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Thursday 31 January 2013

Sholes & Glidden Tops $20,000

The Sholes & Glidden I mentioned in my Typewriter Update of January 21 sold on US eBay this morning for $US20,230 ($A19,353). The typewriter is apparently staying in the US.
As predicted - notably by Will Davis - the really big bids came in a flurry right at the end of the 10-day auction, with the price jumping from $12,780 to more than $15,000 then over $20,000 in the last few seconds. The winning bid was made with just six seconds to spare. It turns out a bid of $12,680 had been made on the opening day of the auction, on January 21. The starting price was $8600.
At that time, a comment on Facebook's Antique Typewriter Collectors group suggested "$10,000 is a lot of money for a S&G, after all it's an industrial product, there are hundreds of S&Gs out there". To which one Theodor Dampfknödel replied, "Good luck finding another of those 'hundreds' of S&Gs ... in my opinion, $10,000 is not unusual for a decorated S&G in good condition. Some bidder is already willing to pay at least that much." A very accurate call by Theodor, as it turns out.
Will Davis commented after the auction, "Twenty thousand dollars plus. Not bad. Not bad at all. Congrats to the seller and new owner, whoever that is!"

Wednesday 30 January 2013

My Typewriter eBray

Yes, when it comes to buying typewriters on eBay, I can often be a total ass. Ergo, like an ass, I also often bray. That is, protest, grizzle, moan, or any other sound associated with the burden of being an ass.
I weathered the heatwave, the violent thunder storm, the extreme pain of RSI from over-blogging (which stopped me blogging at all for four days), all the while buoyed by the thought that winging its way to me from McCordsville, Indiana, was the most beautiful pale blue Royal portable typewriter.
I fell for it the moment I saw it listed. I know, I'm a complete ass when it comes to such things, but I just couldn't resist it. I had never seen an early Royal portable in such a vibrant colour. Yes, I checked the listing description and the seller said this was an original factory colour. This guy (Tom Kern, trading as "Rogue 1810") sells typewriters from The Typewriter Place, so I figured he knew what he was talking about when it came to typewriters. An instruction manual was included in this irresistible package.
The Buy it Now price was $US429. It's a huge amount for me to pay for any typewriter, and add in the $US104.50 for shipping, that's $US533.50 all up. Still, I kept telling myself, a typewriter like this is worth it.
Yesterday afternoon, a small parcel arrived. I knew straight away something was very, very wrong. The USPS "large flat rate box" was 12 inches square by 6 inches high. It weighed 2.4kg. A Royal portable typewriter case is 12½  inches by 12 inches and 5½ inches high - and that's without any padding around it. A Royal portable in its case weighs 5.7kg, more than double the weight of this parcel. There's no way any Royal typewriter was in that box.

Sure enough, when I opened it I was in total shock. Inside was a burgundy Brevitype stenographic machine.
OK, I have received a full refund, and an apology. Still, this massive stuff-up raises some questions about an organisation which calls itself The Typewriter Place and which has been trading on eBay for close on 10 years and has received 2264 feedbacks for a 100 per cent positive record.
So a mistake was made, fair enough. But consider this: The USPS customs declaration dispatch note states the correct weight of the parcel - 2.4kg. That meant the shipping cost was $87.45, significantly less than the $104.50 I was quoted. The note states the parcel contains a Royal typewriter, when at that size and weight it most obviously didn't. Perhaps, if Tom Kern had thought about offering me a refund on the postage I'd paid, he might have realised an error had been made. Realised, that is before I notified him of what he'd sent me.
It turns out, I was told 24 hours later, that "my" pale blue Royal, serial number P109945, was winging its way to Romania, to an equally unsuspecting buyer expecting to receive a small parcel containing a Brevitype stenographic machine. The eBay auction for this latter machine, apparently a 1940 model, ended the same day I took the Buy it Now option on the Royal. It had a price of $149 on it, but a best offer was accepted. Even the original price was $280 below "my" Royal. There must be every chance the Romanian buyer will realise he has got himself a real bargain.
I'm resigned to the fact I will never now see this machine. And I'm not sure I would want to. Quite apart from the shock of opening the box with the Brevitype in it, I was appalled by the inadequate packing. When I checked Mr Kern's track record, I noted he received neutral feedback last September for a 1930 green Royal portable. " ...  not the best packaging, its arrived with broken parts," the buyer wrote.
The Typewriter Place claims in its listings that "We pad on all sides so the item does not contact the box." This is untrue, at least in the case of the Brevitype, as this photo proves:
"Movable parts may be secured with stretch plastic." Untrue again. Note how the various things inside the Brevitype case have moved since the listing photo was taken:
Tom Kern wants me to return the Brevitype to him. It will be hard to resist packing such a precious, delicate item properly, but as The Typewriter Place doubtless thought the original packing was sufficient, that's how it will go back.
Some readers may recall the saga of me committing to a Buy it Now price last year on an Optima P1 portable typewriter that was listed by an eBay seller in Melbourne but which was, at the time of the listing, actually sitting in the home of incoming ETCetera editor Alan Seaver in Minnesota.
This was the image used to highlight the listing
Mr Seaver's typewriters have yet again featured prominently in an Australian eBay listing. A Remington standard which sold  this evening had as its lead image a printout of Alan's Machines of Loving Grace website. The second most prominent photo featured was from Charles Gu's website.
This was the second image in the listing
It was only when one got to the third photo that the actual typewriter for sale could be spotted.
The actual typewriter for sale looked little like those owned
by Alan Seaver or being sold by Charles Gu
THIS IS WRONG! eBay has to do something to stop this nonsense. Happily, this typewriter only reached $10.50 after three bids, but the listing was most clearly designed to deceive. It's surely fraudulent to highlight in images typewriters which are not for sale.
The item description for this machine stated, "See photos for model description." In other words, look at Alan's or Charles's photos. The description then went on, "Missing top cover. I don't know much about these, all the keys work and the sliding part at the top slides easily and all levers work ... by 'missing top cover' I mean the cover that goes over the roller. If you have a look at the original photo [Alan's or Charles's, that is] compared to the actual item you will notice the cover on the top isn't there, it is still functional without it."
On a much lighter note, this black Adler Tippa has been listed. It's splattered with white paint. The listing says, "In good clean working condition, all keys work well and return to position. Has been splatered [sic] with white paint adds to the character and age of the typewriter. With a day to go, there have been no bids at $34.95. Seems no one is buying the "adds to character" line about a typewriter covered in specks of white paint. Hardly surprising!

Sunday 27 January 2013

Australia Day and Typewriters

Chartres brought us closer to an Australian typewriter
industry than any other company.
It never rains but it pours. A little bit of rain to cool us down during this heatwave would have been fine. Instead of which we got a short, sharp bucketing. A violent thunder storm, just as Canberrans were going out to celebrate Australia Day. My son Danny and his friend Emily, on the way to some Australia Day event, saw two kangaroos boxing in bushland near Belconnen. "Such a quintessential Aussie image on today of all days!" said Emily. It was a bad omen, as things transpired. The heavens opened and the thunder clouds rolled in. Even Charlie the guard cat ducked for cover as lightning struck the Australian Typewriter Museum. The typewriter gods were angry.
Australia Day is a time for Australians to celebrate everything Australian, from the Hill's Hoist to the Holden car, from Hoges to Harry Hopman. But typewriters aren't among them. There is no such thing as a truly Australian typewriter. Back in the 60s and 70s, some companies tried to fool Australians into thinking there were Australian-made typewriters. Take, for example, this manual for a Lemair-Helvetia portable typewriter:
Reaching for an Aussie keyboard? No such luck. It's for a Brother typewriter, from Japan. Quite aside from Lemair-Helvetias, we had Majestics and Highnesses from Czechoslovakia, Pacifics from Bulgaria, Craftamatics from Italy and Portugal and just about every name under the sun from Japan. 
And apart from Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Italy, Portugal and Japan, there have been typewriter industries in Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Holland, India, Korea, Mexico, Pakistan, Poland, Russia, Scotland, Serbia (toy typewriters), South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, the United States, Wales (toy typewriters) and Yugoslavia. But not Australia.
Back in the early 1900s, we didn't need our own typewriter industry. Typewriters flooded on to our market from all over, and sold at competitive prices, as this ad from Stott shows:
But then came two world wars and a worldwide depression, and as Australian governments sought to protect existing industries through import duties, maintain good trade relations with Britain and still keep the economy humming through the export of agricultural products, the supply of typewriters started to dry up. Remington, which had abandoned Stott (which was joined by Underwood), established a lasting relationship with Chartres and had a "branch plant" in Sydney to assemble US-made parts into "Australian-built" typewriters.
Everyone knew it was a sham, but at least Remington had Chartres market its own typewriter ribbons and carbon paper
The association between Remington and Chartres lasted until the early 1960s, when the company was known as Remington Rand-Chartres Pty Ltd. Stott & Underwood stayed together even longer, and Stott survives as business school to this day.
In other ways, we held our own as a typewriting nation:
But the days of high-quality American typewriters reaching our shores were almost over by 1961:
An excellent representation of the typewriters which did come to Australia in the 60s and 70s is held in Colin Jones's typewriter museum in North Queensland:

Saturday 26 January 2013

Gold-Plated Corona 3 Portable Typewriter

This is one of the very special typewriters which will be on show at the first-ever Australian Type-In, in Brisbane on Sunday, March 10. Others will include a Remington 2 Standard and a Blickensderfer 5, an IBM Selectric with a Blick keyboard, an Underwood 4 USB typewriter and a Hammond Multiplex. Register interest in attending with Scott Kernaghan at

Friday 25 January 2013

On This Day in Typewriter History: Somerset Maugham's Typewriters

PART 246
Some claim English playwright, novelist and short story writer Somerset Maugham never owned a typewriter and never used one.
The evidence of these images would suggest otherwise.
This oil on canvas by Charles Alexandre Picart-le-Doux (1881-1959) shows Maugham with what looks like an Underwood or Remington Noiseless portable.
William Somerset Maugham was born in the British Embassy in Paris on this day (January 25) in 1874. He died in Nice on December  16, 1965, aged 91.
Maugham was among the most popular writers of his era and reputedly the highest paid author during the 1930s. His most notable works include Of Human Bondage and The Razor's Edge.
Maugham is alleged to have said, "I never found a typewriter through which the subconscious seems to penetrate." Things must have changed.  It is said he wrote everything with a fountain pen. I think not.
This post ends the second section of 122 parts in the "On This Day in Typewriter History" series. The series resumes with part 247 on January 26, Australia Day, 2014, and continues for a final 122 parts.

On This Day in Typewriter History: Pared to the Bone

PART 245
I find rather remarkable that as late as 1939, people were still trying to market a cheap, basic little index typewriter, something which had been around in various forms since the 1880s. Indeed, by the late 30s, the Simplex, the outstanding example of this type of machine, and the one which outlasted all others, was on its way out. For children, tin toy typewriters designed by Sammy Berger were now all the rage. For adults, well machines like the Remette were about as basic as they wanted to get. Yet here was Fritz Wilhelm Metzger (born Karlsruhe, Germany, March 3, 1889) thinking there was an ongoing demand among both adults (businesses, indeed) and children for such pared to the bone typewriters. Metzger, of Chicago,  applied for his patent on this day (January 24) in 1938.
I cannot make head nor tail of this design.
Metzger wrote of his "invention" that it "relates to a type-writer, and especially to a type-writer which may be operated with equal facility by children as well as by adults. Devices of the kind specified are known, but they are either expensive or so complicated in operation as to make them undesirable. It is, therefore, an object of my invention to provide a compact and portable type-writer which is both simple to operate and so inexpensive that it may be used by everyone. Another object of my invention is to provide a type-writer which is simple enough for children to operate, and yet may be used in business or for printing signs, legends and the like. It is still another object of my invention to provide a type-writer in which ink is applied to the type while the device is being used. Another object of the invention is to provide a type-writer in which lettering will be produced in a straight line on a sheet of paper."

On This Day in Typewriter History: Jasper's Typewriter

PART 244
On this day (January 23) in 1894, Jasper Nelson Howard, of Wichita, Kansas, was issued with a patent for another interesting example of an index typewriter. Howard, born in Jasper, Indiana, in June 1851, lived to the age of 84, but died in 1935 in Redlands, San Bernardino, California, without seeing his machine made.
Howard said of his invention that it related "to certain improvements in that class of type writing machines wherein a single index key is used, adapted to be turned on a pivoted centre, and by connected mechanism, bring the type into operative position ..."