Until the sewing machine was invented around the middle of the 19th century, all sewing was done by hand. To showcase their needlework talents, seamstresses (it was usually women in those days) would create linen samplers of their works. The samplers almost always included an alphabet, as well as other images, such as houses, trees, or Biblical verses or iconic figures such as Adam & Eve, Noah with his arc, Moses with his tablets, etc. It was also a great practice tool for young girls.
But what exactly do samplers look like? Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here are some pictures:
Antique samplers are great items to be on the lookout for when you’re out hunting for stuff to resell. You see them on a pretty regular basis and often at giveaway prices. They take up almost no space in your home and are super easy and cheap to ship. If they are really large and framed in glass you may want to think about removing them from the glass, but do this before you start taking pictures for your listing, obviously. You don’t want there to be any confusion about whether the frame is included. Unless it is small enough to fit in a USPS Priority box, shipping anything with a glass frame is usually pricey and requires a lot of care when packing. Try to avoid it if you can, but whatever you do, don’t offer free shipping! You’ll just end up working for free.
So are they worth anything on eBay? Here are some recent selling prices:
As you can see, many sell for hundreds of dollars and up. So which ones are the most valuable? Tastes change and I don’t want to give you outdated information, so my advice would be to look over the ones that have sold RECENTLY for the highest prices. See what they have in common.
A few general things to keep in mind:
- Samplers done by young girls seem especially popular.
- Original frames help boost the price.
- The name and age of the seamstress is good to have.
- The name of a school or teacher is a nice touch.
- Not surprisingly, older is better than newer. Many on eBay come from the 18th century.
- Try to find ones that reference topical events, such as the Presidential election of Abe Lincoln or the Louisiana Purchase.
- Layouts that are visually balanced with ornate borders (such as flowers or vines) tend to do well.
- Imagery can add value, with Old Testament figures such as Adam and Eve being popular.
- Biblical verses are good. Short rhymes, or original sentimental verses, including ones with religious themes, are even better.
- If you see one with gold or silver thread, it probably came from a wealthy family, which
can add value.
- Condition is important. Stains, tears, and rotting will lessen value.
- The brighter the color, the better. Too much age or sunlight can ruin a sampler’s value.
Good luck with your hunting and see you next week!