We love typewriters. A lot. They are beautiful display items, great tools for scrapbooking, fun for kids to play with, and great pieces of history. When our Etsy shop was open, we sold over 50 typewriters. And we have a few of our favorites in our house now, some for display and others for use. We just happened to stumble on the first few typewriters we sold, but we became experts on finding them in time. We thought we’d share five tips with you so you can find a typewriter (or several) too!
1. Search high and low.
Desktop typewriters are big and usually are easy to spot. However, portable typewriters are in cases, and most of the time when we’ve found them, they’ve been in closed cases rather than displayed. Ironically, the best typewriters we’ve found haven’t been displayed and noticeable, they’ve been hidden, sometimes in boxes that don’t even look like typewriter cases. Our favorite typewriter in our collection was under a table in a plain looking boxy black case. We paid $20 for a typewriter worth over $400, a beautiful Royal Woodgrain portable from the 1920s! Open up cases and peer inside boxes. Look under tables and behind junk. You’ll find typewriters other people won’t spot, and you’ll likely pay less too!
2. If you have something specific in mind, be patient.
Finding a typewriter is easy. Finding a specific kind of typewriter is hard. If you’re open, you’ll find something quickly. If you’re looking for something rare, say a pink typewriter, a cursive font typewriter, or a glass key faux bois antique Royal, it will take some time and some searching (or a lot of money online because someone else did the searching for you). Know what you want to use your typewriter for (a different typewriter is best for display vs. quick journaling vs. writing a novel) and be patient to find the right typewriter for your needs!
3. Test before buying.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Typewriters break easily, and many have small working flaws. Testing before buying ensures you get a typewriter that fits your needs and can also help you haggle on price. Ask if you can test a typewriter with a sheet of paper, ask to plug in electronic typewriters, ask online sellers to throughly check parts if the listing does not include a description on how the typewriter is working. Check for keys that won’t work or stick and make sure that the carriage moves smoothly. Ribbon dry? Don’t worry, you can find replacements online easily. We buy ours from Atomic Dreams.
4. Look in several types of places.
We’ve found typewriters at antique stores / malls, thrift shops, estate sales, garage sales, online, and have even had friends and family members bring some to us after they found them in other friends basements or attics. Typewriters can be found everywhere among the used and the old, but there are pros and cons to finding typewriters in different places. It all comes down to cost vs. time!
We had the best luck with our favorite local antique mall, which has hundreds of seller booths. Smaller antique stores are likely to have higher prices and only a few typewriters. We’ve found that price-wise antique malls tend to be the middle of the road, but it is usually worth it for a larger selection and time saved.
Thrift stores are really hit or miss, you have to go to them OFTEN to find a typewriter. However, we’ve found some amazing rare typewriters at them for unbelievable prices. Go this route if you enjoy thrifting and are willing to wait a long time for the perfect typewriter for you.
Estate sales are typically sales in someone’s home, and are held because a person is deceased or is moving and leaving almost everything behind. Estate sales may not have typewriters at all, and often only one if any, but can have real gems, as they typically have items people held onto as opposed to items someone decided they didn’t want anymore. The most well kept, beautiful, highest worth typewriter we’ve ever found has was purchased at an estate sale, but we can count the amount of typewriters we’ve purchased at estate sales overall on one hand.
We’ve never had typewriter luck at garage sales (we don’t wake up early enough!), but it does happen. I’ve known friends to score typewriters for $1!
Be cautious of buying typewriters online. I know this is ironic, because we SOLD them online. However, typewriters have a lot of moving parts, and shipping is really rough on them. We used a ridiculous amount of packing supplies to protect our typewriters before shipping, and the nice folks at UPS knew us as Mr. and Ms. Typewriter because we took them in to be professionally packaged so often. Many great deal typewriters online are from sellers who don’t know a ton about them, and your typewriter is likely to break in transit. Let the seller know this and tell them you’re willing to pay extra to make sure it’s shipped right!
Shipping aside, the great thing about typewriters online is you can find the exact typewriter you have in mind: the options are almost limitless. The con is that you’ll pay more, and shipping such a heavy item is expensive.
5. The internet is a wealth of information.
If you feel a little lost, Google it. In a few years, we went from knowing nothing about typewriters to being able to identify the models, fix them, and upkeep them properly. It’s fun to learn about the features of typewriters, and identifying the model (often by using the serial number on the typewriter, usually on the back or bottom) helped us to get the most out of the typewriters we have. We used the internet to check the value of typewriter models on our smart phones in the store to make sure we’re getting a good value (or, before we had smart phones, one of us would call the other one at home and have them look up prices). We learned that some typewriters we thought were broken were only stuck because of their margin settings.
The internet can also be useful in helping you find places that have typewriters in your city!
Happy Hunting! We hope this is useful to you in your typewriter search. If you have great tips for finding typewriters, a fun story about finding one, or questions about typewriters for us, we’d love to hear them in the comments section!