By definition, typewriters are mechanical (or otherwise electronic) machines responsible for writing characters similar to those found on printed-style paper. Therefore, a typewriter resembles an assemblage of keys, which can be clicked or pressed to select a character to be written on a piece of paper or document.
Typewriters come and go in several sizes, types, and variations. Some typewriters are more expensive than others, while others are better technologically equipped. Nevertheless, our objective is to focus on ‘antique’ typewriters instead of the modern, more technological (and mechanically advanced) ones.
Any more than century-old items are considered ‘antique,’ such as porcelain dishes, paintings, and old vinyl records. Thus, antique typewriters fall under the same ‘age’ criterion. Typewriters made before or near the 1920s are what you call antique typewriters.
Meanwhile, a thin line separates an antique typewriter from a vintage one – age. So, typewriters aged between 40 – 99 years old are considered ‘vintage,’ compared to the antique examples, which exceed the 100-year age mark. Hence, it is essential not to get caught up in the distinction of typewriters in case you’re looking to assess their value.
Moving on, earlier (or antique) typewriters were engineered so that each time the user strikes a key, a steel type strikes the (ink) ribbon, thus, imprinting characters on the paper.
As you type along, a dinging noise can be heard, indicating that you have reached the end of the line. However, typists can use a carriage return lever at their aid, which typists can move either downward or upward to shift to the following line.
With the functionality and terminologies out of the way, let’s provide an insight into the importance of understanding the value of an antique typewriter. After all, what can you learn from determining the value of a thing from the past, knowing well that you have (much) cheaper and easily accessible alternatives readily available that can do the same job? Let’s find out.
Importance Of Understanding Antique Typewriter Value
First of all, an antique typewriter’s value is a collection of its age, condition, rarity, brand, manufacture, demand, and historical significance; all accounted for. Therefore, one can easily get meddled or confused in deciding the value of a typewriter, especially an antique one, given that antique typewriters have varying conditions, rarity, and demand.
As mentioned earlier, not all antique typewriters had the same variations or finishing ends (craftsmanship). Therefore, with different variations and finishing styles come other valuations. So, the purpose of helping you realize the value of an antique typewriter is to aid you in getting the best bang for your buck while on the hunt for an antique typewriter.
Secondly, you can also financially benefit from such a piece of history. You can figure out the value of any antique typewriter that you might have in your possession or any typewriter that you might have somewhere catching dust in an attic.
You can earn huge by auctioning (and selling) antique typewriters – depending on their age, condition, and overall significance. To get a ‘rough’ idea, in 2014, an E. Remington and Sons typewriter (from the 1870s) was sold for a whopping $27,000 on eBay.
With that said, if you have an antique typewriter and want to figure out its value, you’re in luck! Let’s examine some contributing factors to an antique typewriter’s value.
Factors That Influence Antique Typewriter Value
Age is the easiest and quickest way to determine the price of an antique typewriter. The earlier a typewriter is, the more coveted and desired the antique typewriter will be. In some cases, how long the typewriter had been in service (age) can be the only deciding factor of the item’s value, even though other factors such as condition and brand (manufacturer) may not be present.
By comparison, typewriters made after the 1950s or 60s hold up less value since these typewriters were mass-produced. Plus, they are readily (and cheaply) available at several thrift stores.
Moreover, such typewriters are purchased by the most fanatical typewriting enthusiasts, who’d much rather prefer the aesthetically pleasing and natural click of a typewriter’s key over the soft clicks produced on thin book-like laptops.
Similarly, the typewriters produced during the First World War (1914 – 1918) are also known for being highly sought-after antique typewriters. During the War, several typewriters were lost, thus making them somewhat limited in numbers.
Likewise, earlier typewriters are seen as ‘raw’ types/forms of typewriters with little or no electrical interference. Such items are purely mechanically based and represent the pinnacle of (mechanical) typewriters production, which is why most of the earlier typewriters you’d witness are exquisitely made and unique.
When you buy a typewriter, especially an antique one, you’re not just buying an item but also a part of history alongside it. Therefore, some antique typewriter enthusiasts regard a brand’s history (and relic) over everything else, hence their higher value.
That said, valuing an antique typewriter based on its brand/manufacturer remains subjective. For instance, some may value an Underwood (antique) typewriter higher thanks to its ahead-of-the-time engineering.
Meanwhile, others may regard a Remington No.1 or the Sholes and Glidden typewriter (the first-ever commercially successful typewriter) to hold more significant value.
In the same way, some (antique) typewriter journalists may prefer a Royal typewriter above all others, owing to their immense ease of use and longevity. So, it’s all a matter of personal preference and opinion.
In addition, the value of an antique typewriter can also differ depending on the geographical locality of the antique typewriter manufacturers. In general, typewriters coming from European-based antique typewriter manufacturers – especially German – are said to hold greater value than, say, American-based antique typewriter manufacturers.
The statement is valid depending on the model and rarity. Some typewriters made in (West) Germany were mass-produced and extensively exported to America. Such typewriters are said to value less. Meanwhile, other European-based typewriter manufacturers aimed their items toward a ‘luxurious’ market compared to the ‘laborious’ market in the US; hence, their varying valuations.
If not age, rarity, or historical significance, the condition of an antique typewriter can heavily influence the machine’s value. The value of a typewriter is, therefore, directly proportional to the value of the machine itself. The factor also includes other aspects, such as functionality (how well it operates) and aesthetics (how well/exquisite it looks), as the machine ages.
Several (antique) typewriter collectors value the machine’s craftsmanship and quality above all else. Such collectors and enthusiasts purchase such machines to display them instead of putting them to use.
The actual condition of the machine depends on other minute differences and factors, such as the type of ribbon installed. A new ribbon would highlight that the machine was subject to restoration, which can show prior ownership of the typewriter and its usage. The same procedure can be applied on the other parts and components of the machine.
In addition, the value may also be influenced by the time required to restore the machine to its former glory. Nonetheless, a typewriter that strikes a perfect balance between how well-functioning it is and how appealing it looks to the eye would make up for a valuable antique typewriter.
How limited in number a typewriter is can play a vital role in varying its price. The typewriters produced in mass quantities, especially those produced by the Royal Typewriter Company and Underwood, are easy to source; hence, they come relatively cheap.
Likewise, a total of 190,000 Underwood typewriters were produced in the 1910s, which meant that the typewriters were immensely popular. In fact, the Company employed 7,500 workers responsible for making 500 typewriters per day.
Fast forward to the 21st century, antique Underwood typewriters can be picked up from eBay and Etsy for under $400, in ‘Good’ condition.
The antique typewriters that were made less in number, such as the Malling-Hansen Writing Ball, can catch staggeringly high values, exceeding even $100,000! Then there are those typewriters that were affected by the First World War. Rare cases of typewriters (made specifically for the use of Nazis) were destroyed due to the War, which reduced their numbers by a significant margin.
Hence, pre-WWI typewriters are known for demanding higher prices to account for the limited examples that exist.
Demand, as the name suggests, shows how the need for an antique typewriter, based on its characteristics such as rarity, condition, age, manufacture, and historical significance, can affect the value of the machine. A highly demanded typewriter would likely hold a greater value.
Demand goes hand-in-hand with the rarity and condition of an antique typewriter. So, the market for the typewriter is defined by how rare and well-kept the item is. With that said, the machine’s demand may be swayed by personal opinion and preference. Also, saying that demand makes up other factors affecting the typewriter’s price collectively isn’t entirely wrong.
Not everyone has the exact needs (or criteria) set for an ideal typewriter for themselves, so they may value typewriters based on their set standards. For instance, some antique typewriter collectors may
As mentioned earlier, when you purchase an antique typewriter, you’re not just buying an old item but a part of history as well. Earlier typewriters were responsible for helping boost the economy, especially after the Industrial revolution.
For instance, in the 1800s, using typewriters reduced the time and expense previously taken by manual procedures, such as writing documents by hand. It also quickened the pace of corporate interaction since the documentation was less time-consuming.
Prominent (antique) typewriters responsible for causing such a revolution include machines, such as the Prototype of the Sholes and Glidden typewriter Company and the American Hall Type Writer.
Such typewriters were small, light, and, more importantly, portable. A recent example of a First Model Hall Typewriter was auctioned and sold for $400. Therefore, the earlier the (antique) typewriter you look for, the higher the historical significance should be expected; thus, the higher their value.
Most Valuable Antique Typewriter
|Number||Name||Maker||Year Produced||Value/Recent Sales|
|1||Rasmus Mailing-Hansen Writing Ball||Reverend Rasmus Mailing-Hansen||1870||$110,059|
|2||Sholes and Glidden/ Remington No.1||E. Remington and Sons||1874||$29,900|
|3||Crandall New Model||Crandall Machine Company||1886||$4,000|
|4||Williams 1||Domestic Sewing Machine Company||1891||$1,450|
Rasmus Malling-Hansen Writing Ball (1870)
Although several antique typewriters deserve the title of the ‘most valuable antique typewriter’ since each of the (antique) machines is important in their respective ways. Undoubtedly, the list for most valuable antique typewriters would feel incomplete without the mention of the Rasmus Malling-Hansen Writing Ball (1870).
Firstly, a brief history of the Writing Ball. The typewriter was initially designed in 1965 off the pen of Reverend Rasmus Malling-Hansen, a Danish inventor and a Principal at the Royal Institute for the Deaf and Dumb.
Therefore, it became the very first commercially produced typewriter in existence. It displayed fifty-two keys over a sphere-like shape with radial pistons. The pistons, when pushed, struck the designated characters on a paper surface.
The Danish inventor emphasized the rate of speed immensely and valued it above everything else while engineering it. So, the vowels and consonants were placed on either side, which quickened the typing time for typists. As a result, the Writing Ball became the fastest typewriter of its time.
Malling-Hansen also made later modifications to the model, including an electromagnetic battery to move the paper while typing. Thanks to the electrical components, the Malling-Hansen Writing Ball became the first-ever electric typewriter.
The design philosophy was (and still is) eye-striking, which made it stand out from all other typewriters available on the market.
In fact, and rightfully so, it won First Prize medals at the 1873 World Exhibition, Vienna, and the 1878 World Exhibition, Paris. Likewise, the typewriter was displayed at the first annual Kensington Exhibition in 1871 in London.
A total of 180 Malling-Hansen Writing Balls were made, out of which only 34 are accounted for; hence, making the typewriter extremely rare. Thirty Malling-Hansen Writing Balls are spread in museums worldwide, while the remaining four lie in possession of private collectors.
The most recent private sale of a Malling-Hansen Writing Ball was made on May 18, 2019, when it fetched a jaw-dropping value worth $110,059, making it the most expensive antique typewriter sold, ever.
Sholes and Glidden/ Remington No.1 (1874)
Known for being the world’s first ‘commercially successful typewriter’, the Sholes and Glidden typewriter (or Remington No.1) is in a league of its own. The machine’s inventor, Christopher Latham Sholes (1819 – 1890), gathered a catalogue of the most used English letters.
Thereupon, he rearranged the alphabets in a way where the common letters were placed far from one another. Eventually, the non-ergonomic design meant that the user could not see what was being typed.
Such factors weighed in together meant that the machine was relatively difficult to operate and increased the time it took for typists to type (20 words per minute). However, there was a silver lining to all such issues as the oddly placed alphabets allowed for more freedom of movement for keys while typing.
Originally offered for $125, the typewriter was unlike others. Later modifications to the typewriter included a new QWERTY-styled keyboard; a style that is still being used in modern keyboards.
More importantly, the Sholes and Glidden typewriter was accepted by a number of companies, which not just helped boost work productivity but also helped raise the typewriter’s production numbers.
A (fairly) recent sale of an 1875 Sholes and Glidden machine (Serial No. A1665) took place in 2014, when it was sold on eBay for $29,900.
Crandall New Model (1886)
A quick look at the artful invention of Stephen Crandall would be enough to justify the machine’s value. The shortcomings of its predecessor, Crandall Typewriter, were fulfilled through the New Model. Improvements included a two-level keyboard featuring 28 keys as well as a vertical style cylinder comprising 6 rows of 14 characters.
The New Model also came with an easily removable type-sleeve; thus, helping vary font styles. Similarly, thanks to a proportional spacing feature, the typewriter became the first commercially successful typewriter featuring proportional spacing. Such a feature allowed typists to vary the width of characters.
in addition, and unlike others, the typewriter allowed its users to see what was being typed; hence, making the Crandall New Model the first typewriter to feature visible writing.
More importantly, the typewriter was (and still is) a treat to look at. The machine features hand-painted roses enameled by ‘mother of pearl’ matter. The decorations were topped off with gold scripts tracings, which helped ascend the New Model’s beauty to a whole new level.
An excellent example of a Crandall New Model was auctioned and sold recently at Cottone Auctions for $4,000. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the Crandall New Model is –considered by many – the most beautiful typewriter ever.
Williams 1 (1891)
Not only was the Williams 1 (No.1) superior in terms of typing speed, but also packed with attention to detail. An intelligent ‘grasshopper’ feature allowed typists to see what they wrote, which helped the typewriter become a ‘visible typewriter’. All this meant that the typist could perform their tasks at speed.
Soon, the manufacturers began calling their work-of-art ‘The Rightwriter’ to achieve visible writing, which was the need of hour in the 1890s.
As you shift your focus towards the typewriter’s build quality, you are greeted by exquisitely-crafted frames and key tops. Moreover, the keys and frame were accompanied by gold scrollwork, which should be enough to satisfy any typewriter fanatic’s dreams.
A fully-functioning and well-kept Williams No.1 typewriter was recently auctioned and sold for an impressive $1,450.
Where To Sell Or Purchase Antique Typewriters
Online marketplaces such as eBay and Etsy provide an online platform for buyers to connect with sellers, with the transactions managed by the site owner (in this case, eBay and Etsy). For instance, a quick ‘antique typewriter’ search on the search bar (on eBay) will present you with an array of reasonably-priced antique typewriters, including an Underwood No.5 Typewriter for $199.99.
In the same way, Etsy provides a rather ‘concentrated’ market to sell (or purchase) antique typewriters. It offers a place where collectors can sell (or buy) antique items, much like antique typewriters. For example, upon browsing, you’d find a ‘rare’ 1912 Antique Royal No.5 Flatbed Staircase Typewriter with New Ink being sold for $599.00!
However, you should pursue such places if you have sound knowledge about typewriters, especially antique ones. Such marketplaces can be deceiving on points. Or otherwise, you may take the help/advice of a trained professional/expert who knows their way around an antique typewriter.
Antique Stores Or Dealers
If you’d much rather let the professionals make the job easier for you and take the ‘fraud’ out of the equation, then antique stores and dealers are your answer. Antique stores such as Vintage Cash Cow, AntiqBuyer, and Carter’s Price Guide To Antiques, provide an accurate picture, in terms of value, of the (antique) typewriter that you’re looking for.
Such antique stores and dealers have set standards and criteria upon which they can judge the value of the antique typewriter. The benchmark can include assessing the antique’s condition, age, historical significance, demand, rarity, and brand/manufacturer.
Typewriter Collector Groups Or Conventions
If you prefer to engage in a concentrated and targeted market, then typewriter collector groups can be your friend. Such groups specialize in dealing with all kinds (and types) of typewriters. Moreover, such groups can provide you with an insight knowledge of typewriters in general, like their care and maintenance, which an online auction site or a third-party dealer may not offer.
Pay regular visits to typewriter collector groups, such as Mr. Mrs. Vintage Typewriters, Classic Typewriter, and Antique Typewriters, to stay up-to-date with the latest auctions and grab the opportunity before somebody else does! For instance, an exquisite 1912 Hammond No.12 typewriter was sold for $2,799.00 at Antique Typewriter.
Also Read: National Cash Register Value (Most Valuable Sold for $1800+)
Recap Of Key Points To Consider When Determining The Value Of An Antique Typewriter
We discussed, in detail, the extent to which the value of an antique typewriter can be influenced by factors such as age, condition, brand/manufacture, demand, historical significance, and rarity.
The Value Of Antique Typewriters Can Vary Greatly Based On A Number Of Factors
A keen eye would notice that all factors mentioned above are interdependent.
For instance, the age and rarity of an antique typewriter go hand in hand. The earlier a typewriter is said to be made, the rarer; thus, more valuable it’d be. So, to get the most value out of a typewriter, you’ll need to strike a perfect balance between all the factors that affect its value.
Proper Care And Maintenance Can Help Preserve The Value Of An Antique Typewriter
For those lucky enough to own an antique typewriter, you must properly care for and, thus, preserve the value of your piece of equipment. Steps to prolong the value of an antique typewriter include covering it when not in use to avoid dust and grime particles from accumulating over the sensitive mechanics of the machinery.
Likewise, religiously clean the typewriter using a Naphtha bath, Auto Carbs, and brake cleaners. Also, make sure to refrain from using WD-40 or likewise solvents, which can make things complicated for your valuable typewriter in the future.
Lastly – and on a lighter note – you should try to put your typewriter to use every often. Not only would it prevent the valuable piece of history from catching rust, but also help it do what it was meant to do.