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Pinky rests here

Notice the “Rest” key that is attached to the right side of the frame. It’s a non-operational key.


A functional, non-operational key

Ernest Hemingway celebrated the Corona 3 with a poem — “…the mill chatters in mechanical staccato…” — but he must have been a two-fingered typist, for a full set of fingers simply isn’t welcome on the Corona 3. Sporting three rows of compact keys, there is no place for the right pinky finger to rest (typically the :; key on a standard keyboard). Practiced touch typists must have agonized over the keyboard, for out of position, one might easily punch “r-g-w” instead of “t-h-e”. In the correct position, the pinky dangles: it does not march with the others.

Despite this obvious shortcoming, the Corona’s ultra-portability won over consumers, and the machine sold in the millions over a span of two decades. By the late 1920s, the Corona 3 keyboard was expanded to include additional keys (a right shift key and a figure key), thus providing a place for the pinky finger to rest. Until then, Corona’s intermediate solution was to offer an attachable “rest” key. This functional, non-operational key is today highly sought after, as Paul Lippman writes for ETCetera:

One may keep a lookout for Corona tools and accessories. In addition to oilers and type-cleaning brushes, my Corona items include a unique finger rest. It’s a key top that clamps to the Corona farm at the place where other machines would have a semicolon or right-hand shift key. It was available for ten cents to give the typist’s right little finger somewhere to be in the absence [of] the extra key. And probably it was an aid to a touch-typist.”1

The pinky patent

Corona 3 Typewriter Finger Rest

As early as 1915, Corona contemplated a solution for the pinky problem, filing this patent for a “rest key.” The application states the obvious:

“The primary object of the invention is to provide a rest key located at the side of the machine for the typist to rest his little finger while manipulating the keys in order that the hand may be properly positioned at all times. The key is particularly advantageous while operating the machine under what is know as the ‘touch’ system and permits the typist to operate the keys readily and in a correct manner.”

An illustration of the keytop displays “rest key,” but the actual product reads “rest.” This novel key was invented by Otto Petermann, the lead designer of the Corona 3.2

Advertisements for the rest key are sparse, but here’s one from 1922:

Quirky keyboards

The touch typist is by no means the superior typist. As a budding journalist in the early 1990s, I marveled at writers’ ability to punch keys quickly with but two fingers. One reporter used two pencils! And I am reminded of Robert Messenger’s very interesting post regarding disappearing e-mails, in which he also described his very unique typing style — see here.) I am a great admirer of typists and their varied methods for typing. I, for my part, am a touch typist, but by no means an elitist. (Until you can type 100 words per minute while holding a conversation, as one of my colleagues [a former Navy typist] can do, no one should boast.)

Holy Grail?

Though highly desirable — and quite rare — the “rest” key is not precisely the “holy grail” of typewriter accessories, as some eBay sellers persist in claiming. One seller had asked $2,500 for the key, and another offered the key for $1,000. Neither price is remotely realistic — no one is going to pay that amount. Further, Corona 3s with “rest” key appear periodically on eBay and elsewhere and usually garner between $150 and $200, though sometimes more. The accessory is not common, but neither is it particularly uncommon. One is generally available every month or so online, but one does have to keep an eye out.

Here is one of the more extraordinary listings:

eBay Corona 3 rest key listing

Writes the seller, “I’ve received a lot of questions regarding the price for this key, so let me say I know the price might seem absurdly high…but in reality, it might actually be a bit low. If you had bought every single Folding 3 on eBay in the past three-ish years (or at least all of them that I’ve seen, and I’ve probably seen most them while obsessing for one of these keys) you would have spent a FORTUNE and still would not have come up with one of these..”

There is a certain logic to the seller’s argument, but a keen eye can locate one of these attachments for a much more modest sum.

Here is another listing:

Writes this seller: “Up for auction is the holy grail of typewriter collectables, The Corona Model 3 REST key. This was an after market add on for the model 3, to make touch typing easier. The last picture shows a clip from a typewriter blog, where someone had the same key i am offering listed on eBay for $2500 buy it now, due to its rarity. I have seen other similar blog posting saying that they wish they could laugh at this price, but that they could not. Unlike this seller I will not be seeking top dollar, however i will be starting the bid fairly high, with no reserve.”

© 2018 – 2017, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

  1. “Collect Folding Coronas,” Paul Lippman, ETCetera, July 8, No. 4, archived here. []
  2. See http://www.antikeychop.com/corona-3. []
{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Richard P January 1, 2018, 4:35 pm

    “Holy grail”? Ha!

    Thanks for the information on this item. I didn’t realize that it turns up as often as you say. Personally I find folding Coronas quite difficult to use for a variety of reasons, but I don’t think I would be bothered by having to keep my pinkie in the air.

    • Mark Adams January 1, 2018, 8:46 pm

      It does turn up, but often you have to look for it. Several listings include the rest key in the photos, but not in the description or title. You really have to be looking. I paid around $120 for the machine and case. The rest key was not mentioned, but pictured.

    • Mark Adams January 1, 2018, 8:47 pm

      Also, yes, it is a difficult machine to use. Consumers must really have wanted a portable typewriter to endure this machine. I find it an uncomfortable typer.

  • Tyler A. January 1, 2018, 6:09 pm

    I’ve always found those listings to be humorous. Like you’ve already said, most of the ones in collectors hands were simply found on machines purchased at standard prices. My own came to me the very same way, after I spotted the key on a very reasonable BIN. I was more thrilled to be able to simply use an early Corona without the floating-pinky effect (being an aforementioned touch-typist, as most today are) than I was to possess something uncommon/rare. The best part of all this is that if they started the bidding at $1 rather than $1000, we would actually get a feel of how valued these are as collectors bid on it. Clearly, market prices are below the $1000 mark the one seller attempted.

    While the “Holy Grail” may differ amongst certain collector levels, I feel confident enough to say that the general consensus of the Holy Grail of collecting is the Blickensderfer Electric.

  • Mark Albrecht January 5, 2018, 6:04 pm

    They are out there for sure. We have a few of them now and have traded a few away. Typically they are on machines “in pictures” but not listed as an item of note. For someone that really wants one, i could see them paying $200-$250. I have seen at least a dozen sold in the last few years but they were rarely noted in the ads.

  • tom hitt January 23, 2018, 9:56 pm

    There will always be items out there for people with more money that good sense.

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