Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Saga of the Mexican Oliver

I have been on the quest for a Mexican Oliver for some time. They are nearly impossible to find here in the US. What makes a Mexican Oliver special? Well, I have found some pictures from Mercado Libre to give you and idea:

A Mexican Oliver is nickle plated on the bottom while still retaining the green paper table and front piece. I can glean no information about why the two-tone Oliver was so popular, but it's all you find in Mexico.

For a long while I felt as if I would never get a lead. Mercado Libra frequently has them for sale, but my inexperience with the language and fear of buying something so expensive so far away makes it prohibitive. I can't take a vacation to go look for one because there 32 states and one federal district and they could be hidden anywhere. But now there is a slight hope.

Andres, one of my students, has an uncle who is a journalist with a newspaper in Mexico City. He's spotty on the details because they have never met, but this summer he is taking a vacation to visit him. It was kind of Andres to offer to ask if he knew the location of one and I am sure that a journalist would know just the right people to contact.

So, this little quest is taking on a new dimension, but it's still exciting.


  1. I think I can offer a couple of details regarding the "mexican" Oliver typewriters (I currently own two of them). First of all, not all the models sold here were nickel-plated; apparently only the more recent models (model 9, model 10) were given that treatment. Most of the machines sold in MercadoLibre seem to have been "cleaned" or "restored" by people who probably saw one of those rare nickel-plated machines and thought their machines would look better with the base sanded to bare metal than with the scraped old paint.

    That seems to be the case with all the machines you pictured, except for the second one: a "real" nickel-plated Oliver has that little red enamel plate riveted to the front, below the space bar. BTW, that one is an Oliver 10, from 1918 or so.

    Another difference is that the "mexican" machines include the lowercase "ñ" character (located on top of the "N" key, accessed via the Fig shift). My Oliver 9 has that feature, and I've seen it on Oliver 10 models too.

    If you can choose, I would recommend buying a model 9 or 10, since they do have more advanced features like the double shift keys and the backspace mechanism.

    Good hunting! If you need any help with this, feel free to drop me a line.

    1. Miguel, thank you for the information. Very informative. That is a good hint about the red plate on the front of the machine.

  2. That two-tone looks very nice. Good luck finding one!

  3. Good luck in your quest, Ryan!

    If I may ask, how many machines are you curating at the moment? :D

  4. I have two of these beauties: a nickeled #5 which came from a craigslist ad in San Antonio and belonged to a Mexican-American (it was rough, and I replaced some parts with those from a pristine green #5), and an L-10 which came from MercadoLibre.

    I also have a nickeled LC Smith from 1912, sold in Mexico. Herman Price has one too. Apparently LC Smith tried to compete with Oliver in the south-of-the-border-bling department. Mine had its front frame broken in transit due to poor packing, but I repaired it pretty well.

    There is a novel of the Mexican revolution, "Los de abajo," where a nickeled Oliver is carried around the country by revolutionaries until finally they just toss it out because it's too darn heavy.

    1. Richard, it would be nice to see a picture of the Oliver. Would it be possible for you to send one to me? I remember seeing the LC. As I recall, it was very shiny.