Tricked out typers: the gold rush is on

Amendment to this post: note that it is not a critique or endorsement. It’s an observation about marketing strategy. OK, with that said:

I’m going to officially declare (where are the officials to make this official?) that we’ve arrived at a tipping point in the sale of tricked out typers online with my recent discovery of Kasbah Mod (thanks to a colleague for the tip). “Now the Biggest Retailer of Ace-Quality Vintage Typewriters in New York City.” (The biggest? To set itself apart from the crowded New York market for vintage refurbed typewriters?) Let’s set discussion of prices aside (their prices seem pretty standard for refurbed typewriters aimed at non-collectors) and focus on the hot rod paint jobs (click through to page two for some notable examples, the site doesn’t let one link to specific machines). Typewriters have been marketed as style pieces for some time, but I think New York is taking this to a new level at the moment (Brady & Kowalski is another example), and I’d be shocked if other businesses don’t soon follow suit.

Perhaps the market has been goosed by Jessica Bruder’s New York Times piece with which most typecastinistas are familiar, appearing as it did on the style page. Let me say this: although the typosphere has been painting ‘writers for some time, note that New York has fired the starting gun on a general trend of bucks to be made from refurbished, repainted typewriters, marketed stylishly, and promoted on teh social medias to the young whippersnappers. Mind you, this is a different spin than sturdy machines for serious writers (which is how typewriter resellers have marketed them up to this turning point), and depends upon eye-catching paint jobs and gorgeous web sites (eBay won’t do. Is there a web site, incidentally, that is uglier and more out-of-date looking than eBay?).

If you’re handy with web design, a paint gun and three-in-one oil, I suggest you grab your gold pan and start sifting up big profits in your neck of the woods.

18 Comments

  1. I support anything that spreads the typewriter gospel. I just hope this is all being conducted with honesty and quality. I’ve heard that he’s buying painted typewriters to resell — so have all these machines really been “modded” by Kasbah himself?

  2. Overmuch. I’m really not into typewriters looking like Lady Gaga.

    Craigslist looks more outmoded than ebay.

  3. Ted

    hey, I remember bidding on that Montana “by Hermes” on the ‘bay. I think it went for $9 +s&h. I wonder what he’s selling it for?

    Also, those paint jobs look pretty rough. He’s just painting right over the name badges, even when they are easily detached, like on those Super-5 Smith Coronas.

  4. wow my brain is buzzing with ideas – i just hope i can follow through this time.

  5. I’d like to see the prices. I agree that the paint jobs look rough. Spray bomb over existing paint. Which doesn’t bode well for durability. Wonder what he’ll do when the folks who buy them report peeling paint in six months to a year? And how is he refurbing these? Oil can refurb? When dust gums them up in a few months, he could be looking at some returns. I’m not impressed with the look of the workmanship on these particular machines. The photos are either bad or the work is shoddy or both. I can see signs of orange peel on the paint, etc. Paint is all about prepwork and I see no signs these machines were stripped and taken down to bare metal, properly prepped, primed and painted. Like I said, it looks like a spray bomb job to me. I wish him luck.

  6. Anonymous

    i inspected one of these upclose while visiting a friend in williamsburg, brooklyn about three weeks ago. i can say paint-wise they are IMMACULATE. New rubber cylinder things, perfectly smooth typing, and on the page the letters come out clear and precise. maybe a little too colorful for my taste, but the quality is very very impresive. this is a definitely not some guy spray bombing garage sale typewriterss.

  7. I agree that there’s decent profits to be made in selling painted typewriters: of the (only two) typewriters we’ve painted and put up for sale (both red), they attracted considerable interest and helped to spread the typewriter gospel, as it were. It wasn’t the most professional of paint jobs, but knock on wood they’re still holding up. And we definitely didn’t get anywhere near Mr. Typewriter prices!

    There’s no way to tell how this fellow’s business is doing from the site – no indication of prices or pieces sold. In fact, I got the impression that it was more of a “prop rental” sort of thing, which is an interesting business model too. There was at least one eBay seller who also sold some painted typewriters for a pretty penny…

  8. Before critiques of paint jobs get too far out of hand, I just want to point out that I’m not making any statement about the quality of these machines or their paint jobs with my post. I have no information about that, and would assume the quality is fine unless proven otherwise. I’m just commenting on the trend of marketing typewriters to younger consumers (repainting and web design being part of that effort). My prediction is that this sort of typewriter marketing and modification is poised to take off, and those of you talented in refurb and paint jobs should take note.

  9. Hi Wordherder,

    As the Managing Director of Kasbah Mod, I genuinely appreciate your concern. There are far too many over-priced, poor-quality typewriters in the New York area. Many of their buyers later come to us for reliable machines we’re confident in, and stand behind. We’re all about top-notch functionality and putting fully-restored typewriters in young writers’ hands.

    As for the custom painting process, I can assure you our custom-painted machines are primed, prepped and painted with absolute perfectionism in mind. We have very sophisticated technicians working closely with us.

    Regarding my photography: I might be great at certain things, but I’m gleefully sub-par as a shutterbug ; )

    Send an email to chasesgilbert@gmail.com and I’ll reply back with some hi-res, full size photos to show the quality of our work.

    Thank you sincerely for your interest. At Kasbah Mod, we’re as concerned with poorly or dishonestly marketed typewriters as you!

    Best Regards,
    Chase
    kasbahmod.com

  10. Nice to see response. Maybe some hint as to pricing would be good as well. Perhaps you could put a high res photo or two up on the site for those custom ones as the paint quality will be the supreme test.

    Richard

  11. Hi Richard,

    Thanks for the note. We’re working this week on having click through hi-res images.

    As for pricing, it all depends. To a young student, passionate about experimenting with an alternative writing instrument but short on cash, we’ve been known to sell thoroughly-restored, perfectly-functioning but “unexciting” machines for $99.

    When we sell a mint-condition Valentine, it goes for considerably more, of course.

    The custom-painted machines, generally our most costly, run anywhere from $500 to $750. I heard somewhere that the original model sold for $130 in the early 50’s. If my information is correct and you consider 60 years of inflation, hours of restoration and our partners’ innovative custom painting process, it’s a fabulous price.

    As far the paint-quality, you’ll be able to see it in hi-res by next week, and I know you’ll be impressed!

    Chase
    kasbahmod.com

  12. I’m glad all I’ll ever need is a 33. When it breaks I’ll get another.

  13. I’ve sold locally a few fully-functional, cheaply-painted machines. Mostly the paint job is just to cover up something truly hideous underneath. I’m selling them as writing instruments (the ‘consignment’ shop is a writer’s retreat in my town); the paint just gets them noticed. I do find that the ones I’ve painted (and by ‘painted’ I basically mean hosed-down with a spray can) are the ones that’ve sold.

    I’m certainly not trying to make a profit on these – I’m pretty sure I’ve not sold one over $50. Mostly it’s common machines, in good working condition, that just need a little cosmetic help to get them into the right hands. Which I’m happy to do.

  14. Thank you for this interesting entry. This fashion wave hasn’t reached Urope yet – probably a matter of time. European readers, anyone?

  15. HI Shordzi,

    Just thought I’d share: a large percentage of our buyers are European tourists – mainly English, French, Italian, Swedish and Danish. Many Australians, too.

    It’s coming your way ; )

  16. OK, I’m opening a typewriter shop(pe) right away! I can do all that, and the marketing. Anyone know where I can get half inch black and red wholesale? Work the ‘bay’s dated looks to your advantage like Chase has. Add a little style and attach some cool values (it is there in the candy pink and the font) the price tag has to be set quite high to match.

    Anyone for naked steampunk?