8 Nov 2013

Are Antique Typewriters Worth Anything?

Perhaps you have an old typewriter laying around. Typewriters can provide you with a window back into a time before computers and word processors existed – where “making a copy” meant physically typing every word out again, and where typing was an in-demand skill that not everybody possessed.

In addition to having an interesting piece of history in your possession you might also be wondering “Is my antique typewriter worth anything?” The short answer is “maybe.” The most expensive antique typewriter on eBay right now (Oct. 2013) is listed for $1900, but especially valuable pieces have been known to fetch up to over $13,000!  Before you can determine if your particular typewriter is worth anything (other than the interesting conversation it is sure to bring) there are a few factors to consider.

Lambert Typewriter listed for $1900

Lambert Typewriter

1. How old is the typewriter?

As with many antiques, older is generally better. After the First World War, typewriters were manufactured in huge quantities and therefore the monetary value of any post-war typewriters is much lower than their pre-war counterparts. It can be tough to figure out the exact year your typewriter was made, but looking at the characteristics of the typewriter itself can offer some valuable clues. For example, if your typewriter has a shift key then you know it was manufactured after 1878.

2. How rare is the typewriter?

Unless you are an experienced collector of typewriters, it can be difficult to determine the model of your typewriter and how rare it really is. If you have the typewriter manual this helps greatly, but of course we can’t always be so lucky. Fortunately, a number of typewriter enthusiasts have written books that can help you to narrow down exactly where your typewriter came from and how much it might be worth.

Typewriter Manual

Here’s the link.

3. What condition is the typewriter in?

Let’s say you found out you have a pre-war, rare typewriter – congratulations! The last important factor to consider is the condition that your typewriter is in. Typewriters have the most value when they are still functional – that is, when you can still use them to type. The 1883 American Writing Machine typewriter pictured below is listed for $625.00 It is in functional condition, but has a couple of broken keys. If it were not able to type it would likely fetch much less than the asking price, but a mint condition version may be worth over $1000.00

Writing Machine Typewriter

Here the link.

Ultimately, an antique typewriter is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it. With a bit of research though, hopefully you can capitalize on the full value of your antique. And if all else fails, at the very least you have an interesting piece of history on your hands.

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