Faux phonies

by | Jan 19, 2013 | fakes | 19 comments

I’ve been seeing more and more fake typewriters for sale. These are made in China and definitely take some ingenuity and skilled labor to design and assemble (not as much as real manual typewriters, of course — which are also made in China). I expect that some, if not all of these are based on photos — it’s not easy to get your hands on a Gourland, after all. They seem to be designed to provide some charm and atmosphere to a display in a store, and to be appreciated at a glance or as part of an overall effect — not to be scrutinized close up, much less used.

Coincidentally, maschinengeschrieben just showed us a Louis Vuitton window display in Zurich featuring some beautiful custom-made faux typewriters.

What should we make of this trend? Are these objects pathetic travesties, or another positive sign that people are taking an interest in typewriters? Compare these fakes to the originals and see what you think.


  1. Anonymous

    Interest in typers for decorative purposes alone will fade and wane with the next design trend. Unless, I suppose, it triggers interest in some browsers in the store to seek out real ones. The only other good use could be in movies in which typewriters are destroyed for one reason or another (there's a particular movie I am thinking of).

  2. maschinengeschrieben

    All of these seem to be made with a lot less attention to detail, compared to the LV typewriter – but those were real-life-sized: I wonder if these presented here are smaller, and thus more intended to be paperweights, ash trays, dollhouse decorations and pencil sharpeners – we've seen those before, made when the originals were still made as well.

  3. Ton S.

    I don't have a strong opinion about them. They're decorative and don't pretend to be otherwise.
    And they don't look bad at all.

  4. shordzi

    How interesting! I am very surprised that these things exist. They puzzle me, probably because I have always seen typewriters as working tools. Probably this Chinese production is closer to what typewriters are perceived as from the grand public – namely as inanimate and decorative objects. They are not supposed any longer to perform their original task as writing instruments.

  5. Adwoa

    I agree with this … well, except for the last bit. That red Olivetti ICO is horrid; might as well be made of modelling clay! Otherwise, they all seem relatively benign and I can't imagine they would have any negative effect on the market for originals.

  6. Ton S.

    Haha, true!

  7. notagain

    …until you take delivery of one from an ebay seller who used a stolen pic of the real thing!

  8. Ted

    My only opinion is that the cost of making a fake non-working typewriter is likely greater than the cost of having a real one restored. Thus is it evil, even disregarding the potential for sellers trying to pawn off a fake as a real article to unsuspecting buyers.

  9. Miguel Chávez

    I hav to say that some of them are very decent reproductions; the "Hammond" in particular looks very good to me.

    I had one of my typewriters on display in my shop window this month, and it indeed got a lot of attention. And the consensus among those who actually asked if it was on sale was, "I liked it because I see it still works…" (it had a piece of paper in the platen and had some text typed on it). So I can say that, at least in Mexico, typewriters are still not as alien and inanimate as they might be in more technologically-minded countries, and people still remember them fondly. "I saw your machine and reminded me of the one my grandparents had… I used typewriters in college, I typed my thesis on one…"

    Man, one of the customers actually returned yesterdes and asked if I could give her a picture of the little Corona 3. Which I did, of course; just pointed her to my blog. They (a teenage girl studying photography and her mother, a professionist working for a major computer brand) were very interested in the story of the old thing. "And it still works!!"

  10. Blank

    Fascinating! Now if they would just make the keys only available ….

    Their use in destructive situations is a good idea. I cannot purge from my mind the image in the movie "Two For The Road" where the movie company burned a perfectly good MG-TD (beautiful sportscar) that they probably bought for $300 in that year. In contrast, the movie "Tucker" depicted the graphic destruction of the only Tucker to have crashed by using a made-over Studebaker. (There aren't enough Studebakers still around either, but you get the point.)

    == Michael Höhne

  11. Robert Messenger

    I own a couple of these. They are mass produced and as such are very poorly finished. Don't be hoodwinked by the images, as the one you receive might not look quite like the one in the image. Bits and pieces may be missing and the paintwork will invariably be shoddy. What really fascinates me is the huge cost being asked for these. Prices vary considerably, but in some cases it's up around $200!

  12. Bill M

    Except for those with terrible looking out of place plastic keys they look fine for a decoration.

  13. Anonymous

    Maybe that's where Cotton On gets their decorations from — before I got into typewriters I always thought the ones hanging off the ceiling were real machines and how it was possible that they could hang a rather heavy looking machine with just nylon string…

    I found myself laughing at the ceiling on my recent trip in Singapore.

  14. teeritz

    Geez, if they're gonna go to that much trouble, they may as well just build a complete working reproduction from scratch. Interesting post, Richard.

  15. Anonymous

    Hi all, Louis Vuitton licensed this work from us – the Zurich post – it's a reporduction of the 007 by Kasbah Mod – which is of course a 1940's Smith Corona gold-plated by us ; )

    Chase from kasbahmod.com

  16. Richard P

    Aha! I thought that looked familiar. Thanks for commenting.

  17. Anonymous

    I suppose the only real crime would be in attempting to pass one of these off as the genuine article. Otherwise, if someone knows they're buying a completely useless doorstop, then anything which brings attention to typewriters can't be all bad. Still, I have a deep suspicion that these may be just another Chinese counterfeit scheme, like fake Rolex watches or some such thing (I don't mean to pick on Chinese goods, but, well, if the shoe fits).

  18. Anonymous

    I suspect that someone, sometime in the future, will find one of these in an estate sale and think that it is real, since never seeing or using a real one. Buyers of typewriters will have to be more wary about these fakes if the fad continues.


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