Office Toy: The Automatic Numbering Machine

Okay. So. This truly is an office toy for me.

automatic numbering machine stamp and wheel pushing stick laid on top of a piece of paper with consecutive numbers stamped on it

I didn’t NEED one of these. But when I was a child, I tried one at a real office back in ancient times, and oh… I wanted one, I wanted one baaaad.

I just love mechanical things that print on paper, like rubber stamps, typewriters, adding machines, and oh yes, numbering machines. (I do not yet own a mimeograph machine or a letterpress machine, but I would certainly like to.)

I have had this automatic numberer since becoming a grownup who could buy such things; and it is fun. I make many of my notebooks useful because I use this to number the pages.

A few things to know about automatic numberers if you want one bad, too:

  • The plastic ones you get at big box office stores fall apart. A key component of a good office toy is that it is something that can be used with vigor, so I ponied up for this metal one and have never looked back.

  • Get the self-inking kind. Most are, but some are not, so read the fine print.

  • Numberers come with a plastic stick. The stick is there so you can push the wheels and reset the stamp to where you want your number series to start. If you lose it, a pencil or a chopstick can do the job.

  • Each number wheel has a blank setting. This is nice, because otherwise you would be stamping: 000001, 000002 instead of something more manageable. Figure out if you’re going into single, double, triple or more digits, and then push the wheels on the end to the blank settings before you start numbering any pages. Here is my numberer set up for a three-digit series: check out the metal stamp zeros on the left, and the rectangles on the right. The rectangles won’t print on the paper.

underside view of numbering machine wheels

  • These things are less like simple rubber stamps and more like typewriters — lots of moving parts in there. Protect this office toy by setting the lock mechanism when you’re not using it, and packing it somewhere where it won’t collect dust, or Cheerios, or cat hair. (Hey, no judgment here. I’m just sayin’.)

My mother has a sign that reads: “Don’t Look Back, You’re Not Going That Way.”

And this is true of numbering machines as well. Once you start stamping, they start numbering forward, ever forward. Perhaps that is a deep metaphor. (Or perhaps not.)

Take a listen to this decisive sound:

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