We’ve all been there: searching through a flea market stall or Grandma’s attic heaped with sewing supplies from another era. Old trims, broken items, thread on wooden spools and dusty pin cushions abound. Most people assume that these items have little to no value, but that’s simply not true! While many sewing items are not valued today, there are others which consistently sell well across the board and we’re here to help you figure out if you have any of the these treasures in your old sewing box! Here are the 10 most valuable antique and vintage sewing items for collectors.
10) Antique Thimbles
We’re not talking just any old thimble. Collectible thimbles, sometimes sold as souvenirs or keepsakes, and modern thimbles are not what we’re talking about here. They may be a cute collection, but for real value antique thimbles are where it’s at.
Thimbles in sterling silver or bronze, even gold, were quite popular in the Georgian and Victorian eras for women who could afford them. Today they can sell for $20 to more than $1,000, with value soaring if they happen to be part of a set.
9) Victorian Pincushions
Like many things about the Victorian era, their pin cushions were often well and beyond functional. Cast silver bases in various fun shapes, like animals, carriages, or shoes, were topped with fine velvet cushions. Carved wood, metal filigree and cushions adapted for chatelaines were also very popular.
Today these pincushions have a wide range in price, particularly since the cushion part tends to be replaced or missing after more than a century! Still, these ornate sewing collectibles can sell today for between $30 and $250 or more at the high end. Particularly striking examples in a sterling silver can sell for up to $2,000.
8) Sewing Baskets
Sewing baskets have some of the widest range of values and styles of any sewing item out there. Women have been using sewing baskets of wood, bone, or basketry for as long as humans have worn clothing. They can be quite small or be the size of a small table, with legs and handles for easy movement to all the best windows in the house.
A truly extraordinary 19th century example of a marquetry sewing box sold at Sotheby’s for just under $35,000 a few years, so the value is really only as good as the craftsmanship on these versatile pieces.
7) Victorian Needle Cases
Like the pin cushions of the same era, the needle cases women back in the Victorian era were quite often very elaborate. We would say that even the plainer needle cases are quite charming. Today, we use sewing kits, pin cushions, or even paper scraps to hold our needles. But, back then a metal needle was a very fine instrument of rarity and precision and as such was kept quite safe in a special container that was purpose-made to hold them.
Ranging from carved wood or bone to chased silver to tortoise shell, needle cases came in different shapes and materials. Bone or sterling silver cases often sell for between $30-$100 a piece, but sets or collections can increase the value quite a bit. Some sterling cases can sell for over $1,000 if they are of exemplary design, quality, and weight.
6) Antique Dress forms
While they may be battered and bruised, antique dress forms can hold some value for collectors. The rustic look of a wooden dress form can be quite charming. And, piece like these are increasingly used in vintage clothing stores and as props for online sales.
5) Ornate Ladies Sewing Scissors
As with many other ladies’ sewing items of yore, their quality and design were often a mark of distinction. In sewing circles or in other social settings, her hand sewing tools would be on display and would show her wealth. Finely made scissors have never been cheap and this was especially true of the ornate sewing scissors that were once found among the supplies of well-to-do women.
They can in the shapes of animals or simply gilded, but the delicate shape of these scissors is an immediate clue that they are no ordinary implements. Antique sewing scissors often sell for between $100 and $400, but can go much higher if sold with matched sewing set items.
4) Thread on Wooden Spools
One thing you’ll often find in old sewing collections are various colors of thread on wooden spools. While one of these little spools by itself isn’t worth much, a collection of them can be of interest to collectors. Not only do some people collect them, others use them in art projects and for styling so the range is pretty wide on these. Some sellers even get cash from completely empty spools.
Lots of wooden spools can sell for between $10 and $100, which is not bad when you consider that often time the thread on them is not even usable!
3) Signage & Advertising
From thread display cases to signage to promotional artwork, there is definitely a market for vintage and antique advertising related to sewing. Promotional items could be for sewing machines, thread, fabric, notions, or any other number of sewing supplies.