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It’s odd that I should get around to discussing eBay so late in the How to find a manual typewriter series. I’m sure it’s the top tactic the average typewriting Joe would employ. What’s not to love, right? Cheap, wide selection. If you haven’t already, march right over to eBay, enter “typewriter,” and behold the thousand results. eBay is the magic trap door through which countless attic typewriters find their way back into circulation each day.
However, people who collect typewriters in a serious kind of way issue a number of cautions to the neophyte buyer. Mr. Typewriter and Will Davis warn against various eBay hazards, which include padded shipping costs, inaccurate/inexpert assessment of condition, and poor packing resulting in shipping damage. To that I would like to add, the typewriter will almost always arrive needing to be cleaned and oiled, and will probably not be in top working condition, as you’d expect from a reseller, in which case you may find yourself paying extra to have it refurbished (which could bring the total cost up to that of just buying it from a reseller), or attempting to do it yourself.
I’m not really an eBay person in general, and so probably not the best person to review the pros and cons of going this route, but I did choose to exceed my lifetime cap on typewriters just so I could complete this series with an actual eBay anecdote. As told in the story I just linked to, I was browsing eBay and happened across a typewriter that strangely fascinates me, the orange Olympia Traveller De Luxe. It seemed to embody a certain 70’s aesthetic that I cound not resist, and so I braved the eBay waters, since the seller had a good seller rating, and a lot of prior business.
This particular typewriter was declared to be in excellent condition (and looked it from the photographs), and the buyer promised to abide by the packing instructions suggested on a Will Davis site. Lastly, the shipping cost was reasonable, as was the fixed price (listed in an eBay store, not an auction). And so I decided to take the chance.
The typewriter was shipped from the wilds of Eastern Canada, and thus took two weeks to arrive. However, It was indeed clean and in fine working condition upon receipt. It seems a little sticky – probably needs oil, definitely some dust in there- but seems free of mechanical or aesthetic defects of any kind. It’s almost strangely new-looking.
Pros of buying a typewriter on eBay:
* Price, assuming you are not a chump and don’t overbid or choose an overpriced typewriter
* Selection. Anything you want is probably out there, right now, for sale.
Already mentioned most of the cons- it’s going to arrive needing cleaning or oiling. You might get shafted by a lousy seller. It could be broken. It could be in crappy condition. In other words, it’s a crapshoot.
Assuming you follow the proper precautions and have some sort of plan to deal with cleaning and oiling your machine, why not?
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