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Rhymin’ & Stealin’ 4 Olympia Serial Number Verification

Wow, it’s been awhile since I posted – work’s been whippin’ me like a slave driver and I’ve got typecasts lined up that may never get posted. Today however, I did some crimes for your edification, and I must confess.

I went thriftin’ and saw a few typewriters – a 70’s Adler Universal 200 standard in nice shape except the escapement was non-functional, a brace of Sears-branded Silver Seiko electrics, and one 1970’s Olympia SM-9 in ratty shape. The SM-9 I was tempted by until I saw the price tag: $50 for a machine that looked like it had been dragged behind a car. No thanks.

But… Amazingly the machine retained it’s original paperwork, including the sales receipt. Ok, so $50 for a busted machine with dated sales documentation? Well, still no, but who was gonna miss the little pink slip of paper if I rolled it up in the machine and typed on the back, then pulled it out and examined it thoughtfully as if judging the machine’s print quality, then folded it up and put it in my pocket? (:

Nobody, that’s who.

Untitled-2So, why have I resorted to crime? Look closely at the serial number and date listed on the receipt: #4623699 sold in California on Feb 21, 1974. An excellent opportunity to sanity-check the Olympia list at the TWDB, right? Does this sales date make sense when compared to the manufacture dates we know about?

4185449     1971
4439081     1972
4557710     1973
4632657     1974
4829513     1975

Well, how about that: #4623699 would have been manufactured in very late 1973, probably November or December.  Shipped from Germany to a dealer in California and sold in late February 1974 makes perfect sense.

So, lock me up if you must for my crime, but rest easy that your Olympia dates are good and true, and incidentally, this bit of paper also pretty much makes it certain that our Olympia numbers are JANUARY 1, and not DECEMBER 31 numbers, as I have increasingly discovered is the case with some brands. Not bad for a little pink piece of purloined paper, eh?

Oh, and the trade-ins? a 1956 QDL and a 1924 Underwood 5.  $20 trade-in for the pair. Bleh, I woulda kept the trade-ins :D

Updated: May 2, 2015 — 3:44 pm


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  1. J.I.T. warehousing practices wouldn’t have been operating in the USA until the 1970’s, so it is very likely that the typewriter would have been warehoused for potentially longer than you might expect.

    That said, this implies a very, very short turn around in this era. Add a minimum of a month for shipping to transport it (It wouldn’t have been flown), and consider the logistics channels it would have to go through first, this is very quick! These machines must have been flying off the shelves, or distributed to order.

    1. Heh, The lag-time between manufacturing and distribution is one thing I ponder furiously when looking at data. An example from the most detailed and “closest to factory” source we have right now: The Sheridan Binder of Remington serial numbers, source # 18 in TWDB.
      If you read the original document you’ll note many incidental notations near or within the serial tables that usually say something along the lines of “(feature) began on (date) with serial #XXX”. However, if you actually look that serial number up in the list itself, the date given is usually a month or more *past* the date given in the notation.
      Hypothesis: The serial lists in “Sheridan” are *dates of distribution*, NOT MANUFACTURE. The notations are factory-sourced and tell when the feature started on the exact serial number. Sheridan was the head marketing manager at Remington-Rand and probably recorded the dates that batches of machines were distributed to the field, not when they were manufactured.

      Heck, I bet you could track the lag time at Remington between manufacture and distribution for most of their history, if you plotted the discrepancies between the notations and the lists in the Sheridan document. :D

  2. David’s seem disappointed – selling only 1 typewriter to the customer.


    1. David’s is to be commended, though – the documentation in this machine was the first time I have seen a dealer meticulously fill out every line in the documentation and manual with full serial number, date, typestyle and name of buyer. I wish all dealers had done that..

  3. Mitigating circumstances, You are completely exonerated!

  4. The trade ins must have been well worn! Perhaps they were also dragged behind a car.

  5. Good sleuthing, thanks Ted. Now you have the trickier problem of replacing the paperwork without anyone noticing.

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