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30-11-2018 15:07:43  #1

seeking general advice: how to evaluate online

Hi all.
As a newbie to the vintage typewriter movement, I am seeking advice on how best to evaluate a typewriter for purchase from an online source.  Sadly, local options are very meager in my area.  Any tips appreciated!
Thanks.  Dr. Deb

"What you seek is seeking you"-Rumi

30-11-2018 16:42:57  #2

Re: seeking general advice: how to evaluate online

Look for the key words in the seller's description:  "good condition", "recently cleaned", "all functions work", etc. Also, check out the case (make sure there is one).  Usually if the case is in good shape, the typewriter has been well kept and protected over its life. If the sellers shows a lot of photos from different angles, etc, including the back, underneath, and under the ribbon cover, that means he's not trying to hide anything. Also, make sure he shows a sample type. Check the letters for alignment and definition (if the whole letter prints). Check the keys for QWERTY (English keyboard) and make sure they're all there, intact,  and lined up.  And also, make sure you see no rust anywhere!


30-11-2018 17:16:52  #3

Re: seeking general advice: how to evaluate online

Also, by looking at the scale on the carriage, you can tell if it's pica or elite. If it only goes to 80, it will be pica (ten letters per inch). If it goes to 90 or 100 the type is elite and smaller (eleven to twelve letters per inch).


30-11-2018 20:52:54  #4

Re: seeking general advice: how to evaluate online

Thanks so much!

"What you seek is seeking you"-Rumi
     Thread Starter

04-12-2018 15:02:21  #5

Re: seeking general advice: how to evaluate online

Being new myself, I'm not sure how much my advice is worth, but there are some things I've noticed in my online shopping for typewriters that I can pass on. 

First and biggest question, what do you want the typewriter for? I write fiction, and I needed a business-like little workhorse that would let me get going right away, and not be too finicky or need much repair (which I don't yet know how to do).  Also, because I'm new to this and wanted a more familiar system, I did not go with one of the older machines that lacks an exclamation point key, and the number "1."  I also preferred to go with a machine that would take a universal ribbon, rather than a ribbon cartridge.  A few online reviews led me to a 1960s Smith Corona Super Sterling, and I found one in super-clean condition, with not too much obvious wear on the type slugs.  (When the seller takes lots of pictures of the inner workings of the typewriter, by the way, I find that a good sign.  A nice clear shot of the type slugs, showing their condition and alignment is something I've learned to look for. Also, a lack of crud, dirt, rust, hard wear.  If a typewriter is full of dust, you know it hasn't been stored in a case.  If there's coffee stains on it, look out.)

It also helps to look carefully at photographs.  I nearly lost my heart to a 1934 portable Corona on Ebay, which appeared to have a gorgeous red-black original two-tone paint job.  A closer review of the pics, however, showed that the pretty red color was entirely due to the seller's camera flash reflecting off a plain, solid black run-of-the-mill typewriter. 

Another thing I've learned to look at is the platen.  If it's very dirty, or shows signs of wear or damage, be wary.  I don't yet know how much it costs to get a platen recoated, but there are very few people/companies who do it, and it's not a minor job.  Sometimes if a machine is old enough, the platen may look good, but the rubber may not be in actual working shape--it gets brittle and loses its "spring." When I bought my Corona, I could see from pics that the platen was very clean, showed no signs of damage, and still had its original texturing.  And, being a "newer" model, I'm guessing it's good to use for a while, though I do use three sheets of paper to protect it.

Some sellers accept returns, some don't.  Mine did not, but if you find a seller who does, that can also be a good sign.  Check however, whether you will have to pay the costs of return shipping, if needs be. Also, take a good look at the ratings.  A seller who has sold thousands of items and still comes in with, let's say, 99.7% satisfied ratings is likely to be a better risk than the guy who's sold ten items.

Anyway, that's my experience so far.  Hope yours goes as well. 


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