The quest for an Adler Universal

by | Nov 11, 2012 | Adler, craigslist | 17 comments

Postscript: Since writing this post, I have actually acquired two Adler Universals! So I am no longer in search of one. You can read about mine here.


As some of my regular readers may recall, I have developed an obsession with getting an Adler Universal. Some other typospherians have one, why oh why can’t I?

(This October post shows my Adler Special — good typewriter, but definitely not a Universal.)

I thought my ship had come in when I spotted an eBay listing for a Universal in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, only about half an hour away. I contacted the seller to make sure it would be OK to pick it up in person. But the next time I checked, the auction had mysteriously ended because the item was “no longer available”!

A followup message to the seller, expressing my disappointment, got no answer. Now, some of the other photos on the auction were at a tiny thumbnail size, which raised my suspicions. Could it be that the seller had copied photos from elsewhere, knew that her typewriter did not match the photos, and withdrew her auction in embarrassment? Do any of you recognize this photo from some other source?
Be that as it may, this morning I was glumly wishing I could find another for sale — when what do I see on the local craigslist but this?
I called the seller and found out that she lives just a couple of miles away. I have an appointment to see the machine at 4 pm today.
But … take a look at that photo: it’s the same one as the one on eBay! Even the date, 1961, is the same. It’s obvious that this seller got her information from eBay and did not take a picture of her actual machine.
I asked the seller whether the photo is the model on offer, and she said yes. But I am bracing myself to discover that it’s in fact a completely different Adler model.
This post is a cliffhanger. I will update it as soon as I can, either with a triumphant picture of my new Universal or with a sad disappointment. To be continued in about 5 hours after the asterisks …
OK, the story has ended sooner than I expected. The “seller” called back to say she doesn’t even have the typewriter (whatever it was) anymore! She thought that it hadn’t sold when they auctioned off most of their property, but in fact it did.
So my quest continues.
This is a typical craigslist story — the sellers are even flakier than on eBay. Sometimes, though, I’ve found very nice things on craigslist, like this and this.


  1. Bill M

    Good luck with your quest.

    For some unknown impulsive urge I bin on a Universal and a Special as well as an Olivetti Praxis 48 even though I very well know I have no, none, zip, 0, room for an office machine. Well, I did not win any so I guess the typewriter gods were with my wife who does not want me to increase my collection.

  2. Gerald

    Best of Luck to you. If it is meant to be it will be just what you've been looking for.

  3. Ton S.

    Sorry to hear, that can be really disappointing. I'm sure the right one will show up, perhaps when you least expect it.

  4. Scott K

    Uuuuurg. The risks of an Internet economy… Tat just outright sucks.

  5. rn

    I get it that people try to game eBay. But Craigslist? It's not as if anyone's going to buy without seeing.

    Let the search continue!

    I was hoping that the force would be with you because I was anxious to pick your brain once you picked up your machine. I have a Universal (looks like the one Alan Seaver features on his site) that I scored off eBay a year ago. Beautiful device, with lovely small caps and large caps typeface. Except for one problem: it doesn't work. As far as I can tell, the toggle that switches between one space per letter and two spaces per letter is misaligned. In the one-space setting it freezes the escapement, and in the two-space position, it defeats the escapement entirely, so the carriage makes a sad louche slide down to the far end the minute you type a letter. Given how these mammoth things are built, I fear I will have to take the whole thing apart to get at the problem.


  6. Miguel Chávez

    Bad karma for those sellers.

    I've bought many, if not most of my typewriters online, using a local variation of eBay called MercadoLibre. This e-commerce platform has a scoring and reputation system where both buyers and sellers are rated by their counterparts after the transactions. That system translates into a semaphore of sorts: green means there have been no problems with that seller / buyer; yellow means you have to be careful with that person. Three negative points, and you're out. So it's a rather useful way to screen which sellers are reliable and which ones are not.

    I bought several things from the US using eBay a few years back, and it used to be a good place to find stuff; but the international shipping costs and customs delays made it unprofitable.

    Now, in case you're curious…


    Some "electronic wedges", some very common plastic machines, some interesting models… there's quite a few machines to choose from.

  7. Martin A. Rice, Jr.

    Oooooh! Wouldn't you like to see such people go to jail? this happened to me with a fountain pen I coveted. When push came to shove, the guy didn't have it.

  8. Ted

    I hope your quest for the Adler Universal is successful eventually. It's a machine well worth hunting for. Heck, I'd ship you mine, but god alone knows how I'd fit that 18" carriage in a box :P

  9. Rob Bowker

    be patient. await providence. believe and try not to want. then BANG! When you least expect it, you'll find one – if one does'nt find you first.

  10. notagain

    That really strikes me as unfathomable, auctioning something you don't have. In my feedback I always praise them for photos of actual items.

  11. Dwayne F.

    I had contacted the same seller to verify that the machine worked. I too was surprised when it became unavailable. At least we didn't duel to the eBay death for a machine that didn't exist.

  12. Fer Andrade

    Unfortunately, it happened to me sometimes. Once, I won an auction for a Studio 42 Black and seller told me he had sold.

  13. Cameron

    Craigslist & eBay can certainly be flaky, but the occasional success story keeps us coming back for more. Hope springs eternal!

  14. Robert Messenger

    Talk about being stuffed about! That's an incredible story. I'd be pulling my hair out. You must have the patience of Job, and a much higher level of tolerance than me.
    I have one here (an Adler Universal) which I'm going to have to chuck, I'm afraid, taking up too much room. The Blick Ninety was one thing (shipping cost wise), but an Adler Universal! The Blick would be a small fraction of the weight.
    Best of luck with the hunt.

  15. Nat

    Ah wells, if it's meant to be yours it'll be yours! :)

  16. JB

    If you suspect swiped photos it's always worth doing a reverse image search using TinEye:


  17. Mark

    You must be so jealous of my script Universal. If I had another I'd give it to you, I really would. I found it on eBay and won with one bid; the seller had listed it an an Alder and forgot to mention it was script. One of my luckiest buys!


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