Vintage Japanese sewing machine brands provide an exciting look at the transformation of the home sewing machine and a huge assortment of very interesting and functional machines for sewing enthusiasts and collectors. Sewing machines have been here since the early nineteenth century, and many of them are still in use today as antique machinery due to the high construction standards of the time.
They’re not just rusted relics of the past but also usable (or renewable) resources for today’s sewing projects. Learn about the resale value of vintage Japanese sewing machines and which models are the most valuable.
What Characteristics Define a Vintage or Antique Sewing Machine?
Antique sewing machines were manufactured before 1900, while vintage sewing machines were manufactured between 1900 and 1970. The 1980s were a bit of a hazy period. Around this time, many models began to incorporate computerized features and circuit boards, making them more modern.
There might also be some inconsistency in the term “antique.” Experts disagree on whether anything made over a century ago qualifies for the designation or if the item must have been made before 1900.
If you’re looking to purchase an older model, remember that not every seller will use the terms correctly.
What Are Vintage Sewing Machine Brands Made in Japan?
Following the end of WWII, the United States conquered Japan and assisted in re-establishing its economic security. Manufacturers, including those that produced sewing machines, were helped as part of the economic reconstruction.
If you have a sewing machine from the 40s, 19550s, or 60s, it could have been made in Japan. It might even be a Japanese clone sewing machine, a replica of well-known American brands and models such as Singer sewing machines.
Here’s how to tell if your sewing machine was manufactured in Japan:
- Vintage Japanese sewing machines frequently came in colors that American-made machines did not. If you have a machine that is unusual in appearance or color, it could have been manufactured in Japan.
- A vintage Japanese sewing machine will often have the letters “JA” or “Made in Japan” stamped on the body. Examine the machine’s underside in particular.
- Although there were many vintage Japanese sewing machine brands that listing them all would be impossible, you may see a badge or stamp from one of the major manufacturers listed below.
The Major Japanese Sewing Machine Producers
There could be over 5,000 various vintage Japanese sewing machine “brands,” making it especially difficult to identify your machine. This is due to Japanese manufacturers producing the machines and then re-branding them as store brands or other terms. However, the manufacturers listed below are some of the most important.
Toyota Sewing Machines
While Toyota is well-known for its automobiles, many people are unaware that the company has been producing sewing machines for decades. These machines the company primarily sells in Europe are well-known for their dependability. Sergers and regular machines are available, as are heavy-duty machinery for sewing leather.
Models include the Renaissance, the Raidomatic Streamliner, and many others.
Juki Corporation, a leading manufacturer of sewing machines, began production in 1945. They manufactured industrial and home sewing machines and some of the world’s first home serging machines. Many vintage Juki sewing machines, including sergers and industrial models, are available on the used market.
Janome is yet another Japanese sewing machine manufacturer exporting machines for many years. Besides vintage Janome sewing machines, the company’s factory in Japan also produced Kenmore and New Home sewing machines. They were among the first to incorporate the Memory 7, a programmable sewing machine, in 1979.
Depending on the age, model, and condition, vintage Janome sewing machines can range in price from $20 to over $500. However, vintage Janome machines don’t have a large collector’s market. Instead, these vintage sewing machines continue to sell because modern sewers prefer them for actual sewing today!
The first Kenmore sewing machine was manufactured in 1913 but discontinued in 1919. In 1933, the Kenmore sewing machine line was restarted. They vanished again during the war and reappeared in the 1950s. Kenmore is the most valuable major brand, with prices ranging from $200 to $400.
Maruzen Machine Company
Another well-known vintage Japanese sewing machine manufacturer is the Maruzen Machine Company. In 1949, the company manufactured sewing machines, which were frequently re-branded by retailers such as Frister & Rossman and Sears & Roebuck. The Maruzen Machine Company name does not appear on most machines, but models include heavy-duty sewing machines, sergers, etc.
Happy Industrial Corp.
Happy Industrial Corp. started producing sewing machines in the 40s and is still in business these days. In addition to producing machines under its brand, the company has also produced machines for several other brands. Notably, throughout the 60s and 70s, Happy produced many vintage Montgomery Ward sewing machines.
Brother Industries, Ltd.
Brother, formerly known as the Nippon Sewing Machine Manufacturing Co., has been manufacturing sewing machines for export since 1947. Vintage Brother sewing machines are available in various styles, including straight stitch, serger, heavy-duty, etc. Brother, Jones, Baby Brother, and Jones-Brother are some brand names.
Initially, Brother tended to manufacture machines for other companies, making the company’s early presence difficult to trace. Late-twentieth-century variants labeled as Brother are typically priced between $100 and $150.
Koyo Sewing Machine Company
This company produced sewing machines for a variety of brands. Standard Sewing Machine, Free Sewing Machine Company, and many others were among them. The Koyo name is frequently found on the bottom of machines manufactured by this company.
What Should You Look for When Buying a Vintage Sewing Machine?
Here are four things to heed when you’re hunting:
- Examine the machine for damage: scratches and surface dings are unavoidable, but do the mechanics still work?
- Is anything rusted, and how difficult will it be to replace the damaged part(s)?
- If you require a specific stitch type, be sure to check the machine; antique machines frequently only have one type.
- Many sellers describe the current functionality of their machine; however, if they do not, ask questions!
Although there are many vintage Japanese sewing machine brands to list, a few key manufacturers made significant contributions to the sewing machine industry. These are just some of the historical sewing machine brands, but understanding their roles can help you identify vintage sewing machines and learn about when they were manufactured and their value.