Vintage typewriters

Tapping into the Market

Typewriters collage Auction Team Breker [M]
Words are not so cheap.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Most old typewriters hold very little value – only those that are rare, in very good condition or have had celebrity users fetch high prices.

  • Facts


    • The typewriter market boomed in the late 1800s as the result of growing office industrialization.
    • A machine used by U.S. novelist Cormac McCarthy fetched $245,000 (€223,000) at auction in 2009.
    • Most classic typewriters are valued at four to five digit figures.
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Uwe Breker’s fingers glide almost lovingly across the black metal and enamel flower decorations and press the typewriter’s keys vigorously — the typebars dart upward and land with firm snaps.

“Here it is,” says the auction-house owner. A Sholes & Glidden, manufactured from 1874 onward — a piece of history to hold in your hands.

The typewriter has a cultural history spanning many chapters. One involves the industrialization of offices. Another involves women. In 1880, 40 percent of stenographers and typists in North America were female. And the latest and perhaps closing chapter: Countless collectors from Europe, Asia and the United States covet the mechanical relics of yesteryear.

“Sought-after historical typewriters are also quite suitable as an investment,” said Mr. Breker, the owner of the world’s largest auction house for technical and mechanical antiques, in Cologne.

Enthusiasts are willing to pay more than €10,000 ($11,090) for a genuine Sholes & Glidden, which was named after its inventor. The model was produced at the Remington factory known for sewing machines and weapons, and in later years, as the Remington Model No. 1, became known the world over as the first usable typewriter.

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