Typewriter hunting — and a guessing game

by | Feb 13, 2013 | safari | 30 comments

Typewriters around Cincinnati seem to have migrated from the thrift stores to the antique malls, picking up bigger price tags in the process. One of the best places to hunt is the huge Ohio Valley Antique Mall in Fairfield, and my visit on Monday included the most typewriter sightings ever. I brought my camera, and just to prove that all the typewriters aren’t in Switzerland, I thought I’d share my sightings with the typosphere. Happy International Typewriter Appreciation Month!

This place takes about half an hour to get through if you’re striding fast and paying attention to typewriters only. It’s divided up into named “streets” and “avenues.”

My first sighting was this Royal, KMG-4170416 (made in 1950 according to The Typewriter Database), for a mere $22. It’s dirty but works.

Nearby, this Woodstock missing the ribbon cover was jammed into a corner and I didn’t want to wrestle it out to find the serial number. Looks like a 1940s Woodstock Standard. The price? $60.

Here’s an antique! Oliver no. 3 #123572, circa 1905. They wanted $100 for this one, which seems fair but not a huge bargain, given the typically rough condition of the typewriter (chipped spacebar, worn nickel, rust).

Two toys: a Tom Thumb for a stiff $95, and a Unique “Dependable” for $29.

What might justify the price on the Tom Thumb is this unusual paperwork that came with it. I whipped out my spy camera and took these shots. You can also have the operating instructions as a PDF here.

What’s an antique store without an Underwood no. 5? This paint-speckled specimen (#719181, made 1914 but labeled “1930’s era”) had a price tag of $179.95.

This unattractive typewriter might actually be the rarest one I saw. I don’t recall spotting another before. It’s a Smith-Corona Courier C/T, made in England. C/T stands for “Correction/Typewriter.” Yes, they expected you to use one of those ribbons with the correction tape on the lower half, which eventually get flaky and muck up your mechanism. Aside from the wide carriage and the particular style of plastic housing, this is the same old ultraportable mechanism first introduced in the ’30s on the Zephyr, then made famous by the Skyriter. Construction is flimsy, as on all these late mini-Smith-Coronas. I could not find a serial number. Price: $24.95.

Ouch. Just ouch. This battered ’50s Underwood was so rusty and jammed that I couldn’t check its serial number. They wanted $24.99 for it. I thought about taking it for parts (the similar Underwood I recently cleaned up for WordPlay is missing its front panel).

Here’s another English-made Smith-Corona, in the unmistakable aqua color. The owner of this booth was asking $120 for this Corsair.

Here’s a Hermes Baby Featherweight (#85862, made in 1936, the second year of production); price $49. Two shelves below is a Marx Dial toy for $59.

The price for this nearby Royal Safari was $49.

The machine is practically like new, and even includes this original mini-brochure.

Let’s take a moment to delight Adwoa.

Now back to the typewriters: a Royal Administrator electric for $55, reduced to $40.

Here’s an Olympia SG-1, dirty but functional, for $29.99! As usual, the plastic paper support has broken off.

This Tom Thumb in a display case is $45.

And finally, I spotted a Smith-Corona Sterling for $20. “Needs work” according to the label, but the only thing wrong I could find was a twisted ribbon.

Now for the game: can you guess which two of these typewriters I took home with me? The answer will be posted in the comments in about 48 hours, and the first person who guessed right (if anyone) will get a postcard from me by postal mail.


  1. Cameron

    The Royal Safari and the Smith-Corona Sterling!

  2. Ton S.

    Impressive sightings considering that this is the Ohio Valley Antique Mall and not Zurich or Geneva.

    You took the Olympia SG-1 and the SC Sterling to stock the WordPlay store. Correct?

  3. Winston

    Thanks for the photos! I would have been awfully tempted by the SG-1, although where on earth I would have put it is a mystery.

    I bet you took the two Tom Thumbs to donate to Wordplay Cincy.

  4. Miguel Chávez

    I would have taken the rusty Underwood for parts, and the big Olympia SG1… those are huge workhorses that can definitely stand a lot of use and abuse by juvenile hands.

  5. Peter

    I would guess the 50s Underwood for the parts (after negotiating down the price), and the nice Royal Safari, as it had a good "bargain quotient".

    I wouldn't have minded getting the Hermes Baby Featherweight, myself.

  6. DonN

    The best bang for the buck – the SC Sterling, as a gift to Wordplay?
    SG1 just too big, Royal Safari too dear, Corsair ridiculous price and not well made, Hermes Featherweight – well.. the cutest and very historical but perhaps not for kids, but perhaps the Royal KMG at $22 = big but so reliable.
    I say the Sterling!

  7. Ted

    I guess the Sterling and the Featherweight Baby. (:

  8. shordzi

    Dependable and Smith-Corona Sterling?
    Wonderful parade! Gives a perfect impression of this rich market. And thanks for sneaking out the manual.

  9. Duffy Moon

    Well, if you'd paid $180 for that poor Underwood no. 5, you'd have the good sense not to come here and advertise it! So I'm gonna say you took two desktops: the Royal KMG and the olympia – both for Wordplay.

  10. Nick Bodemer

    The Baby and the Safari? (My personal preferences.)

  11. Bill M

    I will venture a guess at the SG-1 for one of them. Maybe the Hermes for the other. Nice typewriters, but terrible prices except for the Underwood and SG-1.

  12. notagain

    I would have sprung for the Baby after laughing off the Corsair, and the SG1 is a bargain.

  13. notagain

    I use a Corsair just like that (for which I paid less than $10) for my "stunt typewriter" such as when I was testing my mounting bracket.

  14. Dwayne F.

    I'm guessing you bought the Royal KMG and the Olympia SG1 for Wordplay. I thought that was an original guess and I just looked up at Duffy Moon's first pass at it. Well, I will be content with second place, but am sticking with these standards.

  15. - a typebarhead

    How fun. All those typers in one place. I guess Sg1 and the sterling. I was wondering if you could've made it out without purchasing. No way I could've.

  16. Adwoa

    Aargh, so many comments already! And here I was thinking I was being fast – that naughty RSS feed needs to prioritize better. I'll guess the Hermes Baby Featherweight and the Royal Safari.

    And thanks for the sewing machine pictures!

  17. Anonymous

    A fun typewriter-spotting day. I wonder which ones will be sold and which will remain in your next trip there. I was tempted to guess the Safari since the machine really looks pristine – no scratch from the lever. But I'm guessing you bought the Royal KMG and the Sterling.

  18. Unknown

    Oh all my guesses were already posted here so I'm not repeating others :)
    But: I really miss a Smith-Corona and a good Royal from my collection (as they are rare here, however I could purchase dozens of plastic Erikas if I wanted). So I really loved The Safari, the KMG and the Sterling. I do have A Safari, but that still needs cleaning. But a Smith-Corona or an office Royal or Underwood… Dreams for now. :)

  19. Richard P

    TON S. was the first to get it right: "You took the Olympia SG-1 and the SC Sterling to stock the WordPlay store." Hats off to a typebarhead for guessing right, too. I've been cleaning and lubing these two typewriters, and both are close to working well enough to go on sale in the WordPlay typewriter shop or be used by the kids.

    I am a bargain hunter, and these seemed like the best bargains, though I was also tempted by the KMG (the ugly gray paint put me off). The Royal Safari and Hermes Baby would be decent buys if I wanted them for my collection. The Tom Thumbs, though cute looking, are awful and unpleasant typewriters; these days, if kids want a typewriter, we can afford to give them a full-featured, working, vintage machine.

  20. Ton S.

    What's my prize, Richard Wan Kenobi? ( :

  21. Richard P

    A missive imprinted on real tree-killing media, delivered soon via internal combustion engine to your own personal dwelling.

  22. Ted

    congrats! :D

  23. Dan Johnson

    Thank you very much for the Tom Thumb instructions! It seems to describe the model that just arrived here. (All metal!)

  24. Unknown

    I just brought the Royal Safari home. It needs lubing!

  25. Richard P

    I'm glad that it finally found a home. Nice looking machine! Hope you get it running well. If you'd like me to give it a cleaning, lube, and new ribbon, bring it by The Urban Legend Institute.

  26. Unknown

    I just got back from Ohio antique mall and that Royal Safari is still there. I believe the price was $39.99 now.

  27. Unknown

    Oh, just saw the comment that someone bought the Royal safari. Must have been a different one that I saw.


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