(KTLA) – Businessman and former Los Angeles Police Department Commissioner Steve Soboroff is selling some of his rare and most prized possessions: typewriters.
The philanthropist and business developer is auctioning off his collection of typewriters used by some of America’s greatest — and most notorious — writers.
Typewriters in the collection include those used by Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote and the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski. A typewriter once belonging to Tom Hanks — another prominent collector of the anachronistic technology — is also included in the auction lot.
Heritage Auctions has been hired to list the items and coordinate the auction.
A portion of the auction’s proceeds will go toward the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation, a favorite nonprofit of Soboroff’s, which funds scholarships for undergraduate journalism students.
Murray, the Pulitzer Prize-winning sportswriter for the Los Angeles Times, sparked Soboroff’s love for typewriters. Soboroff was an avid reader of Murray’s work, and when the writer’s typewriter went up for sale, the business magnate bought it on a whim, having to outbid both the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Times itself.
“The moment I put my hands on Murray’s typewriter, I was hooked,” Soboroff said. He likened the scribe’s equipment to an artist’s paintbrush or a musician’s instrument.
In the years since, that collection has expanded and was once referred to as “The World’s Greatest Typewriter Collection.” Soboroff went on to purchase typewriters once used by the nation’s greatest authors, playwrights, journalists and celebrities.
One typewriter belonged to the late “Playboy” founder Hugh Hefner. The Hemingway piece was the same one used by the author to write letters from his estate in Cuba. Jack London’s is unlike any other in the collection, with separate keys for lower and upper case letters and no exclamation point. And there’s even an 1887 Crandall machine that Soboroff says is “the finest condition of any Crandall in the world.”
Last year, Soboroff donated six machines to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, including typewriters once used by John Lennon, Maya Angelou and Orson Welles.
Now, the remaining 33 of his treasured artifacts are headed to auction beginning on Friday, including that same Jim Murray piece that ignited Soboroff’s obsession nearly 20 years ago.
All but the Crandall typewriter once belonged to people who were featured on the front page of Time magazine, auction officials said. That was one of the requirements of his collection.
Soboroff retired as president of the LAPD Board of Commissioners in August after a decade on the job. He’s also widely credited with helping spearhead the development of the Staples Center — now Crypto.com Arena — in downtown Los Angeles. But he says this collection of typewriters, which Heritage Auctions calls “unparalleled,” feels like an extension of himself.
“They’ve become part of my identity, something no one else in the world did, and I was lucky enough to be recognized for it,” Soboroff said.
But he admitted that having these pieces of American history sitting in his study didn’t feel quite right.
“That led me to this point, and I hope the people lucky enough to get them will celebrate them more than I can. I believe these typewriters belong to the world,” he said.
Bidding on the historic typewriters begins on Friday and will continue through Dec. 15. To peruse the collection and make a bid, click here.