Vintage Japanese Sewing Machine: Brand, Identification and Value Guide

If you’re one of the many people who are interested in sewing, then you know that there is an abundance of vintage sewing machines available to you.

As it turns out, these old-fashioned machines can be a tremendous investment for your home. Nevertheless, finding information about which brands offer high-quality and reliable options for those on the market for a quality machine can be challenging.

Vintage Japanese sewing machines are sought after by many antique collectors and sewing enthusiasts for their vibrant colors, history, durability, prominent features, exciting look, and a wide variety.

So if you are expiring to get your hands on these vintage, high-value, and candy-colored sewing machines, look no further than this guide.

This article is a detailed guide on vintage Japanese sewing machine brands, identifying a vintage Japanese machine, their values, and much more you need to know about them.

Japanese Sewing Machine And Wood Box
Japanese Sewing Machine And Wood Box (Value: $199.96 Source: eBay)

Brief History of Japanese Sewing Machine

Japanese sewing machines go back to 1921. These were machines that companies in Japan made, and they sought to use them as a way of diversifying their production. What was surprising about these machines was that they competed with those made overseas, even though they were historically seen as inferior.

To compete, Japanese sewing machine manufacturers created specialized machinery that could sew clothes of various thicknesses and textures quickly. One thing that helped these manufacturers succeed is that many raw materials for making these machines are sourced domestically for cost reasons alone.

Evidence shows that sewing machines were used as far back as 1589 in Japan. These were needle-makers, and these machines were models created by Japanese craftsmen.

In the 19th century, only the wealthy could afford to use them regularly, and the average person had to use labor-intensive methods for sewing clothing. The sewing machine changed all this when it became widely available a short time later.

Typical designs of early Japanese sewing machines included those made by Kuroda Toshitsugu from 1921 to 1929 and Nippon Sewing Machine Works, which started as an industrial machinery manufacturer in 1921 until they switched over to sewing machine production in 1923.

Both of these companies were located in Nara, Japan. The early models by these two companies had light frames that made it easy to carry them around, and they could be easily folded up and stored away.

Their original purpose was to be used in rural areas for clothing repairs and making new pieces for the family. The first models could handle roughly 83 centimeters long fabrics, but this soon changed with the introduction of later models with much longer needles.

Janome Sewist Mechanical Sewing Machine
Janome Sewist Mechanical Sewing Machine (Value: $212.45 Source: eBay)

It was not long before Japanese sewing machines became popular across all parts of Japan because their quality and affordable price allowed more people to access them. Back then, the Japanese had to compete with American and European brands that were better known.

However, to compete, the Japanese manufacturers had to prove that their machines were just as good as the others. It was confirmed by a series of tests that a government agency conducted.

The government agency not only tested the machines for durability but also for other standards, such as weight handling and ease of use.

The results were very encouraging, showing that domestic sewing machines could now rival those made overseas.

As a result, sales increased dramatically, and sewing machine companies soon began exporting their products to countries like Taiwan, Indonesia, and India.

The sewing machine industry significantly influenced the Japanese industry as it developed. People used these machines to produce uniforms and other clothing items like silk and leather.

The sewing machines were also used in the hanfu (traditional clothing) industry because they could handle thick pieces of cloth from different textile threads.

Aside from these, another significant change happened in the fashion world with the introduction of the sewing machine. It is because clothing became more accessible for everyone, even those living in rural areas.

Japanese sewing machines are top-rated today because of their high quality and affordable price tag.

Heavy Duty Japanese Precision Sewing Machine
Heavy Duty Japanese Precision Sewing Machine (Value: $140.00 Source: eBay)

Significant Japanese Sewing Machine Manufacturers

Sewing is a craft, and someone needs to have the best machine to be at the top of their class. Which brings up the interesting question of which are the most influential Japanese sewing machine brands?

There are more than 5,00 brands of vintage Japanese sewing machines, making it difficult for collectors to identify their machines and which one to trust more.

However, some most significant and renowned vintage Japanese sewing machine manufacturers exist. These vintage Japanese sewing machine brands offer a high-end user experience. Collectors and sewing enthusiasts trust these brands because of their quality, durability, and trustworthiness.

1. Brother Industries, Ltd.

Brother is a Japanese company that manufactures sewing machines. It has been a household name since 1947 in Japan for over 75 years. They focus on quality above everything else – concentrating on design and functionality rather than price.

Their machines are incredibly versatile, with some leaving out all buttons and switches, only relying on touch screens for control.

For their home sewing machines, Brother produces a range of styles – from basic ones that can do simple embroidery to complex high-tech models that you could use for tailoring or knitwear making.

Today, they are a multi-million-pound company that supplies machines to over 10 million homes worldwide. Their range of products is incredibly versatile, from basic models that can do simple embroidery to some that work as high-tech luxury items for tailoring or knitwear making.

Brother Industries brand names include “Baby Brother,” “Brother,” and “Jones-Brother.”

Brother Mechanical Sewing Machine
Brother Mechanical Sewing Machine (Value: $299.99 Source: eBay)

2.Happy Industrial Corporation

Happy Industrial Corporation is Japan’s leading industrial machine manufacturer. Established in 1945, the company has produced some of the finest quality sewing machines under its brand name.

Happy Industrial Corp is best known for its modern high-performance sewing machines made from heavy-duty steel with a cast aluminium top panel suitable for heavier fabrics.

3. Juki Corporation

Japan’s Juki Corporation is a well-known sewing machine manufacturer that has been around since 1945. The company specializes in industrial and home machines, though they also produce embroidery machines and sergers.

The company often releases new models of its products yearly, but two classic models have been popular for many years due to their unique features. These include the Juki 6406 (a top-load model) and the Juki 6416 (a front-load model).

Heavy Duty Juki Industrial Sewing Machine
Heavy Duty Juki Industrial Sewing Machine (Value: $637.36 Source: eBay)

4. Maruzen Machine Company

The Maruzen Japanese Sewing Machine Company was established in 1949, after the end of World War II.

They have been a significant part of the country’s industrial history and are still an industry leader today. This company manufactures some of the finest sewing machines on the market today.

This Japanese brand is known for its reliable models ‌that can withstand many uses without breaking down. The company’s products are well priced and affordable for beginners.

The Maruzen Machine Company is known for its high-quality products and various styles. Maruzen machines are also known for extremely low prices compared to competing brands.

5. Koyo Sewing Machine Company

Koyo Japanese Sewing Machine Company is a worldwide leader in the manufacturing and sales of sewing machines, mainly used in the textile and garment industries. Koyo began production in 1930.

The company has a long-standing reputation for making high-quality sewing machines with many advanced features, including the first fully automatic machine for home use and an electric foot controller. That allows you to control the machine with your toes while sitting on a chair.

Koyo sewing machine company uses its brand name stamp on the machines, and you can find them on the bottom of their machines.

6. Toyota Sewing Machines

Many people only know Toyota as a car company, but in reality, it is more than that.

Toyota Sewing Machines are some of the most popular brands today and are available through distributors or retail outlets nationwide.

Toyota is unique among other manufacturers of home sewing machines because it makes machines that are relatively similar to standard industrial sewing machines but scaled down in size for the home user.

Toyota sewing machine models include heavy-duty machines used to sew leather.

Toyota Model J34 Super Jeans Sewing Machine
Toyota Model J34 Super Jeans Sewing Machine (Value: $148.49 Source: eBay)

7. Janome

Janome is a Japanese most popular sewing machine manufacturer, known for making machines for many years. Janome also produces machines for exports worldwide.

Besides manufacturing vintage Japanese sewing machines, Janome made Kenmore sewing machines and New Home.

In 1979, Janome introduced the first ever programmable sewing machine named Memory 7.

Janome Sewing Machine Sewist
Janome Sewing Machine Sewist (Value: $92.06 Source: eBay)

How To Identify Genuine Vintage Japanese Sewing Machines?

Japanese brands have a special place in the heart of vintage sewing machine collectors. Japanese sewing machines are high in demand due to their characteristics like vibrant colors, high quality, and historical symbolism.

However, sometimes it is difficult to identify which machines were made in Japan due to the US-Japan crossover.

But there are some vital and prominent aspects that you can watch out for to identify whether a sewing machine is an authentic vintage Japanese model or not.

  • The first step is determining if the brand name is written on the machine. If it is, then it’s guaranteed to be authentic. If not, look at where your sewing machine’s trademark number falls with the date of manufacture on your sewing machine’s serial number plate.
  • You can also check this number online or ask an expert who will be able to tell you more about your specific make and model of the vintage Japanese sewing machine.
  • A genuine vintage Japanese sewing machine will have a serial number plate. The trademark number of your sewing machine should fall within the “xxxx0″-“yyyyy” range. If not, then it is more than likely a fake model.
  • Another way to identify genuine Japanese vintage sewing machines is to look at the nameplate above the needle bar on your sewing machine. It will tell you the brand name, trademark number, and the date of manufacture of your sewing machine.
  • If the serial number on your sewing machine’s nameplate matches that on your sewing machine’s serial number plate, then you can be sure that the sewing machine is genuine.
  • If the nameplate does not have a trademark number or if it does not match the serial number on your sewing machine’s plate, then do not buy that particular model of the vintage Japanese sewing machine.
  • A further way to identify an actual vintage Japanese sewing machine is to check for production marks if you can access high-quality photographs of the underside or side of your vintage Japanese model. It will help determine any obvious production defects if it is an authentic model.
  • Accurate vintage Japanese models will have specific production marks not found on fake sewing machines. The two prominent marks that you should look out for are the “kanji” symbol, which is a Japanese character, and the serial number mark.
  • Japanese sewing machines always have a stamp of Made in Japan or simply JA on their body. So if this mark is present on your sewing machine, then it is Japanese production of the vintage era. You can find this mark on the body and base plate of the machine.
  • Japanese sewing machine manufacturers used different colors and designs to make Japanese sewing machines separate from the US-made ones. These colors are pretty noticeable and make them unique. So if your sewing machine is in “candy colors” like blue, red, yellow, pink, and green, then it is a Japanese sewing machine.
Cool Pink Japanese Zigzag Sewing Machine
Cool Pink Japanese Zigzag Sewing Machine (Value: $139.95  Source: eBay)

What’s The Value Of Vintage Japanese Sewing Machines?

Vintage Japanese sewing machines are an excellent investment for any collector of vintage items. These beautiful machines are not only elegant, but they gave rise to some of the most well-known sewing machine brands today.

Most people love their vintage Japanese Sewing Machines because they were made with rich craftsmanship and quality materials such as solid brass and mahogany.

The value of a vintage sewing machine depended on the machine’s condition when it was manufactured and your penchant for quality. Manufacturers at the time included such names as Singer, Brother, and Kenmore. Therefore, you’ll find that each brand has a slightly different design and a varying quality of materials used to create them. You will also find that each brand has its focus in terms of function or purpose.

As a result, an old sewing machine can be worth more than your average modern sewing machine because of this.

A vintage Japanese sewing machine is worth quite a lot if it’s in good condition! It can be worth up to $50-$700, depending on the model and how old it is.

Japanese  Novum  Deluxe Heavy  Duty Sewing Machine  
Japanese  Novum  Deluxe Heavy  Duty Sewing Machine (Value: $259.33 Source: eBay)

Factors Affecting The Value Of Japanese Sewing Machines

Most people looking to purchase a vintage Japanese sewing machine can find them used from other sellers or auctions across websites such as eBay.

Here are some factors that will affect the value of a vintage Japanese sewing machine. Considering these factors will help you determine how much your vintage Japanese sewing machine is worth.

Rarity

Vintage Japanese sewing machines are very uncommon, and therefore they are rare to find. In most cases, vintage sewing machine manufacturers produced only one machine with that particular design and pattern number.

If a vintage machine is made by another manufacturer and has an identical design, the number will most likely say “Made in Japan” on the bottom. It still makes it valuable because it’s unique.

Also, some of these machines were mass manufactured and distributed to customers who wanted their customized devices through rental shops. Therefore, they are found all over the world!

Age of Machine

The age of the machine is one aspect that determines its value. Vintage machines made in the early 1900s are rare as they were not produced in large numbers. These machines can be pretty expensive, even exceeding $10,000, depending on their quality, how many were originally made, and their origin of production.

For example, specific models such as those by Brother may have been sold in Japan, but it is infrequent to come across them in the US, which makes them highly prized.

Material Used For Machine

The material used to make the machine will also determine its value. The common materials used in the production of Japanese sewing machines were cast iron and brass.

A machine made of these materials will increase its value as most machines are made with plastic or even wood. Also, recycled materials can take away from the originality of a machine, as they may come from another model or vintage machine.

Condition

The machine’s condition is another factor influencing its value, especially regarding repairs. Dents and scratches can significantly affect its price as minor damages lower its value and, in some cases, may not be repairable.

Certain types of repairs can be done, such as replacing a headboard, repairing a broken needle, or even an electric motor that has been replaced. If a machine has been repaired, it will significantly reduce the originality value as it eliminates a piece of history from the machine.

Availability Of Parts

Finally, consider the make and age of the machine. Toyota, Singer, Janome, Brother, and other major brands are more likely to still manufacture machines and thus provide customer support and possibly spare parts. Other brands have gone out of business or are no longer producing parts for old machines, which may reduce the unit’s value.

Vintage 1950s Japanese Sewing Machine Case - Parts Only
Vintage 1950s Japanese Sewing Machine Case – Parts Only  (Value: $75.00  Source: eBay)

Size

The size of the sewing machine is another factor that goes into determining its worth. The device’s height will determine how much it will cost to purchase and how many people need to work on it for it not to break down.

For example, a tabletop machine may cost more than a floor model.

Stitch Patterns

Older sewing machines – especially antique machines produced pre-1900 – only tended to allow straight stitch patterns to be seen. Whereas sewing machines from the vintage era often gave users a choice between straight and zig-zag, as well as any other design.

Japanese Metal Zigzag Sewing Machine
Japanese Metal Zigzag Sewing Machine (Value: $111.50 Source: eBay)

Single pattern machines are sometimes more important because they allow users to stitch through rigid materials such as leather. Machines with a greater variety of stitch patterns can have broader applications regarding the types of garments one can stitch.

Brand

Also, the value depends on which brand it is. Some brands are far more valuable than others. Therefore, if a more popular and sought-after brand made the machine, it would be worth more than something that a not-so-popular or well-known brand created.

It is because certain brands are sought after and considered far better quality. Therefore, people will pay a lot more for these machines as opposed to the cheaper brands.

Conclusion

In recent years vintage Japanese sewing machines have thrived their popularity and rage again.

Vintage sewing machines are rare, and that’s why often it is even hard for skilled collectors to track these antique machines down.

These sewing machines are considered to be antique only if they were produced before 1900.

Hence for the ease of novice vintage collectors, above we have compiled a complete guide on vintage Japanese sewing machines, famous brands, and their value manual.  

By understanding the role of Japanese sewing machine brands in history, you can quickly identify an antique sewing machine and its production time.

So if you want one sewing machine for use or as an heirloom, buy from the brands mentioned above.

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