How to Rationalize Your Collection

IMG_2806It is understandable if your notion of collecting is getting as many typewriters together as you can. As long as you have the money and the space to do that, you won’t notice any problem with that system. But as time passes, your money dwindles along with your space, you’ll come to the obvious conclusion that no, you can’t have it all. You’ve got to rationalize your collecting.

There are different ways of collecting. You can collect according to brand, to year or decade, to type (portable or standard), to rarity, to design elegance, to nearness to original state, to typeface, or to combinations of the above. I, for instance, prefer late 40s to early 50s machines. But note, I will also collect machines that do not necessarily fit that classification. They become my trading pieces given the fact that workable machines are not always easy to come by in the Philippines. Perhaps I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: collecting is more competitive in the islands and we grab at all opportunities we get until a better one comes along.

I have noticed some collectors go by typeface, which in modern language we understand as the font. As a beginner in the hobby, the first three different typefaces you’ll become familiar with are Elite, Pica, and finally, Script/Cursive. The first two are the most common. Elite has 12 letters per inch of line typed, while Pica has 10. So Pica has bigger letters. Script/Cursive are still typed, but they’re made to appear like handwriting. Machines with such typefaces are uncommon and often demand a higher price than your regular machine. Oh, it doesn’t end there. There are many more, rarer, typefaces about, but the machines they are on are correspondingly more expensive. Unless you get lucky and the seller does not know the fact and you do.

Other collectors have described their system as a “catch and release” method. They’ll collect something that catches their eye, they’ll fix it up, use it for a while, and perhaps depending on mood or the serendipitous appearance of a newer acquisition, the current machine might be retained or be passed along to a friend, sold, or given to a charitable organization. Aside: Despite the hype that typewriters are obsolete technology, the fact that the typewriter is so robust, so low maintenance, so easy to use, and is a single purpose machine, makes it perfect for people in situations where costly computers are not feasible. Examples of such places are public schools out in the provinces and orphanages.

Others will collect for prestige. Naturally they gravitate to the visually appealing, near perfect specimens, those somewhat difficult to acquire, and are usually expensive. You can predict that these pieces will be tastefully displayed and fussed over.

Others, like writers, will collect for function, that is, what they care about is how well the machine will work under extensive used. Appearance will not be of primary importance to them. While standard typewriters (the modern equivalent is the desktop computer) will fit this bill, there are many robust portables that will meet that challenge.

Finally, there are those who collect on the basis of visual appeal of a model they like. I know of people who collect as many of the color variants of a given model for a particular year. How you decide to collect is ultimately your decision. There’s really no rush to come up with a system, and while you’re deciding what yours will be, hang around your interest group and keep on picking up more knowledge.

Good luck on your typewriter hunt!

In the picture: 1947 Smith Corona Silent captured in Mabalacat, Pampanga on a rainy day.

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