Today’s Toronto Globe and Mail has an article about typewriter collecting. You may recognize a few names in it *coughcough*.
The focus of the piece is on Martin Howard, who is displaying a portion of his exquisite collection of pre-1900s typewriters at the Toronto airport. Fellow NaNoWriMo Typewriter Brigader John Payton is featured as well.
I think the article highlights an important distinction among collectors of vintage and antique typewriters. Martin Howard is one of the heavy-hitters in our field. He collects only the finest and rarest specimens and has an extremely narrow focus of the 20-year period of early typewriter development at the end of the 1800s. His museum-quality pieces literally get the white-glove treatment.
In contrast, the article describes how my toddler likes to whack the keys. My favorite machine is not a Williams or a Jewett or a Desnmore, but a dirt-common Corona. And although we discussed it over the phone, the article does not mention how I use my typewriters for typecasting, and only briefly describes Mr Payton writing with his own machines. A toddler should be allowed nowhere near Mr Howard’s collection.
In short, I tend not to collect machines that I am afraid to use. I will leave the ultra-rare, ultra-expensive typewriters to the Martin Howards of the world. As nice as it would look to be able to display my machines behind illuminated glass, they would also seem a bit isolated and sad. (I like Herman Price’s display: nicely arranged, yet accessable.)
One of the reasons that I started Machines of Loving Grace was to bring inclusion to the amateur collector, those of us who don’t seek out just the rare machines but who appreciate displaying–and yes, using–the common typewriters that many Serious Collectors will not give a second glance. We may not know the detailed history of our machines, but we know that we like how the keys feel beneath our fingers. We are the bulls in the typewriter shop, who love nothing more than to lay hands upon, disassemble, and tinker with typers. Got rust? Who cares, so long as it works? Chipped paint? Adds character.
This isn’t to say that I won’t pass up a good deal on a rare machine when it comes along. I have a pair of Caligraphs that will probably never be used, but they were free and I’d have been insane to refuse them. And I have a fairly good investment piece in the Keaton, though I can’t read the music it types. But when I’m at the writing desk? Gimme that Underwood.