It wasn't an especially busy week for sewing machines. I did take in a 306W for a general servicing. I hadn't seen one before, so it was nice to have one on the bench for a bit. And I picked up yet another 401A at a garage sale. I've continued with a number of postings on Craigslist of machines I have for sale. And I've been making an attempt at better arranging my shop/office for a better use of space.
The 401A is from 1951. As I've now had a few of these on my bench, I noticed features specific to the year. I don't know these machines well enough to know just what changes were made and when, but a couple of things stood out as I worked on this one: first of all, the top cam-hatch has a decal on it, while later years do not (again, just when these changes occur, I haven't, yet, a clue). I also noticed that the screws used to attach the various adjustment plates are "bright" finished as opposed to the color-matched screws from later years. Little things, but a matter of interest when one delves into these on a fairly frequent basis.
This latest acquisition also had me in mind of some of the tell-tales of a machine's condition and potential value. When evaluating that potential, it's always best to do so before buying, but I'm rather quick to buy and slow to evaluate when, say, hitting garage sales on any given Saturday. It's only after getting my latest find back home that I begin to note any real problems (or lack thereof).
A few clues as to how a machine (in this case Singers from the 400/500 series) may have been treated throughout its life include: the condition of the various screws used throughout. If they show few signs of screwdriver wear, that's certainly a good sign. It means the machine wasn't roughly handled, or in for much servicing.
I now look at the spool pins as well; are they noticeably bent? Straighter pins have seen fewer hours of use. Are they yellowed with age and exposure? I like to see whiter/clearer spool pins (these are the plastic pins).
Perhaps most importantly, for me, is the condition of the machine's interior. This is where one can usually determine something about the life a machine has had. Clean, dry surfaces without any signs of grease and oil are always something I like to see. This latest 401A seems to have never been in for service; clean, dry and unmarked.
Of course, the condition of the exterior is very important. And here, too, this one is near perfect. While a few scratches or chips are the norm, and don't have too great an impact on resale value, a machine with no discernible flaws warrants an escalating premium. Here is a machine worthy of special consideration.
You can image the satisfaction there is in freeing from years of dirt, grime and disuse, a marvelous machine in near like-new condition.