Typewriters – the original keyboards – date back to the 1870s, when Remington introduced the first of the machine-assisted writing devices.
These bits of early office and writing technology are now sought-after collector’s items. However, unlike other memorabilia, such as sports gear, the general rule with antique typewriters is that the most valuable finds aren’t necessarily dueto age, but rather obscurity. In other words, an old Remington or Royal typewriter (two of the flagship companies) will fetch less interest (and money) than an unknown-brand typewriter that features a unique build and shape.
Collectors also distinguish between typewriters made before the Second World War, and those produced after. The so-called pre-war models were most often made out of more rugged, stronger metal – before metal became requisitioned for the war drive. These older typewriters are also less standardized and more ornate than those that hit the market in the late 1940s. What’s more, after that point typewriter manufacturers began using less expensive (and less visually appealing) plastic keys rather than the glass-top metal insert keys from before.
How valuable is it?
There’s more to keep in mind than obscurity and pre- or post-war origins when judging the value of an old-timey typing machine.
- Condition is key. The overall state of the machine is very important. Collectors are looking for typewriters that are still in their original paint and have little or no signs of wear and tear or other abuse.
- Functionality is required. If you want to move your typewriter for a high price, then collectors are going to want it to still be in operating condition. Luckily, the old machines were relatively simple and didn’t have too many moving (and thus breakable) parts.
- Accessories wanted. Standard and office-type typewriters would originally come with carrying cases, and these are sought by enthusiasts of the machines. They’re so desired by hobbyists that there is even a market for cases without typewriters.
- Documentation. Owners or user’s manuals would come with all typewriters, and, in the eyes of a collector, antique typewriters that still have these little bits of documentation are worth much more than a typing machine without them.
To find out more information about a vintage typewriter, look over the machine for its make and serial number. Then, head to the exhaustively detailed Typewriter Database website, where you can search through rows and rows of classic typewriters to find the production year and other bits of vital information.