Every now and again, I search out the most expensive machines on eBay. Generally speaking, they fall into four categories:
- truly rare and valuable
- unique provenance
- “oops, I added too many zeros”
- and, delusional
What a machine is worth, however, I can’t really say. I’ve seen a basic Brother typewriter sell for $620, about $500 over what I thought (on a good day) it was worth (see here), and I’ve personally acquired rare machines for well under their recognized value.
Nevertheless, the price of machines is market-driven, and overpriced machines tend to become “museum pieces” for “display only” on eBay or Etsy.
Here’s a quick survey of the most expensive machines currently on eBay. Some of the prices are reasonable, others an utter mystery.
1. Double Pigeon Chinese Typewriter – asking $49,995.98 (see here)
Ultimately, I don’t know the value a Japanese typewriter, with literally thousands of pieces of type, but this offering seems vastly overpriced. One might expect to pay that amount for a rare 19th-century machine, but hardly for a mid-20th-century model. The seller writes, “Not sure if anything is Missing [sic]. Looks complete too [sic] me, but I am no expert.”
Indeed, most sellers are not “experts,” but when you are asking nearly $50,000, you might make a few inquiries.
To note, the asking price for a Japanese typewriter of a similar design is only $3,000 (see here):
2. The “Psycho” Typewriter – asking $20,000 (see here)
$20,000 for a common Adler typewriter would be delusional, but this particular machine was owned by Joseph Stefano, a screenwriter for Alfred Hitchcock. Offered by Stefano’s son, the provenance is fairly secure, though I’m not certain of its value.
3. Crandall Typewriter – asking $15,000 (see here)
This one has me stumped. The Crandall is a rare machine, and this is a particularly fine specimen. Additionally, this 19th-century machine includes an unformed typewriter type sleeve and other sundry items. The asking price of $15,000, though, seems high.
4. Sholes & Glidden Typewriter – asking $10,000 (see here)
I will admit that, for a brief moment, I checked the balance in my savings account. But, alas…
Around $10,000 seems reasonable for a Sholes & Glidden typewriter, though this is a later, “top lever” model. The seller does not provide a serial number, but it is certainly not an early 1873 model as indicated in the listing. It probably dates nearer to 1878. You can read about the S&G here.
5. Smith-Corona SCM Typewriter – asking $10,000 (see here)
This typewriter is not worth $10,000. It’s not worth $1,000. I doubt it’s worth $100. The seller, however, seems convinced, writing, “We have no use for it but trying to take advantage of a possible opportunity as this typewriter is in great working condition with manuals and keyed hard case.”
He adds, “This thing was obviously kept and cared for over the years and I’m sure this thing holds value somewhere.”
6. Jones Typogrpaher Reproduction – asking $5,000 (see here)
Note carefully that this is a reproduction, though intriguing nonetheless. The Jones Typographer dates to the 1850s, and only a few models are extant. This reproduction was commissioned by the Scryption Museum in Tilburg, Netherlands, which closed in 2011. Some of the collection was put up for sale, including the Typographer. Based on a published history of the museum, one might deduce that the reproduction was completed sometime after 1950.
What are your thoughts on these listings? – post a comment…
© 2022, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.
I just got this in my inbox and funnily enough I had been following that first Chinese typewriter post for a while, being curious of whether it will go somewhere. I was recently lucky enough to get a similar machine, but for nowhere near this kind of price. Although it’s a different brand, I’d say the asking price here is inflated by a factor of about 100. It is stunning how little research eBay sellers sometimes do, hoping that they might get lucky somehow.
The person asking $10,000 for the Classic 12 needs to go to the hospital and get an MRI. Just go there and ask them to check things out.
Yeah, not sure what to make of this. I checked the seller’s page… mostly clothes, and all, as near as I can tell, reasonably priced.
Recognize, some listings are very hopeful – like 5k for a beige store-brand 1980-machine.
With low volume and few repeat-purchasers (or sellers), the pricing will always be ‘volatile’ – not a functioning market-price mechanism.
Also major differences per platform btw. On the local classified site pricing is mostly ‘attic-find’-level (except that 5k for a beige ho-hum machine). But on Etsy price is 10-fold from traders probably selling to one-time buyers globally. (Those Etsy traders buy on the local classifieds, driving up prices a bit there too…)
Keep in mind that some of the “sold” machines at dumb prices are prolly related to money laundering operations. Ebay and other sale sites are vectors for that sort of thing. (:
I’ve always wondered about that. I understand the same sometimes happens in the art world.
They are all too expensive, in my opinion, but the closest to reasonable is the Jones. Yes, only a reproduction, but it took some skill, and the reproduction itself is rare or unique. Repro Writing Balls sell for $10K.