How to find a manual typewriter, part 6: Antique stores

I read online somewhere awhile back that antique stores were a stupid place to look for typewriters. This source claimed that any typewriter you’d find in an antique store would be overvalued by antique sellers, who earn a handsome living off of drastic, unwarranted markups on dead people’s ex-belongings. So I stayed away. Who wants to go shopping in what is essentially a garage sale staffed by cunning salespeople well-versed in the value of elderly objects?

Someone at work mentioned there were a “few old typewriters” at an antique store in a certain part of my home city, and so, finding myself recently in that part of town last Saturday, I casually suggested to my companions that we stop by after lunch. Knowing that my typewriter limit of three was currently exceeded by one, much eye-rolling ensued, but they accompanied me nonetheless.

I had not before noticed this antique store, as its formerly immediate neighbor was a sordidly-named food stand known as “The Fun Hole,” which always caused me to stop, laugh, and keep walking. The antique store has apparently been around for many years, however, and it contained at least three typewriters, one of them the exact Olympia SM 9 typewriter that I currently own, looking to be in swell condition, and going for drastically less than I bought it from a reseller for a few months ago. In addition to this, there were two older models, and Underwood of some kind (I didn’t look that closely– I’m not really an Underwood kind of gal), and a 1941 Royal Quiet De Luxe.

Now anyone who knows anything about typewriters knows the hype around the Royal Quiet De Luxe, the “Hemingway typewriter,” bla bla bla. Anyone who collects typewriters has one of these, in all likelihood, but thus far my modest and already excessive collection generally focused on the 60’s or thereabouts, and anyway, the older typewriters are a little more expensive and seem like Sherman tanks.

Well, as it happens, this Royal was in really great shape. It gleamed. All the logos looked like they had just been painted on. It had a new ribbon in it, and typed like a champ. Somehow I thought that the old pre-war glass-key machines were just for some old corporate codger to display on a shelf in his office, and weren’t really intended for actual use. But this one worked great. It was also small. Very stylish. It even still had the key for the case, and the little cleaning brush, which you just don’t see with used typewriters very much, as far as I can tell. Best part? It was selling for a reasonable, two-digit price. “Number five,” chanted one of my companions, referring to this typewriter’s potential order in my inappropriately growing collection. “Do it!” chided the husband. A third companion shot me a goading, buy-it-now look over the rungs of an old wooden chair. I started to hear the drums of typewriter collecting that one hears faintly when about to click Bid Now! on eBay, and before I knew what happened, I heard myself say, “I’ll take the Royal.”

Here are pictures of typewriter #5, Royal Quiet De Luxe.

Pros of antique store:

* Prices might not be as bad as you think
* They’ll make an attempt to clean it up, maybe
* Probably they are only going to sell typewriters in good condition (but who knows, I am sure this varies widely)
* Can look at kooky old stuff while you shop around
* Could find awesome Royal… you never know.

Cons

* I don’t doubt that typewriters are more marked up here than you might find if you were a very savvy shopper and bought one from a rube
* Very limited selection, if they sell them at all
* Might still need to get machine refurbished/oiled/repaired after purchase

Recommendation:

Definitely consider this option. The more I try other options, the more I realize that reseller prices (as in, internet resellers like mytypewriter.com) are way too expensive.

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

5 Comments

  1. I’ll have to take another look at the last typewriter I bought. It’s from the 40s, but I don’t remember offhand if it’s a Remington or Royal. It’s a green portable. I bought it at Goodwill, I believe. It’s a Quiet Writer. I learned how to type on typewriters, and it’s interesting to see how different it feels after all those years on computer keyboards. I’ve been thinking about digging it out (still packed from our move) and trying it out again. The other typewriter I have is a gift, an older one that has a slight rust problem. It’s good to know that someone is blogging using typewriters. I just may have to try it myself.

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  3. Strikethru

    One of these maybe? A Remington Quiet-Riter?

    I am enjoying writing free of the distractions of the Internet, but that doesn’t explain why I now own five!

  4. Yep, that looks like it. I have a nice picture of it kicking around somewhere. I’m not exactly sure why I have two typewriters. I really need to dig out the old black one and see if I can get that working again. I think maybe typewriters are just attracted to me, the way I used to attract sewing machines 😉

  5. Hi I’m way late to these posts, but I would like to throw out there that I spied a midnight-blue Adler J5 at an antique store run by a keychopper and her baseball-card-collecting hubby in Ann Arbor, MI. It was $22. I took pictures and vowed to return. I came back a week later and my friend bought it. We hauled it across town on foot and stopped in a green on the U of M campus and played with it. Best $22 typer ever.

    And another word of wisdom for people in the market for their first or whatever: antique shops aren’t bad, but if you’re at a vintage clothing/records store that has a few typewriters hanging around? Those will generally be grossly overpriced and have severe mechanical defects from being left out for all manner of toddlers and idiot hipsters to play with. Not even worth your time, because while they may woo you at first, upon closer inspection they are generally crap.