An odd-looking typewriter called Oliver
  • A classy way to enjoy hot chocolate
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    Auction Finds

    Old and oh so classy typewriters

    When I started out as a journalist some years ago, I wrote my stories on an electric typewriter. We reporters would type our stories and hand them to our editors who’d scribble all over them with their  pens, correcting spelling, grammar or anything else they deemed necessary.

    There was nothing elegant about those typewriters. I can’t even remember what brand they were but I have no fond memories of them.

    I have had no experiences with the old manual typewriters, but the ones I’ve seen at auction are oh so classy. 


    Take the Underwood #5 Standard typewriter. It’s as heavy as a house, metal from end to end, and just as lovely as it can be. I came across one at an auction some months ago. It was in very good condition, with the Underwood name and other graphics as clean and as clear as when the machine was first produced.

    So, it’s not the best typewriter to work on, but it looks good as an antique and is a great conversation piece. The #5 is not a rarity; this was the second one I had come across in the past six months.  It was first produced in 1901 and set the standard for typewriters. The most recent one I found at auction was manufactured in 1927.


    Another black beauty I came across was an LC Smith Corona typewriter. (The name came with the merger of two typewriter companies in the late 1920s.)  This machine is much lighter in weight and more compact than the Underwood. Its keys are black and they are in very good condition.  This is a typewriter you’d want to collect. 

    The keys on these old typewriters are worth just as much as the typewriters themselves. Artisans and others create jewelry from the keys, as seen on this company’s website

    Lanston Hughes at his portable typewriter

    Lanston Hughes at his portable typewriter has a long list of authors and celebrities, and their favorite typewriters. Ralph Ellison used an IBM Selectric, according to the site. (Here’s a Life magazine photo from 1957 of Ellison using a portable manual.) Ernest Hemingway used several – Corona, Underwood, Royal. John Updike used an Olivetti from the ’40s.  Harper Lee used an Underwood portable. Joan Didion uses a Royal KMM.

    Vintage typewriters are very collectable.  Actor Tom Hanks is said to be a collector of portable manual typewriters. has collectibles for sale, including a Hermes 3000 (manufactured in 1958) for $495 and an Underwood #5 for $1,000.

    You can also get the #5 on Ebay for under $100 – or at a local auction for much much less. I once saw a Smith Corona and a Hermes 3000 go for a whopping $2. For both.

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