How to find a manual typewriter, part 2: Garage sales

Part 1 of the finding a typewriter series covered the Freecycle Network. I suggest you start there, because the news on garage sales is not, in my limited opinion, good for those in search of a manual.

In theory, it makes sense: people clearing junk out of their attics, natural habitat of neglected antique writing machines, and charging a pittance for you to take such items out of their lives. And so you get in your car on a summer Saturday morning, and start driving around your local suburbs with high hopes. Probably after a few stops, you’re going to find some great old Royal Quiet De Luxe in remarkably fine condition, on sale for three bucks.

Newsflash: won’t happen. Oh sure, it’s remotely possible. Lottery possible. But as a general observation, after about three weeks of scoping out the weekend garage sale market, I am here to report that out of about 25 sales, I encountered exactly one typewriter, a very boring IBM-selectric-style electric sitting under a tarp in a downpour, that held no cool old typewriting cache whatsoever.

Possible reasons for lack of typewriters at garage sales:

* People can’t seem to get rid of them. Like ghosts, they are intended to haunt attics for an indefinite period of time.

* People overestimate their value. One trip around eBay typewriter listings should dispel any thought that the average attic typewriter can fetch more than ten bucks on the open market, and yet I think people somehow think each one is an undiscovered Antiques Roadshow find.

* Hard-core yard salers buy them before the garage sale even starts… you know, those annoying people who show up 30 minutes early looking for comic books and LPs?

Pros of garage sale method

* If you like Vegas, sweepstakes, and racetracks, it might be the method for you.

* If you are also in the market for yellowing doilies, dusty spice jars with a chicken motif, rusty yard tools, and broken children’s toys, you can kill two birds with one stone.

* You enjoy spending your Saturday mornings doing Y turns in suburban labyrinths


* You won’t find a typewriter.


Cut out the middle man, and do it for free.

How to find a manual typewriter: the series
* Part 1: Freecycle
* Part 2: Garage sales
* Part 3: The refurb market
* Part 4: A refurbishing story
* Part 5: eBay
* Part 6: Antique stores
* Part 7: Blue Moon Camera & Machine


  1. Joe

    The trick about garage sales, is that you can’t be looking for anything in particular. Garage sale finds just have to *happen*. In fact, I got a neat Smith Corona Skyriter at a garage sale for free recently, which is what started my current obsession with manuals…

    Also, the garage sales where people just want to get rid of stuff are the best, cause they’ll take any price for anything. And remember: ALWAYS HAGGLE!

    I’m enjoying the blog! Great work!

  2. Anonymous

    I don’t know how it happened, but within one year’s time, I found a Smith-Corona Skywriter, Corsair, Silent, and Silent Super(x2). Then, just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I found my Remington Quiet Riter. All from different yard sales, and I didn’t pay more than $5 each piece. 5 are in Good condition (including cases, keys, and product manual), and 1 is in fair condition. They all cleaned up well, and after a nice oiling, typed like the wind.
    So, I guess I hit the rummage-sale typewriter jackpot. I, of course, dream of owning other “better” machines, but 6 typewriters for 27 bucks… I think I’ll live. I like to travel with them, so it’s great to have a couple that I don’t mind getting a little dinged up and dirty. After all, isn’t it the point to use them like there were built to be used!
    Oh, and… Let’s just say I wanted to buy a nice ‘specimen’ piece… any suggestions on a good sturdy machine, that has a smooth type?
    Love this blog. So much information. It’s a blast to read!

  3. Thanks guys.

    I am beginning to think that maybe I just have had really bad luck at g-sales. Probably going to waste more time this summer checking out a few!

  4. Oh, and anonymous, what size typewriter are you looking for regarding the specimen piece? And what era?

    I am still looking for the perfect typewriter. Thus far I am very partial to the Royal Quiet De Luxe ’41.

  5. Dan

    I went to a garage sale a couple days ago and won the lottery. I picked up a Royal Mercury in very good condition for 25 cents. No sticky keys and no rust and the ribbon still has plenty of life in it. This was the first garage sale I went to this year, so I most likely used up all my luck until next spring.

    And it’s a nice little writer too.