Resources for the Typewriter Collector
by Richard Polt
Collectors' Convention 2014
August 7-10, 2014, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
A page in honor of Percy Smock, who was collecting typewriters
back when only eccentrics would do such a thing.
"Percy Smock of Redwood City, California, with a few
Antiques from his Large Collection"
From Bruce Bliven's The Wonderful Writing Machine (1954)
Peter Weil shares this urban legend with me which illustrates
how the general public views us (I've seen this story about accordions,
An avid typewriter collector had just driven
eighty miles after work to
pick up a rare Royal Grand that he had finally found after years of
searching. As he drove home with his prize, it was dark and he was
sleepy. He decided to pull off the interstate to get some coffee. He
barely tasted his first sip, when, much to his horror, he realized that
he had left the Grand exposed on the back seat of his unlocked car. He
jumped up and ran into the parking lot to his car, but saw he was too
late. The back window had been smashed...and there were two more
typewriters beside his prize!
Typewriter collectors are relatively few, and tend to be men.
Most are considered incurably weird by their significant others.
As you might expect, many of us are professionally involved with
writing or technology. In the U.S. there are several hundred
but nine out of ten are casual collectors who own only a few old
The hobby is a bit more popular in Europe, particularly Germany.
Since this site first went online, in late 1995, interest in
typewriters has grown. That's partly because they have almost become
obsolete. Many children have never even seen a typewriter. This gives
these machines the allure of the archaic.
Recently, our hobby has gotten a good amount of press -- partly thanks
this Web site, I'm happy to say. We can only expect that interest will
continue to grow. (Well-known typewriter collectors include Tom
Hanks and Tintin
in the movie.)
Good information about typewriters can be hard to find,
but digging it up is part of the fun--and in recent years a number of
helpful books have been published. The listing below is by no means
exhaustive, but I try to cover all the most important resources.
Books in print
- Adler, Michael. Antique
Typewriters, from Creed to QWERTY. Schiffer
Publishing, 1997. $39.95.
An exploration of early typewriters by the author of
the classic The Writing Machine (see below).
208 pages with lots of color and black-and-white photos. Written in
an entertaining tone with a sense of humor. Lots of information, but
occasionally errors creep in.
Includes price suggestions which are generally reliable, sometimes on
the high side. This book is the most comprehensive typewriter history
in English. I recommend it for any serious collector.
- Blickensderfer, Robert and Paul Robert. The
Five-Pound Secretary. Virtual Typewriter Museum, 2003.
A handsome book all about the
great Blickensderfer, written in part by a descendant of its inventor.
Follow the link to order the book.
- Collector's Guide to Antique Typewriters.
Reprint of The Typewriter Topics Encyclopedia of Typewriters
(1923), published by the Post Group.
This was long the bible for
English-speaking typewriter collectors; it lists all major and most
minor typewriters made up to
1923, and describes them in an entertaining if verbose manner.
This reprint includes many reproductions
of advertisements. Available from Office Machine
for $12.95. Also reprinted by Dover, edited by Victor Linoff (see
- Current, Richard N. The Typewriter and the Men Who Made It.
Reprint by the Post Group of a 1950s study of the invention of the
Sholes & Glidden.
Good reading. Available from Office Machine Americana
- Dale, Rodney and Rebecca Weaver. Machines in the Office.
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993. A short, popular book that
typewriters, telegraphs, telephones, dictation machines, computers, and
Gives you a sense of the context in which typewriters were invented.
Entertaining, and includes many good illustrations. Information on
is not very reliable, though.
- James, Duncan. Old Typewriters. London: Shire
Publications, 1993. Shire Album #293. $7.25.
A small pamphlet that attractively
presents the essentials of typewriter mechanisms and has some nice
- Linoff, Victor (ed). The
Typewriter: An Illustrated History.
New York: Dover Publications, 2000.
A reprint of the 1923 Typewriter Topics Encyclopedia of Typewriters.
An important early source that includes lots of usually-reliable data.
The same book is available in a smaller format with
reproductions of early advertisements, under the name Collector's
Guide to Antique Typewriters (see above).
- Mares, G.C. History of the Typewriter, Successor to the Pen.
Pitman, 1909. Reprinted by the Post Group. An excellent early
"buyer's guide" to writing machines. Available from Office
Machine Americana for $24.95.
Robert. The Magnificent 5 (And 250 Other Great Things About
Portable Typewriters). 2011. A very entertaining full-color book of
trivia and opinions about portable typewriters. Order from the author
(owner of the Australian Typewriter Museum) at email@example.com.
- Morton, Jett. The
Oliver Typewriter Company: Machines and History. 2011. $19.95 at Lulu.com.
A very clear and informative rundown of Oliver history and models,
well-known and obscure, American and British. Everyone who owns an
Oliver ought to have this book.
- Rehr, Darryl. Antique Typewriters & Office
Collector Books, 1997. $19.95.
This book by the former editor of the
journal of the Early Typewriter Collectors Association is an invaluable
guide, including detailed descriptions of hundreds of typewriters,
with color photos. It is not exhaustive, and the estimates of value
are generally agreed to be too low, but this is probably the first
book the beginning typewriter collector should buy. You can order
directly from the author and get a free bonus:
the new, expanded edition of "The Early History of the Typewriter" by
- Robert, Paul. Sexy
Legs and Typewriters. Virtual Typewriter Museum, 2004.
"Women in office-related advertising, humor, glamour, and erotica."
A different sort of book, not for those who disapprove of "R"-rated
Follow the link to order the book.
- Russo, Thomas. Mechanical
Typewriters: Their History, Value,
Schiffer Publishing, 2002. The latest book on typewriters, written by a
former Remington man who has a fabulous collection. Not the best in
of completeness or accuracy, but notable for fine photographs of
machines, including some very unusual items. A separate chapter
on Remingtons is probably the most complete account of that make in
Value estimates are reasonable.
By the same author: Office
Collectibles: 100 Years of Business Technology.
Both books are also available directly from the author:
Russo & Associates, LLC, 1200 Philadelphia Pike, Suite 220,
Wilmington, DE 19809, USA.
- Webster, F. S. Company. Typewriters of
All Kinds and Our Galaxy of Stars. This rare 196-page catalogue
published in 1898 by the F. S. Webster Co. describes a wide variety of
machines, services, and office supplies. Attractive and entertaining.
Click on the link to order a print-on-demand reprint.
the Collector's Guide, Mares, and Current for only $44 total,
postpaid in the US (add 30% for shipping abroad).
Visit their website or e-mail Ernie Jorgenson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Snail mail address:
Office Machine Americana,
P.O. Box 1161,
Lewiston, ID 83501.
Books out of print
A good place to search for used books online is Bookfinder.
Or ask your friendly local librarian to get these on interlibrary loan.
- Adler, Michael H. The Writing Machine.
London: George Allen & Unwin, 1973. A scrupulously researched book
that features a very thorough
investigation of the early history of typewriter invention, and a
long list of
"unconventional" typewriters. This is a keeper.
- Beeching, Wilfred A. Century of the Typewriter. London:
Information in this book is unreliable but plentiful. Useful lists of
serial numbers, and an excellent
selection of photographs.
A paperback reprint was produced in the 1990s, and can probably be
more easily than the original.
In the UK, reprints may be available from
Bernard Williams, 80 Manor Road,
Burton-on-Trent, Staffs, DE 159 9SP.
- Bliven, Bruce, Jr. The Wonderful Writing Machine.
New York: Random House, 1954. An entertaining, journalistic book
sponsored by Royal (so, as
you'd expect, the Royal typewriter is presented as the greatest
thing since sliced bread). This book can often be found at used
- Herrl, George. Catalog of the Carl P. Dietz Collection
of Typewriters. Milwaukee: Milwaukee Public Museum, 1965.
A nice set of photographs (some are
reprinted in Beeching). Information is sometimes unreliable.
- Lippman, Paul. American Typewriters: A Collector's
Hoboken, N.J.: Original & Copy, 1992.
A self-published hardback book by a longtime collector --
includes many illustrations and personal observations about virtually
American-made typewriters, plus useful information and
advice for the collector.
- Martin, Ernst (pseudonym of Johannes Meyer). Die
Schreibmaschine und ihre
Entwicklungsgeschichte. 4th ed: Pappenheim, Bavaria, 1949.
An outstanding, encyclopedic work. Plentiful illustrations make it
worth looking at even if you don't know a word of German.
- Masi, Frank (ed.). The Typewriter Legend.
Secaucus, N.J.: Matsushita Electric Corporation of America, 1985.
This book put out by Matsushita when they were introducing the
short-lived Panasonic electronic typewriter is very good: generally
accurate, entertaining, and sporting a large number of interesting
black-and-white photos. The author was actually collector Don
Sutherland. Hard to find, but worth looking for.
Organizations and Periodicals
- ETCetera, the journal of the Early Typewriter
Association, is a quarterly color magazine edited by Alan Seaver. Dues
are $35 a year in North America, $40
elsewhere. Visit the ETCetera website
- Michael A. Brown edits TypeX (The Typewriter Exchange).
The newsletter features entertaining and interesting stories
and color pictures.
Want ads, For sale, To buy, For trade, etc. ads are free to subscribers
(space permitting). TypeX is published four times a year:
May, August, and November. Cost is $25, North America, $30 overseas.
Make all checks / money orders payable to Michael A. Brown. Mail to:
P.O. Box 52607, Philadelphia, PA 19115. E-mail: email@example.com. Phone: (215)
- The German collector's club is the I.F.H.B. (Internationales
Forum Historische Bürowelt), which publishes HBW-Aktuell
(20 pages, 8 issues a year, with news about meetings, etc.).
Three times a year every member also
gets Historische Bürowelt, a magazine with historical
research into typewriters and adding machines. Membership dues are 75
Contact Wolfgang Mock,
- The French Association Nationale des Collectionneurs de
Machines à Écrire et à Calculer Mécaniques
publishes its journal, Arts Mécaniques, about every six
months, as well as a bimonthly bulletin, Contact, mostly
dealing with collectors' meetings.
membership is 50 euros a year, payable
to international bank account FR35
2004 1010 1206 0144 8N03 334, Bank
Identifier Code PSSTFRPPSCE.
President François Babillot can be
contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Edmond Kern, editor of the publictaions, can
be reached at 11, rue Ravel, F 67310
Wasselonne, phone 00 33 3 88 87 06
91, email@example.com. Web
- The Italian typewriter collectors' association is the Associazione
Italiana Collezionisti Macchine per Scrivere,
Calcolo e da Ufficio in Genera d'Epoca, founded
in 1994. It includes about 80 members in Italy and other countries.
includes three or four issues a year of the association's newsletter, L'ufficio
d'epoca. Supporter members also receive a silver
pin with the symbol of the association, Ravizza's "Cembalo
Scrivano." Dues: 50 euros/year for a basic member, 70 euros for
a supporter. For more information,
visit the Association's Web site.
c/o Gamma, Castiglione 12B, 10036 Settimo Torinese (TO), Italy.
- The Swiss office machine collectors' club is SHBS. Visit their web site here (in
Publicly Displayed Typewriters
You may want to consult my listing of