Saturday, January 25, 2014

Won and Lost?

Ebay (or eBay, if you will) is a tricky thing.

You have to take the seller's word for it, which is subjective at best. It's not my preferred method of buying typewriters by any means. The typewriter may well be in perfect condition when it leaves the seller, but it may also be dropped or damaged anywhere along the way. You can get insurance, sure, but what does that really do? And, even if the seller agrees to take the item back for a refund, are you really going to bother spending $20 to ship it back when you only spent $30 in the first place? My eBay typewriter experiences haven't been that bad so far, because I have usually only bought cheaper items and had less to lose. Some have been banged around a bit...but nothing that would warrant sending the items back, though.  I did have a situation with an Olympia typewriter that never arrived after a month, and the seller kept giving me the runaround about it. He finally told me that he had accidentally sent it back to himself. He asked if I wanted him to send it out again or take the refund, and I finally just took that rather than let him invent another excuse for why it wouldn't arrive next time.

The Royal Sabre arrived last week. Frankly, I wasn't expecting much. It was cheap as far as these things go, a gaudy avocado in color like a refrigerator of the late-1960s era, but with fake woodgrain highlights like some horrific station wagon. It was a bit more beaten up than I imagined it. This one was made in Portugal, a last-ditch destination for typewriter manufacturers trying to make a profit before they completely turned production over to Japan and then to China. These Royal models were made for a while in infinite colors and configurations, ultimately being sold in Singer, Montgomery-Ward, and Sears stores under their own names as well. They were branded as Aristocrats, Sabres, 890s, Safaris, Signatures, Customs, Magics(?), Caravans, Professionals, Cutlasses, and probably many other monikers that no one remembers.

Royal Sabre: the typewriter with the face of an angry cartoon robot.

Enjoy the look of genuine simulated glued-on imitation faux woodgrain. Classy.

My Royal Sabre isn't beyond repair, or bad. Just maybe largely imperfect. I jumped at a cheap one when I probably should have spent a few extra bucks to get a better-maintained model. When typing with it, it just stops about 3/4 across the page. That prompted me to simply adjust the margin for the line to end there. The keys are remarkably hard to press. They're not stuck. It just takes a lot of effort to make an impression on the page. Also, either the ribbon vibrator isn't high going enough or I have a bad ribbon, because some of the tops of letters are getting cut off. The capital letters seem higher than the lower-case letters as well. I don't think all this stuff equals a severely broken typewriter...just one that needs a good amount of work. This would make a wonderful parts machine. If nothing else, the bell works. A bit disappointing, but life is filled with those.

In a cardboard box at a sort facility in Oregon, getting ready to break my heart.

Hopes are higher for the Royalite '65 I got in a "Buy it Now" a few nights ago. Shipping and all, it was just over $25. Apparently in working order, whatever that means. I jumped on it because I knew it would sell very quickly and I only had one shot at it. I've literally seen machines disappear just as I was about to click "Buy". It does happen. That seemingly bent key in the picture concerns me, but it can probably be wrangled into place. But who knows. "Working order" doesn't always necessarily mean that. As Randy Newman said, Pluto's not a planet anymore. I'll let you know.

I prefer to test out typewriters before I buy them. That's really the best way to be satisfied. I will try to do that more regularly in the future.


  1. The Royalite isn't a bad machine at all. Don't be too stressed about it! However, the tops of the type on your Royal Sabre are likely to be something other than the ribbon.

    1. I'll eventually just buy another one and use as many parts as I can from this one. I once bought a severely broken Olivetti Studio 44 and was only able to salvage the ribbon spools and the cheese wedge case. Then I found another one in great shape without a case and I was back in business.

  2. Sounds like an alignment issue with the Sabre. It looks very similar to Custom-III I had. Mine was an ok typewriter. Keys were not hard, but I did give it a good cleaning before I started anything. Mine needed a bit of alignment, but I forget the details. I'm not sure if I posted procedures to my blog.

    Buying on line is always risky. Rule of thumb -- don't buy anything you can't repair yourself.

  3. Yes, buying typewriters online is a tricky thing at best. I too have had my share of disappointments. I try to expect little and hope for the best.

  4. Yes, eBay is always risky, but where else can we find so many opportunities?

    I am half-tempted by a Sabre-type Royal currently on eBay that has an Anglo-Saxon keyboard. Exotic!

  5. If you haven't already seen John Lavery's excellent cleaning routine, here it is. It might loosen the action. Realigning the type next. Try some of Ted's tips here. From my ebay experience, there isn't much correlation between price and condition. Luck has much more to do with it. Be lucky :-)