Vintage sewing machines like Montgomery Ward might never go out of style no matter how many improved models the company makes today. However, the lack of proper documentation makes identifying and valuing authentic productions difficult.
Based on eBay sales, an average Montgomery Ward sewing machine costs $50 – $100 minus shipping tax. However, retailers often charge a bogus fee, especially when dealing with ignorant new collectors.
In this post, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide on identifying and valuing antique and vintage Montgomery Ward Sewing machines. Let’s, however, begin with the brief history of these sewing machines.
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History of Montgomery Ward Sewing Machines
The Montgomery Ward was a department store established in 1872 by Aaron Montgomery Ward. His vision was to provide appliances to rural dwellers ordering via mail and buying from traveling salespeople.
About ten years after its launch, Montgomery Ward expanded its business to sell over 10,000 items. The expansive catalog earned it its colloquial name, Wish Book, per Silver Bobbin.
It sold branded appliances and machinery, including sewing machines made by other production companies, until it closed in 2001.
Tracking the history of Montgomery Ward’s sewing machines isn’t an easy feat because of the different companies involved in its production. They produced the machines in their factories and shipped them to Montgomery Ward for rebranding and sale under the MW name.
Before the influx of Japanese-made machinery in the late 1950s, the Nation Sewing Machine Company was one of the foremost manufacturers in the US. Its factory was in Belvedere until the company sold its production rights to other businesses.
Happy, a Japanese company, was one of the subsequent owners of the brand post-1957, and it was the most economical owner. Hence, the Montgomery Ward Sewing Machines made in this period used affordable (cheap) materials for production.
Per Sewing is Cool, the former National Sewing Machine Co. gave new owners a list of specifications to meet when making the Montgomery Ward Sewing Machines. That meant there wasn’t a centralized production company, and it wasn’t easy to enforce high-quality productions.
The National Sewing Machine Co. operated (through WWI and WWII) between 1889 – 1957 when the company was handed over to the Japanese. However, when Walmart started to gain waves, the company closed its catalog in 1985 and declared bankruptcy in the 1990s.
Montgomery Ward, as people knew, ended its business in 2001 after selling to Swiss Colony. However, Ward is still an online store trading other appliances and products except for its famous sewing machines.
Unfortunately, there weren’t records of the companies producing these machines, so it wasn’t easy holding any brand responsible. This additionally means you can’t trace the chain of custody from production to distribution. However, there are other means of identification, as you’ll learn.
6 Valuable Montgomery Ward Sewing Machine
We’ve compiled a list of eBay’s most expensive Montgomery Ward sewing machines ever sold. One thing you can take away from the list below is that Montgomery Ward sewing machines aren’t expensive. You can get one for less than $200.
Montgomery Ward Sewing Machine with Table
1950 – 1970
1930 – 1950
Montgomery Ward 1984
6. UHT J277
Year: c. 1970
Despite its fair condition, considering its busted belt, this UHT J277 sewing machine sold for over $50 but cost almost $400 with shipping. The machine was well-used by its previous owner causing it to experience serious wear and tear.
The sewing machine had some loose case clips, a rusty case, and a smudged exterior. Its specifications read thus; 17.5 in / 44 cm long, 13.5 in / 34 cm high, and 8.5 in / 22 cm wide. With so many “faults,” you begin to wonder why anyone would pay money for this piece.
The simple answer is that it’s a signature Montgomery Ward sewing machine.
5. Montgomery Ward 1984
The retro Montgomery Ward sewing machine had a pedal, handle, and machine cover still intact. Its cover is a transparent black box that keeps the machine dust and damage free.
Regardless, it was sold in fair condition with slight wear and tear hence the low value, although it’s still a good price for a Montgomery Ward sewing machine.
4. Montgomery Ward UHT J1984
Another Montgomery Ward sewing machine that sold with a foot pedal and intact machine cover was this UHT J1984 model. It’s a portable home sewing equipment with an electrical, free arm Bobbin-winding system and buttonhole stitch needle.
The serial number is 44814152, and it’s suitable for quilting, and sewing denim, leather, and woolen fabrics. It was manufactured in Japan, so it’s likely a Happy Sewing Machine Co. product.
3. Montgomery Ward UHT J1265 Sewing Machine
Year: c. 1970
Not all sewing machines are meant for straight seams, as you know. If you need to achieve a zig-zag stitch pattern on your cloth, then you’d appreciate Montgomery Wards UHT J1265 vintage sewing machine because of its unique needle.
The green sewing machine was meant for domestic use hence its portable size. It sold with its original box still in perfect condition and a black foot pedal.
2. Montgomery Ward UHT J1950
Year: 1930 – 1950
This vintage Montgomery Ward sewing machine was sold as a second-hand product hence the relatively low value. It was a domestic sewing machine with a beige exterior. This machine uses a Bobbin winding mechanism and supports free-hand sewing.
The UHT J1950 was made in Japan hence the model number having the letter “J.” It had most of its attachments intact at the point of sale, adding to its appeal.
1. Montgomery Ward Sewing Machine with Table
Year: 1950 – 1970
This metallic teal sewing machine was made in Japan, although some parts were made in the USA. It has steel accessories, and the seller sold it with an accompanying four-legged single table.
The wooden table had a drop leaf extension making it convenient for wide fabric sewing.
Identifying Montgomery Ward Sewing Machine Made Easy
Based on the history described above, you can see how tough it’ll be to identify a Montgomery Ward sewing machine. It doesn’t help that there’s no verified inventory of all models and their identification marks.
However, we’ve dug through the rubble to make sense of Montgomery Ward sewing machines and found unique identifiers. Read on to find out how to identify a true Montgomery Ward sewing machine;
Lookup the Serial Number of the Montgomery Ward Sewing Machine
Although with the introduction of QR and barcode scanning, checking the authenticity of a product is now much easier, for Montgomery Ward sewing machines, you have to manually input the machine’s Serial Number into your browser. Each Montgomery Ward sewing machine produced has a distinct set of digits.
Check the metal labels on pre-1955 Montgomery Ward sewing machines or the plastic casing on recent models for the serial number. These labels are either affixed on the side, above the power cord, or under the machine.
Unfortunately, since there’s no comprehensive inventory of Montgomery Ward sewing machine serial and model numbers, you may need a reverse image search to find answers.
There are forums and blogs with random models that can help you navigate the uncertain world of MW sewing machines.
Identification by Model Number
Groups of letters engraved on the side or bottom of your Montgomery Ward sewing machine indicate production country and other information. JA means Made in Japan; sometimes, you can see the words spelled out.
Identification by Manual
If you’re lucky to find a Montgomery Ward Sewing Machine with an intact manual, then all your questions will be answered in one detailed read. It contains the model number, manufacturer’s name, pictures, and production year.
While there are few manuals, the available ones have been replicated for resale as standalone items. You can also find digital copies for download online, especially on websites like Getty Images.
Verify the Age of the Montgomery Ward Sewing Machine?
You can tell the age of a Montgomery Ward Sewing Machine by cross-referencing the serial number with a verified list. Also, you can use the names on the machine to decipher the manufacturer, thus knowing the production year.
Different Montgomery Ward Sewing Machine Models
Although there’s no actual inventory of Montgomery Ward Sewing Machines, we’ve curated a list of the common models seen over the years.
Oakland by Foley and Williams
The Old Foley and Williams model dates back to the late 1800s – early 1900s and had the classic treadle and desk design with a tool chest on the drop leaf.
In 1913, the company went into financial struggles leading it to make serious changes in management and name. By then, it was called Goodrich Sewing Machine Company, and its bestseller, Oakland, was sold on pre-order.
The International Sewing Machine Collectors Society noted that Montgomery Ward sold it with reservations advising customers to choose better models if they could afford to.
National Sewing Machine Co. made the Brunswick in 1913 as an improvement on Oakland. The sewing machine had gold paint jobs and accessories, including the Greist attachments. The machine table had an automatic drop-head base with an efficient bobbin per ISMAC.
Since the Brunswick model drew inspiration from established sewing machine companies, its physiology looks like the Antique Singer Sewing Machine. It’s a streamlined black model with an enamel finish and gold leaf painting.
Montgomery Ward once advertised a model with a high arm bail on a cabinet. Like many sewing machines made pre-1955, it uses a hand-wound mechanism and works with a treadle. This treadle fitted into a wooden table that sometimes had as many as seven drawers.
The Damascus came after the Brunswick model and had multiple treadle designs valued at varying prices. It also had a vibrating shuttle on the sewing machine with tables ranging from complete cabinets to double-sided drawers and a steel foot pedal.
The Damascus Grand Rotary, with its six drawers, was the most valuable model in the collection. Other designs included single drawers on four-legged tables, double drawers (one on each side), and an actual cabinet/cupboard.
While the Amazon looks like the Damascus in physiology, it differs from that model based on its hand-wound control. It was a slight improvement on the regular Montgomery Ward sewing machines sold to the masses.
The Amazon often came with a drop-leaf wooden table furnished with small cabinets, and it was valued at $20, which translates to almost $200 in today’s economy.
If you’re looking for an easy-to-use Montgomery Ward sewing machine, then Windsor is the best option. It had no complicated attachments or mechanisms, making it the best for beginners in the sewing industry.
Some Windsor models came with power cables despite being antiques, but they aren’t as sophisticated as the more recent electrical Montgomery Ward sewing machines. Like the Damascus model, this one also has a black paint and gold leaf design on its body.
You can even see “Windsor” written boldly in capital letters on the side of the sewing machine. The same goes for the Amazon and Damascus models.
Happy Sewing Machine Co. (1955 – 1980)
The Japanese company, Happy, had the longest and best run as a manufacturer of Montgomery Ward sewing machines. Its success was so profound that many of the brand’s signature lines were made by Happy.
Although Happy used inexpensive materials, which many consider cheap in today’s market, the manufacturer did its best to produce durable sewing machines. These sewing machines were made of solid metals and assembled carefully.
Montgomery Ward marketed Happy-made sewing machines as unique models but failed to sell its concept. Consumers noticed they were mere replicas of more known brands such as Singer sewing machines.
This model came in different colors and was a bestseller making it Montgomery Ward’s signature creation. Since it was a recent design, Model UHT J277 had a seamless assembly with high-quality materials guaranteeing durability.
There are many sub-variations underneath this broad model and you can group them based on needle stitching type. Some UHT models include the J1950, J1984, J1265, and J1276. These models had electric pedals and computer control buttons, making sewing easier.
By 1984, the machines had become more electrical than mechanical and came with power cords for the foot pedal. This model was in high demand leading Montgomery Ward to make it a signature line.
The J1984 sewing machine had multiple impressive features including attachments made of solid metal and a foot pedal. The machine also had different detachable needles to create unique stitching patterns.
It’s the smoothest-running Montgomery Ward sewing machine ever made in the vintage era.
Factors that Determine the Value of a Montgomery Ward Sewing Machine
Montgomery Ward doesn’t have a steady price range, unlike other antique and vintage sewing machines. However, they sell for an estimated $50 – $200. Certain factors affect Montgomery Ward Sewing Machine’s price tags from condition to age.
Let’s expand on the factors influencing a Montgomery Ward Sewing Machine’s Worth.
The Condition of the Sewing Machine
You may argue, but the condition is the foremost factor that determines the price tag of a Montgomery Ward sewing machine, and the reason is simple. Since the brand didn’t have a single manufacturer, there wasn’t any guarantee of the machine’s quality and durability.
Unless a collector chooses the Montgomery Ward sewing machine for display, its primary purpose is to sew clothes. Hence, all machine parts must be in excellent condition at the sale.
If you’re buying an electrical Montgomery Ward sewing machine, ensure the power cord is in good condition. It’ll save you the stress of fixing it, or worse, suffering an electrical accident if it blows up from a power surge or melted wires.
Even when the collector picks it as a display décor, the outer parts must be aesthetically pleasing or easy to fix to be worth a pretty penny.
While there wasn’t a uniform manufacturer for Montgomery Ward sewing machines, certain models fared better than others in the market. According to Love to Know, pre-1950s MW machines had the highest quality and were made by National Sewing Machine Co.
However, Foley and Williams’ Oakland is the only antique Montgomery Ward sewing machine with questionable quality. Machines made by the Japanese company, Happy and other post-1950s companies were mass-produced hence the low-quality.
Each model of the Montgomery Ward sewing machine has different designs, from the threading method to its working mechanism. Those with complicated mechanisms are often more valuable than simple machines.
The recent models (vintage) typically have straightforward systems, from the needles to the pedals. This can also pose a problem during maintenance as certain models require professional technicians to service them.
Age & Rarity
As explained above, you can figure out the age of a Montgomery Ward sewing machine based on the manufacturer. Using this method, it’s general knowledge that the antique and older vintage MW sewing machines are more valuable than the recent models.
There’s also a high chance that the older models are rarer since many are extinct or on the brink of extinction.
How Much is Montgomery Ward Sewing Machine Worth?
With the tips listed above used for assigning value to a Montgomery Ward sewing machine, you can create a scale of preference (demand) for each model.
According to secondary retail sites like eBay and online marketplaces like Amazon, here’s the worth of a Montgomery Ward sewing machine.
Q: What’s the Most Expensive Antique Sewing Machine?
Singer Sewing Machines have the honor of being the most valuable and expensive antique brand, especially if you find a rare model. The sewing machine comes in different sizes, shapes, and models, just like the Montgomery Ward sewing machines.
On the upside, instead of a measly $200, you can earn as much as $600 – $2,000 on a quality vintage or antique Singer sewing machine.
Q: When did Montgomery Ward stop making Sewing Machines?
Montgomery Ward never made sewing machines, but it rebranded products manufactured by other companies, and it stopped retailing in 2001. Before then, the company passed several stages of ownership and management but retained its sales name.
For more on this topic, kindly scroll back up and re-read the history segment.
Q: What is the Most Expensive Sewing Machine in the World?
According to ISMACS, a rare Wheeler and Wilson sewing machine is the most expensive model ever sold. It had royal connections to Queen Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa of the mid-1800s. However, its antiquity and appearance are not considered in the league of conventional sewing machines.
It’s more of an aesthetic collection than a functional collection. That’s why the Singer sewing machine remains the most valuable sewing machine based on use.
Q: Who Collects Old Sewing Machines?
According to WAG DOLL, in 2012, charities such as Tools for Self-Reliance collected antique and vintage sewing machines. They accept all types, from mechanical to electrical, and fix broken machines, provided they’re not beyond repair.
Apart from charities, homemakers and sewing enthusiasts also collect old sewing machines. There’s an organization that helps like-minded collectors in the community buy, sell and understand vintage and antique sewing machine models, and it’s called the International Sewing Machine Collectors Society, a.k.a. ISMACS.
Montgomery Ward sewing machines were rebranded products made by contracted manufacturers. They were affordable then and remain so today, as you can cop one for yourself at less than $200, and yes, it’ll be in good condition.
Despite the limited information on Montgomery Ward sewing machines available online, you can put the puzzle pieces together to get a full picture. We hope this guide has filled the gap and answered all your burning questions.
If not, you can refer to the Frequently Asked Questions section below. Before that, let’s recap identification methods;
- Using the Model Name
- Model and Serial Numbers
- Production Year
- Using the Manual