Sunday, September 13, 2009


Circa 1895, Household Sewing Machine Company, in the collection of the Henry Ford Museum

As an appraiser of old things, I can say with authority that there are many misconceptions about how or why some items are valuable and some are not. Recently, I appraised an item for $3000 and the client swore to me he knew it was worth more. Even after I showed him the most recent sales figures for the same item (with photographs) he was not convinced. It is hard for most people to separate their emotions from their possessions. Common objections are “my mother left this to me and she told it me it was very valuable", “someone once offered me a lot of money for this item”, or “I saw the very same item in a museum and they wouldn’t own something that was not valuable.”

It was the third objection that the $3000 man used as his objection. In our consumer-driven society we often forget that museums do not collect just what is valuable. They also collect items that relate to their collection and to the mission of the museum. Just because an item has historical significance does not mean it has great monetary value. Supply and demand are still applicable in the art and antiques world.

A good example of this is the late 19th century sewing machine. The sewing machine was one of the first machines found in many American homes in the 19th century. At the time, the machines were made by the hundreds of thousands and the technology used to make them was state-of-the art. The sewing machine pictured above was made around 1895 by the Household Sewing Machine Company of Providence Rhode Island. I took a picture of it last month when I visited the Henry Ford Museum. The Ford Museum's mission is to showcase the "genius of the American people" as well as "to bring to life the stories of ordinary people."Thus, the sewing machine was chosen because it is an example of an innovation that helped spur the American economy and average American households forward. The machine was a revolution in technology for its time. Today, however, the market does not financially reflect the historical importance of the item. Sewing machines were made in such large quantities that there are still many that exist today and there are not a lot of modern uses for them. Thus, the prices remain relatively low. Below are some examples of recent auction figures.

1. Household Sewing machine with trunk and cabinet sold at Skinner Auctions on Jan. 24, 2008 for $50

2. Singer Sewing Machine sold at Homestead Auctions, Feb 17, 2008 for $30
3. Singer Sewing Machine sold California Auctioneers, March 16, 2008 for $70

1 comment:

Bid66 said...


I agree but some things are most valuable and we could not forget these things.

James Parker.
Online Auction