Antique Typewriters

Two men went fishing to impress the same woman.  After a full day on the lake one paddled back to his beloved's dock with only few large healthy trout.  "You're no fisherman!" his rival said, pointing to his own boat.  The deck wasn't visible, so full was it of flopping bass, eel, catfish, sunfish and any other swimming thing that came near his hook. "Ayla's sure to choose me!"

Guess which man got the girl?  Here's a hint.  Ayla ended up cleaning the fish.

Although most typewriters have little antique value, that minority class of old machines that are coveted by collectors still represent a bountiful market.  To be successful you have to pay conservative prices when you aren't positive what you're purchasing and learn how to restrict yourself to keepers, or at least machines with strong potential.  Less you end up with a garage full of mistakes.

In a way, the first typewriter was the piano, invented in 1709.  Its key hammer notes were simply intended for the air and ear instead of paper and eye. The first practical typewriter was invented by two men whose last names now stand for one of the most valuable model lines: Sholes and Glidden.  Sholes June 23, 1868 first patent, (Carlos Glidden joined him later as an assistant) looked like a telegraph-type, lacking today's now familiar carriage, paper cylinder and keyboard.  The Milwaukee, Wisconsin resident continued tinkering. By 1873, something like today's QWERTY Universal keyboard arrangement was introduced-in capitals only. About 30 different archetypes were invented until a production contract was made with a major gun manufacturer. About 5000 Sholes and Glidden/Remington & Sons typewriters were fabricated between 1874-1878.  Made in floor and table models, they were tall, floral decorated, and not surprisingly, styled like the typewriter which was invented in 1830 and in full production.  Most design mimics existing design. The Remington No. 2 model was introduced around 1878.  It offered type in upper and lower case and was quieter.  This was achieved by replacing the decorative drum-like face panels in the Shole Glidden with an open frame. No 2's success launched a competitive industry and the golden age of innovative typewriters lasted until the 1930's when mechanical innovation and design became more or less repetitive.

Collectibility adds interest to antique lines.  With hundreds of varying makes and models to scout for typewriters certainly fit this bill.  Rarity is by far the most important value determinant.  Others include: age (pre-1930), type of mechanism (eccentric failures are highly coveted), condition (unmarred and working), appeal (pioneer machines and collection "staples") and category (standard vs. portable, keyboard vs. label-maker type "index," American vs. European).

Conventional typewriters with marginal collectible value include 20th century Remingtons, Underwood, L.C. Smith, Royal and Woodstock.  Beware that not all unconventional machines have great value.  Thomas Oliver's unusual side action three bank typewriter was so popular and indestructible it seldom fetches over a $100 today.  It's a good machine for beginning collectors.

Here are some typewriters to acquaint oneself with because they may be worth $100's or even $1,000's.

  • Shole and Glidden and early Remingtons.
  • Blickensderfer: the fairly common ingenious first portable typewriter.  It was fit with a small cylinder typing mechanism similar to the later IBM ball-strike electric models.
  • Gardner: Rare English machine with 13 keys and multiple shifts
  • Smith Premier #10
  • Mother of Pearl inlaid Crandall
  • 1891 vulcanized rubber rear action type Fitch Type Writer
  • The lattice decorated Ford
  • Hammond single element with type shuttle
  • 1892 twin keyboard Duplex
  • 1892 double fan grasshopper action Williams
  • The J. M. Crary circular keyboard typewriter
  • 1894 Edison Mimeograph duplicating Machine (one of the great inventor's embarrassing failures)

  People are attracted to their industry and interests.  Our growing reliance on the computer and its close association to early writing machines are sure to give rise to the value and popularity of antique typewriters.

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