Discovering the Most Valuable Antique Typewriters: A Collector‘s Guide

For antique enthusiasts and collectors, few items hold as much fascination and historical significance as the typewriter. These marvelous machines revolutionized the way we communicate and conduct business, allowing for faster, more efficient production of documents. Today, antique typewriters are highly prized for their craftsmanship, beauty, and the glimpse they provide into a bygone era.

In this in-depth guide, we‘ll explore the world of antique typewriters, focusing on some of the most valuable examples ever produced. We‘ll examine the key factors that influence an antique typewriter‘s worth and share expert tips on how to determine the value of these mechanical marvels. So let‘s embark on this journey into the captivating history of antique typewriters!

A Brief History of Antique Typewriters

The first commercially produced typewriter, the Hansen Writing Ball, was invented in 1865 by Danish pastor Rasmus Malling-Hansen. However, it was the Sholes and Glidden typewriter, introduced in 1874, that truly popularized the typewriter and made it a commercial success.

Over the next few decades, numerous companies entered the typewriter market, each offering their own unique designs and innovations. Names like Remington, Underwood, Royal, and Smith Corona became synonymous with quality typewriters.

Generally speaking, any typewriter produced before 1920 is considered an antique. These early machines were entirely mechanical, relying on intricate systems of levers, springs, and gears to function. The craftsmanship and attention to detail found in antique typewriters is truly remarkable.

Factors That Influence an Antique Typewriter‘s Value

Several key factors come into play when assessing the value of an antique typewriter. Understanding these elements is crucial for collectors looking to make informed purchases or sales.


As with most antiques, age plays a significant role in determining value. Generally, the older a typewriter is, the more valuable it will be. Typewriters produced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries are particularly sought-after by collectors.


Some antique typewriter models were produced in limited quantities, making them exceedingly rare. Others may have been lost or destroyed over time. The scarcity of a particular model can greatly increase its value in the collector‘s market.


The condition of an antique typewriter is another critical factor in determining its worth. Typewriters that have been well-maintained and are in good working order will command higher prices than those with significant wear or damage. Original parts, finishes, and decals can also enhance a typewriter‘s value.

Brand and Manufacturer

Certain typewriter brands and manufacturers are more highly prized by collectors due to their historical significance, innovative designs, or superior craftsmanship. Names like Remington, Underwood, and Royal are often associated with quality and desirability.

Historical Significance

Some antique typewriters have a special place in history due to their association with notable figures or events. For example, a typewriter used by a famous author or one that played a role in a significant historical moment may have enhanced value.


As with any collectible, the value of an antique typewriter is ultimately determined by the market demand. Factors like current collecting trends and the overall economy can influence the prices collectors are willing to pay.

The Most Valuable Antique Typewriters

Now that we‘ve covered the key factors influencing an antique typewriter‘s value, let‘s take a closer look at some of the most valuable examples ever sold.

1. Rasmus Malling-Hansen Writing Ball (1870)

Sold for: $110,059 in 2019
The Rasmus Malling-Hansen Writing Ball holds the distinction of being the first commercially produced typewriter. Invented in 1865 by Danish pastor and principal Rasmus Malling-Hansen, this unique machine featured a spherical design with 52 keys arranged in a circular pattern.

Only around 180 Writing Balls were ever produced, making them exceptionally rare. In May 2019, one of these remarkable machines sold at auction for an astonishing $110,059, setting a new record for the most expensive antique typewriter.

2. Sholes and Glidden/ Remington No.1 (1874)

Sold for: $29,900 in 2014
The Sholes and Glidden typewriter, also known as the Remington No.1, was the first typewriter to achieve widespread commercial success. Invented by Christopher Latham Sholes and manufactured by E. Remington and Sons, this machine introduced the QWERTY keyboard layout that is still used today.

In 2014, an 1875 Sholes and Glidden typewriter (Serial No. A1665) sold on eBay for $29,900, underscoring the enduring value and historical significance of this groundbreaking machine.

3. Crandall New Model (1886)

Sold for: $4,000 recently
The Crandall New Model, introduced in 1886, is considered by many to be the most beautiful typewriter ever made. This machine featured hand-painted roses, mother-of-pearl inlays, and ornate gold scroll work, making it a true work of art.

The Crandall New Model was also innovative, offering a two-level keyboard, a removable type-sleeve for changing fonts, and visible typing – a first for the time. Recently, a Crandall New Model in excellent condition sold at auction for $4,000.

4. Williams 1 (1891)

Sold for: $1,450 recently
The Williams 1, introduced in 1891, was notable for its speed and visibility. It featured a "grasshopper" mechanism that allowed typists to see what they were typing – a significant improvement over earlier models. The machine also boasted exquisite craftsmanship, with gold scroll work adorning the frame and keys.

A fully-functioning Williams 1 typewriter recently sold at auction for an impressive $1,450, attesting to its enduring appeal among collectors.

Determining the Value of an Antique Typewriter

If you‘re curious about the value of an antique typewriter in your possession, there are several steps you can take to arrive at an informed estimate:

  1. Research the brand, model, and year of production. This information can often be found on the typewriter itself or in accompanying documentation.

  2. Assess the condition of the typewriter. Look for signs of wear, damage, or missing parts. Original finishes and components can enhance value.

  3. Consider the rarity of the model. Some typewriters were produced in limited quantities, making them more desirable to collectors.

  4. Examine recent sales of similar models. Online marketplaces, auction results, and price guides can provide valuable insight into current market trends.

  5. Consult with experts. Antique typewriter dealers, appraisers, and collector groups can offer knowledgeable opinions on a machine‘s value.

Where to Buy and Sell Antique Typewriters

For those looking to start or expand their antique typewriter collection, or for individuals interested in selling a machine, there are several avenues to explore:

Online Marketplaces

Websites like eBay and Etsy have active communities of antique typewriter buyers and sellers. These platforms allow for easy browsing and competitive pricing. However, it‘s essential to exercise caution and thoroughly research any potential purchases.

Antique Stores and Dealers

Brick-and-mortar antique shops and specialty dealers can be excellent sources for high-quality antique typewriters. These establishments often have knowledgeable staff who can provide guidance and authentication.

Collector Groups and Conventions

Joining a typewriter collector group or attending conventions can provide opportunities to network with other enthusiasts, learn about upcoming sales, and stay informed about market trends.

Preserving the Value of Your Antique Typewriter

Proper care and maintenance are essential for preserving the value of your antique typewriter. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Store your typewriter in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures.
  2. Keep the machine clean and free of dust. Use a soft brush or cloth to gently remove dirt and debris.
  3. Protect the typewriter with a custom cover when not in use.
  4. Have the machine serviced regularly by a qualified technician to ensure optimal performance.
  5. Use the typewriter periodically to keep the mechanisms in good working order.


Antique typewriters are more than just relics of a bygone era – they are tangible pieces of history that offer a fascinating window into the evolution of communication and technology. As we‘ve seen, the value of these machines is influenced by a complex interplay of factors, from age and rarity to condition and historical significance.

Whether you‘re a seasoned collector or a curious enthusiast, the world of antique typewriters is rich with opportunities for discovery and appreciation. By understanding the key elements that contribute to a typewriter‘s worth and taking steps to properly care for these mechanical marvels, you can build a collection that will be treasured for generations to come.

So the next time you come across an antique typewriter, take a moment to marvel at its craftsmanship, imagine the stories it might tell, and consider the enduring legacy of these remarkable machines. Happy collecting!

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