In the interest of full disclosure, if someone were to offer me $8,000 for my Dayton Portable Typewriter, I’d take that offer in an instant. But it’s not going to happen. Despite being old and “rare,” there are practical limits to how much a typewriter is worth. Only some sellers don’t realize this.
Lately, I e-mailed an Etsy seller asking him why he was offering a Remington 3B typewriter for $1,500. Obviously, the 3B is rare, but $1,500 rare? I acquired mine — with fiber case — for around $200, which is at the high end of what I would pay for most any machine. The highest sale price I’ve seen for a 3B is about $400. In short, $1,500 is too much.
That said, an eBay seller did recently auction a Brother De Luxe for $620. Why anyone would pay that much for a Brother — of any vintage — I cannot say, but that auction was the exception. Most typewriters are not so rare as to command just any price. There are limits.
A sampling of overvalued machines…
This one recently appeared on eBay. $6,200? I’ve seen folding Standards sell for $500, but also a lot less. Incredibly, the eBay seller writes, “Missing spring and pull spring. Other than that everything is there.”
See: VINTAGE/ANTIQUE PORTABLE FOLDING CORONA . Original Early Model. Aluminum Finish
Update (6/6/14): Item listing ended; re-listed at a starting bid price of $250 (see here). Still seems high, given its condition.
The most expensively priced machine on eBay right now is this Sholes & Glidden typewriter, which is difficult to value. The Sholes & Glidden is, after all, the most historically significant machine in typewriter history. I do recall, though, that a similar model garnered around $15,000 about a year or so ago, so I wonder if this one is really worth nearly $30,000.
See: Sholes & Glidden Remington 1 Antique First Qwerty Typewriter Museum Rare Top S&G
Update: Auction closed, but item re-listed. Not sure why.
On May 27, the winning bid on this machine was $810, but it was re-listed shortly afterwards for $1,250. I messaged the seller who replied that the buyer in the first auction turned out to be a “deadbeat,” but the seller provided no details. Did the buyer retract his/her bid? Whatever the case, if the highest bid was $810 the first time, $1,250 is steep.
See: Antique cased MERRITT Index Typewriter Ser #611 “PATS PEND” Rare 1st MODEL -1890
A professionally refurbished machine is especially difficult to assess. There is, after all, a considerable difference between an $80 paper weight and a $1,000 writing machine. The Antikey Chop (listed on eBay and Etsy) does regular business, marketing fully restored machines (including the platen). Still, one cannot but flinch at $1,049 for an L.C. Smith.
NB: If you are looking for a working typewriter, you may well want to consider a refurbished machine, especially considering that restoration can be expensive.
See: Antique LC SMITH & BROS No.8 TYPEWRITER Refurbished Restored +Platen,Feet,Ribbon
Even the buyer lists this auction as a “MISTAKE.” At $1,299.99, that’s one heck of a mistake!
See: Brother GX6750 GX- 6750 Electronic Typewriter Type Writer GX 6750
A Royal of this vintage is just not worth $429, and I’ve seen this machine eBay for over a year. I keep wondering when the seller will realize that $400+ for this machine is too much.
See: Vintage ROYAL Typewriter – ROYALUXE 425 – Made in Holland – GREAT COND!!!
If this machine sells for $1,500, I will part with mine. No mention is made whether it comes with a leather or fiber case. Mine includes the fiber (cardboard) case. Just noting.
See: RARE 1935 Remington 3B Portable Typewriter Only 5,076 Made Very Hard to Find!
I’m not sure how many American buyers are eager to buy a typewriter with a Belgium keyboard, but at $1,700, I doubt there is even one. Royals of this vintage are common — I got mine for around $200. Of course, if you want a Belgium keyboard, you’ll have to pay more.
See: EXTREMELY RARE 1906 Typewriter – Royal Standard 1 – Restored to Near Perfect Condition
This final example illustrates how typewriters are sometimes priced. The seller, an antique dealer in Sebastopol, California, notices that the Remington No. 2 is listed on MyTypewriter.com for $1,695. He then halves (almost) the price. The problem is that I’ve never seen a No. 2, despite being very desirable, sell for more than $400 or $500.
See: 1880’s Typewriter. Remington. – $895 (sebastopol)
A final word…
If any one of these machines gets its asking price, people will probably wonder if I’ll eat my words. No. I’ll simply sell my collection!
© 2014, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.
In my limited experience, eBay is the worst place to shop for typewriters. Most people there don’t know how to perform a basic function check to see if the machine works. On top of that, your article is correct: they often overprice everything.
In your humble opinion, WHERE exactly would YOU shop for typewriters? Etsy? Please advise. Anyone?
Most machines are offered on eBay and Etsy (and many at ShopGoodwill.com). I get most of my machines, first from eBay, second from ShopGoodwill.com. A good find at an estate sell or in a thrift shop is increasingly hard to come by.
I have an old typewriter that I’m trying to find info regarding its model and value. This was actually my grandfathers from quite some time ago. The typewriter is a Remington model that comes in a black case. The serial number that I located reads 132541h. All of the Remington models that I have found have serial numbers that begin with a letter? I would truly appreciate any info you are able to provide. Thank you!!
Entertaining and interesting overview, thank you.
Interesting article. I don’t blame people for collecting old typewriters, they’re fascinating pieces of machinery.
However, where would be a good place to sell one of them?
I picked up a Remington 3B at a flea market for a quarter many years ago. It’s cute, but more importantly, it was my typewriter for my nomadic lifestyle, faithfully filling in many forms and typing letters and other correspondence. Even after getting my first notebook computer with its word processor, it still filled in forms. All the keys work and the original platen is still workable. I thought it dated from the 1950s, can you imagine my surprise to find it’s a collector’s item from 1935?
One thing I noticed, I have yet to see a single photograph on line of the black covered plywood carrying case. I wonder why ……… Is mine, which could use some minor touch-up, in better shape than anyone else’s?
Now my question, as a non-collector, where would be the best place to sell my typewriter at a fair price (to both me and the buyer) to a collector who would give it a good home?
Only occasionally do I sell a machine, but I’ve found eBay gives me the widest customer base. As for price, I usually see what’s listed and also what machines have sold for in the past. The latter is sometimes hard to determine. A 3B is definitely valuable. I paid around $250 for a pristine 3B with fiber case. I got another for about $99.
What a machine will ultimately sell for depends on who’s looking for it at a given moment. When two or more bidders get going, the seller wins. If only one person is looking, the seller won’t do as well. The market is very fluid.
Great article, good facts. The best finds I’ve had are craigslist and just plain luck at “antique” malls or second hand stories; and an occasional charity. Beside lofty aspirations on value, Ebayers are sometimes the worst for shipping these things. Many have no clue or care, even though you can communicate what it requires. Read up, have patience, and visit a typewriter repair shop. You’ll learn a lot and possibly save money.
eBay is flooded with “flippers” and opportunists, and prey on the unaware.. Some of the items are good, and many sellers are also good. Above all communicate, have some knowledge, and it must be well documented with quality images.. The main short coming of long distance purchases is the shipping. This generation is seeing the loss of many good typers because people do not take the time to pack or learn how to pack expensive or heavy items. From cameras to portable typewriters I’ve them broken because of sheer negligence and when you call them on it, even after sending them detailed instructions, for a refund or an exchange they get all butt hurt about it.
Markets vary. I live in New Zealand, and our market has both positive and negative aspects. On the negative side, we have a glut of British Imperials, and most of them are in trashed condition. We have very few American brands, but Olivettis are somewhat common, and Olympias are too, but to a lesser degree. The positive is that the typewriters we do have here tend not to leave our shores, as shipping a typewriter from here to overseas is prohibitively expensive. Another positive is that typewriters aren’t collected here all that much, so we can get great bargains from time to time. We have an auction site, similar to ebay, called TradeMe, and from there I have bought a like-new Olympia SM8 for $80, a like-new red Olympia Splendid 99 for $40, a very clean Olivetti Lettera 32 for $50, and a like-new Consul for $45. I feel lucky! Some sellers do look up values on ebay and try to get higher prices (Hermes Baby), but there aren’t enough buyers, so those tend to go unsold until the seller drops the price to what the local market will bear. OTOH, we don’t have the repair services available, so shopping for a clean, lightly used example is quite important. If you take a vacation to New Zealand, you might leave some room in your suitcase for a typewriter to take home with you. 😉
Yes, I live on the West Coast, and I sometimes feel there are more opportunities to collect on the East Coast. But, then, I have no more room for typewriters, and I have mostly ceased to collect.