Saturday, October 29, 2011

Retro Technica 2011: Catch and Release (American edition)

I have had an awesome typewriter-hunting day today - and I didn't have to leave Geneva to do it, either. My finds were humble, but in nice condition and at fantastic bargain prices: a qwerty portable that might replace its qwertz colleague in my collection if I can bear to part with it; and another Swiss-made portable that is just the thing I needed to send to a special friend. But more on those later, perhaps, right now we have to finish up the pictures from Retro Technica and see which writing machines came out to represent the stars and stripes:

Royal Bar-Lock from approximately 1910. I think I might have seen this last year, as always shown by Stefan Beck, but it's always worth photographing.

The Chicago Typewriter (c. 1892), another gem from Stefan's collection. I believe these were more for display and advertising his museum rather than for sale, but I could be wrong.

Stefan again, with a beautifully restored New Century Caligraph typewriter. He knows what he's doing, I must say.

Bringing up the rear on American-made late 19th/ early 20th century writing machines is this Blickensderfer 7 with a DHIATENSOR keyboard. I never really bother to ask the prices on these ones; it's an "If you have to ask..." thing. You understand. Ok, so on to more "realistic" typewriters:

 Smith Premier No. 10: Not realistic in the sense that I would actually want to buy it, but it may be in a more affordable price range simply because it was not being sold by a typewriter specialist. And it hasn't been restored either, although the decals have been nicely preserved in any case.

Royal Portable, c. 1930, asking price CHF 60. I don't know if I like how boxy it is, but if it had been a different color I might have been tempted. As it was, I scrutinized the typeslugs long and hard to make sure I wasn't passing up a highly desirable "Royal Vogue" typeface, but it looked like a pretty ordinary pica. At that price, also, it wasn't hard to say no.

Remington Remette, c. 1938. It was not so long ago that I yearned for one of these. Those fanned out typebars with exposed typeslugs called out to me, and this is a beautifully-preserved example. But, since I have the Remington Junior, this would have been superfluous. And correct me if I'm wrong, but the metal body on the Remette seems flimsier... Still pretty, though!

Bringing up the rear is this Royal Quiet de Luxe. I found this intriguing because the glass tombstone keys seem far older than the rest of the machine - I believe this model is more often found with green plastic keys. Admittedly, we don't see many of these here, so my American readers would know better.

**Edited to add the best find of the day; which I was so excited to share on here I am mortified that I ended up overlooking it!** :
 This gorgeous maroon Smith Corona Sterling, with immaculate glossy paintwork and yes, really that shiny in person. No one walked by it without taking a second look! This was actually the first one I asked about, and while the CHF 100 price tag sounded steep, I would have to say it was fair given the condition and rarity of the typewriter. However, I am not in the habit of spending that much for my typewriters, so I smiled politely and walked on. Besides, I have a '40s SC Clipper which, while homely compared to this glamorous one, gets the job done just fine. I hope someone snapped this one up!


  1. I like the matte finish of the Remette. And I like this series, too. But were all the machines there in the higher price range?

  2. Hi Florian - unfortunately, Retro Technica does not have the thrift store/ flea market prices we are used to. The lowest price I saw was $18 and the highest $100, but many of them were not labeled and I didn't ask, but I don't think they were much cheaper (except the usual Hermeses...)

    Strictly speaking, it makes more sense financially to buy a typewriter on an online auction and pay for the shipping than to spend the train fare for Fribourg. But it's hard to pass up the chance to see so many typewriters at once...

  3. Mmm, beautiful all.

    You know, if you really want a Blick, they are fairly common and available at reasonable prices online.

  4. very impressive! I love that Bar-Lock. I remember Robert Messenger featured their ads which were as beautiful as their machines.

  5. What fantastic machines. I'd love to have just one of the oldest in my somewhat small, but growing, collection.

  6. Your restraint is admirable, but I suppose that's what happens after you collect typewriters for a while. You become more discerning and selective.

    I am gradually getting there, myself, and for the first time in my experience coming across typewriters in thrift stores in Northern California recently, am now starting to pass machines up.

    The Smith-Corona Sterling is indeed stunning and I would have had trouble passing it up, but I agree that one has to set SOME sort of limit on how much to spend.

    There are plenty of other typewriters in your future which are less expensive, which is part of the fun and the challenge.

  7. @Richard: Oh, I'm not sure I want a Blick - they are nice to look at though. Not saying I would pass one up if I unearthed it at the flea market! That would make for a great story.

    @Bill: And that's how it starts...

    @Cameron: I told myself that the Senta would be my "splurge" this year, so I'm sticking to it! Besides, getting the Sterling just because it's maroon would have been hard to justify, since I have a very nice Clipper with the exact same action. Indeed, after passing up so many typewriters, it gets easier each time to be more selective. There are plenty in the future, as you say, which is also a bit scary as I only have so much space!


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