I'm quite stingy about using new ribbons on my typewriters, although I have built up quite a stock of Pelikan brand spools over the past few months, ordered in bulk from various Swiss stationery suppliers. For one, I like to squeeze as much use as I can out of the ribbon that comes with a typewriter, unless it is practically transparent and thus unusable. Even then, I shall admit I have briefly flirted with the idea of spraying WD-40 on the ribbon to get some more use out of it, a tip I read on the PTF forum some time back.
However, another reason I cling stubbornly to the old ribbons is that they are better quality: some of the brand new nylon ribbons are quite greasy and smudge all over the place (thanks for nothing, Pelikan), and the flimsy plastic spools do not inspire much confidence. I find it rather elegant to be able to fit a stately '50s typewriter with metal spools, and fortunately we have harvested enough empty ones that we can transfer the ribbon onto sturdier spools if desired (or necessary due to different sizes or ribbon posts).
The Kores box pictured above is an eBay find from a few weeks back - there I was, browsing through the auctions, just checking out one thing or the other, and this auction for "new old stock" purple typewriter ribbon leapt out at me. I have a fondness for colored (i.e. non-black) typewriter ribbon, which has proven impossible to find locally, and doesn't seem to be manufactured anymore in Europe.
This came from France, and there were four sealed ribbons remaining (out of a box that originally contained six). Each canister contains one metal spool with the ribbon wound around it, and the typist has to provide their own second spool. Inside the plastic box, the ribbons are sealed up with gold foil.
It was my first time opening up a new cotton ribbon, and perhaps it was because this one had several decades to properly soak into the fabric, but there was none of that smudgy greasiness that I have noticed with new nylon ribbons. I installed it on the Swissa typewriter I showed last week, and you can see it in action here and here. The ribbon typed beautifully right out of the box, and I look forward to using the others on my other typewriters - or, in a bid to be frugal, I might just transplant it from the Swissa.
I've been trying to figure out just when this ribbon was made - what do you think? I'm guessing that since this was intended for Underwood typewriters, it might date from before the Underwood-Olivetti merger, thus late '50s or so? That seems rather old to have relatively contemporary packaging (plastic boxes in cardboard box instead of single metal boxes), but then again I am not an expert on ribbon boxes in general.
Getting this was a nice change from the usual typewriter acquisitions, and I shall keep an eye out for more "new old stock" on eBay from time to time... I am especially keen on finding blue and green ribbons as well. From this brief and highly unscientific test, my conclusion is that cotton > nylon.