What is the running price for a Kelsey Excelcior Mercury 5x8 Table Top Press?

I have seen a very big difference in the way people price letterpresses, obviously because of model and condition. I have come in contact with someone who is willing to part with a Kelsey Excelsior Mercury 5x8 Table Top Press, complete with rollers, furniture, and some type. From the photos I have seen, the press only has a bit of surface rust which I have been told is usually very easy to take care of. What I was wondering is, what is the running price for a press like this, and what should I be looking for before I commit to purchasing it, and handing over the payment.

Are there any questions that I need to ask, or any equipment that I need to make sure is included? How do I make sure that the machine is in working order as well? I am getting very excited, as I have really been waiting to purchase my first press for almost 3 years now, and I am finally thinking this may be it. I just do not want to make the mistake of buying an inoperable machine. Any help that you may be able to give would be amazing. I thank you in advance and hope that someone out there can help. I am attaching two photos of the press and will be heading out tomorrow to take a look at it in person and hopefully bring it home :-)

image: printing press 1.jpg

printing press 1.jpg

image: printing press 2.jpg

printing press 2.jpg

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looks pretty good, there is no chase in the press, ask if furniture and quoins come with it. maybe type or cuts, if the rollers are in new condition it would be nice. the parts for these are still around and can be found fairly easy. check the excelsior press web site, alan has some for sale i think. as far as price goes they are all over the place, good luck dick g. it looks better than my 5x8.

There are two on ebay currently that are completely restored side arm Kelsey’s. These are redone by Lou in Rhode Island. His work is on Alan’s web site. They are complete and starting at $1000. There is also a real nice 6x10 on ebay complete with all misc equipment required, also starting at $1000. I have seen these go from $250 to more than $1500 over the last six month’s. Good Luck and happy printing!


I am interested in purchasing a letterpress for my daughter. She is an LSU graduage in Graphic Design. I need some direction as to where to find one. Please help!

RenRen in Louisiana

I have actually picked up two of these presses in the past month, both are complete with chase, however both need the rollers replaced. They are in similar condition to the one you have pictured. I paid $250 for one and $350 for the other. They can sell for way more, but I’ve been patient and wasn’t willing to pay over $400 for a press that I was buying solely for portability (there are 2 pearls here at the house). Hope that helps.


Thank you so much everyone! Well I have been told that all parts are actually included although they are not in the photo. The gentleman who is selling it also told me that he will be including 10-12 large boxes of vintage metal and wood type that has not been sorted. Its like diving head first into a treasure trove for me. I am going to do my best to haggle a bit, but I feel like the type is really going to seal the deal for me. I do not really mind buying some new parts, as I plan on slowly restoring this piece myself as I learn. I definitely am looking forward to finally learning this craft from scratch.

RenRen- I actually put an ad up here on briarpress.org and got a phone call from a gentleman that is just about an hour away from me that had a press that was not being used and was sitting in a basement for 20 years. I would tell you to be patient, but be careful. I would also say a good place to start is to click on the yellow pages link up top and see if you have any letterpress studios in your area. Give them a call, sometimes they have these smaller presses just sitting there and they are sometimes very willing to give them a loving home.

As far as the machine itself, how can I tell that it is in full working order and in good condition, even if it needs a couple new parts. I mean the base machine. What should I be looking for?


I’m very much a newbie in letterpress, so I only have very limited experience. (My comments may not even be applicable to your case).

I had the fortunate experience of taking a basic letterpress class where there was an Excelsior and C&P Pilot sitting next to each other. So all the students got to try both presses.

I have to say that the C&P Pilot was the “more solid” press. The Excelsior was kinda “clunky” and sounded clunky. Maybe it was the way the presses were configured/set. The Pilot consistently produced better results (even to the eyes of the newbie students). So much so that all the students lined up to use the Pilot.

The Pilot is definitely more expensive ($2000 to over $3000), but I think its worth the wait.

Also, you might consider getting a smaller Golding Press (like the Pearl #11 which has a chase size of 7x11). They are more affordable than the Pilot, but bigger and heavier (it has a flywheel). However, a Pearl #11 can be taken apart (top half and bottom half), and be moved even into an apartment. Not sure what they cost, but I have seen some on Briar press for around $1000.

Maddbeats, et al,—Like you I’m kind of a “newbie,” except that I had letterpress training in high school (hand compostion and a lot of Linotype) and worked in job shops more than a half-century ago. Perhaps I should describe myself as a “returnee” to the craft. I became intrigued with the notion of setting up a shop last summer and began acquiring equipment soon after. I’ve bought three presses, all of which I bought on e-bay and all of which need work and parts to bring them into operation. Of the three presses one is a C&P 8x12 treadle, the second is a 6x10 Kelsey and the last is a 3x5 Sigwalt. None of these have any of what I would describe as gross deficiencies or damage (cracks, difficult-to-replace parts missing, etc). I paid $580 for the Kelsey. The lady in California from whom I bought it was kind enough go back into her storage unit to find additional bits and pieces for it after the sale including rollers, cores, trucks, a chase, other odds and ends and ship the lot to me at her own expense. It is my impression that what I paid for the 6x10 is perhaps a little less than average, at least as far as e-bay is concerned. The Kelsey appears to be in reasonable condition requiring mostly cleanup and new rollers and trucks, but frankly only time will tell. I haven’t printed any work so far on any of these presses and until I think I have done what is required to start pulling impressions and am satisfied with the result will I be able to say that I judged, or perhaps it is more accurate to say “guessed,” correctly that I bought a useable press. If you buy long-distance—-over the internet—- you are basically buying the proverbial “pig-in-a-poke.” Better that you negotiate and buy eyeball-to-eyeball with a seller if possible. It’s rather difficult to advise someone about what to look for in a press. All the advise offered in the “replies” so far is very good. But, if there’s any possibility of taking along another person who has some experience with presses it would certainly be in your best interests to do so. Once you have a press I hope that you find, as I have, that the comments, advise, information—-both general and specific—-offered by the members and users of Briar Press are invaluable. As time goes on I will be sending in contributions and observations myself about how my restoration efforts are proceeding. I’ll pass on all the information that I think would be useful or interesting. Best of luck and let us know how your quest turns out. PRESSTIQUE

thank you all soooooooo much! i picked up my press today. and along with it some AMAZING surprises. the press was basically in pristine condition (thanks richard for the advice on the phone!). along with it though were 10 gallon milk jugs that were each filled to the top with mixed type and ornaments. i found custom made logos for companies long gone and even companies that are still around like Pepsi and Mattel. I also got a FULL bag of furniture, almost 50 original chases, original papers from when the press was actually in use and i even got 4 antique type drawers thrown in. I even got a bunch of different sized composing sticks, original rollers (which i do not think i will be using) and who knows what else! its like a treasure hunt! :-D Share in my joy and take a look at the attached photo. now i just have to figure out how to start restoring this baby, and then finally printing :-)

image: Kelsey Excelsior Model P and all sorts of goodies :-)

Kelsey Excelsior Model P and all sorts of goodies :-)

this press looks great, to restore it all you really need to do is wipe the dust off of it, get a new set of rollers and start printing. i have never seen a press with soooooo many chases, these can bring up to $50 each on ebay, i like to have extra chases for all my presses, but 50, thats a lot. the chases alone are worth more than what you paid for everything, good find, if i can help in any way call me. good luck dick g.

Richard, it was truly wonderful speakig with you and I really hope that you will keep my number safe. The next time I come up there, I will definitely give you a call and see if I can stop by. Now, I am going to get busy having a heavy table made to bolt down the press and am going to order the rollers. I cannot tell you how excited I am! Thank you again!

Ps…50 dollars each? Really? I had absolutely no idea they cost so much! I may sell half of them to cover the costs of my press and for the new supplies. I can’t wait to get printing :-)