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Brands? Models? Places to actually buy typewriters in 2009?

It's the kind of thing where, when I ask people, they say "just check garage sales and flea markets" and I have and have had no success.

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I've got a few typewriters over the years when older friends/relatives found out I use them and said 'well I've got one collecting dust in the garage if you're interested...' so try asking your grandparents first. Charity shops are also good, especially the less trendy ones, which is probably a good idea with garage sales and flea markets as well.

The only trouble I've ever had with typewriters is old ribbons, and that's pretty much unavoidable. New ribbons are easy enough to find online and, unlike with typewriters, shipping isn't so problematic.
Whatever ones you find at thrift stores, flea markets, garage sales or used office supply stores.
It's true that the best places to find a typewriter are at flea markets, yard sales, etc., but it can also take a long while if you're eager to have one right away. It's also good to put the word out to friends and family members that you're looking for a typewriter. You can find them cheap because they're the kind of thing that is considered useless junk to one person, treasure to another. I guess that's where that saying comes from.

There are also a lot of typewriters listed on Etsy, but unfortunately most of them are totally, unbelievably overpriced, and a lot of the listings have notes like, "I don't know if this actually works," "For display purposes only," etc., and I'd feel pretty uncomfortable buying a typewriter I can't see and touch and tinker around with first anyway. And of course postage is astronomical.

I was lucky enough to find a working manual typewriter for $15 at a flea market a little while ago, a Sears Simpsons Commodore, and another one at an antique shop that was closer to $60, but it's an Underwood Portable from 1922 in perfect condition, so I couldn't resist, and now it's my favourite.

As for brand recommendations, I don't know. I like anything that works.

Also, for ink ribbons, Staples still carries those, and sometimes local independant office supply shops do, too. Sadly, my local shop hasn't been able to order any, so I have to get them at Staples where the price is doubled, but that's still better than no ribbon at all. There are also a lot of websites that sell them, though I haven't tried them out, and it's easy to Google your typewriter make and model to find out what kind of ribbon it takes.
st. vincent de Paul's
Salvation Army
Good Will
stores...will have old typers...GW the most expensive anymore.
OH, BE SURE TO SAVE YR SPOOLS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! for
whichever model you find...

you often have to transfer ribbons from a non-interchasngable
spool onto your own....

DON'T BUY OLD RIBBONS...even if cello-wrapped...often
dry as Death Valley

just be sure that the new ribbons you get a hold of
FIT YR SPOOLS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Not to question or criticize, but I'm surprised you've had so much trouble finding a typewriter at flea markets, thrift stores and the like.

Over the years I've "compulsively" bought them, mostly for $5, sometimes less. I even serendipitiously saw one along a country roadside being given away for free. Most of them worked, often well. I've only had one typewriter that didn't take a ribbon-spool I bought. My experience has been that any ribbon spool I've bought has fit any old typewriter I put it into. Yes, Tim's right, stocking up on ribbon's may not be such a good idea---they dry out fast. You just have to guesstimate at the trade-offs in stocking up or buying a ribbon at a time. Miranda's right about Staple's carrying old ribbons. I think they're in the $3 to $4 range---more than I like to pay---I'm spoiled from the old days when they were cheap and plentiful.

In the past 5 or 10 years, some mail order companies have been selling basic manuals for about $150 + shipping. I saw one of these on clearance sale for $80. These companies also sell ribbons, and I've stocked up on about half a dozen. No dry-out problems so far and they're a few years old. Their print's been nice and dark. My only complaint is that their half-red, which is of no use to me. The companies I've seen them at are---Carol Wrights Gifts, Dr. Leonards, and Walter Drake. I'm sure I've seen them elsewhere too. Not as cool as an old manual found at a yard sell, but if you're rarin' to go with one, it might be an option.

You could put a want ad on Craig's list, or if you're willing to wait, one in local paper freebie, often found at supermarkets & laundromats.

Good luck!
Trés cool!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mulnix said:
thought this might be useful for anyone looking to restore an old typewriter :
Hi! I wrote a whole series about finding typewriters on my blog. Here's part one, which has links to the other six parts. Hopefully you can get some useful information in there to help you find what you're looking for.

My zine is actually all about and/or written with typewriters :-) Good luck.
Whoa! Cheryl! You're even more of a typewriter geek than I am! And a more knowledgeable and adept one too. THANK YOU! I can't wait to print out your whole blog and pour over it (but I don't look forward to the rigmarole of downloading software and hooking up my printer---that's a drag, unlike good old simple typewriters).

Anyway I may have some comments and questions for you after I've looked it all over and digested it a bit better.


Cheryl Lowry said:
Hi! I wrote a whole series about finding typewriters on my blog. Here's part one, which has links to the other six parts. Hopefully you can get some useful information in there to help you find what you're looking for.

My zine is actually all about and/or written with typewriters :-) Good luck.
if ya really wanna a 'noisemaker'...the smith-carona portable in
its hard case is the best...had 3 and gave 'em away when i went
'PUTER...................wrote so many reviews and so much poetry
that the computer makes EDITING 33 ZILLION Xs easier...and uses
only 1/100th of the paper...
but i agree the
NOISE I MISS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:):)
definitely take a road trip out to port perry or beyond and hit up flea markets, sally anne's, goodwills, etc.
that said, i found one a few months ago in perfect working condition at what is usually the most overpicked value village in toronto.. for $20! when i lived in edmonton, i posted on freecycle and got close to 10 replies. most were for electric typewriters but i scored 3 manuals out of that (2 of those have since been given away to pals)
I have 4 typewriters. An electric I got at value village for 3 dollars (it works), a blue smith-corona manual in a case I bought off kijiji for 15 bucks, a portable 1920's royal from kijiji (paid a bit for this one), and a standard 1930's Royal I got for free off of yahoo's freecycle. Kijiji is awesome-there are a few typewriters for sale in my area now for 10 bucks-I'm holding back, telling myself I have a typewriter illness. I bought a ribbon last week at Staples, it cost 9 bucks. Still better than ebay's prices though.
I have seven typewriters. All of them were either free or no more than $10, except for my script-type machine, which was a $40 splurge (but worth it, I think). Don't give up on the flea markets! One day I found two of them for $5 each (an electric Smith-Corona in blue and a black Royal, both perfect working condition, with cases) a table down from each other. Goodwill can also be an excellent source for typewriters. Hell, I still see them everywhere, even though I've sworn off buying anything new because the only one I really use is my manual Smith-Corona. The only one I bought online (Ebay) was the script-type one, but since then I've seen a few script ones in stores in person, bah.

My point is, they are out there, it's just a matter of getting to the flea market on a good day. Also, do ask your older relatives about them! Two of mine came from my parents' attic. They might not be made anymore, but over the years millions of manual typewriters have been manufactured, and aren't really useful unless you're a zinester or an eccentric (or both!). Also check out Freecycle and Craigslist.

As for recommended brands, I like the Smith-Coronas because they take the universal ribbons sold at Staples (which have never been dry for me, but YMMV). I'd recommend against buying anything too old (pre-1950s) for that reason, but that's because I really hate rethreading ribbon.

Good luck!

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