Monday, March 18, 2013

Cuckoo for Craigslist: The $20 1920 Oliver Typewriter

Good morning! The wait is over! Get ready to see my big last-week score!

Last Tuesday night, I was hip deep in my usual routine of watching Rupaul's Drag Race and window shopping Craigslist, when what to my wondering eyes should appear but the following ad:


I know I quote such amazingly low prices on stuff that you're likely to think some of the blarney of this past weekend may have rubbed off on me, but here is a pre-WWII typewriter, in the antiques section of Nashville's Craiglist, that is actually priced at $20. The ad had been posted an hour earlier, so maybe I still had a chance at getting my clammy little hands on this gem? And twenty smackeroos? Were they missing a zero? I even took a screenshot so you would believe me. I emailed the listing tout de suite and set up a meeting with a girl named Tina at the Maxwell House Hotel off Metro Center.

First thought? This is obviously a "fixer-upper" typewriter that has previously been submerged in the bottom of a lake, thus explaining the sale price. Second thought, this is obviously a serial killer that targets collectors-of-antiquity. I mean, even in the former scenario, a rust-covered, non-functioning nineteen-teen's typewriter should rate at least a fifty dollar price tag. I've seen broken down eighties' IBM Selectrics for more than $20. So I balled down to Rosa Parks Blvd after work on Wednesday and got the goods.

PEOPLE. LOOK AT THIS.


Oh, right. It looks exactly like it does in the other picture, except better! 

The Oliver Typewriter Company manufactured typewriters from 1895-1928. The "visible" type feature touted in the advertisement refers to an innovation Oliver made in typing machines, in that their model was the first you could see the type come up as you typed it (and thus realize immediately when you substituted a "q" where a "w" went, and would have to go back and type it over again). This model is the No. 9, and while the ad took its information from a 1912 patent featured on the labeling  the No. 9 actually dates from around 1916-1920. The girl I bought it from said that she and her boyfriend has picked it up at a yard sale in Franklin for $35 as "an investment", but they were moving to Washington state and the Craigslist ad was a response to her own threat that she would take it to Goodwill at the end of the weekend if her significant other couldn't find a new home for this old clunker. OH. MY. GOD. TWENTY. DOLLARS. The only thing better than getting something amazing is getting something amazing for pennies on the dollar. Tina said she'd had her email completely flooded with emails overnight, but since mine was the first response, she'd held it for me. FOR ME, FOR ME!



The "u-shaped typebars" are a particularly neat feature on this typewriter-- I didn't take a very good picture, but as you can see on this website, the typebars swoop down from either side in an elegant strike pattern, unique to the traditional semi-circle arrangement of the same. The ribbon is very worn, but intact.


The first thing I did after making the transaction was buckle this guy into the passenger seat of my Civic and drive out to my parents' house. Now, though the bizarre strand of genetic hoarding and collecting can be directly traced from either of my progenitors, they are also contradictorily harsh on me when they think I've spent too much money on something or have not spent wisely. They're the gold standard test for whether or not something is a good buy. We come from a line of Depression-era thinkers, both before and after the actual Depression, mouths to which the withering phrase "Well, I guess you've got more money than sense" is no stranger. However, they were practically as excited as I was!

Mom: [as I'm carrying the thirty pound typewriter in by its side handles and she helps me as I struggle with the screendoor] Dang, Lisa. DANG. Is that what you got?! How much did you pay for it?
Lisa: Twenty bucks.
Mom: Twenty bucks! That's nothing! That's a pizza! I can't believe they sold it to you for that! How much did they pay for it, did they tell you?
Lisa: Thirty five bucks.
Mom: See? That girl probably thought it had depreciated or something. Pssh. That is ridiculous. I can't believe that. [to my dad] Go get your brush and you can dust it off for her.
Dad: [going to get the brush, calling back from his office] Can you put this in your will to me? [Note: As much as my pappy loves me, if I ever end up mysteriously disappearing, please check to make sure that some recent vintage transaction hasn't pushed him over the edge to homicide...HE IS ALWAYS ASKING ME TO WILL THINGS TO HIM]
Lisa: I was afraid you guys would be like "Oh, you shouldn't have bought this great big old thing that you're gonna have to find somewhere to put in the house, and twenty bucks was too much to spend, and blah blah..."
Mom: No! Not at all. I would have bought that.
Dad: [cannily, dusting] You know, if I'd have been smarter about it, I would've been like, 'Aw, it's ok, kid, you know, everybody makes mistakes...and you're young, you didn't know any better. Tell you what, I'll give you twenty-five dollars for this clunker, just so there are no hard feelings about the whole thing.'
Mom: [to my dad] Don't press too hard on those parts with the writing on it. [to me] And you'd make five bucks! That offer stands!
Lisa: NO WAY.
Mom: I'll trade you my projector. [Note: said projector is a 1920's home model which, though missing the motor, is extremely impressive to look at and cost her $6 at a sale they went to without me. WITHOUT ME.]
Lisa: No deal!

Needless to say, much laughs were had, and I felt so proud I thought I might bust about the whole transaction.

Q: Do we love it? A: DO WE EVER!
And does it work? Let's take a look:

           

Look at the sneery little freeze frame from the first part of the video! My side angles are not my best angles. Bonus points if you can tell from which Oscar-sweeping favorite movie of mine this dialogue is wholesale paraphrased (if your curiosity is killing you, the answer's here). But do you hear the clack clack clacking? Could you believe it? And if the ribbon weren't so inkless, I assure you, it would cough up some beautiful print, if the faint markings it did make are any indication.

My dad said he would lend me an old typewriter stand he has in the attic somewhere as soon as he could unearth it. "It's from the forties', so it wouldn't be period-perfect for the one you have, but it'd still be better than nothing!" he offered. Yahoo! Now I just have to make display space for it somewhere in my office!

Do you have any crazy old typewriters hanging around the house or the attic? What's the wildest deal anyone ever gave you on Craigslist? What do you think about my find (or my 1930's newspaper man impression)?

That's all for today! I'm gonna muscle through this gloomy Monday and I'll see you guys right back here tomorrow! Til then.

27 comments:

  1. Splendid! I love old typewriters!

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    1. Me, too! This one was a real treat!

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  2. Daaaaaaaaaamn! I came running over this morning to see what you got and that typewriter did not fail to have me shrieking. Way to go! And I love the dialogue with your parents. They sure seem like the right kind of parents to have. And I LOVE the video. You're a pretty damned good actress, chickadee. Listen to those keys sing!

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    1. Haha, sorry to have kept you in suspense! It's a daisy of a do, though, isn't it?! I was so excited but I wanted to make sure to do it up and do it justice in a post (hence the video...I am now self-described as the world's youngest living 1930's actress, haha!). And my parents...whoo, my parents. I usually excise my poor pappy from stories about estate sale doings, but he's my #1 enabler/wing man when it comes to hitting every sale in Davidson County of a Saturday AM. They're good folks!

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  3. That is an amazing story! So glad you were the first to respond so you could snag it and give it a proper home! It is a beautiful thing. I have many typewriter stories myself -- just search "typewriter" on my blog and they will all pop up. My yard sale karma last year found me lots of them, and I just got my first of the 2013 season on Saturday.

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    1. Oh man! You are the queen of typewriters! That $5 one you were talking about in your last post was nothing short of a steal. Five bucks, and it looks brand new! I need to check out some of your archives, the only thing I love more than a good story about a good find is the good find itself! Haha.

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  4. Oooooo, pretty! Me likey! Heckuva deal too! I love it when Craigslist coughs up a really stellar piece for next to nothing...doesn't happen often, but when it does, WHOOOOSH! I love the typebars! They make it look like a fly about to take flight! Too fab!
    I have my mom's old Remington Rand typewriter. It's a big, deco behemoth that she bought second hand in the early '60s. I almost didn't keep it, but she talked me into it and it's now on a table in my sewing room along with her 1937 edition of 'Secretarial Office Practice' that she bought, again second hand, at the same time. They look so right in my Art Deco room and I'm glad I changed my mind and didn't sell my now beloved RR.
    As for Craigslist scores, I don't think I'll be able to top my $150 9 piece Broyhill Sculptra dining room suit ever. That was the deal of a lifetime, I'm afraid!

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    1. I don't think anyone ever will be able to beat that Broyhill haul you made! I can keep hoping, but good Lord, what a score. :)

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  5. This thing is a beauty!!! I need your Craigslist juju to rub off on me! I just love the sounds of an old typewriter... I find it soothing. Maybe you can sell type recordings to me to hel

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  6. Wow! Cool find! That is just beautiful - and isn't it fun when you find something like that on craigslist at a bargain price! I love vintage typewriters - and I have one that my grandparents gave me sitting in my office. It is a 1930s version - and it USED to work until some students borrowed it for a prop. Now the carriage won't stay in place and I have it anchored with a safety pin. I used to have a workable typewriter and there was something very satisfying about typing on one - I loved the plunking feeling of hammering out an essay.

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    1. Oh, I hate that they messed it up! :( But I bet it still makes pretty window dressing. How *stylish* office equipment used to look back in the day.

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  7. Love it! Those type bars are amazing! I have a couple typewriters I've found over the years, a turquoise Royal and a Remington. My brother has a really neat one with two separate keyboards for lowercase and capital letters.

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    1. I know, I didn't even notice them in the picture, for some reason-- when I went to pick the machine up I was like...what?! This is crazy! I bet that two separate keyboards thing is neat, too!

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  8. Love it! And what a steal of a deal! Your Craigslist luck has been off the hook lately, I tell you what.

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    1. I know! Gotta keep that Craigslist karma coming! :)

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  9. Gina at Vintage Junk sent me over here to look at your typewriter. Love it and can not believe you got such a great deal!!! I have two typewriters - a 1925 Royal called Kate (future Queen of England) and a 70's Turquoise Omega (no cute names for her). Love your video too!

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    1. Hi, Pam, thanks for reading! I looked up your Royal, Kate (haha!), and the Omega... I love that one is so 1920's and one is so 2001: A Space Odyssey, but both are gor-geous! I'll have to think of a name for mine.

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  10. BEST. MOVIE REFERENCE. EVER.

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    1. Thanks for being my camera man, camera man!

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  12. TYPEWRRITERS!!!! LOVE THEM!!!!!!! I have an Underwood from the 1920s and two portable Smith Coronas from the early 1960s. One portable is a turquoise blue and I have it on my coffe table in the living room. The whole family types on it as we pass by and have aseat. It is fun and is a stress reliever! No computer can compete, except when it comes to error correction. Carriage returns, space bars, margin release and carriage bell ringing win over a computer keyboard! Oh, and the imperfection of the key strike on the page is priceless! Your new find is a beauty! Do you have a ribbon for it? I find mine at Office Max! Amazing! Thanks for sharing your video! I love that little movie too! my favorite part is when they are on the bus! Great vintage items there!

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    1. I'll have to check around for a ribbon, the one in it is in pretty bad shape. I'm jealous of you and Pam (comment above) for your turquoise typewriters, I googled some and they are so cool! Talk about a pop of color AND a style statement at the same time. And I'm glad you're a fellow It Happened One Night fan! Still one of my all time favorites. (Gable fan for life!)

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  13. You just made my day with your parents banter and that crazy awesome video!!

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    1. Haha, thanks! I'll have to get them guess star in a video some time, wouldn't that be hilarious? "My parents on: Vintage Pickin' Habits"...then you guys could see where I get it from in real time! :)

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