Typewriter Acquisition: Olivetti-Underwood Lettera 22

Olivetti-Underwood Lettera 22

I’m an equal-opportunity office supply junkie. Pens? Yes, of course. Paper? Yep. Staplers, paper clips, clipboards? Don’t mind if I do. And the coup de gras of old office goodies, manual typewriters? Oo la la!

This weekend we went out to our favorite antique mall which is often a hot bed of vintage office supplies like old staplers, pocket notebooks with feed store logos and the occasional bullet pencil but typewriters tend to be of the dusty-and-rusty variety and never anything serviceable or useable. Until this weekend when I stumbled across a minty Olivetti-Underwood Lettera 22.

Olivetti-Underwood Lettera 22

The mall was having a “meet the vendors” night with free cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and special discounts on merchandise so this fine piece of mid-century mechanics was 35% off. I grabbed this beauty and hopped to the register faster than you can say “shabby chic” and then we headed over to Skylab Letterpress to do some light cleaning and oiling.

Olivetti-Underwood Lettera 22

It cleaned up beautifully and the keys work beautifully. I just need to order a new ribbon for it. It has a switch for two-color ribbon so I’ll keep that in mind when I order a new spool.

Sadly, the typewriter no longer had its carrying case so I’m keeping an old bit of fabric over the top of it to keep it from getting dusty until I find a case for it. Holler if you happen to find one!

Olivetti-Underwood Lettera 22

Do you peruse thrift stores, antique markets or yard sales for vintage office supplies, pens or pencils?

Written by

26 comments / Add your comment below

  1. An elderly relative gave me her vintage typewriter (with case!) for Christmas last year. It’s a beauty. I have yet to type on it, but I love to look at it as an objet d’art. I have photographed it in combination with stacks of old journals and a vintage bottle of Waterman’s ink I found at an antique shop last year. I’d be glad to send a photo. I share your passion for office supplies and love your blog.

  2. This model Olivetti got me through my undergrad years without causing a problem. (No surprise here; Cormac McCarthy is alleged to have written 20 novels on a Lettera 22, making only minor repairs.) In grad school I switched to a Smith-Corona electric, but things were never quite the same. Congratulations on getting a lovely specimen of one of the best manual typewriters ever made.

  3. Thanks for taking me along on your journey of discovery! I remember that Olivettis were the creme-de-la-creme typewriters, back in the day.

  4. Congrats! My mom had one in a dusky Mediterranean blue that was totally off limits to all of us girls. She kept it covered with a pink and white striped hatbox of all things! Boy I wish that was still in the family. Thanks for bringing back that old memory .

      1. Depending on condition, a Lettera 22 can sell for around $50-$100 unless its absolutely pristine. Shipping can be a challenge though because typewriters are easy to damage if they are not packed well. So if you’re planning to sell on Ebay, make sure to pack it well and insure the package. Good luck!

  5. All things pens, pencils and paper of course. But drafting templates, compasses, and french curves are also a big weakness for me.

  6. How much did you end up paying for it? I just found one at an estate sale and I’m trying to get a ballpark fair value

    Yours is a real beauty!


    1. Oh, gosh, I don’t remember now. Probably around $35-50. I’m pretty cheap when it comes to buying typewriters. Etsy has a lot of “refurbished” models that are above $100. I wouldn’t pay that much for a manual typewriter. Unless it was a Valentine.

  7. Nice post, thanks. I just had my Lettera 22 reconditioned and I love it. I don’t think you meant to say ‘coup de gras,’ though. ‘Coup de grace’ means a death blow. I think vintage typewriters are the ‘ne plus ultra’ of the office – which is to say, the ultimate. Happy typing!

    1. Be cautious with shipping a typewriter as they can be damaged easily in shipping. Also, insure the package for the full value if you do sell it and ship it in case it is damaged in transit.

  8. Where do you buy good ribbons for it? My grandson found his Olivetti in a local garage sale and needs a supply of good, reliable ribbons, black, and black & red combo. He is 12 years old and loves it. He’s used up the residual ink that came with it on the original metal spool ribbons. He’s fascinated by his portable manual Olivetti. He paid $3 for it, about right for his budget. Excellent condition with case. Any additional advice? He’s a budding journalist and storyteller.

    1. There are several vendors on Ebay that sell not only red/black ribbon but also colored ribbons in green, purple and blue. Just search for the make and model of the typewriter plus “ribbon”. Most sellers charge about $10 for new ribbons.

  9. I found an Underwood-Olivetti lettera 22 typewriter in my grandmother’s attic several years ago, it is in excellent condition (about the same as in this article and with the original case). I was curious to know what the market is like with such a product, as I have no use for it and wouldn’t mind some extra money.

    1. I think I paid about $75 for mine. You should be able to fetch anywhere from $50 to $200 depending on color, condition and patience. If its an unusual color like pink, pale blue or yellow, they tend to be more valuable because they are more rare.

      I wouldn’t recommend trying to sell via Ebay as shipping can often be exponentially expensive ($30 and up) and likelihood of damage in shipping in not worth it unless you ship the package well-wrapped and insured for full value. Craig’s List is a good option if you’re patient about finding a buyer.

      Good luck!

    2. You can at least check ebay and etsy to see what they are going for. If you can get top dollar, worth it to pay shipping.. Just type Olivetti lettera 32. A selling point is that Leonard Cohen used this model for some of his early poems and songs.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.