Over the past several years, as more and more people discover and desire vintage typewriters, I've often been asked about professionally refurbished typewriters that cost less than $200. Most inquires are about $150 - $250 range machines. This has become such a common question, but not easily explained, that I've created this page just for this topic.
There are few of us left that professionally refurbish typewriters for resale. We have the training, parts and the tools. Often times, a seller on ebay or etsy claims to have 20-40 years experience, but it's just not true. I personally know one seller who only sold "as is" typewriters for years. No claim of professional anything in regard to typewriters. All of a sudden, they were claiming 20+ years experience in typewriter repair and their prices had tripled. Adding a line about experience in the field allowed them to up their price for the same typewriters while doing no extra work and adding assurance for their potential buyers. I've seen it time and again. Most current buyers of typewriters don't know the difference between a serviced, refurbished or restored machine. Or one that's "as is". I'll define those for you below.
Serviced: A basic service is a bench top blowing out/ brushing out of your typewriter. Oiling, adjusting, type face cleaning, testing and installing a new ribbon. The typewriter is not disassembled and no replacement parts (springs, platen, feed rollers, etc.) are covered in the price. No cosmetic cleaning or preservation is performed. The typewriter will look (and sometimes smell) the same as when you dropped it off. The 2016 prices for this process vary greatly by locale. I made a few inquires and have been surprised by the costs. On the west coast US, I've been quoted $225 - $550 for a service. East coast, $85 - $450. Wow! So, if you already own the typewriter and live near a repair/service shop, you can realistically expect to pay $150+ average for just a basic service.
Refurbished: A refurbished typewriter is disassembled and the mechanics are typically submerged in a sonic cleaning tank for 24+ hours depending on how dirty it is. All repair parts are included in the price. Any weak or missing springs are replaced. Type is aligned. Platen and feed rollers are reconditioned or, if in poor condition, replaced. Carriage is checked and adjusted for alignment. Draw bands/draw strings are inspected and replaced if necessary. Main spring is checked for proper tension. Escapement is checked for proper function and alignment. Rack bar is inspected for wear and replaced if necessary. Missing or loose screws are taken care of as well. Mis-matched parts are replaced with correct make/model components. Nickel and chrome is chemically polished leaving only the desired patina on the oldest of machines. Body panels are carefully cleaned and polished. Decals are preserved and protected. Damaged key tops (broken or unreadable) are replaced. The typewriter is reassembled, oiled, tested with new ribbon installed and ready for pick-up. Basically, everything but mechanical parts is left in original condition.
I charge $350 for a portable and $475 for an office model plus return shipping. Prices are much higher elsewhere. Including etsy and ebay where some sellers are asking $800 - $1200 for typewriters they claim to have professionally refurbished.
Restored: A restored typewriter has been completely, 100% disassembled, and the mechanics have been checked and cleaned. All springs are replaced. Type bars cleaned and polished. Carriage removed and rebuilt. Escapement removed and rebuilt. Any tarnished or rusted parts are cleaned or replaced. All chrome or nickel plating is cleaned and replated. Screws heads are even replated and polished. Body panels are stripped of original enamel and repainted. Reproduction decals (either water slide or hand painted) replace the originals. Reproduction key tops are installed and key top bezels are replated. All rubber components are replaced with reproduction parts. When completed, the typewriter will look as if it was just built. Gorgeous if done properly. There are a few extraordinary craftsmen in this field scattered about the globe. Their workmanship is impeccable. Cost? Whatever they ask! Think $2000++ depending on the machine and artist.
As-Is: You buy it as-is, it belongs to you. Problems and all. As-is has been the defining protection of online sellers for over a decade. If they label an item "as-is", paypal is less likely to refund the buyer should a problem arise with the functionality of the typewriter. I have the utmost confidence in the quality of my work and therefore include a warranty to match that work as well as the original mechanics of the typewriter. Some typewriters were better designed than others. As-is should never be included in the description of a "professionally" serviced/refurbished/restored typewriter. Never.
So, back to the original question; "Do you have anything for sale in the $150 - $250 range?". The simple answer is "No.". That answer seems a bit harsh, especially in an email. That's why I've written this page. As an educational tool. Even if you own the typewriter already, you'll need to spend more than $150 total to get it functioning as designed. Some technicians charge an hourly rate. Average here in the US is $85 per hour plus parts.
Buying on ebay or etsy will likely not get you what you wanted. I can't tell you how many people contact me about a "perfect" typewriter they bought on ebay/etsy for $450 from a professional dealer but it skips spaces, or the type is light or the backspace doesn't seem to work all the time, or the letters are printing seriously crooked or it smells bad, etc. "Is there anything I can do to fix that?", you ask. Well, it's obviously far from perfect and doesn't work as it should. Either get your money back or at the very least, get a partial refund and send to someone for repair. As the demand continues to increase and supply continues to decrease, vintage and antique typewriters will cost more every year. You can gamble on ebay/etsy or save up for your "perfect" machine or maybe even try some typewriter repair yourself. There are other options. Buying one that's really been professionally refurbished for less than $200 just isn't one of them ;-)