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16-11-2018 20:13:49  #1

The Wages of Greed

The wages of greed are dearth.

If you have browsed online for typewriters for a significant time you have probably had the experience of peering carefully at the photos and seeing some feature unknown or insignificant to the seller which would substantially increase the value of the machine, and which is not obvious to casual inspection. So what do you do?  Do you write to the seller "I have to tell you the machine is worth more than you think..."?  Naw. You likely try to nonchalantly buy the hidden prize and realize your windfall!  Here is my experience in this ethical shading:

1) A Studio 44 had a cursive font visible only by enlarging the 7th photo of the type slugs. Result: Score!  It indeed had a cursive font and works and writes very nicely.

2) A Royal FP also seemed to have a cursive font, this time based on a old label, "Script".  What does that mean?  It could mean a crafty seller put that label on to fool the greedy. But the seller asked a low price and it went for scarcely more. Result? Revenge of the Ethics Furies! It did indeed have a cursive font, but, despite my best instructions was poorly packed the the escapement was apparent stripped by a blow to the carriage.  Status: awaiting a donor machine for some Frankenstein project which will not be easy.

3) Another standard (a second FP?) had a more unusual kind of Gothic lettering looking font visible only from a single photo of the type slugs.  I called it "Hermaneutic" and rubbed my hands together in greedy anticipation of this find. Result? Same as 2) only worse!  It was smashed so badly in transit that the sides of the frame had moved apart and cross pieces dropped out. I put it to the curb to go to its final rest.

4) A Remington 5 portable which looked like it had a font larger than 10 CPI.  I never had one like that! Greed sealed the deal and... Result: it was only 10 CPI.  The scale only went a little past 60 but I had failed to notice the scale was truncated and did not cover the entire paper table.

5) Another Studio 44, which my greedy eyes on thin evidence convinced themselves to be 13 CPI.  I lacked such a thing... and of  course, it was only 12 CPI

The two FP's were real tragedies but the last two were fairly priced for what they really were and laudable typewriters. The Remington not only had the truncated scale but a font sometimes called "pot-bellied" which left little white space between the letters and indeed looked larger than pica. So it was kind of a poor man's large font typewriter.  The Studio 44 was clean and about mechanically perfect, down to pliable rubber, so my greed did not hurt itself too badly on these. Finally, I bought a rather dirty looking Adler portable for little money which turned out to have a cursive font unknown to me or the seller: that does not really count, but seems related.

What are your stories about hidden features revealed to your trained collectors' eyes?


17-11-2018 11:55:33  #2

Re: The Wages of Greed

I have often spotted unadvertised features, both online and in person, which the seller wasn’t aware of. However, it’s worth noting that the vast majority of sellers aren’t typewriter enthusiasts, don’t have a clue about a typewriter’s features, and wouldn’t necessarily realize that they could ask more money for a less-common model or one with a specific typeface.In those situations I sometimes felt that I was getting a bargain, but mostly I consider it to be a fair deal.

I never bring extra features to a seller’s attention because I don’t value perceived rarity or different typefaces like some buyers do. For example, a machine with a cursive or script type is worth less to me because they aren’t as practical – certainly less versatile – than machines equipped with standard pica or elite typefaces.

That any of this could be considered greed is something that has never crossed my mind.

There are a couple of guys in my area who specialize in buying inexpensive machines, giving them a spit and polish (and describing that rudimentary cleaning as refurbishing the machine), and then selling them for four to five times what they paid. I detest them because they’re the typical middleman; they don’t bring any extra value to the typewriter, and they drive up local prices because other sellers see their prices and assume they can get the same for their typewriters. There might be an argument for greed there.

17-11-2018 13:03:30  #3

Re: The Wages of Greed

Greed is when you don't tell someone how badly you want something and how much more you would pay for it, if only they knew how much you were drooling.     But that's a pretty ubiquitous and innocuous form of greed. Only the most charitable (or foolish) of people do otherwise. Its pretty much business as usual, buy low and sell high or keep for yourself.


17-11-2018 14:18:43  #4

Re: The Wages of Greed

I don't think Greed applies here. I have established my Two Principles of Personal Commerce that apply to all these informal transactions: yard sales, junk stores, Craigslist, online auctions, ... that is:



@1 There simply is no transaction until the buyer hands over money (or barter or whatever). The seller's price tag means nothing at all (and is not The Price) until money changes hands, and that is completely under the buyer's control.

@2 The seller has all the time in the world while the item is in his control to do proper research to discover a fair market value. If he does not do that, that is his own choice and an implicit acknowledgement that the value will be set at his own table on this day.

Now, there are more concerns but they are not essential to the Principles. Misrepresentation: the seller may lie about some aspect of the item when the prospective buyer has no chance to investigate, so you can cheat the buyer. The buyer may lie about something, but in this case the seller still controls the item and can check on things before accepting the offer. 

I don't think Greed applies here. A major principle of our society is to increase one's capital by buying low and selling high and it is no wonder that so many people take that to heart. I, too, wish the world were more gentle but at least this system is understood and agreed to.


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