Don’t subtract value of old calculators and typewriters


Collecting Treasures: You’d be surprised at what people collect and will pay top dollar for

Attending an auction can sometimes be like entering a time warp, especially when it comes to technology. But don’t assume that old technology has no value.

In 2014, a vintage Apple-1 personal computer sold at auction for $905,000 in New York. Two years earlier, a 1923 Leica-O series camera sold for $2.79 million at a Vienna auction.

And, don’t get me started on vintage cars and trucks.

You’d be surprised at what people collect and will pay top dollar for — including old adding machines and typewriters.


I know what you’re thinking. You may even be reading this now on your iPhone or Droid. Why would anyone pay top dollar for those clunky machines, when they can calculate, type and more on their phones?

Some of it could be nostalgia, but rarity will always drive prices up.

To give you an example, recently we sold a collection of old adding machines that performed well at auction. A set of two machines — an Underwood Olivetti adding machine and a 1972 UniCom 141P printing calculator sold together for $2,500.

Why so much? The 1972 UniCom calculator was one of the first devices to feature a microprocessor. A real computer chip, which was a big deal back then. You could probably say that the age of computing started with this device created by Busicom & Intel.

What does well

Brands that do well at auction for both adding machines and typewriters include Underwood, Remington, Oliver, Corona, Royal, Woodstock, to name a few.

The condition of the machine also matters. Is there rust? Are any keys missing or damaged? Does the machine still work? Is the decal legible? These are factors that will determine how much collectors will pay.


Whether you’re buying or selling, always do your research. If typewriters are your thing, a tour of The Virtual Typewriter Museum is a must.

If you’re enthralled with old adding machines and calculators, check out websites likeThe Early Office Museum, The Vintage Calculators Web Museum, and others like that.

But even more importantly, check recent auction results on eBay, and other sites to get a realistic idea of what current fair market value is.

Will your iPhone or Droid be worth tons of money 50 years from now? There’s probably an app that can calculate the odds of that.

Erik Hoyer co-owns EJ’s Auction & Consignment in Glendale and J. Levine Auction & Appraisal in Scottsdale. Contact:, or@EJs_Auction on Twitter.


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