Monday, September 3, 2012

A sweet pen - in more ways than one

I have a particular fondness for 1930’s and 1940’s fountain pens, especially when brightly colored, made of celluloid or other early plastics. I think they’re pretty – and, on the whole, they are rather simplistic things, which means that they often still work well without being too finicky.

I’ve bought several, and will undoubtedly continue to pick them up as I see ones that catch my eye.

As always, all photos are clickable

Some of them are relatively fragile, and in an earlier post I mentioned that I had not plucked up the courage to use a couple of newer acquisitions for fear of damaging them. On the other hand, while I would hate to break either pen, neither is so precious it would be a loss to humanity if something happened – though my feelings might be a bit hurt.

The first pen is a mandarin yellow Parker Duofold that appears to date from the late 1930s. I bought this pen on a hunch off of the Bay one day several months ago; it went for less than it might otherwise, largely due to the company name engraved on the barrel.  The pen was a bit grimy when it came to me, and had dried ink in it (don’t they all?), but also still had the price sticker on it - $5. Just for fun, I looked for present value – depending on whose index you believe, I got figures from $66 to $81 in present-day dollars. Last time I checked, a new Parker Duofold was a bit more than that.

(The Nutrine Candy Company was bought in the 1950s by a competitor, Chase Candy, whose claim to fame is a candy bar called Cherry Mash. Nutrine appears to bear no relationship to a current company called Nutrine Confectionery, a subsidiary of Hershey India.)


I sent this off for cleaning and resacking, and when it came back, I heard warnings ringing in my head about how brittle the Mandarin Duos are. The formulation used for the celluloid made it prone to cracking, particularly along the cap lip and especially if one were in the habit of posting the cap. Apparently this was an issue even when they were new. The color itself was only put into production due to George Parker’s fascination with China and all things Chinese; they didn’t sell as well as other colors, and it was only at his insistence that they remained on offer as long as Duofolds were in production.

Speaking of cracks in the cap lip...
So I carefully placed it in my pen box, and there it’s sat for months.

I finally decided that I should give it a try. Oh, what a sweet nib this pen has! It’s an old-school medium, which translates almost to a modern American fine nib, and it feels like it hasn’t been used much. I suspect it was inked and used a few times, and then rode around in a desk drawer for much of the rest of its life – thus the price sticker still on the bottom.

Although I just have to ask – this was undoubtedly a nice pen in its day. It seems like it would have been some sort of service award - it's too good a pen to be a giveaway, I'd think.

Why on Earth was this price sticker still on? I’m sure I’ll never know, but I do wonder.

I'll cover the next pen in a new post soon; stay tuned!

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