 503. The 503 may be my all-time favorite machine. I have a 401, but my mother had a 503 which I let my sister have after my mother died. (I took the featherweight that I learned to sew on.) I used to clean and oil my mother's machine when I visited her. She bought the featherweight new in 1951 for $100. She bought the 503 in the 1980s for probably a song. She was like us in that way, but she didn't have a sewing machine addiction -- just an addiction to garage sales and a need for a zig zag machine when she found the 503. I'd like to trade my 401 for a 503 so if I saw that machine in that table for $125 I'd probably buy it and keep it. The tote bag is adorable. At first glance I thought the lady was a chicken!

    1. Thank you for the comment! If you go back a few posts I share my love for the 503 in more detail. I've cycled a lot of electric vintage Singers through my sewing room, and my rule is to keep ONLY those I will actually use - no duplicates and no mere "collecting" allowed. My line up has changed as new favorites came along - for example the 201 supplanted the 15-91, but once I got my hands on the 301, out she went! The 301 is now my primary machine for its speed, strength, and fabulous straight stitch. The 503 is next on the list for zigzagging and deco stitching (like on the bag in this post). The FW is ready to grab and go for sewing adventures away from home. These are the three (along with my BL serger) that have made the cut.

  2. It's not that bad everywhere - I bought a 503 in that exact cabinet for $45 2 months ago.....and sold the 503 fir $40 (because I don't need it, and didn't feel like cleaning it up.)

    I have a 500A (well, 2, actually) and LOVE it. Wouldn't trade it for anything else!