Typecast: 1937 Hermes Featherweight Baby

From left: 1937 Featherweight, 1956 Baby, 1967 Baby.
The only decals still left on this machine, but these are pristine….
And just a smidgen higher than the Groma Kolibri.
The original 1937 spool.
The 1955 Groma Kolibri is slightly lower and slopes down more than this Featherweight.
My 1957 Royal FP in the background for size comparison.
The Featherweight in working order, with new metal spools and new ribbon.

QUORA question: “What’s a collectible typewriter I should purchase on sight?”

“What is a collectible typewriter that I should purchase on sight?”

Collectible.

If you mean, a typewriter that I can easily sell off for more than I paid for it and which will probably increase in value in the coming years:

Hermes 3000:

The bulbous Swiss typewriter with the minty green keys guarded by Mingus is a 1965 Hermes 3000, an iconic typewriter and favoured by respected writers and collectors like Tom Hanks, Sam Shepard and Larry McMurtry (who thanked his H3K in his Oscar speech for ‘keeping me out of the cold clutches of the computer’). Gorgeous design, precision (Swiss!) mechanics, and loaded with innovative features, this machine is worth buying blind if you can get it for less than 100$. They sell nowadays for anywhere between 200–700$.

Seidel & Naumann Erika M:

This is part of my S&N Erika collection. While the S on the far right is my preferred typer, the M (for ‘Master Class’) on the left is considered the pinnacle of the already astounding Seidel & Naumann range of Erika portables. It has pretty much any feature you might want from a modern machine — keyset margins, keyset tabulator stops – and it has an interesting shift mechanism — in most machines either the whole carriage shifts up (called ‘carriage shift’) or the basket segment with the typebars goes down into the machine (‘basket/segment shift’), but with the Erika M, the carriage remains on the machine, only the paper-carrying platen part is lifted (‘partial/skeleton shift’). Apart from all the features, the machine types like a dream and is aesthetically gorgeous. If you can get one for less than 100$, snap it up, because a clean refurbished M goes for 250–600$.

Groma Kolibri:

This East German Cold War typewriter became famous when featured in the 2006 German movie The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen), where a dissident author writes on an unregistered Kolibri that’s flat enough to be hidden under the floorboards of his apartment.

You can see it in this trailer of the movie, when it’s delivered under a birthday cake and later typed on and hidden under the threshold.

This is my main ‘in transit’ typewriter, for when I write outside my home. Like here, @ Vapiano Oosterdokseiland while sharing a pizza with my son.

It’s super-flat and fits in most backpacks, plus it’s a snappy typer. These machines are quite rare and will fetch prices around 350–750$. I bought mine for sixty euro and I’m not going to part with it, even though I had offers far exceeding what I paid for mine.

Olivetti Valentine:

This is the only collectible that I don’t have, nor want. Iconic design typewriter that has become incredibly popular among collectors, but I typed on one and it felt like a toy, not an actual typewriter. And since I’m only interested in machines I can actually type on, I’m not really interested in owning one.

Prices fluctuate, but Valentines can fetch from 200–600$, depending on their condition.

Edited May 12th, 2019:

And here I wrote about the Olivetti Valentine: “This is the only collectible that I don’t have, nor want. […] I’m not really interested in owning one.
And today, while street-writing @ Nieuwmarkt, an elderly lady complimented me on my 1938 Seidel & Naumann Erika S, and told me she had a red typewriter that had a red box it slipped into. She was looking to sell it only to someone who really appreciated manual typewriters, would I be interested? So, that’s how i became the owner of a Valentine for forty euro.

Below are some typewriters that I think should become collectibles, because they are so, so fine:

Erika 10:

Not to be confused with the S&N Erika’s above, the 10 is a post-war German typewriter after Seidel & Naumann had been bankrupted after WWII. Made in the early 60, it is an astoundingly smooth typewriter with beautiful lines.

Swissa Junior:

Until jousted from the prime position by the Groma Kolibri, this Swissa Junior was my favourite ‘in transit’ typewriter. It’s Swiss, like the Hermes, and it types even better than the Kolibri, except that it’s bulkier and won’t fit in a daypack backpack. The type is incredibly straight, like a laser printer, and distinctive. It’s also my son’s favourite machine to write on:

If you want to know more about the Swissa Junior (and some of my other typewriters), you can find my blog article here


Typecast: 1962 Swissa Junior

Such a stylish emblem!
The story continues after a few images:
Full glory, with the handsome little suitcase behind it.
Hey, that’s the same Wilhelm Tell crossbow as the one embossed on my Hermes 2000
And a couple of more images:
The Untangle Key on the right. You can see this is a Dutch keyboard, it has an ij key.
Couldn’t find the serial number until I shone a bright light through the keyboard. The first two digits of a seven-digit Swissa serial number give the year of production, so mine is from 1962.
For some reason, whenever I link a blog post, it selects the last picture in the post as the main picture and I think this picture is more interesting than the serial number picture…

Typecast essay: Incorrigible.





This is not how I usually transport my typewriters!


Typecast: Hello Gorgeous!

That ‘coule’ should be ‘couple’, of course.
Hello Gorgeous! My 1939 Hermes 2000
When you don’t have a manual, these mechanical margin stops are pretty hard to find, but they’re under the paper table which you can fold back gently.

Typecast: My Royal FP – Steampunk

Press the magic button and the machine opens to reveal its innnards…
1957 Royal FPS with Ransmeyer-Rodrian Imperial Elite typeface
Most FP serial numbers end with E for Elite or P for Pica, but this one had S for Special!
Close up of the typeslug with 84 and the Rodrian symbol I initially mistook for Royal. (And, yes, I cleared out the crud now. Jeez, don’t keep going on about it!)

Typewriter Pad Alternative

One thing that annoys most current typewriter enthusiasts is the availability of typewriter accessories, or rather, the lack thereof.

Tipp-Ex white-out paper and correction fluid is virtually impossible to find, silk black/red ink ribbons have to ordered at the office supply store (because they rarely stock them), typewriter erasers are thin on the ground, and — of course — typewriter pads have gone the way of the dinosaur.

Typewriter pads serve multiple functions at the same time. They protect your desk, they provide an anti-slip surface so the typewriter doesn’t skid all over your polished desk, and they dampen the vibration (and the noise!) of your typewriter.

Since the original typewriter pads are no longer made and the commercial alternatives are not very cheap (I think 12-24 euro for a single pad is expensive), I experimented with all kinds of pads, from cork placemats from a cooking store (for underneath hot pots) to all kinds of rug runners and anti-slip bath mats. Some didn’t provide enough anti-slip, others were too soft or too thin.

I didn’t try the ‘cutting up a yoga mat’ idea, because good yoga or pilates mats aren’t cheap, but that last suggestion did give me a better idea.

Hardware stores often sell ultralight foam tiles that have jigsaw sides to join together in a large floor mat that you can use as in your garage or tool shed, as a gym mat or even under a washing machine to dampen the vibrations. Sold in packages of six squares, a single tile is often 40×40 centimeters, big enough for an Olympia SG-1 or similar desktop typewriter, so it can also easily support a smaller portable machine like this SM-4.

SM 4 on floor mat

Every package has strips to cover the jigsaw sides and if the floor mat is too large for your taste, you can easily cut them down to size. They’re often available in a variety of colours (although I’d go with black), they are anti-slip, hard enough to support your typewriter, but soft enough to dampen the vibrations. Plus they’re cheap — a package containing six 40x40cm EVA foam tiles will cost you about 6-10 euro — and since they’re meant for work spaces they can handle an awful lot of abuse, so they will last very, very long. And I think they also look pretty cool/rad/industrial under your typewriter.