1890 – Already a Surplus

Although there was serious debate among the earliest rebuilders of typewriters as to which was first out of the gate, it’s a safe bet that by the middle 1890’s it was becoming clear that there was at least some sort of opportunity to deal in second hand, “used,” and / or patched up typewriters.

1890 National Typewriter Exchange

The original source of the advertisement seen above, for the “National Type-Writer Exchange,” has been lost but the date is known —  1890.  In the ad, “new or second-hand” machines “of any make” are advertised as bought and sold.  That’s important – not only is this a very early ad presenting second-hand machines for sale, but it’s also letting the public know that the firm was purchasing used machines.

The status of the big makes as $100 machines is also indirectly referenced – note the descriptor “Caligraphs, Hammonds, Remingtons and all cheaper makes.”   The direct implication then of the line “Good machines at half first cost” is that the top end second-hand machines were going for $50.

One might safely assume that this firm was not selling junkers for $50, out of alignment, pounded out, skipping and worn.  However, at this time the general industry terms “rebuilt,” “reconditioned” or “refurbished” had not yet come into wide use.  Later, machines that were complete but unaltered (not fixed up in any way) would be referred to as “in the rough” or just “roughs.”

For now though what we have is a very early glimpse at the industry and widening market that lay ahead – a market that could only expand as generation after generation of brand-new machines reached the end of their service (or contract) lives and had to be replaced.

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