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The Rosetta Stone: Olivetti Lettera 32 Cracked wide open!

MTE Inventory and Sales records, 1950 to 1987

MTE Inventory and Sales records, 1950 to 1987

Behold: The Rosetta Stone. Four legal-sized columnar notebooks filled with serial numbers and dates entered into inventory for every
new and used typewriter that passed through the doors of MTE between 1950 and 1987. Thirty-seven years worth of handwritten notes in pencil by (from my count) at least five different hands.

138 pages of essentially this:
DSC01096
Last night I poked around the Smith-Corona and Olympia sections, checking dates against known good ones in the TWDB, and found
myself looking at nicely matching groups and dates, if you assume about 3 months of lead time on average between production and the
machines showing up on dealer’s shelves. Good enough to work with, but SCM is too scattered to make a good stab at. Too many models, each with their own serial number runs for almost every variation. I could nail a few of the machines in the database, but the
targets were too varied to make a focused effort. I needed a mystery I could solve quickly.

Well, there I had the Olivetti section open anyway, let’s take a stab at the enigmatic and mysterious Lettera 32. Some preparation
had to be done: I had to first find all the Olivetti sections and then scan them. Then I needed to cut out the cruft. MTE recorded
trade-ins as well as new machines on the same sheets and didn’t note them differently, but it’s easy to tell which is which. New
machines come in batches on the same day and cost a very specific amount, down to the cents like $49.12 or something like that.
Trade-ins cost a nice round small number like $5 or $10 or $20 and come singly. Still, I spent about 3 hours in photoshop, just
cutting the batches of new Lettera 32’s out of the long lists and putting them in order. Once I had a long JPG of the result, I went
*back* over it and typed up the batch numbers and dates.

That alone told an interesting story. MTE had an Underwood dealership before the Olivetti takeover, and so they converted in 1961 to carrying new Olivettis, starting with Lettera 22’s and Studio 44’s. That only lasted a couple of years before the Lettera 32 was
introduced. Early in 1964 MTE ordered their first batch, which arrived that March, and after that they never ordered the 22’s ever
again. It was 32’s all the way.

Once I had compiled the inventory dates, I brought in the dates from the current TWDB Olivetti page for the Lettera 32. I have for
some time suspected that our Olivetti numbers were DECEMBER rather than January, so that’s where I put them. Funny thing though –
turns out they aren’t December *OR* January. They seem to be samples from the middle of the year.

Anyway, here’s the result:

################################################
Olivetti LETTERA 32
################################################

TWDB: Lettera 32 #2,020,987 (Ivrea) owned by Piotr Trumpiel.
TWDB: Lettera 32 #9,317,504 (Barcelona) owned by John Munroe.

21135xx/2119xxx (3-64) (Ivrea)
2275xxx/2277xxx (12-64) (Ivrea)

Conclusion:
Lettera 32 range for 1964 (Ivrea): 2,000,000 to approx. 2,300,000
Lettera 32 range for 1964 (Barcelona): 9,000,000 to ??

2275xxx/2310xxx (2-65) (Ivrea)
2318008/2335xxx (5-65) (Ivrea)
2423xxx/2428xxx (9-65) (Ivrea)
TWDB — 2396736 ** 1965 (Ivrea) (Source 6,29,30)

Conclusion: TWDB number for 1965 is likely mid/late-year sampling rather than Jan or Dec.
Lettera 32 range for 1965 (Ivrea): approx. 2,300,000 to approx. 2,600,000
Lettera 32 range for 1965 (Barcelona): ??

2556xxx/2557xxx (1-66) (Ivrea)
2602xxx/2603xxx (6-66) (Ivrea)
2772xxx/2773xxx (11-66) (Ivrea)
TWDB — 2634090 ** 1966 (Ivrea) (Source 6,29,30)

Conclusion: TWDB number for 1966 is likely mid-year sampling rather than Jan or Dec.
Lettera 32 range for 1966 (Ivrea): approx. 2,600,000 to approx. 2,800,000
Lettera 32 range for 1966 (Barcelona): ??

2881xxx/2884xxx (4-67) (Ivrea)
2981xxx/2988xxx (10-67) (Ivrea)
1607xxx/1630xxx (10-67 through 12-67)
TWDB — 2858298 ** 1967 (Ivrea) (Source 6,29,30)

Conclusion: TWDB number for 1967 is likely mid-year sampling rather than Jan or Dec. It is also Italian Production only, as are
earlier numbers.
Lettera 32 range for 1967 (Ivrea): approx. 2,800,000 to approx. 3,000,000
Lettera 32 range for 1967 (Barcelona): ?? to approx. 1,600,000

In October, 1967 a batch of new serial number L32’s arrives along with some Ivrean machines. These are Spanish Production¬† machines, and their introduction to the US market at series 1 million in 1967 suggests that at some point the series rolled over from 9
million to 1 million while Barcelona was only producing machines for non-US markets, or alternately, that the series jumped
suddenly. It seems unlikely that Barcelona produced 2.5 times the machines that Ivrea did in that time period. We will need more
Barcelona machines from other years, or dealer records from those markets to accurately determine the exact series for Barcelona
machines between 1964 and 1967.

1626xxx (1-68)
3032xxx/3038xxx (2-68)
01719xxx/017207xx (10-68)
TWDB — 3067753 ** 1968 (Source 6,30)

Conclusion: TWDB number for 1968 is likely mid-year sampling rather than Jan or Dec.
Lettera 32 range for 1968 (Ivrea): approx. 3,000,000 to ? – possibly this is Olivetti trying out disguising production numbers by
using the entire 3 million series for 1968.
Spanish production switches to 0-prefix serials at some point between January and October in 1968. new Barcelona machines in the 1967 range are still sold new in 1968 and 1969, but now new machines show up in the 01.7-million range.
Lettera 32 range for 1968 (Barcelona): 1,600,000 to approx. 01,800,000

1627351 (1-69)
01778xxx (1-69)
18506xx/1889xxx (9-69)
TWDB — 4620363 ** 1969 (Source 6,30)

Conclusion: It appears that Olivetti Ivrea switched to using all 4 million-series numbers for 1969.
Lettera 32 range for 1969 (Ivrea): probably all 4-million series numbers. MTE didn’t appear to order any of them.
Barcelona switches back to the non-zero prefix serials sometime between January and September 1969.
Lettera 32 range for 1969 (Barcelona): 01,800,000 to approx. 1,900,000

5192xxx (3-70)
1937792 (3-70 [script machine – same batch])
1937918 (5-70)
5088xxx (5-70)
5583xxx/5584xxx (10-70)
TWDB — 5385500 ** 1970 (Source 6,30)

Conclusion: TWDB number for 1970 is likely mid-year sampling rather than Jan or Dec. Seems now Olivetti switches back to a straight sequence with the 5-million series serials.
Lettera 32 range for 1970 (Ivrea): approx. 5,000,000 to approx. 5,600,000
Lettera 32 range for 1970 (Barcelona): 1,900,000 to ??

5582xxx/5584xxx (6-71)
058564xx (7-71)
5796xxx/5797xxx (11-71)
60899xx/60900xx (11-71)
TWDB — 5979353 ** 1971 (Source 6,30)

Conclusion: TWDB number for 1971 is likely mid-year sampling rather than Jan or Dec.
Lettera 32 range for 1971 (Ivrea): approx. 5,600,000 to approx. 6,100,000
Zero-prefix numbers show up again, but this time they follow Ivrean serialing rather than Barcelona. I have to assume that Olivetti
normalized the Barcelona plant to use the same series as the Ivrea plant, but with a leading zero.
Lettera 32 range for 1971 (Barcelona): 05,600,000 to 06,100,000

05854xxx/060909xx (1-72)
06044xxx/061283xx (3-72)
06044xxx/063909xx (4-72)
6391725/6443424 (12-72)
06391268/06544xxx (12-72)
TWDB — 6439695 ** 1972 (Source 6,30)

Conclusion: TWDB number for 1972 is likely mid-year sampling rather than Jan or Dec. MTE stops buying Lettera 32’s for a few years, as Lettera 35’s are now all the rage.
Lettera 32 range for 1972 (Ivrea): approx. 6,100,000 to approx. 6,600,000
Lettera 32 range for 1972 (Barcelona): 06,100,000 to 06,600,000

TWDB — 6981040 ** 1973 (Source 6,30)
TWDB — 7500000 ** 1974 (extrapolated guess)
TWDB — 8100000 ** 1975 (extrapolated guess)
TWDB — 1975 documented example SN#8140630 found
8307xxx/8308xxx (12-75)
In Dec. 1975, MTE buys a small lot of Lettera 32’s, serial number range right at where we expected they should be from our
extrapolated guesses!)

8479xxx (3-76)
In March 1976, MTE buys a small lot of Lettera 32’s, serial number range right at where we expected they should be from our
extrapolated guesses!)
TWDB — 8600000 ** 1976 (extrapolated guess)

8556xxx (4-77)
8683xxx (7-77)
A few more purchased in 1977, exactly where we expected them to be.
TWDB — 9136625 ** 1977 (Source 30)

Now a curious thing happens. TWDB sources suggest L32 production ends in 1977, and it appears it does. However, L32’s clearly made in 1977 or earlier still are sold as new from the distributor to the dealer. These weren’t fire-sale remaindered machines, either – prices actually went up, and the L32’s went from being about $10 cheaper than the L35’s in 1977 to $3 more expensive by 1980.

Probably they were custom orders made on the last remaining frames, and MTE would order one or two at a time all the way to June of 1980, when the last L32 was ordered by MTE brand-new. That one? Funny story. It has a “1” prefix that I totally can’t account for at all. Glasgow-produced machine perhaps? :D

8683xxx (12-78)
0548373 (12-78)
2368431 (2-79)
0548436 (6-79)
0548269 (8-79)
2506470 (9-79)
8558952 (9-79)
0548431 (9-79)
0624442 (10-79)
0548397 (11-79)
2489964 and 2489280 (1-80)
1210002 and 1210003 (1-80)
2490974/2490530/2505960 (1-80)
12505966 (5-80)

############################
Barcelona Machines from TWDB
############################
1964: 9317504
http://typewriterdatabase.com/1967-olivetti-lettera-32.1427.typewriter

196?: 1233215
http://typewriterdatabase.com/1967-olivetti-lettera-32.1427.typewriter

1967: 1605033
http://typewriterdatabase.com/1967-olivettiunderwood-lettera-32.1259.typewriter

1967: 1619333
http://typewriterdatabase.com/1969-olivettiunderwood-lettera-32.3671.typewriter

1967: 1673554
http://typewriterdatabase.com/1968-olivetti-lettera-32.3062.typewriter

1969: 1782140
http://typewriterdatabase.com/1969-olivetti-lettera-32.4278.typewriter

1969: 1783351
http://typewriterdatabase.com/1969-olivetti-lettera-32.4265.typewriter

1970: 2005905
http://typewriterdatabase.com/1970-olivetti-lettera-32.3649.typewriter

1970: 0195896
http://typewriterdatabase.com/1970-olivetti-lettera-32.3284.typewriter

1977: 9453609
http://typewriterdatabase.com/1977-olivetti-lettera-32.1464.typewriter

#############################
Glasgow machines from TWDB
#############################
NONE

#############################
Canadian Machines from TWDB
#############################
1977: 9614527
http://typewriterdatabase.com/1977-olivetti-lettera-32.2796.typewriter

 

Updated: June 8, 2015 — 4:13 pm

10 Comments

Add a Comment
  1. Whoa……. You’ve scored big there man. Big. That Olivetti issue has been plaguing you for ages.

  2. What a treasure trove of information. Many thanks for sharing.
    I’m sure Ton S. will love this.

  3. Wow. Yummy primary data!

  4. Do you have sales records for other brands–like Royal portables? ( I would love to see more Safari data) If you could send me copies, it would be amazing!

  5. Amazing find. And incredible work you’re doing to research and report on serial numbers and sales figures. Thank you.

  6. Is there anything about the Lettera 22 in this document? Or, better (for me), about the Olivetti Scribe? I recently purchased a Olivetti Scribe with serial number s613484. According to the typewriter database, this would mean that it was made in 1954 (OMEF data). But it has an embossed Olivetti logo on the paper table, indicating that it was one of the first Lettera’s made. Knowing that, 1954 seems too late for a possible production date (Lettera’s were made from 1950 onwards). Could you tell something more about the production of the Scribe and early Lettera?

    1. Well, we know the Scribe was an early labelling of the L22, so I would guess you are correct, it’s nearer 1950 than 54. Also, no – what the data ended up telling us is that every Olivetti factory used its own serial series, and for certain years/factories (most other than the Ivrea one, and there were a lot) we just have no idea what was made when. In such cases, it’s best to go by features similar to ones we can age properly.

  7. My Lettera 32, made in Barcelona, is 5718315

    My Lettera 32, made in Barcelona, is 5718315

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