We are all gathered here today to mourn the sad loss of our dear friend – the fifteen dollar typewriter….
I was out today, and every time I go out I’m on the lookout for typewriter to breathe new life into. Today, I saw some – desperate mechanical souls really. They had been sucked into the trap of the vintage dealer. A band of ruthless souls that claim they appreciate the old and antiquated, but are really just there to make a profit. Today, I saw one of their stalls at the Old Bus Depot Markets here in Canberra. Upon a table, nestled amongst printer’s blocks and overpriced paper, was a Hermes Baby. Ladies and Gents, I’ve wanted a Hermes Baby for quite a while, but the ticket prices was $125.00 – completely out of my budget, and far too much as far as I am concerned. What’s more, I knew fairly confidently how much they had bought this typewriter for. It had sold on eBay here in Australia just a few weeks before – at around $30. It was fairly distinct. The case had been ‘embellished’ with an awful folk-style painting.
Vintage dealers are the sort of people that belong in Melbourne, another city in Australia. If I lived in Melbourne, and I was still a teenage typewriter enthusiast, I’d own three typewriters, not twenty, and I would have had to pay around one-hundred for each. Not only that they’d be Japanese, Nakijima junk. Vintage dealers are the sort of people that also, amongst their ‘wares’ sell decapitated typewriter keys, and typewriters with glass keys for the purpose of the barbaric act.
Before I get too carried away, some ‘Vintage Dealers’ are good. They’ve just adopted that name to move with the times, not to become part of this new-age funky-atomic-retro clan that can’t write prices below one-hundred.
I think that eBay has its hand in this as well. It becomes easy for anyone to see what these Vintage dealers have their typewriters online for, and want similar prices at garage sales and on eBay. It isn’t about getting rid of unwanted stuff anymore – it’s about making a profit on a typewriter that you bought at K-Mart in 1982. Speaking of K-Mart typewriters, I saw one today. There was more rust than paint on the little blue Nakajima, and the price tag read “Early K-Mart Typewriter – $95”. It was a joke. The same dealer had an orange Brother 210 for $165, without a case. For both these typewriters he probably paid twenty dollars.
Once upon a time there were typewriters at very reasonable prices. I don’t own any typewriters that are considered exceptionally rare. The most I paid was for an Olivetti Valentine – knowing full well it typed terribly, but knowing full well that they’re nice to look at. But I paid ten dollars for lots, twenty-five for others, and in a stroke of luck 10 cents for one. Mind you, it didn’t have its ribbon cover and is classified topless. What ever happened to these utter bargains?
I do hope that the supply of typewriters isn’t running out. No, of course they’re not. It’s vintage dealers selling them back and forth amongst themselves.
I cling to the hope that all of this will blow over. I know that bargains are out there to be had, and I don’t give up all hope. I am just disheartened when I see stupidly priced typewriters. A $165 Corona 3? That’s a bit more understandable, but not for Japanese portables. I hope that eventually the mainstream will drift off this ‘vintage atomic retry funky’ business, that they’ll drift away from ‘vintage grunge’, and something else will come up; leaving the true collectors and enthusiasts behind.
I’m not into typewriters for making investments, selling them to people, or making profits. I just like them. They’re business model around typewriters is perfect, despite me not liking it: they’re trying to manipulate my desire for a Hermes Baby, Corona 3, or Lettera 32 (roman typeface).
But in five years, hopefully, the vintage-atomic-retro-funky market will have collapsed. I hope.