Letterpress items auction update

I went today to see the items listed for this auction.


This vandercook looks to be in good condition

The two linotypes ate immaculate and the remelter looked as if someone tested it recently.

The Kluge was very dirty and looked as if it had not been used in a very long time, despite having fairly new looking rollers.

The Hamilton cabinet, though pictured without cases does have all 48 plus some extras. All the metal type is gone (I wonder if this is what they tested in the remelter :-( ) but there are half a dozen cases full of wood type.

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Thanks for the update, Lammy. Is there a way we can find out what the items sold for?


The SP-15 looks nice, though it does not have a powered inking system. Distributing the ink with the hand wheel is not a major hassle, but the exclusion of the ink drum does mean that the inking system has significantly less surface area. You’ll be adding ink a lot.

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

I don’t think you can see what items sold for. The shop I work at during the day was watching and bidding on some items so I had them call me over when the letterpress stuff came up. I know everything sold. The Vandercook went for $4,000. The hamilton type case went for $1,000. I think the Linos each went for under $1,000, the 32 getting the least and the 31 the most. Even the remelter sold for a couple of hundred.

The hand inking on the SP-15 may have kept the price down, but I was surprised that being sold at an auction it got what it did. The last Vandercook that I have heard a price on is a reconditioned Universal I that went for $15,000. That’s not a typing error.

Not to split hairs, but I believe it went for $4750. You can hand-crank a lot of ink for $10K!

At another auction today an SP-15 went for $9000.

The SP-15 sold, after spirited bidding for $5600+ with tax and buyers premium. The two linotypes for just under $400 dollars each!!

Those little SP15s with the hand cranked rollers were initially the premium item. You have far better control over the inking with them. They were picked up by folks in the know, e.g. Van Vliet, Hamady. But you know how it goes; why hand crank the roller when a motor can do it for you? Then again, why crank at all when a motor can do it for you? And again, why hand feed when the press can do that for you? And, obviously, why print letterpress at all?


Ahhhh, the most dangerous question Gerald. Us metal loose type folks could ask the same of that other process, but asking “why” never gets a much better answer than “because”.

Printers since the dawn of the trade have been figuring out ways to do things “easier”. I think that automated cylinders (Vandy 4’s or what all on the short run, Heidelberg cylinders for the long runs) and photopolymer have just about reached the pinnacle of easy within the bounds of the relief printing process. Relief printing would have been left at the wayside long ago, save for it’s ability to make an impression (literally).

The better question of why is “How can typography be better taught to the masses of people so that good design and typography can be printed? This versus whatever can be cut and pasted together on the computer and put down on a plate? Good design, executed well (can’t forget that), is apparent at first glance, no matter the medium, no matter the technique.

Proper Typography, that is the skill to sketch out a Layout and set the matter at hand in a professional manner.
Proper techniques in printing in press maintenance.

Folks would attend the Trade for 3 years solid before receiving a journeyman degree as a printer or typesetter.

How much can be taught and learned, observed in 3 years as opposed to the weekend courses after which one purchases a pres and becomes an expert.