Sewing Machines Believed to Contain Red Mercury

Old Singer Sewing Machine
Wikimedia Commons

Do you have an old Singer sewing machine? If so, it may be worth $50,000. BBC reported on a sewing machine hoax in Saudia Arabia in which people rushed to buy old Singer sewing machines based on the belief that they might contain red mercury. No one knows for sure where the rumor started, much less the more curious rumor that you can hold your mobile phone up to a sewing machine to somehow detect the presence of red mercury. The story goes you will lose your signal if you hold your phone up to the needle of a sewing machine that contains red mercury.

What Is Red Mercury?

It's a fabled substance that might be used to produce nuclear weapons, ward off evil spirits, or help you find treasure, depending on who you ask. There is no real proof that red mercury exists, except perhaps as cinnabar or vermillion (HgS) or mercury(II) iodide, either of which you can purchase sans sewing machine for a much lower price. Still, if you have your old Singer up for auction at eBay, it might fetch a higher price than you were expecting. If you're considering buying an old Singer, save your pennies until after the scam has run its course.


  • Lee, Rensselaer (May 1997). "Smuggling update." The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. 53 (3): 53. ISSN 0096-3402
  • Obhoðas, Jasmina; Sudac, Davorin; Blagus, Sasa; Valkovic, Vladivoj (2007). "Analysis of an object assumed to contain Red Mercury." Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section B. 261 (1–2): 922–924. doi:10.1016/j.nimb.2007.04.015
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Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Sewing Machines Believed to Contain Red Mercury." ThoughtCo, Aug. 25, 2020, Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2020, August 25). Sewing Machines Believed to Contain Red Mercury. Retrieved from Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Sewing Machines Believed to Contain Red Mercury." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 24, 2022).