Collectors hot for vintage typewriters

Peter Junker used to think collecting was a “silly” hobby until he encountered an item that melted his heart—an antique typewriter.

Junker, who spent his career writing grants and strategizing marketing communications, recalls the day a 1947 Royal chrome typewriter caught his eye at a Buford Highway flea market in 2001. He said it spoke to him, so he bought it and used as an office decoration. Eventually it ended up in his attic.

Sometime later while perusing goods at a Goodwill store, a seafoam green 1962 Ambassador typewriter made in Switzerland caught his eye. It was in “really good condition,” and he recalls grabbing it “without thinking.”

After doing some online research about vintage typewriters, Junker learned about typewriter history as well as the value and profitability of the machines. He sold that seafoam green machine at a handsome profit and used the funds to invest in the purchase and upkeep of additional typewriters.

Junker, a retiree and published poet, now has a collection of 15 typewriters that range from 85 years to 24 years old. Several of the machines—some black and chrome, some with more contemporary colorings—are artfully displayed on two shelves in the living room of his DeKalb County home near Tucker.

Several of Peter Junker’s 15 vintage typewriters are on display in his living room. Photos by Gale Horton Gay

His oldest machine is a 1937 German typewriter that’s in mint condition, the only one he doesn’t let anyone touch. Junker encourages curious guests to type a letter or a thought on one of his other vintage machines. Paper, envelopes, and stamps are stationed below a typewriter stand that’s kept in his dining room.

Junker said for his collection he focuses on typewriters built between 1937 and 1968, and he’s only interested in high-quality machines in good condition. He described what most impressed his most about a typewriter he decides to acquire—”the way it responds to you, the tactile sensation” as well as the imprint on the page.

One of his favorite machines is a Swiss-made Hermes 3000 with a Techno pica font from the 1950s, he said. Although he also praised his German-made AMC Alpina typewriter as the machine “I think I love most” on Facebook.

“Everything I collect I have to find aesthetically beautiful,” he said. “If it’s not pretty and doesn’t type well, I don’t want it.

Junker said that he types something (to do list, thoughts, worries) on two machines each day as it is the best way to keep a typewriter in good working order. “If you don’t keep them working, that’s when the problems start,” he said.

He also regularly sends out “old-fashioned snail mail letters” typed on his machines to friends and family. “It’s always a special occasion for them to get something handmade like that, and they tell me they treasure them,” he shared.

Junker is one of the 15,000 members of Facebook’s Antique Typewriter Collectors group. “It’s a diverse group with people in Indonesia, Russia, South America,” he said. “It was an education just to be around them.”

In addition to posts from collectors about their machines and how they acquired and repaired them, the group’s Facebook site includes videos and a marketplace with antique typewriters and other vintage items such as a sled, butter churn and counting machine. The typewriters offered on the group’s marketplace range from $40 to $400.

Asked about why typewriters fascinate him, Junker said part of it is the stories behind each machine—such as how it was designed and manufactured, the people who owned them, what the typewriters were used for and how they were found.

“I used a typewriter in college,” Junker said. “There was always a romantic attraction for me.”

He said his collection connects him to the bygone days of his youth, the era of his parents and each one brings him pleasure.

Junker advises those interested in starting a typewriter collection, go to Facebook Marketplace, Ebay, Goodwill stores and flea markets to find machines.


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