How to properly describe the condition of a typewriter.

An example of the sort of clarity that I think would be useful when refurbishers are “Reconditioning” typewriters is the issue of platens. I’ll say straight up that a typewriter is not “rebuilt” unless all the rubber bits have been replaced and the platen recovered. By “recovered” I mean the rubber covering of the platen has been *completely* removed and replaced. This can mean either platen recovering by a recovering company like J.J. Short or perhaps even having the rubber replaced by a soft PVC sheathe like a “Turboplaten”. The practice of grinding 1mm off of the old hardened platen and sleeving it with a thin shrink tube layer should be properly called “Sleeving” as it is not as good as a full recovering, and is not at all likely to last as long as a real recovering. There’s a significant difference, and should not be conflated.
Typewriter Club LIVE 2023-04-23:
This standard is from the 1964 NOMDA Blue Book: Important collectors in the field have also formulated standards for describing antique typewriters’ condition, and these standards can be applied to Mid-Century “Classic” typewriters – with the exception that these “Classic” machines should be primarily thought of as “working” and “functional” machines for daily writing, where “antique” machines generally aren’t. You wouldn’t normally consider the state of the rubber at all on an antique machine, but it should be a primary consideration for a classic machine. This is from Darryl Rehr’s 1997 “Antique Typewriters and Office Collectables”.

Updated: April 24, 2023 — 3:44 pm


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  1. In Appendix A, I must say I am uncomfortable with the number grading systems proposed because in the first one, the Lowest number is the Best and in the other one, the Highest number is the Best. I don’t prefer one or the other (unless there is some established collector convention across different fields of collecting) but I do value consistency to avoid confusion. Help!

    Also, I suggest a system that I have seen elsewhere, using a number for one (say, function) and an alpha character for the other (say, appearance). Thus 3B is easier to keep straight than two numerals. Waddya think?

  2. Good call on the issue of platen recovering. Sheathing is just a cheesy enough approach that I might see myself attempting this at home in a pinch. But it’s not something I would want someone else charging me for — particularly if they were passing it off as something else. That would sort of be like going to buy new tires for a vehicle and being sold retreads instead.

    Sheathing a typewriter platens reminds me buying retreaded tires back in the day, lol.

  3. Every on line seller should be required to fill in the questionaire and post it, especially for Ebay.

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