Should i buy buckets with type?

Hello everyone,

Two weeks ago i bought my first letterpress, an Adana 5x8.
Its in a good condition and everything works fine and now i have the oportunity to buy old type from a typography store.

The biggest problem is that the type is in buckets. I dont know how much type is but it must be alot.
The owner told me that he is waiting for the price of the lead to come up and then he will sell it. He his looking to earn 1.30 euros for each kilo.

I dont know how much fonts will be in a kilo and if it is worth buying them for 1.30 euros the kilogram.
And them divide the type by their fonts witch is not easy but not impossible acording to the posts that i`ve seen here.

Another thing that is pushing me to buy the type is the loss that will be if the type is sold to be melted.
To me its like losing a part of history.

Oh and were i live its not easy to buy letterpress stuff, i only have and some old shops that still use or have letterpress machines only for show sadly…

So what do you think? Should i buy it? :D

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It also depends on the condition of the type and whether it was foundry type or monotype. If it’s been in buckets the face of the type could very well be damaged beyond use. You might want to see if he’ll sell just a handful and try printing with it. If you get good results it could be worth going back for the rest of it.

Hope that helps.


Hi, Brad

Thanks for the reply!
The type has been stored in buckets for one year more or less.
Because of the summer vacations i can only see the type in the beginning of September but i guess that i`m going to follow your advice!

Meanwhile i`ve got to google foundry type and monotype!

Thanks again!

Here’s my suggestion. Take a composing stick or a small galley with you. Sit down with the buckets and pull out one or two hundred pieces of type, some from each bucket, and stand them in the galley or stick. Then examine them with a magnifier to see the condition of the face, and try to identify the different fonts (there are sure to be several different fonts that were dumped). You can look at the feet — if there is a central groove and more than one nick, or a prominent nick, it’s likely to be foundry type. If the condition looks decent and the fonts are interesting, and entire cases were dumped into the buckets, you should be able to get some decent type out of it. Then check a scrap metal dealer for the current buying price for type metal — that’s what the owner can expect to get, minus his work to get the type there. Offer that amount or a little less. You will have to sort all that type, identify it, and distribute it correctly into cases, before you can really use it for printing.


Ahhhh! Buckets ot type!!!! Back in day (at least two decades ago) I was so rabid to get any type I could find that I actually did haul it home in buckets on a couple of occassions. Quite the winter project of covering the dinning room table and pouring piles of type to be separated by size and face. Once that was done, each “font” was then set up line by line in galley trays with chipboard spacers/leading between each line. Once everything was set I would go through line-by-line and start pulling out two letters at a time (A and B for starters) and set the font up in order on a different galley. I would do this instead of simply distributing into an empty case because most of the faces were 18pt. or larger and galley storage is a much more efficient use of space than typecases.

As a general rule, almost all the type was in perfectly usable condition and did not suffer too much noticable damage from being poured into the buckets. People tended to do that in the 70’s and 80’s because they wanted the empty typecases to sell as shadow-boxes and could have cared less about the type.

It simply takes a lot of time and patience. Another bonus is that since the entire contents of the cases were often dumped into the buckets, you should also get gobs and gobs of spacing material in various sizes.

If some of the type turns out to be “crap” you can always sell it for the price of the lead and recoup your investment.

I’d say “go for it!”

What’s the difference between a man with 10 children and a man with 10,000 fonts of type? The man with ten children doesn’t want any more!


My first look at the header of this Post had me thinking you’re buying buckets with type, like type was money and you needed buckets. Crazy I know. Good thing I read your post :)


Oh yeah, the one thing I forgot to comment on was that you said you were going to buy this from a “typography store.” I have been at this for a long long time and I don’t think I have ever heard the term “typography store” in my life!


Brad and Bob are right. Check out the type if you can first. It might be in very useable shape and if you don’t mind spending a few hours at the kitchen table sorting lead and washing your hands a lot, it could be worth the effort. I remember, like Rick, spending a few hours many years ago sorting buckets of type (all of it turned out to be Bernhard Gothic) and finding the occasional exciting misfit, like a nice border piece or a crazy sort. It was very satisfying, but required a longish-term commitment.

Rick, hope you’re staying dry down there!



P.S. I think the “typography store” is right across the street from the Progressive Insurance store they feature on those TV ads.

Hi guys!

Thank you for all the responses and for your time!

As a novice in this art all the advices are welcome and now i know which way to go.

For now the plan is:
1- Call my guy in September to arrange a meeting and then get several type from each bucket (but not the type in the surface, the middle one at least).
2- I dont have a composing stick (yet) but i will find a way to get it aligned and then i exam the type like Bob said.
3- And then make some proofs with it! :D

I just hope that it will be as good as in your buckets Rick! hehe
And your right the bad type i can try to sell it for scrap.

I dont mind to spend time separating all the type, right now i kind of look at it like a fun thing to do.
Its like what Denis said, it could be very satisfying!

Oh and when i said “Typography store” i wanted to say a printer shop/store?.
They dont do letterpress anymore thats why they want to sell the type.

LOL Well noticed Casey! :P

Thanks again!