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Wednesday 22 February 2012

Let's Buy the Funky Typewriter

DEFINITION: funk·y (fngk): a. Having a moldy or musty smell. b. Having a strong, offensive, unwashed odor.
The Funky Typewriter, ooo, ooo, ooo
Buy, buy, buy the Funky Typewriter (The Funky Typewriter)
We are here to show you how (Ooo, ooo, ooo)
Ooo, ooo, ooo, the Funky Typewriter (The Funky Typewriter)
It's just atomic
So go on and bid on it
The Funky Typewriter now
- With apologies to The Goodies and The Funky Gibbon
Funky, retro, atomic is now officially in. It’s firmly ensconced, apparently – so we'd better get used to it. And image is everything, too. As are Eames and Kartell, who apparently have something to do with typewriters – but I know not what.

And where, pray tell, is there any core information about the typewriter itself? Little things like name, rank and serial number? Forget those matters when listing a typewriter for sale on eBay. Oh, of course, silly  me … yes, that’s right, it’s funky, retro, atomic, ain’t it? And associated with people called Eames and Kartell, somehow.
But let’s get back to funky, retro, atomic a little later.

First, the astonishing typewriter sale of the week on Australian eBay, especially since it wasn't listed as "funky, retro or atomic": a first-time buyer paid $400 for a “rare” Hermes Baby.

This item was listed a week or so ago at a buy-it-now price of $420 and a starting price of $200. So if someone had bid at $200 back then, the buy-it-now offer would have been nullified and the typewriter might have sold for $200 – still at least about four or five times what it’s actually worth.

But no, the “rareBaby went unsold, was then relisted at a buy-it-now price $20 lower, and sold! Breathtaking stuff.

A “rare” Baby typewriter is one thing, but a funky, retro, atomic typewriter is another – and these types of typewriter are consistently fetching top dollar in Australia right now. You know, typewriter salespeople on eBay are now reminding me of many real estate agents – the ones who describe an apartment as having great views when it's blocked on three sides by chemical factories.
As far I can tell, the same seller who flogged the "rare" Hermes for $400 failed to shift a very ordinary Japanese-made Adler on which there had been a starting price of $115 and a buy-it-now price of a hugely inflated $300.
Another amazing sale during the week was a very common Olivetti Studio 45 fetching $125 after 25 bids. This was a classic case proving the value of a large number of high-quality photos and a typewriter over which an oily rag had at least been rubbed to clear off the dust.
The description was also pretty good: “This typewriter is fantastic!!! It looks new, works perfectly and is the most amazing high gloss aqua colour. Currently has black ink (!) which is strong and but can also use red and black ink on the one roll, just flick the switch to change colour! It is an absolute delight to type on - the keys depress easily and feel springy ... the font is pretty cool too and look at the keys - so different, it's ever so nice. Use it everyday or admire it as a retro display from a bygone era … you won’t be disappointed!”
I bought the exact same machine three weeks ago for $26, $99 less.
Encouraged by this success, the seller of the Studio 45 has now listed a extremely common Brother 215 as an “funky, atomic, vintage retro industrial all-metal typewriter” which “works perfectly”. Staggeringly, there have been 32 bids and the price is up to $80 - and there’s still four days to go! A new buyer and a second-time buyer are going head-to-head. I hope they know what they're doing!
Again, the images are great, and the description sooooo enticing: “The Brother 215 typewriter is such a fantastic neutral (!) colour (which means it has no colour at all!) Every key works perfectly and it looks FuNkY on display [seller’s capital “N”, not mine!] ... just love how the casing is all metal - very industrial! Complete with the 2-in-1 black and red ribbon and changing colour is just simply flicking the switch! This typewriter is strong in colour (it has none!) and works perfectly. Love the shape of the keys - they are the classic square boxed in rich black. Such a FuNkY typewriter, use it everyday or admire it as a retro display from a bygone era … you won’t be disappointed!”
Oh, I think I would be … funky, atomic, retro or otherwise, it’s still just a very common or garden Brother, for goodness sake! They're a dime a dozen in this country.
Catching on to the “vintage, funky” thing, a seller has listed an equally common Brother 210 for $75 - but this time one WITH colour. “Authentic and original” (what else would it be?) “Fantastic. Funky. Retro -1960s (actually, this model was released for the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988!). In brilliant strong colour with contrasting black hard case (hardly any visable [sic] signs of wear or damage).” I’d say the seller is a hard case! (I should explain for US readers, a "hard case" in Australian lingo is a character).
What’s so interesting about this machine is that it apparently represents an advance on the 1874 Sholes and Glidden. It “Types perfectly - in capitals and small letters … types in black, red and stencil.” Will wonders ever cease with the advance of modern typewriters?
If the seller of a much more rare Olivetti Lettera 41 was watching that last Studio 45 auction, they will be encouraged to think they can do better than a starting price of $30. But no bidders yet, despite excellent photos.
At the other end of the scale, image-wise, is an Imperial Good Companion Model T. Now, is this the shiny black or the flat, crinkle black model? Who knows? It’s a prime example of how not to sell a typewriter for $99. The seller has now made two attempts for a quick sale (24-hour listings) but has not included any images. We have to take his or her word for it: “Sold as is.  Pick up only – Melbourne. The item may have some signs of cosmetic wear, but is fully operational and functions as intended. This item may be a floor model or store return that has been used.” I'd like to believe the seller, but I'd like to see it, too.
A Litton Royal 203 “from the Kartell-era” (whatever that means) sold for $121 (even though the seller admitted, “Although I can't type with it, everything appears to be in good working order.”) These things are now just about as consistently priced as Valentines – and just as common!
I bought a Hanimex Consul portable for $10 a week or so ago and another is now listed at that same price. But this one is a Super retro and very vintage typewriter, perfect for the retro home as a decorative piece, on a sideboard or even for the children to play with. Crafters ...they really are kinda special. Awesome for scrap booking or card making.”
The day after I posted on Bulgarian Maritsa typewriters, someone listed a “collectable vintage retro” Pacific 30 (Maritsa 30). The ask is a bit ambitious: $55 starting price, $120 buy-in-now for some nasty Bulgarian plastic.
The good news is that a nice brown Royal sold for $192 and Derrick Brown’s latest offering, a beautifully-presented (as always) black Royal, fetched $411.
As well, a lovely centenary-year Corona 3 sold for a healthy $332 after 22 bids and a starting price of $99.

However, a nice Halda failed to sell at $150.
I suppose it was also good news that the Remington rust-bucket in Hervey Bay sold for $41 after attracting five bids, which pushed the price up by a whole $7.
I guess someone must have worked out it just needed a wipe-over. It’s probably also good news that some buyers can see through the flashy images and find in the grime some really decent old typewriters. Now there’s a funky thought!
DEFINITION: Futile, unnecessary, nonsensical and kinda yawn-provoking.


Bill M said...

I often find it entertaining watching the antics on Ebay.

Rob Bowker said...

Robert! That was fuN! And fuky - if not utterly atomic, retro and industrial. There is genuine entertainment to be enjoyed from reading some listings. Most interesting recently spotted on UK eBay was an early Everest which "works perfectly" except for the letter N, which has a key ...but no type slug. Caveat emptor

notagain said...

That song reminded me of "The Goodies" and their song "Funky Gibbon" and I'm wondering if there's a connection?
Nice post, very interesting dynamic going on there.

Richard P said...

Thanks for the entertaining rundown of!

Let's not forget "shabby chic." Whatever the heck THAT means.

shordzi said...

So, there is hope for typewriters! Occasional higher prices are good - shows that the object in question is valued. Excellent entry, very inspiring to life and live it funky!!

Scott K said...

You're missing out on the word: VINTAGE.

I seem to see that getting thrashed when trying to appeal to Gen-Yers of late.

Every time I hear someone use that term, I think of the scene in the film 'Gran-Torino', where the young girl asks - 'Where did you get the cool vintage car'? The car that the character had owned since new. The girl then continues to ask 'Can I have it (I'd look cool turning up to school in this)'?

I don't mind that these things are ending up as Decor personally, and that there's some kind of fashionable edge to them, but I don't for a minute see this as anything other than consumerism. And they certainly don't have any respect or understanding of these things. I dare say after they're done with them, they'll just end up in the rubbish. Unused, and unloved.

Cameron said...

Amusing and horrifying all at the same time.