Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Four Typers of the Typocalypse

Ive been doing very good resisting acquiring any more machines, "adding to my collection".

The last 2 typers ive acquired were my ICO in mid-July and my gold-plated Olympia SM3 in late July. Expensive acquisitions and beautiful and permanent members of the family. No regrets there.

In the last couple months ive said no to the following craigslist deals that many times ive engaged in talks and managed to get the my low offers accepted,, at times even turning down the machine after holding it in my hands: a $15 cole steel, a $15 underwood 5, a $15 1940s underwood champion, a $20 smith corona superspeed, a pink RQDL for $99, a sage green RQDL for $75, several under $50 Remington Portables and likely a couple more that ive already deleted the email trails to so that i dont curse myself later.

I vowed silently to myself: no more until i get to clean and repair what i have currently. After that, re-evaluate.

mantralike, i repeated. Until in a trance. As if hypnotized.
Perhaps though, it became so repetitve that i became desensitized to it. Going through the motions, unalert, and somehow suddenly i am home without even remembering the trip.
Moreover, you look in the backseat and there's a bunch of passengers you picked up along the way and theyre all eating mcdonalds happy meals.

It started with the nicest of gestures. The wife happened to spot an IBM Selectric II in the basement of her building. She got it for me for basically free.

its now sits on my bookshelf in my garage.
It turns on and hums but thats it for now.
I also have about 12 typeballs for it so ill
attempt fixing it one of these days

from the good ol University of California

Immense Behemoth Mastodon
The Selectric seriously dwarfed both the ICO and the laptop. Its shadow cast made for 10000 years of frozen winter.

The wifey also got me about a good assortment of typeballs

That was Thursday. Morning.
And while she was picking up the Selectric, she ran into an 80+ year old Professor Emeritus who she said was sharp as a tack and likely has only lived his half life. He talked her ear off, maybe trying to see if he could get into her pregnant panties, and asked her why she was buying a typewriter. She gave the spiel that her husband is a typewriter collector. i wish she wouldnt call me that because i dont quite feel like a collector just yet... at the time, that is.
This retired professor of developmental and cell biology said he had 2 old pre-war Triumph typewriters and an old Underwood. He gave his business card to her and asked that i contact him when i got home.

Later that same day while im still at work, i get an email from a guy who says he has 2 1937 Triumphs from bulgaria, one with a latin keyboard and another with a slavic keyboard. He says Richard Polt suggested he contact me.

When i get home my wife hands me the business card. The names match.

We email back and forth a few times during the next 32 hours: him mostly saying that Polt suggested me and that he said the machines are worth $40 and $100 respectively and that the typers were collectors items and me mostly telling him i am not a pure collector and that i have no showpieces.

We settled on the price before i even arrived to his home in Irvine and lets just say that to him it was a seller's market and i was his prey. I usually have the power to walk away, as evidenced above. This time, i didnt - i could not resist.

The cases show lots of wear and tear. The wood is falling apart. They reflect a lot of travel.
Making the trip from Israel to the USA
sold in a pair - theyve been together since the late 1930s - inseparable

He called this Slavic. I believe most refer to this as Cyrillic. It is in very good shape despite the dust. He said its because his father stashed this away long ago and stopped using it. Its platen and rollers are surprisingly supple and yet, this is the the only machine i possess that i will never use.

He called this Latin. He explained later: it's because english, italian. The body is cracked and chipped. I am considering using the Cyrillic as a doner for this English one, swapping out nearly all the parts so that i have an awesome condition Triumph that i can actually use.

Lots of cleaning to do

Cool keys

closeup of english typeface. The one i took of the Cyrillic is blurry and ill have to add it later.
side by side

This 80+ year Italian academic talked my ear off for the better part of 3 hours. We only discussed typewriters for maybe 10min. The rest of the time, he shared his whole life story. I could have been his biographer. Some of the highlights:

He and his brother were born in Italy but moved to Bulgaria early on.
He knows to speak several languages although now he is rusty with Hebrew and Russian.
The typewriters were brought with them to Israel by way of Turkey when they fled Bulgaria due to the Nazis.
He is one of the world's leading experts on Orchids.
He has one of the foremost collections of Orchid books in the world and once he passes, it will go to his alma mater USC - he has already bequeathed it to them and he said that USC will then have an envious collection.
Even though he taught at UC Irvine from the early 60s through the late 90s, he has no loyalty to UC Irvine.
He has been a resident of Irvine, CA since then as well but his house is decked out in Trojan gear, including a giant flag in front of his house.
He has a dog named Troy that he loves and he spent $3k on in veterinary bills recently.
He walks Troy around his neighborhood and carries a gun in case of coyotes (btw - he lives in a completely developed area in suburbia. There probably hasnt been a coyote in decades)
He begged USC to accept his son and his son completed his degree in forensic psychology and is jobless.

I also ended up buying his Remington 17 from him. I retrieved it myself from a forgotten cabinet in his garage. As i stuck my hand in to carry this heavy ass dirty dusty monstrosity, he warned me that last time he opened the cabinet, there were a lot of black widows.
The only reason i bought the Remington in addition to the Triumphs, which i absolutely had to have, was because the machine was given to him while he attended USC and lived in a rich lawyer's house. The lawyer used it to converse with several famous hollywood celebrities and they all remarked that this typewriter had a very special font. He also used it throughout college and it was eventually given to him. He wrote his first couple books on it and it sat undisturbed since the 1970s.
Certainly forgotten - but he said last time it was used it worked perfectly. Now... after decades, who knows. I;; already PB Blasted it and also used some Soft Scrub on its platen. If anyone has an extra Remington Seventeen ribbon cover, let me know!!!

who knows if ill ever be able to clean it and get all the rust off.
So there. I go for what seemed like a long while, a diet if you will... and then binge buy, adding 4 typers in 2 days. Off the wagon now. Back to being a full blown fiend.

and yes, i bought another one just earlier tonight.


  1. That is a very very cool set of Triumphs!

    1. Mark - itll be a lot of work to get them cleaned. And as far as i can tell, nothing mechanically wrong with them but i havent extensively checked them out. And of course, the ambitious project is to switch out their parts so that the nice parts are on the english keyboard one. The switch out will include the rubber parts: platen and all rollers. The body too.

  2. Those are nice Triumphs! The selectric may just need to warm up. Leave it running for half an hour and see if it starts working. Can't wait to see the Remington typeface.
    oh, and coincidentally my dad graduated from USC and ended up teaching at/retiring from Irvine.

    1. ill try that with the selectric Peter - thanks

      as for the remington typeface, i looked at it just now and i cant tell if its anything special quite honestly. it certainly isnt fraktur or something crazy like that.

      i remember you told me your father taught at UCI - small world!

  3. Some very nice finds, and an awful huge coincidence that Richard send this man to you, who met your wife around the same time! How neat?
    The Triumphs are quite lovely. Rem 17's are nice to type on, quite smooth for as big as they are. I, too, cannot wait to see the typeface.
    Congrats on all the great finds!

    1. kismet: not quite. i think this is what happened. the old man talks to my wife and is reminded about his typewriters. Since he may be selling it to someone that is a collector, he searches the internet and finds Richard Polt's website. He ends up emailing Polt and Richard sends him my way bc he knows i live nearby. The old guy, armed with some valuations, now is ready to deal.

      And Ken, i had no idea what these typewriters looked like. Once i saw them, i knew i had to have them and i paid a good amount. I wouldnt consider it a bargain or steal or a conservative sum. i think it might have been more than fair actually. The balance was in the seller's favor. Nevertheless, im content enough to have these and not have someone else purchase them and then see them on eBay for some godawful starting bid.

      And the typeface... i hope i didnt build it up. i still have no idea what it is. by the looks of it i dont see it being anything that special. i need to take a pic of it. Or clean the thing and put a new ribbon on it and try it out. who knows. maybe it is cool. maybe it was cool back in the 1940s/50s...the old guy said that his lawyer benefactor told tales that many commented on the uniqueness of the font. That was a plus for me. i honestly wanted the big ass seventeen for its history in that it belonged to this lawyer who corresponded with whoever celebrities from that age and that the old guy wrote his first couple books on it. that was cool enough fo rme

  4. I like the Triumphs, I never see in this color!

    1. yeah im not sure how you could describe this blue. maybe kind of like a sea blue? i dont think its a royal blue. i do like it too!

  5. Eh, self-restraint is overrated. I'm in love with your Triumphs. I know they have a lot of TLC ahead, but blue is a great color on that body.

    1. Thanks Dwayne! i look forward to working on them one day and getting them into the best shape i can.

      i seriously am considering swapping out parts to make one extremely awesome and the other just so so.

  6. That's a cool pair of Triumphs, together since 70 years... I have to say, I think using the Cyrillic Triumph as a parts machine would be a bit degrading - after all, it's cyrillic, and the other one is just French.

  7. i get what youre saying but do u think cyrillic is worth preserving? i see cyrillics on ebay with no bids...

    1. Oh, I see - cyrillic machines seem to be much more prevalent in the US than here - I've never seen one in Switzerland, so I assumed they were rare in the US as well.

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