eBay & the wood type bidding wars

Hello! I just wanted to start a discussion about the ruthless and cutthroat bidding happening on eBay for wood type. I’m new to the game, but seem to be having no luck whatsoever! Every bid goes well over the amount I can afford and people bid at the last second, swiping the type right out from underneath me.

Anyway, I’m just feeling a bit dejected and surprised! The letterpress community is so friendly and welcoming… but the eBay folks, well they seem to be a whole different ball game.

Can’t wait to hear everyone’s thoughts on this/stories on this!


Log in to reply   28 replies so far

You could always buy new wood type. It is probably cheaper anyway.

There is Moore Wood Type and Virgin Wood Type. You can Google them.

You can also buy new wood type on eBay, and those listings are pretty much all “buy it now”, you can just buy them without having to bid.

Put “new wood type” in the eBay search engine, then click on a wood type item, then, assuming it is in the “type, cuts and printing blocks” category, click on that at the top of the item, then when you get that category, put “new wood type” in that search at the top, and you will get 100+ listings of just new wood type.

Or you could go to one of the used letterpress equipment dealers. Where are you located? Perhaps we can tell you of one near you.

Hope this helps…..

If you are determined to get into the eBay bidding frenzy, I think there is software which will help you bid at the last “millisecond”….however the others probably have this software too :(

Thanks for the advice! I’m in Montana, so I have access to Salt Lake City, Seattle, Portland, and even Denver. Honestly, I’m trying to start my type collection sooner rather than later even though I don’t have a press yet! Call me a dreamer, but I’d love to eventually have a good assortment of wood type; from newly created to antique :)

We sell letterpress items daily on eBay

As has been mentioned before when someone asks what something is worth…..it all depends on what someone is willing to pay for it or can afford.

We have taken a loss many, many times…. selling wood and metal type on eBay.

We have had auctions of wood type for example sell for 25.00 and other auctions have brought a 300.00.

We have sold a box of metal dingbats that have sold for 11.00 and a box that sold for 70.00.

I agree with Geoffrey, Virgin Wood Type, has some rally nice type. Check them out.

Auctions on Ebay are like auctions in real life……people bid what they can afford on what they really want.

What really annoys me is that complete founts are being broken up, a UK dealer is selling the uppercase, lower case, numerals and the ampersand of a wood type fount as four separate lots.

They are doing this to get more money with no real interest in wood type and yet another historic fount is lost forever.
These people wouldn’t be in business if people didn’t buy.

Unfortunately this is the result of the resurgence of letterpress printing.

The situation is not helped by people who collect ampersands, those who collect cap As with the maker’s stamp etc.

Given a lot of the wood type on eBay has been hammered with rounded edges and founts missing letters I would suggest you go with the advice given and buy new. If you find you are short of any letters when you start using the type you can buy adiitional sorts.

The big used equipment dealers that I know of are all east of the Mississippi, so they would be hard for you to visit. I’m sure there are others closer to you, and hopefully they will post their names here so that you can get in touch with them.

If you do obtain a font or fonts of wood type which are missing a few letters, you can always get photopolymer or metal engravings of those letters and use them with your fonts. If you don’t have images of the missing letters, there are people on Briar press who probably do and can furnish them to you.

Boggs Graphics (in Ohio) auctions online printing equipment, which routinely includes letterpresses, type, etc.

Their auctions do not facilitate last-second sniping as items do not close until the bidding stops for 5 minutes.

I’ve bought a lot of things from Boggs including two presses (Vandercook SP15 and Kelsey 5x8) and lots of type (wood and metal). These are honest folks who are helpful with shipping.

But, the wood type does not go cheap. If you want vintage type, expect to pay for it - each drawer of wood type tends to be unique and buyers understand that.

Good luck (and understand that with the popularity of letterpress printing, getting in will take some capital).


I went to the Printers fair in Iowa Sept. 17-19 at Old Threshers Reunion. There were many wood types available. Small event nice people. I encourage everyone
To come next year.
I have the luxury of living only 20 miles from
Boggs. So check things out regularly. Jack is
Great to deal with.

I have many fonts of wood type for sale… Some collectible and expensive and lots of gothics in all sizes that are much more reasonably priced. Also many partial sets and orphan singles. Feel free to contact me and I will send pics. I agree with you 100% on the EBay situation. Have made most of my sales by word of mouth or responding to requests from customers on Briar or other letterpress communities.
Larry 516-633-5107 cell/ text
American Graphic Equip Corp

My first purchase of a “full” set of wood type and there is already a mistake! Instead of getting a capitol “i” it was a “1”. I then noticed the seller has listed the #’s for the font separately and both “i’ that belong to my set are being considered #’s! Chalk it up to the seller being an antique dealer rather than an experienced printer so they couldn’t tell the difference.

I’ve contacted the eBay seller, I wonder if they will care enough to do anything about it…


I agree with platenprinter.

I think it is a disgrace to the letterpress community to dismantle perfectly good founts for a buck.

The largest contributors to this are the Pinterest morons of the world. They are purchasing as much type as they can so they can make art frames.

They call it RE PURPOSE!!!!!!!! I agree with this philosophy if the tool no longer has a purpose but Letterpress Type has and will always serve the community for long as it has been carefully preserved after use.

Unfortunately the economics are against keeping fonts together — people are willing to buy single letters for $5-8 each from the antique dealer vultures. So a usable font, with 100 or so characters, is a steal to them at $300. Not so much us users who want to develop a library…

The economics may be against keeping fonts together but not all of us that sell on Ebay will knowingly separate a font, whether it is wood or metal.

We agree completely with those that do not like to see fonts separated.

But hate to see everyone on Ebay selling type getting a bad rap. It is a great place to be able to complete a font that you have…giving you a complete set that you desired as well.

We currently have a couple of drawers of wood type…that are missing a letter. If I can find that individual letter…it makes a complete set for someone that will use it.

Good on you, mnmom64. Those fonts missing one letter can be filled out with a zinc/copper/polymer cut and be more useful. Unless very rare, figuring out the missing letters isn’t too hard…

On a recent Craigs list adventure, I came across a guy selling typecases. Looking at his photos some of them still had wood type in them, so wasting no time I called about the type. He was selling everything off, but some lady had already beat me to it and told him that it was worth way more by the letter. She had come and bought random letters from 3 fonts. Long story short I now have broken fonts, but they have been rescued from the dreaded repurposing.

Jeff Shay . We agree completely and that is the plan :)

If missing letters are made with polymer plates, what do you mount them on? Certainly not a boxcar base as its too big for a single letter that will be part of a word.

Suggestion for someone to make zinc or copper letters? I assume these would be mounted on wood block by the manufacturer.

Can you tell the zinc/copper plate maker what letter/font/size and get a letter ready for use?



Photopolymer can be attached to the correct height magnesium blocks. These were used by the check printers as the replacements for photo engravings before they transitioned to offset. I have several galleys full of these that came out of a John Harlan plant (using Miehle Verticals) that can be seen here:


And in the past, when it was possible, entire fonts of larger type were often duplicated in electrotypes mounted on the appropriate size type metal base. I have a 72 pt font of that along with some examples of missing characters for wood type fonts.

What I often do is cutting missing letters out of linoleum , you can mount them on woodblocks cut to size.

I am from Germany, the market for woodtype is much smaller here and the prices on Ebay are sometimes crazy.
I was lucky enough to get plenty of woodtype together with presses I bought.

I do that too, Gummistiefel. If you replace the top tympan sheet on a Vandercook with a piece of mylar, you can lock up a piece of type, ink it, and print it right onto the mylar. Replace that piece of type with type high linoleum of equal dimensions and you can then print the image from the press cylinder face onto the piece of lino. Allow some time for the ink to dry, carve away the uninked portion of the face, and you have yourself another sort.



very clever -

any suggestion if you are missing the letter?


You cannot do this with photopolymer if you want it to last. At best you might get a year out of it, but then it probably cannot be in a Ziploc bag. We’ve done this a number of times with Owosso having them make a COPPERPLATE.

I get how everyone wants to get things cheap. The problem is there are a lot of people who have been in line in front of you wanting these same things. The longer you cannot get them the more easily the price you will pay will rise. But cheap isn’t going to be happening for a while or you just have to do a lot better job at searching.

I recently made my first try at printing a small polymer plate (about 3-1/2” x 3-1/2”.) I cut a piece of pine for a base and stuck the plate on it with double-faced carpet tape. The result was pretty good, in my estimation - the piece was in the current APA bundle.

Next time I will probably use MDF instead of pine - very flat and stable, and about the right height for a base. The carpet tape is not ideal. It lost its grip about halfway through the run and I had to re-stick it. What do others use for mounting polymer plates on wood bases?

I’ve been trying to sort out the same thing, Stephen. I initially tried KF95 plates with the standard adhesive on some cherry wood blocks. The adhesive lasted only about a month before it started peeling. I’m now trying the thicker KF152 and seeing if they are less likely to peel. I still don’t think it’s a long-term solution, though. It probably needs a strong glue, but I haven’t found one yet that will not expand as it dries.

Sorry, I missed your question here. I would suggest that the DNA of a missing sort is typically contained in the design of other characters in the face. If you need an R, for instance, overprint a B over a K and carve away what you don’t need. A good typeface is essentially built from a modular system of components. Depending on what you are missing, the information you require is often there to be found in the rest of the design of the character set.


For plate mounting, some of the industry uses double sided mounting tapes, and probably the best are made by 3M. They are sold in what for us would be very large rolls for a high price, but maybe a source could be found to buy smaller quantities.

The .005” thick one is:


The .015” thick one is:


From this, at least you can get an idea what it might be good to look for.


Looks like about $30 a roll


Thanks for the suggestion - i will try when i have a need.