Babbit bearings aren't "special", they're basically the precursor to modern roller bearings.
The simplest "bearing" is simply two relatively hard, smooth surfaces with some form of lubricant between them. Back in the day, that was anything from wood-on-wood, to wood-on-cast-iron, iron-on-iron, iron-on-steel, etc. Usually, as long as there's a sufficient supply of lube, the bearings lasted for years.
Of course, they refined that over the years, eventually discovering that a semi-hard soft metal, like alloyed lead, was an ideal bearing material. It could be cast-in-place, leading to easier manufacturing, it could be cast using the shaft itself as a mold, making a near-perfect fit, and was soft enough that any debris that got into the lube would embed in it, and not scar the shaft.
But today, rolling-element bearings allow for far higher spindle speeds, closer tolerances, better acceptance of thrust forces, are easier to install, and more importantly, easier to replace.
As for the overhead linkage being a 'silly' way to do it, keep in mind the old adage "we stand on the shoulders of giants". It seems "silly" to us today, because we know of better, more compact and more efficient methods. Back then, they didn't know- machines were driven by overhead belts. They were designed to take a belt from overhead, that's just how it's done.
It was a natural evolution to then put the motor lower, then behind, then underneath, but it took time. We didn't go from the old 'candlestick' phones straight to cell phones- there was a natural course of evolution in between.
And, doing it that way, as I said, let the manufacturer convert the lathe without also having to modify the rest of the castings (an expensive proposition) or change how the castings were machined (also expensive.)
And finally, as for value, the sad fact is there's no "collectors" market for old machine tools. Nobody will pay money for it because it's old- indeed, you'll be lucky to get somebody to pay money for it despite being old.
Machine tools are only seen as tools- a device owned and used simply to produce work, parts or repairs for other things. As such, a machines' value is very strongly dependent on if it can, in fact, be used, and used accurately.
If somebody wants a working lathe, $1,200 can get a decent import that's ready to plug in and play. The older machine- especially an obscure model like that- has only as much value as it would take to get somebody to buy it instead of the import. Which, these days, is pretty cheap.
It is, of course, entirely possible they'll find somebody who wants it as both a project in itself (restoring it to good condition) and wants it as a working machine, and is willing to pay the premium over an import. Those sorts are out there, you just gotta find 'em.