"CALLING ALL SWEEPER COLLECTORS, |
"CALLING ALL SWEEPER COLLECTORS·!"
Well, old vacuum cleaners are, by and large, not worth
a whole lot of money for the plain and simple reason
there just aren't enough people who collect them. There's
no great demand for them so there's also no real value
for them either.
Certain old collectibles and artifacts, such as Barbie
dolls or Mickey Mouse memorabilia or carnival glass
or movie stars' nail-clippings or what-have-you, can
be quite valuable - in high five- and six-figures, even,
in some cases - because MANY people collect them and
many people desire these objects.
On the other hand, very few people [relatively speaking]
collect electrical appliances, much less old sweepers.
They take up too much room. And to most people, vacuum
cleaners represent household drudgery. Why would anyone
want to collect things that represent dirty, filthy,
And who the heck wants a bunch of old smelly dirt-clogged,
insect-ridden vacuum cleaners cluttering up the place?!
(Who, that is, other than a very small handful of people
such as Yours Truly, who suffer from a peculiar and
rare form of insanity --- those of us who are inexplicably
fascinated by old vacuum cleaners?! But that's another
whole topic, already covered in my Sweeper
Furthermore, there is no inherent or intrinsic value
to old vacuums.
What I mean by that is, old coins, stamps, etc., have
value in and of themselves because they contain
- or represent - precious metals or gems. So the actual
thing itself has value.
On the other hand, an old vacuum cleaner is just some
pot metal or aluminum, along with bits of rubber, bakelite,
leatherette, etc. I've never seen any sweepers made
of diamonds or pewter, although I do know of a gold-plated
Kirby. It belongs to Phyllis Diller as a matter of fact.
Other than that notable exception, sweepers are made
of very ordinary materials. Especially most modern ones
which are -- by and large -- garish, cheap, "planned-obselescence"
horrors of plastic hideousness.
Now come two big "HOWEVERS"·
"HOWEVER" Number One ·
a nutshell: Whether or not a cleaner is collectible
(to the average collector) has everything to do with
its condition ---- or, that is, more importantly, with
its "state of originality and completeness."
A machine that has been repaired numerous times over
the years and now has, say, two brown wheels, one red
wheel, a green cord, a purple bag, and a yellow handle,
is not gonna be worth much to the average collector.
Similarly, machines with missing or broken parts are
going to be worth significantly less than a machine
in complete condition. To some really obsessive
collectors, the original attachments -- even the
original cord with its original plug -- are important
in terms of deeming the machine collectible.
An old machine that has been thoroughly rebuilt with
brand-new replacement parts is not as collectible* as
an old machine that may be a bit "shopworn" but still
has the original bag, hose, cord, etc. Along that same
line, though, an old machine that is in original but
sorry condition is pretty much gonna be a white elephant,
most likely. If a machine is incomplete, rusty, badly
scratched or dented, doesn't run, is missing significant
parts (like, say, the MOTOR), it's just not gonna be
( * to most collectors, at any rate: I feel safe here
in speaking for most other collectors whom I know when
I emphasize that the KEY to desirability is ORIGINALITY.)
Most collectors have a keen eye for "design aesthetics."
So, yes, it -is- quite important - vital, even
-- for that old Electrolux to have its original woven
cloth hose. It just doesn't look right with a white
plastic hose rudely stuck into its streamlined maw.
Thus, an old cleaner in excellent condition, with all
or most of the original attachments, bag, hose,trim,
etc., will certainly be of some interest to serious
But, here again, that is presuming you can find
someone who collects old sweepers, and that is not an
easy task; but which does bring us to·
"HOWEVER" Number Two ·
The advent of on-line auction sites such as eBay has
certainly taken vacuum cleaner collecting to a new height;
certain old cleaners are commanding high-dollar bids
the likes of which truly do astound those of us who
have been collecting them for a few years.
I can't tell you how many old cleaners I have paid little
or nothing for over the 25 or so years that I've been
collecting, and I mean machines in beautiful or mint
condition. It never occurred to me, in even my wildest
dreams, that someday my collection might actually be
As it is now, however, I could retire this very moment,
and rather comfortably so, if I elected to sell off
my collection ---- that is, judging by some of the frightful
rubbish that has come and gone on eBay, and in some
cases for astonishing and practically unbelievable closing
On eBay, that formidible cyber-world of Trailer-Trash
Yard Sales,* some rather junky old vacuum cleaners have
closed for over a hundred dollars; in a few notable
cases even several hundred dollars. (Please do
note, by the way, that I characterize eBay as a "cyber-world
of Trailer-Trash Yard Sales" without prejudice
--- inasmuch as I'm there nearly every day, either buying
*I had quite a reality check when I once took some "priceless
antique" Oriental scrolls to the venerated Sothebys
office in Beverly Hills for appraisal. The aloof appraiser
took one disdainful look at them thru the half-glasses
perched at the end of her bony nose, pushed herself
back from them as if they were made of the vilest polyester,
and tersely indicated that "Sothebys appreciates your
interest, but we would be unable to appraise or consign
the scrolls." Her parting shot: "You might get something
for them on *ahem* · Eeeee-Baye." ·. Her lips curled
around that last word as if it were some blasphemous
But I digress· Back to the hundred-dollar junk-cleaners
OKAY, OKAY· SO HOW MUCH IS AUNT TILLIE'S OLD SWEEPER
All the foregoing having been said·
If you are reading this because you emailed me with
a query about an old sweeper, the best I can tell you
Your old cleaner is, basically, worth what someone
will give you for it.
Sorry if you were expecting a more earth-shattering
revelation, or a more clear-cut, infallible estimate
of its value. But that's the best I can tell you.
You might get lucky and pair it up with the one person
on the planet who's just absolutely dying to have that
exact, particular machine, and who may be willing to
pay you tens of thousands of dollars for it. On the
other hand, you may have a stylish "retro" planter on
your hands that will make a cool flower-pot for a Boston
Fern or something.
The older your sweeper is, the more outstanding its
overall design/aesthetics, and the more original its
condition, the more it will probably be worth.
If it's an old upright, does it
have the original bag? It's not that hard to figure that out: The bag would have
the manufacturer's name and/or logo on it. It will not say "to fit Hoover" or
"fit-all bag" or "Hoover made by Metropolitan" or anything like that. And the
bag's color and "style" will fit the machine. If you have an old Kirby that has
red and grey trim, and the bag is neon orange vinyl, it is not original. Trust
And if it does have the original bag, what sort of condition is it in? Does it
look as new, or does it look like something that was hauled up from King Tut's
tomb? Is the bag's color vivid and bright, or faded and spotty? Are there holes
in it? Things moving around inside? Does it smell like something died up in there?
And, as I said above, all the components should match!
| Tanks and Canisters|
If the machine is an old tank or canister cleaner, the hose will probably be a
very stylish WOVEN hose, made of cloth or nylon. Plain, ugly, white plastic ribbed
hoses are not original equipment to a 1937 Electrolux. Trust me.
And, again, as with the bag on an upright, the more pristene the condition of
the hose, the more desirable it will be. If it has fossilized into an unbendable
tube of vulcanized rubber, and the color is some nondescript brownish-greyish
shade, it's not going to elicit any great amount of interest.
All canisters would have been outfitted with a fairly complete set of attachments
--- at the very least there should be a hose, two steel wands, a set of rug and
floor nozzles (sometimes a two-in-one cobination), upholstery nozzle, dusting
brush, and narrow space cleaner ("crevice tool").
old cleaners also had deluxe or optional attachments
- paint sprayers, floor polishers, hedge-clippers, refrigerator-lifters,
sanders, drills, vibrators, insect-eradicators and rug
shampooers; to name but a few of the more exotic accessories
you might find on a high-end vintage sweeper. The more
attachments you have, the more your cleaner will be
worth. If there's only a single cracked plastic wand
and a ripped-up or petrified hose, with no nozzles or
fun-to-use air-powered tools·.. well then, don't expect
to get a whole lot for the ensemble.
Oh---- the other thing that will add value to your machine is if it's still in
the original box, if the attachments are in original boxes or cartons, and if
you have original paperwork on it such as instruction booklets, advertising materials,
sales receipts, etc. etc.. All these sorts of "paper goods" will add to the desirability
and value of old sweepers.
So, take a good look at your machine from the viewpoint of a collector and you
should get some idea of its collectibility. Then, if you are convinced it's worth
something your best bet would be to list it on eBay or some other auction site.
(See http://www.ebay.com.) If it's really cherry,
even =I= might go beserk and bid to the death for it!
have made plans to retire to the Canary Islands on the
proceeds from the sale of your old sweeper, you might
wanna rethink those plans. For even the most gorgeous,
most original, most mint-condition machines typically
won't go for more than a couple hundred dollars, occasional
exception on eBay notwithstanding. The highest amount
anyone has paid for a sweeper that I know of was mid
four-figures for a very early prototype machine from
a major manufacturer. However, that machine was very
old, very rare, one-of-a-kind, and in excellent, all-original
Most likely, you'll be lucky to get more than a hundred bucks or so, and again,
that's presuming the machine is in excellent or at least very-good condition.
Good luck·. And if you DO make a killing, and DO retire to the Canary Islands,
please send me a postcard. I've always wanted to go there.
Charles Richard Lester
Cyberspace Vintage Vacuum Cleaner Museum
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