Article: Wedding Crasher

Wedding Crasher

It was more of a rescue than a carefully considered acquisition, but then again isn’t that what the majority of typewriter purchases really are?

“We bought it for our wedding,” the young woman I had met in a public parking lot explained as she handed me the typewriter. The machine was coddled in a Cheney travel case which was easy to identify by its shape, simulated snakeskin finish, and the ‘auto-tension’ lock that held it shut. Inside the travel case was a victim of pre-wedding hysteria, a garishly repainted Oliver Courier that definitely was in need of a reassignment.

It’s a crime that most collectors are familiar with, the intentionally disfigured typewriter that has been altered to make it ‘trendy’ and ‘shabby chic’. The Oliver was an example of such a machine, one that had been degraded from being a precision writing instrument to an ornamental prop used to dress up an otherwise barren guestbook table, perhaps even used as the guestbook itself.

The woman still radiated a postnuptial glow and seemed genuinely happy that the machine was going to a more permanent home. And I was happy too: aside from a missing model badge, and chromium plating flaking off the paper release lever, the Courier was in very good condition.

“My husband repainted it himself to match our decor,” she continued as I began to examine the typewriter. She was clearly proud of his efforts and still excited by the novelty of being able to describe him as her hubby.

1956 Oliver Courier

In truth the paint job was terrible, but it was not my place to criticize his handiwork; I imagined the pre-wedding jitters he must have been dealing with at the time, and how he must have beseeched the heavens for a reason why he had been tasked with painting a 1950s typewriter. I actually wanted to give him credit for not painting over the case screws, but then noticed the plated trim pieces that were now covered by the terrible teal-coloured paint.

All things considered, the terrible paint job was the least of my concerns, even if it was completely out of step with the Oliver’s design and the era that it was manufactured during. Paint is something that is relatively easy to fix and it provides an opportunity to enrich the Oliver’s design with a more suitable paint scheme. Of real importance the machine was not missing any components and it was mechanically sound.

I handed the newlywed her asking price and we both parted satisfied with the deal: She had unloaded a wedding accoutrement that most likely would never have been put to practical use, and a collector added another Patria-based typewriter to his collection for a very modest sum.

It wasn’t until I had returned home with the machine and ran a few pages through it that I realised just how good a deal it was. Typical of Swiss design – albeit manufactured in England – the Oliver had a light, concise action which is what makes it such a good portable to use. It’s so good that it would tempt many a collector into crashing wedding to find another one to rescue.


Article: Bargain Basement



      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. 

Bargain Basement Typewriter
Smith-Corona Classic 12


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.

Smith-Corona Classic 12


Not just missing a platen knob, the entire end of the shaft was somehow snapped off the carriage. 

Smith-Corona Classic 12


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. 

Smith-Corona Classic 12 - the bad side
Smith-Corona Classic 12
Smith-Corona Classic 12
Smith-Corona Classic 12
1970s Smith-Corona Classic 12 - Type Sample - Wachtendorf Colle



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.