The typewriters manufactured by the Oliver Typewriter Company for sale in the U.S. are generally considered the standard models. These are Oliver models 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11. Even though these models were manufactured primarily for the U.S. market, they were also sold in limited quantities in Europe and Latin America. From most common to least common are Oliver models 9, 5, 3, 7, 11, 2, and 1.
The Oliver No. 1 is one of the most sought-after Oliver models and typewriters in general. This is due to its rarity and histroical historical significance. The Oliver 1 was manufactured in Dubuque, Iowa. All model 1 machines were nickel plated and have flat side handles and black keytops. Unlike its successors, the Oliver 1 does not have a removable carriage. Almost every part on the Oliver 1 looks to be unique and therefore not interchangeable with parts on later models.
The highest known serial number of an existing Oliver No. 1 is 400. It is estimated around 500 machines were made with 10 currently in existance today. Unfortunately, I have yet to add an Oliver 1 to my collection.
The Oliver No. 2 was the first Oliver model produced at the factory in Woodstock, Illinois. Most of the early Oliver No. 2s were nickel plated with the iconic olive green paint avaibable as an option. In due time, the olive green paint became the standard finish with the nickel finish being optional. In a similar manner, white keytops replaced black keytops as the standard option.
Many improvements were made during the production run of this model, all of which are listed in the table below. Note that there is no Oliver model "1 1/2" or "1B"- the model 2 was continually revised and updated throughout its production run. Also note that the Oliver Typewriter Company jumped to serial number 5001 when starting production of the Oliver No. 2.
The Oliver No. 3 is very similar to the model 2. The most distinguishable difference is the taller base. The model 3 also introduced left and right margin release keys.
Between serial numbers 62567 and 121426, the spacing adjustment underneath the machine was updated to allow more fine tuning. Throughout the run of the Oliver 3, the drum spring was updated to be held on with a single screw, making it much easier to access for repairs. In addition, the ribbon spool holders were updated with a wider hole at the bottom so that they could be removed from the machine without removing the ribbon advancing rods.
The Oliver No. 5 is the next traditional model after the Oliver No. 3. (The Oliver No. 4 is not the next traditional model because starting with the model 4, the even-numbered machines were manufactured for international markets.) The model 5 is noticeably different from previous models in shape and design. Numerous improvements were introduced throughout this model's life span, all of which are listed in the table below. Essentially, there are seven different iterations of the Oliver 5 if all improvements are taken into consideration.
The Oliver No. 5 was the first model to offer a new typeface called Printype. It was designed to mimic actual book print. Machines with this typeface option have "The Printype Oliver - Pat. Nov. 5, 1912" displayed on their paper tables.
The Oliver No. 7 is the successor to the model 5. The frame was redesigned to wrap around the keyboard. From a distance, one could easily mistake it for an Oliver No. 9, but the model 7 has a single set of shift keys to the left of the keyboard. The left margin release key is located to the right of the keyboard and the right margin release key is above the keyboard to the left of the tab key.
With nearly half a million machines produced, the Oliver No. 9 is by far the most common Oliver model. This model introduced shift keys on both sides of the keyboard.
The key cover was changed (most likely at serial number 875001) to have a single open slot at the top instead of two smaller slots.
Some Oliver No. 9 machines have the keys staggered differently. Traditionally, looking from left to right, the keys protrude from the top row, the bottow row, and then the middle row. The alternate keyboard staggers in order, from the top row, the middle row, and then the bottom row. Some of the symbols and other characters were also rearranged on the alternate keyboard.
The machines with these alternate keyboards have an "A" prefix on the serial number. The earliest example I have found is my machine, serial number A900380X. After this machine, the only other examples I could find before serial number A980001 is A928771X and A975283X. Beginning with A980001, all model 9 machines were given the "A" prefix and alternate keyboard. Note that this excludes Oliver No. L-10 machines which have a Spanish keyboard with the traditional staggered layout and therefore do not have an "A" prefix.
The Oliver No. 11 was the last Oliver model produced for the domestic market. Compared to its predecessors, the Oliver No. 11 was given a different look. The iconic olive green paint was discontinued in favor of gloss black accented with gold pinstriping. The Oliver logo was redesigned using a thin lettering. The side handles were replaced with side cutouts to lift the machine.
Some model 11 (also 12, L-12, and L-13) serial numbers have a "B" prefix. Unlike the "A" prefix on Oliver No. 9 machines which denotes an alternate keyboard, the "B" prefix has no correlation to the keyboard. Some machines with a "B" prefix have the alternate keyboard and some do not. I have yet to figure out what the "B" prefix means.