Collectible Clunky Old Typewriters

old underwood typewriter AP

Typewriters, first introduced in the early 1870s, were an important invention. They brought women into the white-collar work force in droves. It was the first office job widely available to women.

Whenever a new invention appears on the market, if it's basically a good idea, it isn't long before many companies enter the market. That was true of such products as automobiles, sewing machines, cameras, radios, and computers. And it was true of typewriters as well.

Here is a selection of a few of the collectible winners and losers:

Hammond 1:
  • Early 1880s
  • Sliding type shuttle of hard rubber
  • Huge number interchangeable typefaces and languages
  • Hammer swung from behind, pushing the paper against the type shuttle, with the ribbon in between.
  • Spring-loaded keys made each strike uniform.
  • Endless variations: design engineer would get an idea and they'd modify the machines immediately.
  • Ebony keys
  • A Hammond 1 in fine condition brings $300 to $1,000; other Hammonds are less.
  • Still made into late 1970s
Crandall:
  • One of earliest single-element machines
  • Two rows of keys, unusual shift
  • Pretty machines start at $1,000; could fetch as much as $10,000


Find out about other collectibles described by The Saturday Early Show's Tony Hyman in the Collectibles Archive or visit Tony Hyman's Web site.

If you think you have a collectible worth a lot of cash, send an email to sat@cbsnews.com with "What's It Worth?" in the subject line. Or write to "What's It Worth?" The Saturday Early Show, 514 West 57th St., 6th floor, New York, N.Y. 10019.

Edison Mimeograph Typewriter 1890s:
  • Edison's name had star quality.
  • This is an index machine; that is, it is designed for the user to pick one letter at a time. This was a bad idea from the start, but many tried to make it work. (The advertisements actually admitted that it was a slow machine.)
  • It was an ugly machine, and it didn't sell well. But now it is rare and has fetched as much as $14,000 in Europe.
Franklin 9:
  • Produced from the 1890s to 1907, this was of a radically different design, with a curved "ergonomic keyboard."
  • Claimed you could see what you wrote as you typed, but the type bar interferes with the view; you could see your writing only if you were standing or very tall.
  • All Franklin models sold originally for around $85. Today, their value ranges from $250 to $500.
Blickensderfer Featherweight 1911:
  • First successful keyboard portable
  • Optional keyboards (foreign, scientific, etc.) and optonal carriages, from giant ledger to pharmacy label.
  • First type ball; IBM Selectric came 50 years later.
  • Value range today (all Blicks) from $25 to $200. It's a great bargain in the market right now (except perhaps $15,000 if you can find a Blick electric).
American blind striker:
  • Dates from 1901, sold by Sears and Montgomery Ward
  • Originally priced at $50, its value range is about $100.
Underwood No. 5:
  • Underwood was a typewriter ribbon company.
  • Underwood Jr. made a sales call to Remington and was told, "We won't need ribbons any more. We'll make our own." Junior replied, "And we'll make typewriters."
  • Model no. 5 was made from 1901 to 1931.
  • This was the first typewriter where you could easily see the keys strike as you typed.
  • It's the quintessential "antique typewriter" for decorators, and sells for $25 to $50 today.
Remington No. 5 Streamliner
  • Remington made the first successful typewriter in 1874.
  • Made first portable in 1920
  • The 1931 Streamliner was made for the overseas market.
  • In the late '20s, Remington portables were offered in new DuPont Duco enamels in different colors like red, orange, blue, green, orchid, and even wood grain.
Royal Portables:
  • Dominated the middle 20th century
  • Late '20s portables were offered in new DuPont Duco enamels: red, orange, blue, green, orchid...even wood grain.
  • They were so well-made and so common that only a few have value.
  • A Royal Portable with a gold finish was made in 1948 on the company's 50th anniversary to distribute as an award to salesmen. These models fetch $200 to $500; one got $609 on eBay.
  • "James Bond" author Ian Fleming owned a Royal; that one sold at auction for $85,000.
Keaton Music Typewriter:
  • This is a strange-looking device prints notes on musical staff paper; it was invented in late '30s but not marketed until early '50s.
  • Used by small music publishers primarily for short runs
  • Sold originally for $255. More recently, one has sold for more than $6,000. There are fewer than a dozen known to exist.

Questions about early typewriters may be directed to Darryl Rehr, author of "Antique Typewriters & Office Collectibles: Identification and Value Guide". Email address is dcrehr@earthlink.net.

Typewriters shown on air belong to New York City collector Marjorie F. Chester.



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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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