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A Featherweight Comparison Guide - Specifics of Each Featherweight 221

Are Some 221 Featherweights Better Than Others?

A common question we receive here in the shop is, "Are some Featherweights better than others?"  It is a great question and one that we are always verbose to answer!  While a Featherweight is a Featherweight is a Featherweight, there were many changes, often subtle, that are interesting to note and can affect the decision-making process when getting ready to buy.  This comparison guide will display what distinguishes certain 221 models from others, so it will be easier to determine what Featherweight will be best for you.  

AD Series 1933-1935:

The "AD" series Featherweights spanned from 1933 into 1935, and gauging from the commission date chart, a total of 53,044 Featherweights were produced with the serial number prefix of "AD."  As with most collectible items, the earlier productions are of greater value and desirability, with condition-grade and originality ultimately affecting the market price.  Because the Featherweight was quite young in its production during the mid-1930s, Singer was still fine-tuning mechanical parts and cosmetic appearances (see the Historical Timeline for detailed changes).  So, if you need replacement parts for the earliest Featherweights, they can be much harder to source and are sometimes even non-existent. 

1933-1934 AD541546-791845:

Singer Featherweight 1933 AD Series 221

Pros:

  • Depending on how early, the original patina and condition, machine can be worth 2 to 100 times more than the average Featherweight

  • Scrolled Faceplate adding to the attractiveness of the machine 

  • Ornate Decals
  • Chrome Handwheel to preserve the condition of the surface

  • Top Tray Case 

  • If well maintained, the early machines often run very smooth, due to continued use for 80+ years

Cons:


1935 AD880156-AD999999

Singer Featherweight 221 1935

Pros:

Cons:

AE Series 1935-1938:

The "AE" series Featherweights spanned from 1935 into 1938, and gauging from the commission date chart, a total of 132,000 Featherweights were produced with the serial number prefix of "AE."  

1935 AE000001-AE222615

Singer Featherweight 221 AE06

Pros:

Cons:


1936-1937 AE294041-AE556640

Singer Featherweight 221 AE408

Pros:

Cons:


1937-1938 AE770591-AE993540

 Singer Featherweight 221 1938 AE

Pros:

Cons:


AF Series 1938-1941:

The "AF" series Featherweights spanned from 1938 into 1941, and gauging from the commission date chart, a total of 166,749 Featherweights were produced with the serial number prefix of "AF."  

1938-1940 AF070706-AF497180:

Singer Featherweight 221 AF3

Pros:

Cons:


1940-1941 AF571881-AF942450:

Singer Featherweight 221 AF8

Pros:

Cons:


1941 AF998251-AF999999:

Singer Featherweight 221 1941

Pros:

Cons:

  • Starting in about this period Singer started using black painted handwheels on the Featherweights; the only downside to this is that the painted handwheels are prone to paint chipping.   

  • The Leather Case Handles can be brittle and susceptible to falling apart.

  • Replacement parts for the newer metal foot controller can be very difficult and expensive to find.


AG Series 1941-1947:

The "AG" series Featherweights spanned from 1941 into 1947, and gauging from the commission date chart, a total of 148,250 Featherweights were produced with the serial number prefix of "AG."    It is worth noting that no Featherweights were produced from 1942-1944 because the factories were contributing to the war effort.   

1941-1946 AG000001-AG709390:

Singer Featherweight 221 AG0

Pros:

Cons:

1946-1947 AG804771-AG990945:

Pros:


AH Series 1947-1948:

  The "AH" series Featherweights spanned from 1947 into 1948, and gauging from the commission date chart, a total of 246,079 Featherweights were produced with the serial number prefix of "AH."  You will find that as from about 1948 to 1950 there were not many changes made, and our "pros and cons" section is rather small.

1947 AH050371-AH131970

Singer Featherweight 221 AH1

Pros:


1947-1948 AH193771-AH580920

Singer Featherweight 221 AH4

Pros: 

Cons:

  • Strictly cosmetic, but might be something to consider for those specifically looking for that ornate faceplate.  Going forward from this time period, US Featherweights were fitted with striated faceplates rather than the decorative scrolled faceplate.


1948 AH640321-AH999999:

Singer Featherweight 221 1948AH

Pros:


AJ Series 1948-1950:

The "AJ" series Featherweights spanned from 1948 into 1950, and gauging from the commission date chart, a total of 303,920 Featherweights were produced with the serial number prefix of "AJ."   

1948-1950 AJ000001-AJ821320

Singer Featherweight 221 AJ3

Pros: 


1950 AJ887721-AJ937720

Singer Featherweight 221 AJ9 Centennial

Pros:

  • Ornate Decals
  • The Centennial badge has now been put on the Featherweights through 1951; it increases both the desirability and adds a little bit of value to the machine.

  • A Bakelite handle has replaced the leather handle on the Featherweight case making the case more sturdy. 

Cons:


AK Series 1951-1952:

The "AK" series Featherweights spanned from 1951 into 1952, and gauging from the commission date chart, a total of 215,124 Featherweights were produced with the serial number prefix of "AK."   

1951 AK071321-AK626775:

Singer Featherweight 221 AK3 1951 Centennial

Pros:

  • Ornate Decals
  • The Centennial badge increases both the desirability and adds a little bit of value to the machine.

1952 AK745676-AK999999:

Singer Featherweight 221 AK7 1952

Singer's high quality standard of all previous Featherweight years continued and from 1952 through 1961, Featherweight manufacturing maintained a good, solid, and reliable machine.  Singer had mastered and fine-tuned the details, and as such there really aren't any pros or cons that are significant with this era.  Collectibility would be based on personal preference with style, cosmetic condition, etc.


AL Series 1952-1955

 The "AL" series Featherweights spanned from 1952 into 1955, and gauging from the commission date chart, a total of 284,875 Featherweights were produced with the serial number prefix of "AL."  

1952-1953 AL000001-AL560000 approx:

Singer Featherweight 221 1953

Pros:

1953-1955 AL560000-AL950890

Singer Featherweight 221 Paperclip Decal 1953

Some may see this as a "pro" and others a "con", but part way through the second run of 1953, the decals on the Featherweight changed to the "Paperclip" art-deco style.  These are now the standard decals through the end of production on the black Featherweights.  Nothing really changed mechanically, but the update in the decal style is worth noting.

Singer Featherweight 221 Paper Clip Decals

Pros:

AM Series 1955-1957

  The "AM" series Featherweights spanned from 1955 into 1957, and gauging from the commission date chart, a total of 200,000 Featherweights were produced with the serial number prefix of "AM."  Singer didn't make any changes to or in this series that affected the mechanics or the aesthetics, so they are virtually identical to the previous run in the "AL" series.

Singer Featherweight 221 AM Series

 Pros:


221K and 221J Featherweights

Clydebank Singer Factory

Featherweights that were made in the UK (assigned a 'K' after the model - 221K) and Canada (assigned a 'J' after the model - 221J) look generally the same as the US Featherweights, but there are differences, some for better and some for worse. 

EE Series 1947-1948

The "EE" series Featherweights spanned from 1947 through 1948, and gauging from the commission date chart, a total of 22,000 Featherweights were produced with the serial number prefix of "EE."  

Singer Featherweight 221 EE1947

Pros:

Cons:

  • The UK made Featherweights fitted with Bakelite motors.  They run well, but the housings are often brittle, and replacement parts are very hard to find.


EF Series 1949-1950

The "EF" series Featherweights spanned from 1949 into 1950, and gauging from the commission date chart, a total of 60,000 Featherweights were produced with the serial number prefix of "EF."

 Singer Featherweight 221 EF Series

Pros:


EG Series 1950-1951

The "EG" series Featherweights spanned from 1950 into 1951, and gauging from the commission date chart, a total of 71,000 Featherweights were produced with the serial number prefix of "EG".

Singer Featherweight 221 EG Series

Pros:

Cons:

  • From 1951 through the end of the Black Featherweight production the Bakelite terminals and plugs changed from the round pin to the flat prong style.  Having a flat-pin terminal receptacle makes things a little bit difficult if you have other Featherweights with the round pin connections.  The foot controller plugs are not interchangeable.  

     
    EH Series 1951-1953

    The "EH" series Featherweights spanned from 1951 into 1953, and gauging from the commission date chart, a total of 60,000 Featherweights were produced with the serial number prefix of "EH".

    1951-1952 EH001027-635777

    Singer Featherweight 221 EH Series

    Pros: 

    Cons:

    • Strictly cosmetic, but might be something to consider for those specifically looking for that ornate faceplate.  Going forward from this time period, 221K Featherweights were fitted with striated faceplates rather than the decorative scrolled faceplate.


    1953 EH890433-900432

     

    Pros:

    • The 221K Featherweights are now fitted with a Graduated Throat Plate to easily gauge where to sew the seam.  

    Cons:


    EJ Series 1953 EJ211989-216988

    The "EJ" series Featherweights were commissioned in 1953, and gauging from the commission date chart, a total of 5,000 Featherweights were produced with the serial number prefix of "EJ."  It is worth noting that there were no 221K Featherweights produced in 1954.  At this point, 221K Featherweight manufacturing remained the same until 1959.  

    Singer Featherweight 221K EJ Series 1953

    Pros:  

    Some may see this as a "pro and others a con", but partway through 1953 the decals on the Featherweight 221K machines changed to the "Paperclip" art-deco style.  These are now the standard decals through the end of production on the black Featherweights.


    EK, EL, EM, EN, EP Series 1955-1959 

    These series of Featherweights were commissioned from 1955-1959, and gauging from the commission date chart, a total of 37,000 221K Featherweights were produced.  Singer did not make any significant changes to the machines during this time period, so I have shown them all here together. 

    Singer Featherweight 221 1955 EK

    Pros:


    ES and ET Series 1960-1961

    The "ES" and "ET" series Featherweights were commissioned in 1960-1961, and gauging from the commission date chart, a total of 45,000 Featherweights were produced with those serial number prefixes.  At this point Singer also started producing the Tan Featherweights. The 221K Tan Featherweights were often produced in the same runs as the black Featherweights during this time period, so both will be shown here.  Because Singer did not segregate the two machines and their serial numbers, we do not know how many Tan Featherweight 221K models are in existence.   

    1960-1961 Black Featherweight 221K 

    Singer Featherweight 221K Red S 1961

      Pros:

      1960-1961 Tan Featherweight 221K

      Singer Featherweight 221K Tan 1961

      Pros:

      • The Tan Featherweight, especially one that has all paint intact and a good condition carrying case, are highly sought after.  Depending on the market, will add double value to an average black Featherweight. 
         
      • Graduated Throat Plate

      Cons:

      Tan Featherweight 221J 1960-1962

      During this time period Singer started producing components of the Tan Featherweights in Canada. These Tan Featherweights are badged as 221J machines signifying the St. Johns factory in Quebec.  Unfortunately, the records of Tan Featherweight serial numbers are nearly non-existent.  They were either poorly kept and / or destroyed when factories closed, so this chart is as extensive to tan Featherweight history as you will find.  Historians have concluded that it is impossible to know exactly how many Tan Featherweight 221J models were manufactured in Canada.   

      Singer Featherweight 221J Tan Featherweight


        EV, EY and FA series 221K White Featherweights 1963-1970

        The White Featherweights were commissioned from about 1963-1970.  Unfortunately, the records of White Featherweight serial numbers are nearly non-existent.  They were either poorly kept and / or destroyed when factories closed, so this chart is as extensive to white Featherweight history as you will find.  Thus, it is impossible to know for certain how many white Featherweights were produced, but we have estimated about 150,000.  During this time period, and with foreign competition on the rise, Singer streamlined manufacturing, making the Featherweight slightly more compact.  In so doing, lower quality details were the result.  

        Singer Featherweight 221K White Featherweight FA

        Pros:

        Cons: 

        • The cord is hard-wired into the machine, so it can not be removed.  This can be cumbersome for storing in the case.

        • There is not a protective clear coat, so the paint is prone to chipping (and more noticeable because of the contrast of white to metal). 

        • The original white exterior belts are brittle and often falling apart.  (White belts are not currently available.  A lugged or black Featherweight belt, whatever you prefer and operates the motor at optimum speed, is what we recommend for replacement.)

        • The machine has an interior belt and is therefore considered belt-driven rather than gear-driven (black and tan Featherweights are gear-driven). The internal drive belt has the potential to break down or lose elasticity, which could greatly affect stitch formation.  While this occurrence is quite rare, we have seen it happen, so be mindful if looking at a worn out internal belt. 

        • The flip-up bed is fastened with pins, so it cannot be tightened.  This makes bed removal extremely difficult if it needs to be replaced.
        • Due to limited number, replacement parts can be very hard to find and quite expensive.  
        • Cases are generally considered fragile because they were not constructed as sturdy or with as durable an exterior as black Featherweight cases.  Only one green case handle style is replaceable  whereas the other is not.  Refurbishing one to look nice is not as easy as doing so for the black Featherweight

        Singer Featherweight 221 Schematic(Click image above for the Parts Link to PDF chart)

        Are some Featherweights better than others?

        Mechanically, all black and tan Featherweights are the same, so there is not a certain series or year that always works better than others.  There are many unknowns in the machine's history that can affect how it runs today, so if buying local, it is a great idea to test a machine before you buy it.  Otherwise, if buying online, know your source!  When purchasing a Featherweight there are a couple things that should be checked right away and can quickly make or break the sale:

        Both an original bobbin case as well as an original foot controller are parts that can be costly to replace and can certainly turn what appears to be a good deal into a high priced machine.  

        Whether it is a car, a house or a Featherweight there are almost always components that are different with each model or series.  If you are looking at purchasing a Featherweight and can't decide which year to search for, this comparison guide should help break down the benefits of each one.  Let us know in the comments below what you think or if you have any other details to add for any particular year.

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