Antique Typewriter: Value & Identification Guide (With Types)

Antique typewriters might come across as a small, futile collectible in this world of smartphones. But today, many collectors love them for their unusual key layouts and cases.

In fact, the legendary Forrest Gump actor Tom Hanks couldn’t escape their magic and owns a massive collection of about 250 typewriters, each worth $350 or more! Famous writers like Cormac McCarthy and Danielle Steel also collect aesthetic vintage typewriters!

So, what makes an old typewriter such a huge attraction? Is it their cased keys, inks, or brands? And how do you know its correct value? You’ll get all the answers in this detailed antique typewriter value guide’s details! Let’s start!

Key Takeaways

  • Antique typewriters with functional keys, decals, ribbons, and levers fetch up to $3,000 in the antique market. 
  • Among all the five types of vintage typewriters available in the market, the manual table or portable typewriters fetch the highest value, up to $1,500.
  • Branded typewriters like Remington, Royal, or Oliver are worth more because of their original logos and labels.
  • Antique typewriters have different fonts, but the ones with Pica, Elite, or Techno scripts sell fast due to their old and mono-spaced letters.

Features of a Valuable Antique Typewriter

Old Stainless Steel Typewriter

If you want to pick a rare and valuable antique typewriter among many old & rusty ones, look for the following features:

  • Working keys, ribbons, decals, and rotating levers
  • A manual margin lever to set the left and right margins on paper
  • Different types of keyboards like ‘QWERTY,’ ‘DVORAK,’ and ‘AZETY’
  • Superior Pica, Elite, or Vogue fonts
  • 12” carriage for landscape orientation
  • Might have unique paper stencils for ‘Serif-style’ letters
  • Might have a ‘typewheel’ or ‘typebar’ mechanism to rotate the characters and print them on paper

Who Made the First Typewriters & When?

Well, historians still debate the origins of the first typewriter. Some track it to old Chinese hand printing techniques, while others credit Sir Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press (1450s) for the same!

But the facts state that the English inventor, Henry Mill, made the first patented typewriter in London. But it wasn’t a commercial success since it was heavy and slow!

In the 1830s, makers like Agostino Fantoni, Pellegrino Turri, and Pietro Conti di Cilavegna added different fonts, symbols, and a Braille script for blind people on the keyboard. But these prototypes were never manufactured.

In 1865, Rasmus Malling-Hansen invented the first commercial typewriting machine with uppercase letters and symbols. Then Christopher L. Sholes & Carlos Glidden improved Hansen’s design in 1868 with calibrated type guides, spools, ribbons, and type wheels for precise lettering.

Later, many makers reproduced this design and established their brands. But with the introduction of the first commercial computer with an attached keyboard in the 1900s, people stopped using typewriters, making them collectible today!

5 Types of Vintage Typewriters & Their Estimated Values

A Vintage Portable Typewriter

Now, let’s analyze how the different antique typewriter types and designs affect its resale cost today:

Antique Typewriter TypesTop Collectible FeaturesYearEstimated Value (Based on Condition)
Table TypewritersA simple printer-like typewriter with paper trays, footrests, manual carriage levers, and typical serif or gothic fonts1800s – 1900s$300 – 2,500
Portable TypewritersCompact & lightweight typewriters with a special carrying case, reduced keyboard keys (no number keys), and built-in night lampsEarly 1900s$150 – 1,500
Electric TypewritersMachine-made typewriters with a mechanized (electric) typing mechanism, automatic carriage lever, and line spacing1900s$40 – 500
Calculator TypewritersDual typewriters with a basic QWERTY keyboard and a numeral dial for basic arithmetic problems1900s$70 – 500
Musical TypewritersUnique typewriters with musical notations pressed ribbons, and pre-printed music rolls1900s$30 – 200

6 Important Factors to Identify & Value a Vintage Typewriter

Besides the design and types, other crucial factors like age, brand, and materials greatly impact the final value of your old typewriter. Let’s see how!

1. Antique Typewriter’s Age & Patent Numbers

An Old & Rusty Typewriter

Old typewriters don’t have any dates or labels. So, how do you verify if your typewriter is old & worth collecting? Simple, just get a magnifying glass and check for the patent numbers on the following spots:

  • On the typewriter’s front or back panel
  • On the side of the keyboard frames
  • On the base or typewheels
  • On the carriage levers or platens

But what if your typewriter doesn’t have a patent number? In that case, just compare the era-specific features from the table to learn the years and values:

Old Typewriter YearsAgeHow to Identify Them? Patent NumbersAverage Value
1870s (First Commercial Typewriters)133 – 153 yearsSimple, typebar-style typewriters with manually set margins, spacing, carriage returns, and QWERTY keyboardsUS171335,
$1,000 – 3,000
1890s123 – 133 yearsContinuation of the typebar feature, but with a visible platen, automatic margins, line spacing, and ribbon reverse buttonsUS421921,
$900 – 2,000
1900s93 – 123 yearsPortable, three-step keyboard typewriters with automatic type wheels, levers, carriage return levers, and feed rollersUS656658,
$100 – 1,500
1930s53 – 93 yearsUses extra manual controls to control typing speed, indents, and upper-case lettersUSD89709,
$70 – 1,000
1970s43 – 53  yearsFully electronic typewriters with battery-operated mechanisms, digital screens, and sleek metal casesUS3677386A$30 – 500

Look for small and portable typewriters with a height of 8.5 – 9” for more returns.

2. Vintage Typewriter Materials

Antique Cast Iron Typewriters

One of the easiest ways to appraise an old typewriter’s worth is to check its materials. So, just slide your hand along the frames and feel the texture.

If it feels coarse & bumpy, it might be the 1800s handcrafted iron or brass typewriter. But, if the frames feel smooth and cold, it might be a new steel or glass typewriter worth up to $700.

Old Typewriter MaterialsIdentifying CluesEstimated Cost
Cast IronLook for 3-4mm frames with a coarse, powdery finish, casting marks, or pitting$400 – 3,000
BrassShiny brown or golden frames with handmade imperfections like bumps, dents, and uneven thickness$200 – 2,000
Nickel or SteelAnti-corrosive, silvery-white frames with a rough, brushed or satin-like finish$90 – 1,200
Cast or Molded GlassTransparent or translucent frames and keytops with labeled calibrations and etched logos or brand names$90 – 700
Bakelite & PlasticOpaque & non-reflective frames with typical mold marks, printed labels, and curved keyboards$30 – 400

Avoid getting old typewriters with broken drawstrings, ribbons, or line locks as they are old and cheaper.

3. Antique Typewriter Brands

Different Antique Typewriter Brands

Do you want to spot a high-value, top-selling, and mechanized typewriter among all the hundreds of models in your antiques shop? Check the typewriter’s bases for stamped logos or marks, and sort out all the branded ones!

Unlike other models, branded typewriters have better ribbons, fonts, and tabulators that hike their values. Let’s check how and by how much.

Antique Typewriter BrandsHow to Identify Them? Average Cost
RemingtonA red-colored, circular logo with the brand’s name and a black typewriter silhouette$350 – 4,000
UnderwoodA simple, metallic logo with a globe and wing motif$200 – 1,500
Royal A text logo with mono-spaced letters, bordered motifs, and yellow, cream, or black stickers$400 – 3,500
OliverLook for a printed B&W label with the company name, address, and a typewriter drawing$100 – 1,200
CoronaA simple text logo with golden letters and an enlarged A at the end$100 – 900
IBMPlain, metallic logo with the words ‘IBM’ in brushed, capital letters$100 – 800

Try to get aesthetic vintage typewriters with original ‘Made in USA’ or ‘Made in UK’ stamps for a branded make.

4. Vintage Typewriter Fonts

Vintage Typewriter Fontstyles

Most of the early 1800s typewriters had Pica (mono-spaced) fonts. But, then, by the 1860s, makers used typical bold or narrow fonts like Elite & Courier. And then, in the 1870s, creative title and header fonts like Techno & Gothic scripts followed!

So, let’s check the worth of an antique typewriter with all such different fonts:

Antique Typewriter FontsTop Identifying FeaturesEstimated Value
PicaThick, monospaced fonts with a 10 – 12cpi size$500 – 3,000
EliteA small, 12cpi font with varying variations of stroke for body text, headers, and titles$300 – 2,000
CourierStraight, monospaced, and professional fonts found in the IBM typewriters$50 – 800
TechnoA slightly cursive, round, and geometric font with blunt, sans-serif edges$100 – 1,200
ScriptFlowing,  handwriting-like fonts with connected letters and an informal appearance$90 – 600

5. Old Typewriter Colors

Black-colored Antique Typewriters

Another visual test to identify your old typewriter’s value is its color! It’s so that the earliest 1800s or prototype typewriters had simple white or black sides. But then, in the mass-production era, makers used pigmented red, blue, and green finishes too!

Here’s a table showing the value of such colored typewriters today:

Old Typewriter ColorsAverage Price
Black & White$500 – 3,000
Brown, Gold, or Bare Metal$400 – 2,500
Gray & Cream$200 – 1,200
Red & Yellow$70 – 900
Blue & Green$30 – 400

6. Vintage Typewriter Ease of Repairs

Antique lovers always look for smooth & functional typewriters for their collection. That means any typewriter with broken keys, decals, or cartridges doesn’t fetch much! So, replace all its damaged parts from eBay or Etsy and oil them properly with any mineral-based lube before resale.

Pick antique typewriters with working decals, rollers, striking keys, and ringing bells for a good value.

5 Rare & Most Valuable Typewriters for Your Collection

Rare & Valuable Antique Typewriters on Display

Did you know Live Auctioneers, a leading antiques platform, sold one of Hansen’s original typewriters for $140,643? Crazy, isn’t it? Well, that’s because it was a well-conditioned, working piece with less than 180 models worldwide.

Want to know more about such rare and valuable typewriters? Here’s a list:

Rare & Valuable Antique TypewritersLast Auction Cost
Hansen Writing Ball (First Commercial Typewriter)$140,643
Sholes & Glidden (First QWERTY Typewriter)$29,900
Chinese Double Pigeon Typewriter$50,000
Sholes Glidden Victorian Typewriter$33,000
North London Typewriter$9,000

What Size Font Did Antique Typewriters Use?

Antique typewriters usually use a font of 10 – 12 pitches (6 lines per vertical inch). But, its condensed, bold, or italic versions might have a size of 5 – 20cpi (characters per inch).

What Cleaning Materials Can You Use on a Vintage Typewriter?

You can use a cotton swab dipped in a diluted mixture of white vinegar or rubbing alcohol to clean the sticky residue from your keyboard keys. However, avoid using any chlorine or peroxide-based cleaners as those might peel off the typewriter’s paint and devalue it.

What is the Best Oil for Typewriters?

Any high-grade mineral, sewing, or gun oil is the best to free up the dirty and jammed joints and levers of old typewriters.

Where Do I Sell Vintage Typewriters?

You can sell your vintage typewriters in any offline pawn shop or on e-commerce platforms like eBay, Etsy, or Amazon.

Antique typewriters are like regular desk accessories like pocket watches or mantel clocks. But these fetch a good value if they still work and have printed brand logos, unique fonts, or colors! And we hope that you have learned all about them in this guide!

Judith Miller
Judith Miller

Judith is an antique expert with nearly 20 years of experience in the field of antique identification and valuation. She has reviewed over 30 thousand vintage items and has worked with numerous antique shops. She enjoys seeing new places, attending antique shows and events, and sharing her knowledge with people! Know more about me

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