Olympia SM3 ’56 & ’58: A Comparison

I’ve owned a SM3 for a bit of time now and upon realizing I really do enjoy them, I made the decision to purchase a second one for parts — just in case, ya know? When it arrived, there were a few things I immediately noticed that were different that made me wonder if these two machines would actually be compatible for part swaps.


The ’56 has a serial number (#915798) that places it late that year — literally 8503 less than the max number given on Typewriter Database. I’ve noticed over a dozen changes made within less than a 2 year period. Some of these changes are very startling while others are more subtle. The overall mechanism design remains the same — as far as I can tell. Some of the parts can easily be swapped over, but some of them are questionable.

One thing I have to point out immediately before we even get started is that none of these changes adds or removes a feature the previous or successor possesses. Most of these changes seem to be them going, “Oh, well, duh. Do this instead. Same effect.” The typewriter market was very volatile in terms of development and they were always being pushed to change things. This is a very visual reminder of that.

Per usual, I’ll try to illustrate with as many photos as I can. Some of the terminology may be wrong, so I plan on adding arrows and circles so y’all know what I’m talking about! (I really should just sit down and memorize all the proper names for these things…)

Let’s get to it.

1) The materials are different. The ’56 uses metals in some areas that appear Parkerized while the ’58 doesn’t. This could be a design choice exclusively due to color.

2) Maker’s plate on the back is formatted differently with the ’58 having a more “professional” and easier to read layout. Notice also that on the ’56, “Made in Germany” is used rather than “Made in Western Germany” and that the New York address is slightly modified.

3) Ruler on top is made differently and is thinner on the ’56. The ’56, though thinner width wise, is thicker and gives the appearance of being folded steel.

4) The paper support on the ’58 is numbered while the ’56 has cut-outs with a red square to indicate which selection is being made.

5) The ’56’s paper presser is hinged at the back.

6) Page release on the ’56 causes the paper presser to move out of the way.

7) The paper presser sits flush against the platen — the ’58 hovers just above it. And it also appears to sit closer to the ribbon.

8) The metal flap has elongated posts on the ’56 while on the ’58, they are cut to be mostly flush.

9) Page guide is triangular on the ’56 rather than arched/circular.

10) Ribbon guide on the ’56 has rubber padding. My guess is to ease its fall. The design is different between the two with the ’58 having broader tabs.

11) Arrow is absent on the ’58’s touch control.

12) The M.R., Shift Lock, Tab and Backspace keys are thinner on the ’56.

13) The tab key sits higher on the ’58. Though this may be due to the increased size, the height difference is noticeable and could cause issues for those used to one or the other.

The next few points could be explained by one of two things: either my ’58 needs to be tuned up or the ’56 needs to be tuned up.

14) The ’56 is noticeably quieter. This can be explained by a) this is how it is supposed to be or b) there is so much grime and gunk that it is forcing it to be quiet.

15) Spacing on the ’56 produces a lower frequency ‘thud’ with less metallic undertones. The ’58 doesn’t necessarily rattle, but the metallic is certainly an overtone and overall the frequency is higher.

16) Key presses on the ’58 are noticeably louder.

One thing I did notice is that the ’56 does need a tune up (mild sticking on moving the carriage to the left and the 3/4 key sticks). New ribbon is obvious but the top parts of letter is barely imprinting. Working on this typewriter will give me a better chance to learn how these work so I can work on the ’58 more safely.

Hope y’all find this useful!

Until later, be safe and enjoy y’all’s day,