Why Collect Vintage Calculating Devices?

My Collection:

Officially, I became a collector in 2016, however, I have collected machines off and on over the years. Informally, it has been a lifetime random side interest as an offshoot of my college days. My original interest stemmed from childhood memories and trying to recapture time spent in my Grandfather’s office playing with slide rules, vintage adding machines as well as Fountain pens. Soon, I will be adding my Grandfather’s actual machine to my collection!

Why collect ?

One becomes richer for exploring deeply areas of one’s interests. Sometimes, they are rabbit holes that lead you deeper in your interest area and sometimes they lead to  another interest and you are never sure where you will end up.

Collecting is intellectually stimulating it gives you cause: to dust off the old grey matter and do some calculating , to read history pertinent to your area of collecting, to learn about mechanics if you want to restore, to learn about plastics and metals and if that doesn’t trip your trigger they are just fun to play around with and beautiful to look at. You also can create great friendships along the way with other interested parties and also annoy those you love who have no interest in hearing about your latest find or tear down or rebuild.

I never realized I would have such a passion for these machines! Even when I would obtain a machine in the past I did not feel the deep joy I do now of obtaining a new machine or device or that I would be interested in restoring them but they touch that place right in the heart of my childhood and time spent with my grandfather and if that wasn’t enough they make really cool sounds when operated and the tactile feedback during operation is something that one just doesn’t get in a modern calculator or computer.

I have hope that by sharing my knowledge I can help others enjoy their hobbies and interests even more. If you start collecting, I encourage you to share your hobby with others — exhibit your collection if you can! Local libraries and small museums sometimes offer collectors exhibit space to display their collection for a month or two, if you dont mind standing in front of others then try to offer a lecture about it again a local library may be just the place or show it online as I do here. You will find it very rewarding. You’d never think that collecting old slide rules and adding machines could help one make friends, would you?

I am currently working on restorations and I’m constructing a showcase at home and one at the shop.

What should you collect?

Some people will collect anything in a category others collect and specialize in a certain time period or only collect a subcategory. Some will collect based on the look of an item and don’t care whether it is operational, while others collect an item in hopes to have it actually work. The reasons people collect are also varied.

In growing my collection, I primarily follow my intuition and joy. If I see an item and it sparks something in me I work on obtaining it. I make the final decisions about adding to my collection based on the following criteria:

  1.  Personally, I am interested in the progression of machines up to the electrical era. (for me once it became an electrical process I lose interest.) I only need one example of an item in most cases. Find your interest area and range.
  2. Do I need this machine or slide rule for parts for another one. When I first began to collect and especially once I started planning to restore my “finds” to working order I decided I wanted to collect by brand(s). Either buying a working machine or a sort of working machine and then buy machines for parts that are less than optimal and cheap.
  3. Pick what You are drawn to. I can’t stress this enough! Forget what I am collecting or anyone else. It may not be what others are collecting, what matters is that YOU find it interesting for whatever reason you do. Collections are meant to bring us joy and collecting for the sake of collecting will not fill you up it will just get shoved in a closet or basement box and gather dust. Find your reason and your thing and just begin to follow the road of your interest wherever it leads.
  4. Start cheaply and work your way up. Start with In used good condition especially if you are not mechanically inclined and always look for working machines, and slide rules that are readable and not broken! In the beginning you probably don’t want mint or like new just see where this hobby takes you. But keep in mind if you are patient you may fall into some really good deals or gifts.
  5. My original goal was to collect an example of each type of machine that I could find that shows the progression of early adding “technology”. but once I fell in love with one brand I then decide to collect widely in that brand ( which now has grown to two). But save this until you have gained a few brands and types under your belt unless you know you only want to collect X machine or x brand of slide rule. I was really surprised which machines I fell in love with and which ones just became so-so.
  6. My collecting is also based on my education and love of Math, Science, Mechanical Engineering and Accounting. I want to use these machines and devices.
  7. Patience is SO important. Don’t try to collect all at once. The collecting ebbs and flows that said, I don’t pass up really good deals when I find them. I want everything out there at times but tend to not always think through purchases and whether or not it is something I truly want ( new to me and interesting its hard to resist purchasing regardless of researching prices) .
  8. Is it something unique or rare to me and probably most of the population? This as a collector excites me to find items that aren’t in most collections or are in great condition. But if its something I personally have never see or knew about and it fits within the scope of my collection I try my best to obtain it.
  9. Obviously, one has to consider what one has in the bank and what one is willing to spend on an item. I lucked out when I began collecting and with beginners luck picked up some really great machines at low cost without have a clue of what I was doing. However, as with any collecting hobby it would be wise to watch prices for awhile on Ebay and the like and see what things are going for so you don’t over pay. Buy it now items are usually higher priced and what the seller wants to get out of it to cover his costs and make a profit. My experience has shown that most of them are over priced because the person selling doesn’t know what they have and are thinking and marking it “rare” or ” vintage” and pricing it high.
  10. I intuitively set in my mind a price on auctions of what I think it is worth to me and do my best to stick to it (sometimes really hard to do! You just have to believe the right things will come around again and you will get another chance. I keep a list of the things I am looking to find so I don’t forget about the less common items I am on the look out for.) Honestly that is it. What is it worth to me to have that item in my collection? My amount may be higher or lower than what another person will buy for but this is about my collection and what is it worth to me in its present condition for me to obtain.

Here in these pages you will see my collection, which has inspired a resurgence of my college interests in math, science and accounting.

My College Background: Computer Science, Industrial Engineering, Safety and Risk Control, as well as Writing and a little Botany.