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Friday 1 June 2012

Hope Springs Eternal: Typewriters on Australian eBay

A couple of galahs take a close look at the carriage of an old typewriter.
Do you think they know what they're looking for?
Australia is in the grip of a two-speed economy. Our miners are making billions but Mr and Mrs Joe Blow are keeping their money in the bank, fearing Greece and Spain will soon fall into an ocean of debt and all our efforts to keep our heads above the Global Financial Crisis waters will sink with them. The Reserve Bank is busily trying to stave off inflation by constantly lowering interest rates, but Mr and Mrs Blow just aren’t spending.
Not spending in shops and stores, that is. But all the while spending up big on typewriters on eBay. Given the prices some typewriters have fetched in the past few weeks, you’d think the buyers have never heard of a GFC. Or do they imagine buying a Japanese Nippo or Brother portable typewriters is better than keeping money in the bank … that it’s some sort of an investment? Wishful thinking, I fear!
Still, as autumn fades and winter takes its chilly hold on the country, hope springs eternal with some sellers. And why not?
This common or garden plastic Adler Tippa S is listed for $225, the equally readily available Valentine for $370. No bidders yet, but give ‘em time …
After all, someone paid $52 for this Nakajima Kmart – and believe it or believe it not, there were 35 bids!
But wait, folks, it gets better: There were 25 bids for this Nippo Atlas, and the buyer forked out $170.50 for it. Yes, you read that right - $170.50!!! For a Nippo!!! Oh what fun …
For around that same amount of money, a more discerning buyer might have got an Alpina ($180), or a Corona 3 ($165) in great condition, from a reliable seller. But no, they were both passed in.  And yet a Corona 3 in similar condition attracted 32 bids and sold for $360. A Remington Model 1 portable sold for $167.50 after 16 bids, yet a Remington Model 5 enticed 24 bids and sold for $325. A lovely burgundy Smith-Corona 1930s portable got 23 bids and also sold for $325. And two Smith-Premier No 1s came up for sale, one (top) fetching $122.50 after 17 bids while the other (bottom) got $310.70. I doubt there was very much difference between them in condition, they both have a lot paint missing and are well rusted.
Same goes for Adler Contessas, some of which continue to sell for silly prices. But while one (top) only reached a realistic $31 after four bids, five days earlier the other (bottom) fetched a nonsensical $252.49 after eight bids. Where's the difference? It’s hard to fathom …
Just as ridiculous as the Nippo sale, if not more so, were the 20 bids and the $123.50 paid for this orange Brother 210. At least the Nippos are a little hard to find. Kidding someone into handing over 123 of their hard-earned dollars for a Brother 210 takes some imaginative marketing, and one certainly has to doff one’s cap to this seller:
“atomic VINTAGE retro INDUSTRIAL ORANGE metal BROTHER TYPEWRITER. FuNkYRETRO ATOMIC. BROTHER all metal Typewriter. Circa: 1970s. The Brother 210 typewriter is such a fantastic ORANGE colour [Did it come, in its tens of thousands, in any other colour?]. Every key works perfectly and it looks FuNkY on display ... 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! In very good/excellent condition, this typewriter is strong in colour and works perfectly. The ribbon although strong in colour may soon need replacing as it seems a little dry and rides up a little when typed. Love the shape of the keys - they are the classic square boxed in rich black.”
OK, just putting aside the BS about funky and atomic, the colour, the case and the keys for one moment … let’s read that again: “The ribbon, although strong in colour, may soon need replacing, as it seems a little dry and rides up a little when typed.” So, are we to believe this seller is suggesting that by replacing the ribbon, the buyer might be able to solve what is obviously a problem with the ribbon vibrator, or the machine’s alignment? Please …
But my favourite was the seller who listed what rusty bits remained of an Olivetti Studio 44 as “a great doorstop”. “Vintage typewriter,” was the listing description, “Completely seized and unrestorable, but would make a great doorstop (weighs a ton!) or salvage parts.” Fair enough, except you had to go pick it up. I wonder if the seller was just trying to save him or herself the infinitesimal cost of taking it to the dump. If so, it didn’t work … the item didn’t sell, even at 99 cents.
What did work, staggeringly, was listing this Remington Envoy III series portable as a “Beautiful Vintage Navy Blue Typewriter”. WITHOUT A RIBBON COVER! Perfect Condition. With original carry portable case.” Yeah, but where’s the original ribbon cover? “Add a little nostalgia to your life!” Yes, nostalgia for a ribbon cover! The seller was asked one question: “Just wondering if all the keys still work? Or if any keys stick? Does the ribbon need replacing?” What about the ribbon cover??? It sold, after nine bids, for $44. Financial crisis, what financial crisis? Here’s a lazy 44 bucks for some bits of an incomplete typewriter …
Of course, “Eames” and “atomic” are still working, even though they don’t mean a damned thing in relation to typewriters (or much else, for that matter). In fact, with this red Torpedo portable, they are a complete deception. Still, the machine sold for $255.
This Yöst No 10 sold for $130 after 26 bids.
The Archo went for a mere $95.58 after 16 bids.
And a shed full of a job lot of 10 typewriters got to $73 after four bids.
Stay tuned for more upside-down typewriter buying in a Land Down Under.
Where we all type like this:


Adwoa said...

This is hilarious, Robert! You really brightened up my Friday morning with your write-up. I think these are my favorite posts of yours.

The best bit about the atomic funky Brother is how the seller loves "the shape of the keys - classic square boxed in rich black". Wow! I've seen a few typewriter descriptions, but going to the extent of elaborating on the (ordinary plastic!!!) keys? Just brilliant...

maschinengeschrieben said...

Fantastic! Let's use our scrap typewriters as doorstop! Just incredible descriptions and prices - most typewriters on the swiss auction site don't even sell!

Bill M said...

I think many ebay sellers have vivid imaginations and the buyers just have to have the item only so someone else does not get it. Ebay prices are funny. I see junk sell for very high prices and many good typewriters go unsold at rock bottom prices.

notagain said...

Very amusing. I love the pic of upside-down typing! Who wouldn't be proud to stub their toe on that Studio 44?

Anonymous said...

I am imagining the buyers of these things now going on the internet to (belatedly) research their winnings and ending up on this page. What fun. I hope they'll leave comments.
== Michael Höhne

Anonymous said...

Love the studio 44 doorstep idea! Hahaha..
Hey Michael you got your wish.
I bought the cheaper Contessa and the Torpedo. Haha!
Contessa had nothing wrong with it and was in fantastic shape and the Torpedo was the "old and red" typewriter a friend wanted.
She's rich.

Scott K said...

Robert, I got some bad news about that Corona 3 that sold for $165. It didn't sell. Not for lack of interest, as I was the lead bidder at the time. Hey.... It was too beautiful, and in too amazing condition to pass up. It looked new! But the item was withdrawn from sale.

So I emailed the seller, who still had several other typewriters for sale. It turned out, that they were attempting move the u it, when they tripped over their dog, and mashed it with themselves into the floor.

So... Instead I bought a British royal arrow, to save it from a key chopper. An Olivetti 32 - $10. An imperial 220 - $10. A Hermes 3000 (plastic casing) $9.50. All on eBay. All listed along side these machines you have posted on.

Seriously... I bought those last 3 units for a fraction of the price that all those inferior units that you listed here sold at. Sure, no funky colours. No era references. No over-blown descriptions.

Scott K said...

*move the unit

teeritz said...

I've noticed that if a listed typewriter happens to be in a colour other than black or 'office green' (as I call it), it tends to sell for some ridiculous price. I find those 'burnt orange' coloured ones rather bland, to be honest.