Vintage Typewriter Buying Guide

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Vintage Typewriter Buying Guide

If you were born after 1985 there is a good chance you have never laid eyes, let alone hands, on a working manual typewriter. What was once an essential business tool is no longer necessary. Many people consider manual typewriters throwbacks, anachronisms, unnecessary artifacts from bygone eras.

However, when it comes to aesthetic and monetary value, many antique collectors agree that these machines are both beautiful and reasonably-priced. Pre-war vintage typewriters are widely available from reputable and enthusiastic dealers and collectors.


Age Means Nothing

An old thing is not always a valuable or even desirable thing, and that is as true for old typewriters as it is for old cars and other historical relics. There are seven types and time periods you need to know about when shopping for a vintage typewriter.



Time Period

Early models

1870s to 1899 (manual only)

Index models

1880s to 1905 (manual only)

Pre WWII, manual

1900 to 1943

Mid century, electric

1902 to 1943

Post war, manual

1943 to 1979

Post war, electric

1940s to 1970s

Modern, electric

1975 to 1990s


Do not let the shrewd old lady at the estate sale fool you. The typewriter she is selling might be beautiful and old, but it is probably not worth the price tag hanging from its platen.

Pre-war, manual typewriters are typically the most desirable machines among collectors and enthusiasts. For creatives and other people who use them as props, any old typewriter suffices as long as it is nice to look at and fits the scene they want to create.


Iconic Olivetti Typewriters

Whether it is a pair of leather brogues or a fine typewriter, Italians have a knack for pumping out shapes and silhouettes that stand the test of time. The Olivetti Lettera 32, Lettera 22, and Studio 44 models are popular, easy to find, and often suitable for the desks of budding novelists and professional writers alike.

Many attractive Olivetti manual typewriters appeared after WW2, which means they are reasonably priced and hence popular with writers who get their kicks using old technology.

Novelist Cormac McCarthy used the same Olivetti Lettera 32 he purchased in 1963 all the way until 2009. McCarthy’s typewriter sold to a wealthy collector for a princely sum. You do not have to pay anywhere near what he did, a little over a quarter million dollars, to own one of these iconic typewriters. Restored and fully functional Olivetti typewriters are reasonably priced and widely available from enthusiastic collectors and enthusiasts on eBay.


Classic Royal Typewriters

Royal typewriters owe their collectability to the fact that the company started making them in 1906 and did not stop until the 1970s. The Royal #10 and the Royal Quiet DeLuxe are popular among collectors. Collectors pay special attention to the Quiet DeLuxe finished in bubblegum pink and regularly pay a premium for them.

Novelists Saul Bellow and Ray Bradbury chose Royal typewriters to help them compose their work. The popularity of Royal typewriters extends further than famous novelists. Marlon Brando and Richard Brooks regularly laid hands on Royal typewriters in the 50s and 60s, too

Pre-war models remain highly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts. Post-war models are more popular with writers who enjoy the aesthetic experience of writing on a typewriter but do not want to pay a collector’s premium for the experience.


Rare Blickensderfer Typewriters

George C. Blickensderfer designed a new and innovative typewriter in 1892 and began producing them shortly thereafter in Stamford, Connecticut. His new typewriter made use of a letter wheel, which meant typists could take advantage of the speed and ease of the scientific layout as opposed to the much slower QWERTY layout.

Early adopters of the Blickensderfer typewriter include filmmaker Buster Keaton and poet Robert Frost, both of whom bought their machines around the turn of the century.

Fully functional, restored Blickensderfer typewriters make the hearts of collectors and purists alike race across their chests at 120 words-per-minute. It is extremely difficult to find one in good condition.


How to Buy Vintage Typewriters on eBay

Models by Royal, Olivetti, Remington, and Underwood are highly sought after. Popular pre-war models include the Royal #5, the Corona 3 folding typewriter, Olivers 3 and 5, the Royal 10, and every Blickensderfer ever made.

First decide on the manufacturer and model that suits your aesthetic sensibilities, then search for exactly the one you want on eBay. Make sure you are dealing with a seller who understands the details of shipping vintage typewriters, complete the transaction, and enjoy your new-to-you piece of history.

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