Wednesday, March 20, 2013


It was a dollar on eBay.

 Here is a radical/pi:

Shipping was free. Actually, shipping was a Forever stamp. So that's good.

We are all familiar with Smith-Corona's more popular changeable types, but here is Royal's version. It's not a changeable type as much as a changeable type bar. 

They look completely unused.

I don't have a typewriter that can use these, but I thought they were strange enough to hazard the bid. Further investigation led me to one small clue at the bottom of this advertisement from around 1956.

It reads:

Could these be the interchangeable type bars mentioned in the ad?

The logo on the case is the same that Royal used all through the McBee years especially on the Safari. I am guessing they are from the 50s or 60s. The "Select-A-Type" typeface makes me think 1950s.

My mind also started thinking about why you don't see more early electric typewriters around? In all these years I have maybe seen 5 Royal electrics from the 50s and only one of the colored versions. (I kick myself for not spending the $30 on it.) Where have all the electrics gone?

If anyone has some ideas as to what machine could use these interchangeable type bars, I would be interested in hearing from you. 


  1. I never knew Royal had any changeable type. Then there is quite a bit I do not know about typewriters.

    I guess like electronics (word processors and computers) the electrics cannot be maintained after a time due to the parts becoming obsolete and belts, gears and other things not being available.

    Electrics are probably more difficult to repair or restore by other than a typewriter repair person.

  2. That is a very interesting find, I have an old Royal Empress electric in my collection and whilst I was aware of the SCM inter-changeable type this is a new one on me.
    Also that is a very good question about the old electrics. Much harder to collect because of the horrendous shipping costs and as you say the non-availability of parts. I did see a Woodstock Electrite on Ebay some time ago but I passed on it due to those costs, but I see this category as the next mine to mined , so to speak.

  3. Wow, interesting. I have never run across these typebars or (to my knowledge) a Royal that could use them.

  4. Interesting..

    Yeah, the older electrics seem scarce. what I see and pass up these days are plastic-bodied electric typebar machines (usually Sears, SCM or Royal), Brother Correct-O-Balls (have passed up 2 of those this past month) and of course, daisywheel wedges. The only standard electric I've seen other than Selectrics was an Underwood Forum. very ugly, angular thing - looked like "Box" from "Logan's Run".

    1. Ah yes, Ted, this what what I'd seen (though not in the flesh) mentioned elsewhere before.

  5. I'd hazard a guess that custom type bars might go under the radar, if sold online at least. Would a seller even know to mention them. Probably not. Sensible solution: buy 'every one you see.

  6. Interesting! I had to take a good luck at the first two pictures to see what it is. Third one shows perfectly. :-)

  7. Ryan, the mystery is solved, but I want you to have first crack at the machine and I want to blog it, later. Cryptic? Sure, just email me at to get pointed at the mystery machines.

  8. I have a Royal Custom III (a made-in-Portugal late-model version of the Safari) that says "Select-A-Type" underneath the typing point. I've also seen a Royal Custom Ultronic portable electric that says "Select-A-Type" there, too. I looked at my Custom III and it's not immediately obvious to me how such a type bar would be installed. Did any instructions come with the set you got?