Being a writer by vocation, I made it a point to eventually purchase a vintage Royal typewriter as an inspirational piece, evocative of the history of the writing craft. But, are vintage typewriters worth anything? It turns out that old typewriters, especially of certain brands, are indeed worth money.
For some time, I’ve wanted to write an article answering several questions about who collects vintage typewriters and which brands are worth money. Today, I’ll share with you what I’ve learned, and maybe you can add a vintage typewriter of a worthy brand to your own creative space.
Thank you for sharing your article introduction with me. It sounds like you have a passion for writing and vintage typewriters. I’m happy to help you answer the questions you have using the information I found online.
Why Are Vintage Typewriters Worth Anything?
Vintage typewriters are worth something because there are many dedicated typewriter collectors, more than happy to take an old typewriter off your hands. However, your typewriter’s worth, like any collectible, depends on their condition, rarity, and desirability.
As far as condition, both cosmetic and mechanical conditions are very important. A typewriter in mint condition can sell for exponentially more than the same beat-up model that may need work. This is why servicing of antique typewriters is so important. If a typewriter has been recently refurbished or professionally cleaned, and it needs no work to be used and enjoyed, it can demand a higher price than a typewriter that is dirty, dusty, or has some mechanical issues.
Generally speaking, the older the typewriter, the more valuable it is. But rarity is also a major factor. Some models were produced in very limited numbers or had unique features that make them more sought-after by collectors. The highest dollar values for typewriters, however, are based on their overall desirability. Some typewriters have more appeal than others because of their design, history, or brand. For example, typewriters designed by Thomas Edison or used by famous writers may have more value than ordinary models.
According to Nerdable, some of the most expensive antique typewriters on today’s market include:
- The aforementioned Edison Mimeograph Typewriter was designed by Thomas Edison himself, used to make copies of documents. Today a strong example is valued around $14,000.
- The Writing Ball was the first commercially sold typewriter, used in Europe as late as 1909. One sold in Germany for 100,000 euros ($111,460 US at the time) in 2019.
- The Sholes and Glidden Typewriter was America’s first commercially successful typewriter and the first to have the name “typewriter”. Nerdable says you can own one for $33,553, although I can’t find any listings or recent sale comps for that price anywhere now.
Who Collects Vintage Typewriters?
Vintage typewriters are collected by people, like myself, who appreciate their beauty, history, and craftsmanship. Also, some collectors are writers themselves who use vintage typewriters as an inspirational piece or a creative tool. I fall into the inspirational category; my fingers could never use a vintage typewriter for actual work.
Other typewriter collectors are enthusiasts who enjoy restoring, displaying, or researching old typewriters. Some collectors specialize in certain brands, models, or types of typewriters, while others collect a variety of machines.
Some examples of famous collectors include:
- Actor Tom Hanks, known to fancy old typewriters, keeping one on hand for note-taking. He has also written a book of short stories inspired by his collection.
- Businessman and civic leader Steve Soboroff has amassed a collection of over 30 typewriters once owned or used by famous people, such as Ernest Hemingway, John Lennon, Marilyn Monroe, and Barack Obama.
- Canadian collector Martin Howard has curated a crisp and visually stunning collection of early vintage typewriters and related ephemera. He also runs a website, The Martin Howard Collection, where he showcases his collection and shares his knowledge.
How Much is My Old Typewriter Worth?
Unfortunately, unlike many other niche collectibles, there isn’t really a centralized marketplace in which to sell your old typewriter or receive a professional evaluation of its worth. There are some online marketplaces like Chairish that do feature many vintage typewriters, though. Still, you’ll have to do some research on your own to find out the specific value of your typewriter model.
Beyond the more general rules of condition, rarity, and desirability, there are several other factors that will affect the value of vintage typewriters. For example, portable typewriters carry much more value than desktop models, thanks to the vast majority of buyers interested in models that can be easily moved around in carrying cases.
Also, models that type in a specialized font are particularly valuable. Desirable fonts can include, cursive, vogue, and senatorial. There are also certain foreign brands, such as Olivetti, that carry higher values. But, even more common brands can carry affordable, but still, significant values for collectors who want an example that won’t break the bank.
According to LoveToKnow, here are some of the best vintage typewriter brands to keep an eye out for:
Attic Capital also mentions a couple more typewriter brands to be on the lookout for, including Olympia and the Hermes 3000.
Notably, Smith-Corona and Remington also made guns. Eventually Remington dropped typewriters to focus exclusively on firearms, whereas Smith-Corona dropped guns for typewriters. Sadly, Smith-Corona exited the typewriter business after the 1990’s, and today serves the thermal printing label market. Fortunately, both companies are still going strong.
If you’re looking to research old typewriters further, here are my sources and some additional links I came across in my own research for this article.
- How Much Are Old Typewriters Worth? – Vintage Cash Cow Blog
- 10 Antique Typewriters That Are Worth Thousands Today – Nerdable
- What Is My Typewriter Worth? – Typewriters 101
- Vintage Typewriter Values and Best Brands – LoveToKnow
- Antique Typewriter Value and Collection Guide – Valuable Antique Detector
- Vintage Typewriter Values and Best Antique Brands – Attic Capital
- Are Old Typewriters Worth Any Money? – AnswersAll
- Collecting Antique and Vintage Typewriter Models – The Spruce Crafts
- 50 Most Wanted Typewriters – Typewriter Collector
- Antique and Vintage Typewriters – Collectors Weekly
- Vintage Typewriters for Sale – Chairish
I’d love to hear about your experiences with vintage typewriters. Do you have a family member who once owned one, enjoyed it, or both? If you have any questions or requests about further vintage typewriter topics, please let us know in the comments!