I’ve bought a fair number of vintage typewriters in the past and most weeks I’m purchasing another one or two for my collection or to refurbish and resale. I’ve made some mistakes and thought I would share what I’ve learned. Hopefully, you will find this information helpful.
Buy in person when you can. It’s always best to be able to inspect the typewriter in person. It’s very helpful to be able to examine the machine for yourself without having to rely on a someone else’s description and photos to determine the condition of the machine.
Check the carriage. One of the first things I do when evaluating a typewriter is to move the carriage. Does it advance when typing? Is the drawstring/drawband broken? Is there much front to back movement? Does it make any odd sounds?
Inspect the platen. How does the platen look? Are there any splits or areas of concern? How hard does it seem to be?
Check the machine’s functions. Check the tabulator, margin release, line lock, and backspace functions. Do they work?
Look under the hood. Are there any missing type bars or type slugs? Does the ribbon advance when typing? Any notable corrosion?
Tip the machine up and inspect the underneath side. Any corrosion? Does it have a bell or is it missing?
Carry a small piece of paper and do some typing. Does the carriage skip when typing? That could be caused by dirt OR it could be the sign of a problem with the escapement. Also pay attention to how the paper was pulled through the machine when you inserted it. Visually inspect the feed rollers. Are any flat, swollen or split?
Inspect the frame. Give the machine a good look over. Make sure the frame isn’t broken or cracked.
If you follow the instructions above, I believe you’ll be well on your way to making good buying choices when searching for your own vintage typewriter.
In a future article, I'll share some tips on purchasing a vintage typewriter online through one of the auction sites.