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Saturday 5 May 2012

The Saga of the Optima P1 Portable Typewriter Ends

For many years I coveted Richard Polt's sleek green Optima P1, which he won some time ago on eBay in Vienna, Austria.  Then Richard came across one with a Cyrillic keyboard and his German keyboard P1 found its way into Alan Seaver's collection.
Richard Polt's Optima P1 with Cyrillic keyboard
Alan Seaver's Optima P1 that failed to swim the Pacific
Mine, the Optima P1 that flew from Germany
One of the reasons I yearned for a P1 is that, to me, it looked so much like the sleek green Bijou that Richard Amery had in his collection (to the best of my knowledge, they were both made by what later became Volkseigener Betrieb Kombinat Robotron; in the case of the Optima P1, it was made by VEB Optima Buromaschinenwerk in Erfurt. Both machines bear similar logos). Richard Polt, however, kept putting me straight, that to him the Bijou looked a larger model:
As things have turned out, of course, the Bijou is now with me, as Richard Amery very kindly gave it to me last month for my 64th birthday.
On both of their websites, Richard Polt and Alan point out that the Optima P1 dates from 1959 and is based on the Olympia [later Optima] Plana. Alan adds, "The P1 is fairly scarce, though."
I think I have already posted on my extreme frustrations with the Australian eBay seller who listed Alan's P1 for sale at a Buy in Now price, then promptly denied all knowledge of a fraudulent listing using Alan's image of his Optima.
Alan was quick to check and point out this typewriter hadn't left his home and swum across the Pacific to Melbourne.
I was reminded of that nasty episode when Richard Polt last night alerted us to the Cahill scam, although the money involved in the P1 sale was minuscule by comparison.
Anyway, following that business with Alan's Optima being illegally sold to me, Richard offered to keep his eye out for a P1 on German eBay. Richard even went to the trouble of recruiting Peter Muckermann (below) in Germany to help.
A couple did come up, at reasonable prices (even factoring in the shipping cost). But in at least one case, after Peter had made contact with the seller, she then accepted an offer (way below what mine would have been) and sold the typewriter long before the auction was scheduled to end.
Finally, a month or so ago, Richard spotted another one and again lined Peter up to assist. This time everything went according to plan, and the machine was posted to Peter, who very kindly posted it on to me (along with a copy of the excellent German magazine Historische Bűrowelt, see cover below).
So now I have a P1, plus the Bijou, plus an Optima Plana, and am able to compare all three.
My Optima P1 came off the production line and was quality control tested on April 22, 1959. It was sold in Potsdam on August 5 that year.


Richard P said...

I'm glad to see this machine in Canberra where it belongs! It's good to have that paperwork, too.

The Optima numeral 1 is unmistakable (and unmistakably unlike a lowercase L). My M10 has the same character.

Robert Messenger said...

Thank you for this Richard, and especially thank you for all your help in getting it to Canberra. It really is as gorgeous as I had imagined it would be.

Anonymous said...

Hi- I found your blog while I was researching a robin blue optima portable rypwriter with case that I have. I don't know anything about it and would love some information on it. Thanks-Felix