The Unbearable Banishment: A $22,500 used typewriter

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A $22,500 used typewriter

Back in April I did a post about the annual rare book fair at the Park Avenue Armory. One of the more unconventional non-book items up for sale was Ernest Hemingway’s typewriter. Asking price: $110,000.

I thought it was silly and couldn’t imagine why anyone would buy a typewriter when, for that kind of money, you could almost have a complete run of Hemingway first editions. Almost.

Lo and behold, on Tuesday, Christies sold Jack Kerouac's Hermes 3000 manual typewriter (not the one he fed a roll of teletype paper into to write On The Road) for $22,500. It was the last typewriter he owned. The estimate had been $20,000-$30,000. Auction listing here.

At the same auction, John Updike's typewriter sold for $4,375 (est. $4,000-$6,000). Listing here.

Neither of those prices touch the $254,500 paid last December for Cormac McCarthy's old Olivetti (est. $15,000 - $20,000!!! Proof positive that all you need at an auction are two people with deep pockets who want the same item really, really bad). Auction listing here.

This was the typewriter McCarthy used to write all of his major novels. McCarthy still owes me the $14.95 I paid for a paperback of The Road. A depressing, over-hyped novel that I didn't waste my time finishing.

There’s no accounting for what people are willing to collect. I, myself, have a few book cases full of rare books that cannot be read. They shouldn’t even be opened for fear of cracking the glue in the spine. Books that can't be read!? How lame is that?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"All men suffer some form of madness..."

I wonder if anyone will pay silly money for the old Consul that cranked out volumes of teenage angst and a couple of abandoned plays? I wonder where it is!

June 24, 2010 at 3:44 PM  
Blogger Pueblo girl said...

Just goes to show how much we yearn after something (material) that feels unique.

June 24, 2010 at 4:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's very "Borges", "books that can not be read".

June 24, 2010 at 5:03 PM  
Blogger Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

I was by the pool here in Phoenix reading my Louis Theroux book yesterday, and to my horror, it started disintergrating in my hands. Pages started just dropping away from the spine because of the heat. Can't say this is a phenonmenon I've ever experienced before, coming from London.

June 24, 2010 at 7:22 PM  
Blogger Ponita in Real Life said...

I've had books fall apart in my hands... but it's usually because they were very cheaply bound...

It always amazes me what some people will pay for things someone else has owned/used... even if it is an item that really doesn't have much intrinsic value of its own.

I'd like to have those deep pockets but I sure wouldn't waste the money on stuff like that!

June 24, 2010 at 7:35 PM  
Blogger mapstew said...

Books which can't be read!!!
That's like having paintings which mustn't be seen, or beer that can't be drunk! Actually I'd get over the books & paintings, just pass the bottle opener!

Seriously though, I just don't get being precious about stuff we have and won't use. (Bottle-opener! Still waiting here!) :¬)

June 24, 2010 at 7:42 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

MIT: Oh, *I'd* like to read that! Can you dig them up for us?

PG: But it's a deception. No material thing can hold our attention indefinitely. We always move on to the NEXT material thing.

Jo: I lived in Phoenix for 18 LONG months! It's not for me. There were two seasons; hot and REALLY hot.

Ponita: Suppose you did have those deep pockets. What would you buy that could be considered frivolous by everyone else?

Map: It's even more pathetic than you suspect. If I want to read one of my collectibles, I have to go out and buy a second reading copy. Thus, the author makes twice as much money off of me on the same title.

June 24, 2010 at 8:16 PM  
Blogger JZ said...

You say Potato.....

While, for me, "The Crossing" was my favorite of the CM I've read (I seriously need to get Blood Meridian if I"m going to have a knock-down, drag out discussion about this great writer), "The Road" read for me like an extended Haiku. Oxymoronic? Perhaps...but the manipulation of the written word, punctuation and the vigilant reductionist method overcame the dark theme. It was an easy read, in the Dan Brown school, perhaps, because of this strategy. But it was worthy of you finishing it, UTB.

I also believe his typewriter fetched the coin that it did because it was going to directly benefit the Santa Fe Institue, no?

Still, its kind of ridiculous that we hold up these objects....its like revering Michelangelo's chisel or Van Gogh's brushes.....

June 24, 2010 at 8:48 PM  
Blogger JZ said...

I just noticed my yoda-like dyslexia. Too funny...

June 24, 2010 at 11:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ooh, I wonder how much my keyboard would fetch. I'll cut anyone here a deal and sell it for $1,000. Appreciation guaranteed! :D

June 24, 2010 at 11:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"can I dig them up?" Heck! no!That'd be like literary necrophilia!

June 25, 2010 at 12:17 AM  
Blogger Pueblo girl said...

Thus "collecting".

June 25, 2010 at 3:55 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

JZ: Part of the proceeds from the Updike typer sale went to the New York Library. So there's that to consider. As for The Road, I guess couldn't get past the babies being eaten to enjoy the beauty of the written word.

Rohan: Is it ridiculous to consider that one day someone might pay thousands for a computer owned by a famous author? Not so much.

MIT: All the more reason to dig them up, I say.

PG: My first "ah-ha!" moment of the morning.

June 25, 2010 at 6:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't feel bad. I collect dust. Really need to get out more.

June 25, 2010 at 7:06 AM  
Blogger Cat said...

Can I get in on that refund thing if I didn't actually shell out the bucks for the book? Maybe I can bill him for the hours I wasted reading that piece of crap (sorry to say I did finish it) not to mention the other hours I have had to spend banishing that one particular image from my mind's eye. Thanks for bringing it right back!

June 25, 2010 at 6:50 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

kykn: At least it's a cheap hobby. Thank god I picked up blogging, or I'd still be spending more than someone in my income bracket should on rare books.

Cat: C McC took the low road, that's for sure. And shame on Oprah for hyping the book so much.

June 25, 2010 at 8:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not too far off-topic...
thought this might interest (annoy?) you.

June 25, 2010 at 11:09 PM  
Blogger sukipoet said...

so do you think your computer will be worth something some day. or at least, the keyboard.

June 27, 2010 at 1:09 PM  
Blogger Ellie said...

Funny how the old typewriter will fetch a price. No way a lsptop or desktop would get that much.

June 29, 2010 at 6:53 PM  

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