It may not be the stuff of collectors’ dreams, or enough to even garner more than a passing glance from a would-be buyer, but in the practical world bargain basement typewriters can be as valuable as the most prized machines owned by collectors and aficionados.
Pity the undesired typewriter, lowly machines that fail to meet the standards of collectors who are only interested in unmolested thoroughbreds, not broken-down plough horses – even if those seemingly lame specimens are still perfectly capable of performing the job they were designed for. Fortunately there are those who celebrate the workhorse, buyers who aren’t as fussed with display pieces; after all, once you remove fastidious filters such as branding, colour, aesthetics, and perceived rarity, you still have typewriters that are equally efficient at putting words on paper.
Rust, flaking paint, and broken and missing parts are details that cause some collectors to recoil in disgust, but for typewriter buyers who actually value performance above all else, battle scars and hard-earned patina are the qualities that make castoff models so alluring. A fussy collector’s loss is the gain of buyers who appreciate blue collar machines, because banged-up typewriters found on the shelves of charity stores and in yard sales tease their imagination, cause them to speculate about the machine’s history, and make them wonder who they served and in what capacity they were used.
Unloved by many, perhaps, but still full of life, these are the machines that deserve to be returned to the ranks of working typewriters. And if there was ever a sign of a well-built typewriter, it’s one that still performs in an exemplary manner despite having obviously been subjected to physical abuse.
This Smith-Corona Classic 12 is a perfect example of the typical reject: Its storage case long lost and the carriage a victim of blunt force trauma, there’s no question that it’s had a hard life, and yet everything works as it should and the machine still types like the day it was first used. The Classic 12 is a well-respected model, its popularity proven by a lengthy production run of some twenty years, and given how many are still available today, it deserves to be regarded as a venerable typewriter; and as its apt name suggests, it’s a classic, a possible candidate for the acme of Smith-Corona’s portable model production history.
The model’s history aside, it’s the outwardly poor condition of this particular Classic 12 that sparks curiosity and makes it a worthy purchase. It’s impossible to know whether the machine’s many flaws are the result of one cataclysmic event or the subject of numerous smaller careless actions, but what is more certain is why it was fitted with apothecary Changeable Type characters: an inventory sticker on the side of the typewriter indicates that it had once been the property of a children’s hospital. Also noteworthy, the original protective shipping tape is still affixed to the case; why it had never occurred to the first (or any subsequent) owner to remove it is a matter of speculation, but it adds to the unique character of this survivor.
Thirteen dollars doesn’t buy you a lot, certainly very few items that will last for any length of time, but remarkably it’s enough money to buy a fully functional typewriter. It may look like it was put through the wringer, and it might be in need of a few small repairs (and a lot of cleaning), but for many typewriter enthusiasts such work is typically viewed as being a rewarding experience. When placed in perspective, thirteen dollars is an obscenely modest amount of money for such a practical and powerful tool, one that arguably is better representative of the typewriter century than any of the pristine and sterile dust collecting exhibits cherished by so many connoisseurs.
Not just missing a platen knob, the entire end of the shaft was somehow snapped off the carriage.
Top Left: The bad side. To be honest, there isn’t a good side, but it works well and that’s all that really matters.
Top Right: Protective shipping tape still attached, after been on there for all these years I don’t have the heart to pull it off.
Battered and beaten: It has bent levers and a number of keys that are out of place, but there’s nothing there’s nothing wrong with the alignment on the page.
2 Replies to “Article: Bargain Basement”
Hear, hear! a fine tribute to the working class machines (:
If you were of a mind to get that tape off, I’m not sure how you would. It tends to be fossilized and the glue hard as pebbles. /:
You’re right about the tape, so unless I decide to give it a full restoration (highly unlikely) it will probably stay. There’s no question that it’s a hard luck machine: The poor thing fell off a shelf the other day – something that has never happened to me before – and when I found it on the ground, upside down, I thought the bell had finally tolled for this Classic 12. However, as if to prove just how robust its design is, it survived the fall and continues to work albeit with a few extra battle scars.