A Stunning Collection of Vintage Typewriters Is Heading to Auction

Devices owned by everyone from Hemingway to Hefner are in the mix

Typewriter keys
A great collection of storied typewriters will soon be sold.
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When you’re telling the story of many a great writer’s life and work, the subject eventually turns to their method of writing. In many cases, that’s meant typewriters — with the likes of William Falkner and Ernest Hemingway using the devices in question to write works that became classics in subsequent decades. There are plenty of reasons to collect typewriters in 2023 — some enjoy their functionality, while others are taken with their design or the history of specific machines.

As 2023 draws to a close, the market for collectible typewriters is getting a boost, as one notable collector is placing his collection up for sale. That would be the collection of Steve Soboroff, who once said of his collection, “I only collect typewriters from people who’ve been on the cover of Time magazine.”

On December 15, Heritage Auctions will conclude an auction of 33 typewriters from Soboroff’s collection, including devices once owned by Ernest Hemingway, Jack London, Hugh Hefner and Pulitzer Prize-winning sportswriter Jim Murray. (The last of which is the typewriter that started Soboroff’s collection in 2005.) This follows Soboroff’s donation of six typewriters to the Smithsonian last year.

“[E]very time I saw them in my study, I said, ‘This is not right.’ That led me to this point, and I hope the people lucky enough to get them will celebrate them more than I can,” Soboroff said in a statement. “I believe these typewriters belong to the world.”

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“To me, these typewriters were like Picasso’s paintbrushes,” Sobroff added. “A lot of these people swore these typewriters helped with their writing. Bocelli wrote to me on that typewriter in Braille and said it was a partner in creating his poetry. Harold Robbins’ wife told me you couldn’t get through to him when he was on that typewriter. He would become the character he was writing about.”

It remains to be seen whether the buyers of these 33 typewriters will put them to use or opt for a more preservationist approach. Either way, there’s a lot of history in those keys.

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