It was more of a rescue than a carefully considered acquisition, but then again isn’t that what the majority of typewriter purchases really are?
“We bought it for our wedding,” the young woman I had met in a public parking lot explained as she handed me the typewriter. The machine was coddled in a Cheney travel case which was easy to identify by its shape, simulated snakeskin finish, and the ‘auto-tension’ lock that held it shut. Inside the travel case was a victim of pre-wedding hysteria, a garishly repainted Oliver Courier that definitely was in need of a reassignment.
It’s a crime that most collectors are familiar with, the intentionally disfigured typewriter that has been altered to make it ‘trendy’ and ‘shabby chic’. The Oliver was an example of such a machine, one that had been degraded from being a precision writing instrument to an ornamental prop used to dress up an otherwise barren guestbook table, perhaps even used as the guestbook itself.
The woman still radiated a postnuptial glow and seemed genuinely happy that the machine was going to a more permanent home. And I was happy too: aside from a missing model badge, and chromium plating flaking off the paper release lever, the Courier was in very good condition.
“My husband repainted it himself to match our decor,” she continued as I began to examine the typewriter. She was clearly proud of his efforts and still excited by the novelty of being able to describe him as her hubby.
In truth the paint job was terrible, but it was not my place to criticize his handiwork; I imagined the pre-wedding jitters he must have been dealing with at the time, and how he must have beseeched the heavens for a reason why he had been tasked with painting a 1950s typewriter. I actually wanted to give him credit for not painting over the case screws, but then noticed the plated trim pieces that were now covered by the terrible teal-coloured paint.
All things considered, the terrible paint job was the least of my concerns, even if it was completely out of step with the Oliver’s design and the era that it was manufactured during. Paint is something that is relatively easy to fix and it provides an opportunity to enrich the Oliver’s design with a more suitable paint scheme. Of real importance the machine was not missing any components and it was mechanically sound.
I handed the newlywed her asking price and we both parted satisfied with the deal: She had unloaded a wedding accoutrement that most likely would never have been put to practical use, and a collector added another Patria-based typewriter to his collection for a very modest sum.
It wasn’t until I had returned home with the machine and ran a few pages through it that I realised just how good a deal it was. Typical of Swiss design – albeit manufactured in England – the Oliver had a light, concise action which is what makes it such a good portable to use. It’s so good that it would tempt many a collector into crashing wedding to find another one to rescue.