“We don’t do Internet”

I was asked to help a friend obtain several antique typewriters (that is, pre-1920) from a serious collector. The husband and wife team had collected about three dozen machines over the years, such as a Williams, Franklin, Bennett, Blick, and Hammond. The majority during the typewriter collecting “golden years” when a Sholes and Glidden could be had for $200. A beautiful collection, most in near mint condition.

Word had very slowly gotten to my friend who was always on the lookout for great machines to buy. By then, incredibly beautiful, mint condition machines like Hermes, Olivetti’s, and Erika’s were gone. Given away mostly, but the rest? Destined for the curb.

Then there was an immaculate 1913 Hammond Multiplex on an oak base with a pristine oak lid. There was not a speck of dirt or grime on the machine and it’s roman medium, and cursive shuttles looked brand new. I was stunned by its conservation.

“Will you be moving what you don’t sell with you or sell on eBay, or something?”

“No. Everything must go.”

“What .. will happen to them?”

“Throw them out”

I was gobsmacked into silence, a rarity if you know me. They said they “did not do internet” so there was no chance to sell them on eBay. They demurred at companies who do that for you. They had given away machines to friends and neighbors, such as a mint Olivetti Valentine with case, but these amazing machines were going to be thrown out.

Blessedly the more we spoke they backed down and agreed to donate to Goodwill what they didn’t sell. That set off a feverish race to find someone to buy the immaculate Hammond that I, for lack of just paying for a new a/c system, could not buy.

The Hammond found a home but the rest of the machines were destination unknown. This raised an important question that many collectors of everything find themselves in: What do you do when you want/need to sell and you just don’t want to deal with eBay; which, really, who can blame you?

What do you do when you need to sell a collection and you don’t want to deal with eBay and the internet? When you’ve inherited 30 rare mechanical calculators, phones, fans, and typewriters but don’t want them. Fortunately there are options.

  • There are companies in most major cities who will sell it on eBay for you for a commission. These are generally individuals who will help you sell things, but very few will take them on consignment.
  • Antique stores, even antique malls made up of dozens of booths, might buy it from you, but probably not for its true value because they need to turn around and sell it.
  • Call a typewriter repair shop, they still exist but close often as business wanes and people age. They often will also service machines line IBM Selectric’s and photocopiers, so don’t dismiss if you don’t see a typewriter.
  • Tell your friends! There are people who purchase antique machines and someone knows someone who collects antiques, etc. Pre-1920 machines like Hammond, Mignon, Caligraph, and others look beautiful in home decor.
  • There are specialists who buy and sell rare machines, give them a call.
  • If all else fails, Goodwill. They will put them online and sell them!

Please don’t throw your collection away. Rare machines, especially those made before 1920, are worthy of preservation and there are people who will want them even if you don’t use the internet.