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08-1-2017 23:48:55  #11

Re: What is a fair price for a working portable from the 20s/30s?

ImperialTypewriter wrote:

So, what makes a typewriter good anyway? Or when debating how good a typewriter is, what do people argue about?

It really depends on individual taste and preference. It can be, performance, durability, touch, print, aesthetics, era, rarity, or any number of factors, which will vary from person to person.


06-2-2017 00:42:29  #12

Re: What is a fair price for a working portable from the 20s/30s?

ImperialTypewriter wrote:

Thanks for your input TypewriterKing. I am completely new to typewriters and don't really intend to be a collector but I would like to get just at least one machine I can play around with.

So, what makes a typewriter good anyway? Or when debating how good a typewriter is, what do people argue about?

What a great statement and question. I think I'll put my credentials and opinions up for public review on that one.
I have worked as a skilled machinist and millwright for the last thirty years and I feel pretty confident that I can tell when a piece of machinery has been well designed and made and, when it has not been so done. So much for my credentials. As for the merits and detractors of the various typewriters available, I only know what I have and what I have encountered. I prefer Underwood and Smith-Corona. Nothing wrong with the many others but, I started with a $50. (U.S.) Underwood #5 that is a 'nice' machine but, at the time my wife and some others thought giving someone money fore a nearly 100 year old typewriter was crazy.
"Not so", said I. I gave $150. and drove 4 hours through a driving snow storm in sub-zero temps to bring home a 1876 model sewing machine, seen only from cell phone camera pictures on CL., and nobody complained about that. The most I have paid for a typewriter so far has been $80. for a Remington Noiseless Standard model with an extended (18 inch platen) carriage to go along with the Underwood Noiseless Standard model that I paid $70. for from the same antique store six months earlier. These are two very fine examples of what it takes to produce a well designed and well made machine.
I am not saying that these are the pinnacle of typewriting machines but, the various parts and pieces are all made with a great degree of care for their fit and finish. Not all machines from any given era are good ones just because "they are old and heavy so they must be the best". Again I'll refer to the Underwood #5 because that is what I have and know. I have two of them and one is a couple of years newer than the other. When they are compared side by side one can see that Underwood has already started to apply cost reduction measures to the way some of the parts are made on the newer one. To be sure it is just some of the minor features that may not mean much to the core quality of the machine but, they stand out to me and make me wonder just what else may have been skimped on. The fact that these machines are as old as they are and still can perform as they were designed to do, is also a testament to their quality. I also have a few S-C machines that I really like. The mechanicals are a late 60's-early 70's Galaxie 12 in excellent condition and is a true joy to use. There are many little details about the way this machine was manufactured that speak to its high quality. I have a late 40's S-C Sterling that I can say the same thing about. I have a few electrified manual S-C machines that seem to be good machines but are in need of care and because I prefer manual typewriters, their cleaning and repairs are not high on the priority list right now. I have a couple of Royals that are nice but, the one is very new to me and other than the great type action it has, I can't say too much more about it other than it is a Royal Aristocrat portable and I think it is from the late 30's by the shape,  the glass key tops and, the round shift keys (vs. the tomb stone type). This machine is so new to me that I have done little more research on it than to compare it to online photos on google. The other is a great desk model that was my grandfathers. It's a nice machine (don't know the model off hand) but, it is waiting for cleaning and adjustment so I couldn't say much more about it with any accuracy.
I have two identical electro-mechanicals, one is an Olympia and the other a Royal. One was made by the other but I don't know witch one is witch, if you know what I mean. I have two enormous Brother daisy-wheel digitals that I used to use for running roll paper through but, to use them is not to type so, they sit awaiting their final disposition.
There are so many good and great machines out there, and probably an equal number of poor ones, that the serious collector must be a serious user of typewriters as well. How else do we develop the discernment between 'the good, the bad and, the ugly' ? ( yeah, that was a good movie too !)
As far as worth goes, it comes down to what ever the market will bear. I was shocked when I saw a like new reconditioned Underwood #5 listed for sale, on an un-named website, at $1500. (U.S.) a few years ago.
I was just as equally shocked when I found an Underwood Noiseless Standard just like mine but, newly-reconditioned, listed for $2500. (U.S.) at the same site just a few months ago.
Would you or I pay that much for one of these machines ? No but, I bet Tom Hanks, or Lady GaGa might. I would not sell mine either. Not because it is so rare ( I don't think they are that rare) but, just because it is so well manufactured and put together. This makes it just a joy to look at, even though the design may not work as well as some others. As far as what I would be willing to pay for a typewriter that may not be the best of design and manufacture ? Well, there is a Demountable sitting in the unheated storage area of the local historical society. I don't need it and I don't expect to get it to anything better than 'just working' order but, I'll be willing to give the society a donation of $100. to rescue it from further harm. 
Enough of the ramble


19-4-2017 22:44:48  #13

Re: What is a fair price for a working portable from the 20s/30s?

Well, I have to admit, this thread makes me feel like I got a decent price on my typewriter, at least until I realized it was broken lol.

(just killing my required 3 posts before i can start a thread with pictures....)


23-4-2017 09:01:07  #14

Re: What is a fair price for a working portable from the 20s/30s?

ImperialTypewriter wrote:

Are mint condition working typewriters from the 20s and 30s really worth nearly a $1000?

... how much should I pay for a (think Underwood, Remington, Imperial) portable typewriter from the 1920s/30s that is in working condition, with little or no visible dents? The only thing is that a couple of keys look a bit foggy.

Is $150 USD (not including shipping) worth it?

The answers to these questions depend so much on where you are... What's available locally? So you see a lot of 1920/30s portables in local markets or on local listings sites? Do you live in a place where people charge a lot? How easy is it for you to get to a place where they might charge less? This is an international forum site and the answers to these questions can be different for people who live even 50 miles apart, let alone in different countries. 

On the whole, you are asking: how does it look? Better than many others, or average, or does it have visible marks of things that could be problems (eg dents that might indicate a drop at some point, or serious rust)? (If yes to this, you have to ask whether you have the skills or inclination to deal with the project aspect, or whether you can be bothered.)

Does it work well? Have you seen a type sample? Does it have its ribbon spools (or indeed are its feet okay; the question is, are you going to have to replace fiddly little parts)? 

But even these questions are individual. Aesthetics, size, favourite periods... One person might need a quiet machine, another might actually like the noise. People prefer different types of feel and action. My absolute favourite machine now, so favourite that I'm going to get the platen re-covered, is an Olivetti Lexikon 80, a model  that Uwe, for example, finds muddy and uncompelling. (Maybe I just have the best one ever! I'm willing to contemplate that possibility. )

But not every buyer cares about whether it even works. Is it a genuinely rare model? Is there an interesting story attached to it? Does it have an unusual or specialist keyboard, or symbol key? (SS keys bump the price up, even though a lot of people wouldn't want to give them house room - we've already talked this one to death on this forum. Their value is as Nazi artefacts and extrinsic to their typewriterness.)

I sold a nice typewriter the other day - one I had spent months - and money - bringing back from the dead, and which was actually quite sentimental to me, but too too big - & when the woman came to get it I was fussing over having forgotten to clean the type heads, but she was like, Oh don't worry, I work for a production company and we just need it for a prop. (Part of me felt like taking it back - but she said she thought that people working on the project would be offered the typewriters, so it would go to a good home...)

In short, people can argue about anything, there's no such thing as 'the best typewriter', and you must pay only what you can afford and what seems likely. I waited patiently as a spider on a web for a Lexikon, and when it arrived it looked filthy, unloved and sad - & it has a few scrapes and so on - but I got it for free. Spent a week or so infinitesimally going over it - multiple times - and now it's glorious, and it's MINE in a way it wouldn't have been if I'd just gone shopping for it.

Unless a machine is a genuinely rare item, $150 (and not serviced or refurbed) seems steep to me. And I'm very sure that Tom Hanks and Lady Gaga don't pay $1,000 even for a serviced machine. (Though for one that's been totally reconditioned, with new platen, feed rollers, grommets and feet, and everything pristine and spandy-new, I'm sure they might happily pay  a handsome amount. But that's more like paying to get your car fixed, it's labour and parts.) 


23-4-2017 09:05:44  #15

Re: What is a fair price for a working portable from the 20s/30s?

Sorry, that was an essay, and I've just remembered we're talking about machines from the 20s/30s! I think North American sellers are maybe more likely to think of these as having monetary value purely based on their age. There are quite a few of them around. In terms of wanting a machine to use, though, they might even have LESS value, because they are that bit more likely not to work very well even when cleaned and serviced. They're just older. You're taking more of a punt. 

Whereas even a plastic-bodied typewriter from the 70s, like my Adler Tippa, might still be springy and a real pleasure to use. 

So this really comes down to what you want it FOR.


23-4-2017 13:31:05  #16

Re: What is a fair price for a working portable from the 20s/30s?

"Is a typewriter from the 20-30s worth $1000. ? "
I paid $48. for my first Underwood 5 and $30. for the second.
I would not give more than this because I already have the two that I am satisfied  with.

If one came along that had been reconditioned from this particular web site I refer to, for $1000. I still would not buy it because there is no way I could justify that kind of money for something I definitely  do not need more than one of.
 Now, IF I really had the money to waste on indulging myself with what for all intents and purposes is a new Underwood #5, I might consider it because to have one in new condition would be glorious, and if you look at what they cost new when they were actually new and work that out in todays money, it would probably be a bargain.
A reconditioned machine, no matter how well it has been done, is still not a brand new one.
Having one that appears to be brand new CAN BE worth a lot to some people, just as having one that is old and looks like it has stood the test of time can also be inspiring or comforting in some way.
If one desires a new typewriter and is willing to pay for it, just search for them on google and they'll turn up.
I think that unless a person is used to spending a lot of money on common every day items that may or may not meet their expectations, buying an expensive typewriter for everyday use might become a very trying experience.
If, on the other hand, one is just looking for a good useable machine to see how they like using a typewriter verses a computer for the same writing tasks, then probably a less expensive machine that seems to work well and is a comfort to the user would be better.


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