17 Feb 2015

Olympia SM series (part 1, 1948-1964)

This post covers post-war carriage-shifted Olympias of the SM line from 1948 to 1964. Part 2 covers segment-shifted SM series.

All of the pictures in this post have been found on the internet and come from the collections of myself and other typospherians, as well as current and ended online auctions, and are presented purely as examples essential to this post. No infringement intended.

This post will be edited when new information becomes available, especially with model examples. If you have an example with a serial number and photo, please let me know because every piece of information connecting age with finish/colors helps!

Proto-SM1: 1948-1949

The Olympia factory was originally located in Erfurt, in what became the Soviet zone of Germany. Production was moved to Wilhelmshaven under the temporary name Orbis in 1948, while production continued in Erfurt and was taken over by Optima. The rights to the Olympia name weren't decided in favor of the Wilhelmshaven organization until over 10,000 of these Orbis machines were produced.


The earliest Orbis is essentially a pre-war Olympia portable with crinkle paint.

Then a chrome stripe was added to the front and the levers became tipped with white plastic.

New dark green differently-shaped function keys and a proper embossed Olympia logo were introduced.



Chrome stripes were added to sides, along with thicker keytops and different plastic lever tips.


At first the carriage knobs remain black but then they change to match the keytops, which could be either warm brown or dark green.



DM was a brand used before WWII on Olympias and the use continued after the war. I don't know if this also has an Olympia emblem on the paper table or if it's only branded DM.


Add caption

This would be the final version of the Olympia portable before it officially becomes the SM, now known as SM1. It has the same thicker keys as before, but the new carriage knobs.

SM1: 1949-1951

Around serial number 70,000 the SM1 proper, as we think it since it originally didn't have the "1" began. I don't have a photo example right now, but one of the changes is a different style case. Before this, the case had rounded corners as can be seen from the baseboard. The case switched to a more squared case. There is no tabulator

The keys are black and circular, except for the function keys which are dark green and have a tombstone shape. Colors offered include black, green, dark red, and cream.

70210 - 1950

80735 - 1950

98040 - 1951

SM2: 1951-1961

With the SM2 came new keytops and new styling, although the machine inside is largely the same as the SM1 at this time. The keytops are usually black, though sometimes with dark green function keys. Crinkle finish colors include olive green, black, and dark red.

110739 - 1951

154924 - 1951

169843 - 1951

A DM version of the SM2 was produced, probably in 1951.


Ignore that this has been repainted; but notice how it has the older round keys found on the SM1. It would probably place it in the 100000 to 110000 serial number range.

In 1952, after serial number 170000, the keytops, now with cushioning, are flipped 180 degrees to resemble the more common 1950s Olympia keys, though the function keys remain the same, and body pieces changed slightly although the styling remained the same. The Olympia logo is now moved to the ribbon cover. The SM2 still has no tabulator and the margin sets are hidden behind the paper table. There is a new return lever.

285321 - 1952

I have seen one with a hammered silver finish. I'm not sure if this is original.

Again, somewhere around serial number 500000 in 1953/54, another change, though slight. The shift keys become larger.

1137181 - 1958

1459815 - 1959

This lovely version with dark red keys and cream paint was made. Also a light green glossy one with black keys.

SM3: 1953-1961

The SM3 has a tabulator with manual stops. The margin sets are moved to the top of the carriage with the tab stops under on the back. It usually has De Luxe written on the segment.

The first version of the SM3 was produced only for a short time in 1953 and possibly early 1954. It has the smaller shift key of the 1952 SM2 and slightly different plastic card holders angled to fit around the wire card holder.

427976 - 1953

In 1954, the SM3 got different plastic card holders and the newer, bigger shift keys. This is by far the most common SM2/SM3 model version found in the US. They almost always have a silver-painted streamlined wood case, especially the pre-1958 ones.

The SM3 was produced in this form up until 1961 undergoing only very minor changes in the finishes to different metal parts. Many different paint (mostly crinkle but some glossy) and key color combinations were offered.

583945 - 1954

667635 - 1955

667653 - 1956

1138039 - 1958

1463603 - 1959

1693461 - 1960
A wide carriage version was produced and had a boxy case instead of rounded.

SM4: 1958-1961

In 1958, Olympia introduced the SM4. This was an improved version of the SM3 with a keyset tabulator. I find it odd that it took Olympia so long to introduce the SM4, as they'd had keyset tabulators beside the space bar in their 1930s models.

These were produced in a number of colors until 1961, ending when the SM3 ended. Most have a squared-off case with grey and white stripes, although some have the silver streamlined case.

1309237 - 1958

1796814 - 1961

As with the SM3, a wide carriage version was produced.

Most had a crinkle paint finish, but occasionally they had an eggshell finish.

A special gold-plated edition was made.

SM7: 1962-1964

In 1962, the SM7 was introduced. It's pretty much the same as the SM4 inside, having a keyset tabulator, but with a modernized angular body. It was produced in 3 colors; white, pink, and blue. Some have a "Made in Western Germany" badge below the Olympia logo but most don't.

The SM7s with pink or blue bodies as a rule have all-white keys and knobs, while the white-painted ones have turquoise shift keys and knobs. They all have a squared-off case with grey and white stripes.

1797195 - 1961

1907092, 1961

The first change to the SM7 is adding the grid textured finish of the front panel to the areas on each side of the space bar, where it was previously smooth. This happened at about serial number 2000000.

2009885, 1962

Then, between 2010000 and 2070000, the touch selector was moved from under the ribbon cover to the left side of the keyboard.

2071316, 1962

After 2080000, the style of carriage knobs changed from the more angular form to something more curved.

SM5: 1962-1964

Introduced at the same time as the SM7, the SM5 was a less-expensive option. It's like a cross between an SM2 and an SM3, having the SM2 style paper table, but with a manual-set tabulator. It was pretty much produced in just one variation.

2442792 - 1964

Monica: 1960-1964

The Monica was a stripped-down model that began in 1960 and continued until the end of Olympia production in Germany, spanning a number of body styles. The first Monica was similar to the SM2, but without a chrome stripe around the base of the machine, with different, simpler rubber feet, and less liberal use of chrome finishing. The eraser table is also lacking.

All Monicas have an eggshell or textured glossy finish in an off-white color.

1662764, 1960
Monica can also be found in Germany spelled "Monika" although the Monica version is more common there.

After 1962, the Monica strongly resembled an SM5, but with a less deluxe finish and no tabulator. The Olympia logo at this point was usually turquoise plastic to match the shift keys and carriage knobs.

2157393 - 1962

2487897 - 1964

This style of Monica ended in 1964, although the line did not end with the end of the carriage-shift Olympia SM portables.


After the introduction of the proper SM1 in 1949, there were very few anomalies or rebrandings. The DM-branded Olympias were already mentioned in the text, but this example deserves its own space. I'm not sure what the background behind the "Colortip" machines is, but originally, they were introduced around 1962 and have a boxy ribbon cover unlike any other Olympias. The rest of the machine seems to be a mix between SM3, SM5, and Monica.

1921068 - 1962


Hopefully this has helped clear up some of the confusion regarding the Olympia SM series. Again, if you have a correction or additional information, please let me know!

Also of interest

Last updated 17 February 2015


  1. Brilliant write-up on an excellent series of machines. My SM 2 and 3 are among my favourites to write with. Near-perfect typewriters, only marred (IMHO) by their carriage-shift. My pinky fingers aren't as strong as they used to be. Lucky I have a SM9. Can't wait to read about that one, Nick!

    1. if your pinky gives you troubles on your carriage-shifted SM's, perhaps take up a bit of slack on the shift-assist springs? There >is< a sweet spot, and it's worth chasing!!! With too little assist your fingers will hate you, but with too much(or if you type too sloppy/fast) you'll end up with slow return-to-home & end up with random wonky letter heights. In my experience, the carriage-shift on a well maintained & adjusted SM feels every bit as light as the segment-shift on a QuietRiter or H3k...which is to say, you'll only notice it if you're looking for it. I honestly suspect that Oly only went to segment shift when they did because by then everybody and their dog was doing it, eh? Another example of how over the years advertising and market pressure influenced typewriter design, rather than the other way round. Excellent post, Nick!!!

  2. Great history of the Olympia line-up. I hope to soon get to work on cleaning my SM-3. My SM-4 is quite a good typer even though I need to send the platen off to JJ Short. I'll be watching for your review of the SM-9 family.

  3. Outstanding research. I am kind of shocked to see some postwar "DM" machines, because the '30s DM typewriters have always struck me as a blatant appeal to true-believer National Socialists, with their jargon about the office mechanics' guild producing at the behest of the Reich-whatever.

    Was there ever a DM6? If not, why not?

    1. I was surprised to find the postwar DMs too! I just found another one (black SM2) after I posted this. Apparently this was not one of the things they quickly threw away after 1945.

      Scott Kernaghan might know something about an SM6… I know he had some bit of information about it, whether it was speculation about why they didn't make an SM6, or else about a model that is an SM6 but either very uncommon or called something else.

  4. Great post. I'm wondering where my anonymous "Elite" typewriter fits in. It's similar to the "Proto-SM1" The serial number: 695845 – puts it later than the last Olympia Elite serial number listed on the Typewriter database): http://writelephant.com/2013/11/21/stevie-wonders/

    1. According to the database (Optima list), it should be from 1951. They made Optima Elites just like yours until 1953.

      I mentioned yours in my Optima post.

  5. Very detailed look at the Olympia SM series. Reminds me next week when I have some time to get out my pre war machines and get some photos for you.
    Gosh, I really do have quite a selection of Olympias here.

  6. Added link from the TWDB Olympia page to this article under "History". Should make it easier for people to understand the differences between different SM models. (:

    1. Thanks! I forgot to do that myself.

  7. Thanks a lot for this article. I am looking forward to part 2! Olympia portables are my favourites.

    There is some interesting history behind the Colortip rebranding. Those typewriters were primarily sold by agents door by door, resulting in quite some scandals. The company that ended being renamed Colortip was run by Josef Haid, who at times ran a network of more than 4000 agents. Their practice was to sell contracts for typewriter telecourses - only that those contracts had a hidden clause that included the purchase of a typewriter. Different brands were involved over the years (Alpina typewriters also made some sales over this route). If you trust google translate, this German article from that time would be quite interesting:


    What I find especially interesting about the Colortip machines is that there should be some modified later versions of Olympis SMs, that allowed to lock certain keys to make learning to type easier. As far as I know, they have an extra lever, that has three settings: program (lock all keys that are subsequently used), type (only the keys not locked before would budge) and reset. This lever would be unter the spool cover close to the left spool. I have been looking for those, but haven't found one yet. Also there is not much info to find about those....

    1. Thanks for the information!

      I'm going to show a later Colortip Olympia SMs in the second part, but I've never heard anything about an extra lever… fascinating.

  8. Very interesting article. I have 2 portables...one is off white, the other light gray, nearly identical and say Deluxe inside near the type. Both have the orange O symbol. The cases are different as well. Any way to locate when they were manufactured?

    1. Those will be covered in part 2 of this series (which I'll probably post next month). Yours are SM8/9 and you can date yours by the serial number here: http://typewriterdatabase.com/olympia.61.typewriter-serial-number-database

  9. I have a an Olympia SM3 model but have no idea what year it is made based on the serial number. Its starts with 1054. Do I have one used by formerly used by the government? I don't see it listed on the year by year database.

  10. I own an Olympia traveller deluxe, and I'm curious when it was manufactured. The serial number is 15-7578032. I was hoping you may know of away of finding this out?

    1. There is a full list of serial numbers for all Olympia models here: http://typewriterdatabase.com/olympia.61.typewriter-serial-number-database

  11. Great resource, and thank you! It helped me discover that the typewriter I just bought for $25 is an SM-3, apparently produced in 1959-1960 (serial number 1460594. I can send a picture, if you want. I wish there was a "service manual," as the carriage is riding a little low and catching up on the left side of the frame. Right at column 57 the carriage gets stuck, until you tap it or hit the shift to raise the carriage. Also, the caps are striking higher than the lower case, again probably because the carriage is riding too low. I'm betting there's a carriage-height adjustment somewhere. Would you have any clues? THANK YOU!!!

    1. You'll find the way to repair the carriage issue is a simple one involving rubber washers/grommets. See this blog post: http://xoverit.blogspot.com/2013/10/three-olympia-sm234-carriage-repairs_7.html

      As for the ribbon, you can type over it dozens or hundreds of times. This is the Olympia SM3 manual found on Richard Polt's site: http://site.xavier.edu/polt/typewriters/OlympiaSM3.pdf

  12. Also, I'm surprised to discover that my ribbon only lasts about 2 friendly-letters. Is there a "how fast the ribbon spools out" setting I'm unaware of? I don't remember having to rewind the ribbon on the Smith-Corona I had in grade school so often. THANKS!

    1. Perhaps you got a dried out ribbon? Or it wasn't inked thoroughly? You might try another make. I've written whole novels and more on one ribbon. And when it runs low you can flip it upside down and use the other side (if it is not the black / red version).


  13. What is the difference between the sm models with the deluxe and the s by the keys?

    1. The SM3 usually has De Luxe written on the segment and the SM4 has the S.