Saturday, November 24, 2007

For sale: an elegant, pink German

My friend Lisa Lieberman, who knows about my passion for old manual typewriters, gave me this ‘60s period-piece model to sell for her on Craig’s List. It belonged to her late mother, Pearl, who collected more stuff than a museum curator. And much of it was indeed museum quality, but that’s another story.

Royal portables of the Fifties and Sixties were known to come in pink, but until Lisa unveiled her mom's machine, I had never seen an Olympia, a sensible Teutonic creation, decked out in nail-polish hue. Even the emblem in the middle of its frontispiece is faceted to make it look like rhinestone. Alas, the moniker is plastic, was weakened by San Diego heat and crumbled at my touch. I’ve managed to glue it together piece by plastic piece — a labor of love.

(I informed my typewriter-collecting buddy, Steve Brannon of Richmond, Va., of Pearl’s machine the day after Lisa gave it to me. Steve, who is as curious about stuff as Pearl was acquisitive, immediately found a photo of an identical pink Olympia on the web. So they aren’t all that unusual, if you know where to look — and care enough.)

The font on Pearl's is script, so she probably used the portable (an SM7 to be exact) to write letters of condolence and thank you notes. Typing on the pink Oly lands you on the set of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" or "An Affair to Remember" or "Aida." Not far away some diva is gushing "daaaah-ling" to an understudy, manicurist or make-up artist.

The Olympia was the high-heeled model in Pearl’s two-typewriter collection. (I'm surprised she didn't have more.) Her other typewriter was a no-nonsense aqua-marine Underwood Universal, circa early ‘60s. She probably used it to make shopping lists. It goes on the block when I can figure out how to make its ribbon advance without fraying. Another labor of love.

I’m asking $75 for the elegant but sturdy pink Olympia and its carrying case. All metal, the typewriter weighs at least 30 pounds. The price could be either (a) highway robbery or (b) a steal, depending on your point of view. Taken together, it could be both.

Or it could be priced just right. In any case, I’m about to find out, which is half the fun.

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