24 november 2012

Breker Auction and HBW collectors meeting

Nowadays we're so used to buy typewriters online, that we almost forget how collectors used to get their machines about 15 or 20 years ago. Today, I had the opportunity to take a look at the past, at the Breker auction of office antiques in Cologne, Germany. It was my first time at an offline auction, and well, it was quite an experience!

According to some senior fellow collectors, in the old days Breker mainly sold typewriters. Now they sell almost any office equipment but typewriters. Of in total 707 objects, only 18 included typewriters. I wanted to have a go for the Pittsburg 10, but after inspecting it before the auction, I decided it wasn't worth the opening bid of 280 euros: it was rusty and defect.

One of the first lots under the hammer was an Enigma Type A (estimate 15.000-25.000 euros), which was sold for a staggering 35.000 euros. And this was only "one of the highlights"! Just one minute later we discovered why there were so many cameras filming the event: a real Apple 1 was up for sale (estimate 120.000-200.000 euros).

The Apple 1

The opening bid was 70.000 euros. Two anonymous phone-bidders were really going for it and within moments the 200.000 euros barrier was passed. The tension in the room increased with every increment of 20.000 euros. It was only at 400.000 euros (!) that one of the bidders had to pass. When the item was hammered down we applauded, hardly believing what we'd just witnessed. I wonder who bought the item!

Here is a video about today's auction of the Apple 1 (in English).

After half of the public and all cameras had left the room, the typewriters were up for auction. Three very nice colored Underwood portables were sold for only 100 euros: a Smith Premier 1 reached a hammer price of 240 euros; a beautiful Crandall remained unsold (opening bid 3.800 euros), and "my" Pittsburg changed owners for 750 euros. Way too much if you ask me. Here you can find the list of all realized prices. Scroll down to item 66 and onwards to see the typewriters.

After the auction, Jos Legrand advised me to drive to a meeting of German typewriter collectors at the local Tennis Club. He told me some collectors would sell typewriters out of the trunk of their cars. I expected to find some Coronas/Underwoods/Remingtons, and maybe (if lucky) some Blicks, Yösts or Hammonds. Well... I was wrong!

There were around 20 or 30 cars with each around 5 or 10 typewriters. I spotted a Blickensderfer, Oliver, Densmore and Franklin in the first car. That was promising! I started walking and could not believe my eyes:  a Columbia 2, a North's, a Fitch, a Gardner, all in open car trunks, barely protected against the cold German weather... The Fitch (my dream machine) had a 13.000 euro price tag. I wonder whether there were people walking around there ready to pay that kind of money out of their pocket.

Inside the Tennis Club I met Wolfgang Mock and Norbert Schwarz of Historische Bürowelt (HBW). I bought all 80-something past issues of HBW from Wolfgang and subscribed as a member (I guess I really have to improve my German now).

In the back of the room, three fully restored typewriters were standing on a table: a North's, an Emerson and a Sholes Visible, all in mint condition (or even better). After following Richard Polt's very entertaining and interesting blog series about the restoration of his Sholes Visible, I couldn't resist asking the owner to give me a live demonstration of the mechanism of this beautiful typewriter. Now I finally understand how it works! The owner, by the way, appeared to be Hermann Kerz, who has restored many typewriters to mint condition. Very impressive.

It was very nice to have witnessed a real offline auction, but I think next time I'll drive directly to the meeting of German collectors. I didn't know there are so many fellow collectors on such short driving distance. Ah, and next time, I'll definitely bring my camera...

12 november 2012

Dutch Typewriter Collectors Meeting 2012

Here I leave you some pictures of the Dutch Typewriter Collectors Meeting in Barendrecht (The Netherlands) today. It was organized by Martin and the theme of the day was "thrust action machines", so we all brought our Adlers, Noiselesses, Empires, etc. We had a very nice afternoon chatting about typewriters and enjoying each others company.

 Back (left to right): Frank, Martin, Jos, Leo, Willem, Ceriel, Wim / Front row (left to right): Jaap, Flip, Diewertje,  Cor, Bas.

Jaap lectures about the Adler Favorit

The Noiseless table

Comparing Klein Adlers

Empires, Crowns, Adlers and anything in between.

23 oktober 2012

Early Underwood 5 typewriter

As you know, it is quite easy to find an Underwood 5. Over 3.5 million were made to last forever, and most of them still do. Because of space limitations, my collection can't be too big, but of course it has to include "the most successful typewriter design in history". With so many Underwoods around it is quite hard to make a choice. I waited and waited, till the "perfect" Underwood 5 would show up.

Last week I thought I was lucky. On the internet I found an Underwood 5, with serial number 2815-5. This early number indicates that the machine was made during the first year of the production period (1900-1931). It also had a Dutch dealer sticker, and I like to have machines in my collection that were actually used in The Netherlands. The sticker could hardly be from the period (1901), as synthetic adhesives were only used from the 1920s onwards. Well, I thought, that would be something to find out later about.

According to the Yahoo Typewriter forum, the very early Underwood 5's were made by the Wagner Typewriter Company - the inventors of the first Underwood. Franz Xavier Wagner and his son invented the linkage between the typebar and the key lever and related this to the principle of the segment and type guide. This way, they devised the idea of a segment and bars - an idea which has been incorporated in all successful standard and portable typewriters ever since (Beeching 1974, p. 26).

After some negotiation about the price (30 euros), I was finally able to get the machine. Unfortunately, the owner had bought it at a thrift store, so he knew nothing about its history. Back home, I started to clean the machine...

Before cleaning.

After cleaning. Notice the left shift key has been replaced by a French one.
Than I started to clean the back of the machine. I used a mild abrasive and noted that the typewriter was either VERY dirty, or repainted at some point (by the Dutch dealer?). The back of the typewriter was totally black with no sign of any decal. Because of its early serial number, I suspected that under the dirt/paint would be the Wagner Typewriter Company decal. So, I started rubbing...

Before cleaning
After cleaning

To my surprise, a regular Underwood decal appeared! No mention is made to the Wagner Typewriter Company. I was baffled at first, but some closer inspection of the serial number revealed the mystery:

2815-5 or 42815-5. Quite a difference!
I checked the SN when I picked the typewriter up, but didn't see that it was a 42815 instead of 2815. Nor did the former owner. The first digit is very faint. This makes it a 1904 Underwood, instead of a 1901 Wagner-Underwood. Does it make a big difference? Not really, it's only a decal... But still...

21 oktober 2012

Development of the typewriter

Today I made a video in which I show different typewriting mechanisms out of my collection. I used the slow motion function of my camera to get a clear view of how it works. My collection isn't big enough to show the complete development of the typewriter, but well, it gives kind of an idea. I hope you like it!

Click here to watch it in HD on YouTube: Development of the typewriter

24 september 2012

Feira da Ladra, Lisbon, Portugal

Last Sunday, we went to Feira da Ladra (thieves market) in Lisbon. Within an hour, we spotted around 20 typewriters. There was nothing that I wanted to buy, but well, it was nice to have a walk there. After having spotted the first 5 typewriters, I decided to take a picture of every next typewriter I saw in its natural habitat. Here is the result; enjoy!


11 september 2012

Antiques Roadshow

Yesterday, the Dutch version of Antiques Roadshow recorded their program near the village of my parents, in the beautiful castle Huis Bergh in 's Heerenberg.

Huis Bergh, www.renealberts.com

This was my chance to increase the amount of typewriter airplay on Dutch television! So I brought my recently acquired Junior Typewriter.

The weather was extremely nice, and it wasn't a punishment to wait an hour before we could start. Once we were in, we were sent to the table of Fred Kats, who is a specialist in clocks, watches and instruments. He opened the small box, saw the typewriter and...

...well, to be short, he didn't call for the cameras to share this amazing find. ;)
Instead, he got several Breker Auction books from under the table and asked me to help him search for a Junior typewriter auction. After several minutes, he found a Junior, which was sold together with a Perkeo, for 70 euros. That would make 35 euros for each typewriter, approximately. But he admitted he wasn't a typewriter specialist and thought it should be more expensive than that. He liked the little machine, but couldn't tell me more about it than I already knew.

After this, we went to the other tables. One guy brought a spectacular painting of steamboats in the harbor, but the specialist wasn't impressed. It was made by a painter who dedicated his life to this kind of paintings, so a lot of his work had survived. He valued it at "a couple of thousands euros" before he lost interest and started asking around for sugar in his tea.

It was interesting to see how things work behind the scenes. Some specialists are just looking for an  object that would be nice on tv, other specialists are really interested in everything they see and make a show out of every valuation. 

In the end, we were asked to join the public inside for a recording of the valuation of some small silver jewelry that somebody brought. We couldn't resist the opportunity to ask for a picture of us with the presenter, the famous Nelleke van der Krogt (presenting the program for over 10 years now).

And to end with the question that is normally asked after every valuation: what did I pay for the Junior Typewriter? 

75 euro. 

19 augustus 2012

Junior typewriter

This Junior typewriter is one of the five machines that I recently bought from the former Scryption museum. It was made around 1908 and it was the smallest typewriter at the time. It's main competitor was the Blickensderfer 5, which can be seen side by side with the Junior in the video below.

I always imagined the Junior being smaller than it actually is. Only in it's case you can notice the difference in size compared to the Blickensderfer. The main difference is that the Junior is flatter. In the video, I took the machine apart, so you can see what happens when you hit a key.

In 1910, the Junior was replaced by the Bennett. This new machine had a paper table, and the small ink rollers were replaced with a ribbon. It didn't matter much; the Blickensderfer was far more popular and sold over 190.000 machines between 1893 and 1917, while Junior/Bennett didn't sell more than 40.000 machines.

14 augustus 2012

Some online Mignon research

Last week I got the chance to buy 5 very nice typewriters from the former Scryption collection in Den Bosch. I already revealed one of them, the Imperial Portable. The second typewriter I want to reveal is the AEG Mignon. It is in perfect condition, all bright and shiny and almost like new. It has some extra decals, telling that it was sold by importer Oscar Markx in Amsterdam in 1929.

Normally, I don’t buy index machines. They don’t appeal to me as much as normal typewriters, look childish and are ridiculously expensive. However, there is one exception: the AEG Mignon. As far as I know, it is by far the most successful index machine ever, and many of the more than 350.000 Mignons ended up in the Netherlands.

Later, I'll post a typecast, pictures and video of the new Mignon machine. For now, I want to show some pictures that I found online. When searching online, I usually start at the online newspaper archives of the Royal Dutch Library. There I found an advertisement of AEG, dated the 4th of October 1929. It was written by AEG importer Oscar Markx, stating that his shop was located at Rokin 113, in Amsterdam.

With this information, I went to the online archive of the city of Amsterdam, and found the following great picture, dated 6th of October 1929 (two days after the advertisement):

You can see a car being rescued out of the water at the Rokin, while a crowd is watching. And, very nice, in the background you can see, on number 113, the white AEG typewriter shop of Oscar Markx! I really like the coincidence of dates (1929) of this picture, the advertisement and my AEG Mignon typewriter. Click here to see the picture in high resolution.

The combination of a news picture and a typewriter shop reminded me of the fire in the Hammond shop 4 years earlier (1925), also at Rokin, number 38. Click here to see the picture in high resolution.

The Rokin seemed to be a fine street for typewriter sellers, for not only Hammonds and AEG’s were being sold there, but also Adler had a shop, at Rokin number 10. I found 2 nice pictures of the interior of that shop at http://www.geheugenvannederland.nl/ (see below).

Adler, Fles & Co, Rokin 10, Amsterdam 1913.

Adler, Fles & Co, Rokin 10, Amsterdam 1919.

By the way, when you search on “schoevers” on this last website, you’ll see some nice pictures of typewriting lessons with all kinds of exotic machines. My favorite picture is this one, below. How many typewriters can you identify?

Schoevers, Amsterdam 1916 (click to enlarge).

12 augustus 2012

Imperial Portable Typewriter

A better quality (1080p) version of this video can be found here (without music for copyright reasons).

Thanks to Stichting Onterfd Goed for the pictures, as I don't have my own camera here at the moment.

22 juli 2012

Typecast Klein Adler Typewriter

Here is a small typecast from my Klein Adler typewriter. I just bought it from the Scryption Museum. I've never seen a 93-year-old typewriter in such a good condition! The keys are a bit dirty, but only under the glass, so I think it's fungus. It still types really nice.

A Dutch biography about Levie (Louis) Fles can be found here.

24 juni 2012

Kanzler Typewriter

Meet the Kanzler 1; a very impressive German typewriter, build in 1904 (sn 2514). The one I bought (see pictures and video) still works, except for missing a ribbon and a platen knob. Each typebar has eight characters, controlled by a column of four keys and a shift. For an English explanation of how this machine works, see the Virtual Typewriter Museum. For a German history of the Kanzler factory, see "Die Geschichte der deutschen Schreibmaschinen Fabriken".