Baystate Blue, Chapter 2

I’m still using Baystate Blue and I’m still grateful for the gift. Of course I would throw the bottle to perdition if it tried to get anywhere near a pen that has any value or that I’m fond of.

The husband says it reminds him of the blue Parker Quink he always used when he was at school. It’s much stronger though, much bluer, like Quink went to the gym and developed its muscles and, not content with that, paid the trainer for illegal steroids.

The result is blue with brutality. I like that about it. I’m on my second fill of the converter in this cheap Chinese pen. Despite its muscularity it hasn’t done the pen any harm yet. The steel nib shows no sign of assault and the plastic remains undamaged.

Frankenstein of the ink world, I’m a little disappointed that it remains so mild-mannered. I’m pretty sure that when I least expect it, it will turn on my pen snarling and leave it in bits on the floor, molten and smoking.


A Mystery Parker

Here’s a mystery pen. I would be grateful for your comments. I’m no expert on the Parker brand but I’m not entirely ignorant of it either. However, this mixture of mercies has me beat. I might mention that it was raised in Fountain Pen Network but they were not helpful, I’m informed. That’s how I remember FPN when I was a member some years ago. Long on opinions, short on facts. To be fair, though, FPN is first class when you need to know what colour of ink to put in your latest Montblanc.


All that aside, here’s the story with the pen. It’s short at 115 mm capped. Parker Duofold is stamped on the barrel, off-centre towards the section. The aforesaid section is translucent. Was there ever a Duofold with a translucent section? It also has a Televisor-style multi-part pressure bar. I confess I cannot remember whether any of the Duofolds ever had that style of bar. The pattern is in the style of the earliest Newhaven Duofolds and Victories. The nib is imprinted, “Parker USA” and does not have the usual indication of 14K gold, though that is undoubtedly what it’s made from. I believe that the nib and feed are replacements.

The pen bears enough of a resemblance to the pens made for Parker by Valentine to be one of that production run and its size might indicate a “Lady” pen. I seem to remember that the USA Streamline Lady Duofolds were around that size. It’s the odd accoutrements that puzzle me. It might be that some part of this arises from replacement parts being fitted but that doesn’t really work as an explanation because the translucent section and compound pressure bar work together. A screw-in section could not be replaced by a friction-fit one without machining. In any case, a friction-fit section would be pushed out by a traditional bar.

What do you think?

Pelikan 500

I’ve owned a few Pelikans, the modern Souverans and some of the older pens, but I don’t really understand the range of Pelikans in the way I do with Conway Stewarts, Mabie Todds or even Watermans.

Take, for instance, this 500. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe it to be an upgraded 400, made in the mid 50s. A medium-sized pen at 12.6 cm capped, it is strikingly handsome with its gold-filled cap and blind cap. The barrel is green/black striated and translucent.

It has the nesting Pelikan emblem on the cap top and the traditional Pelikan clip. The gold nib is fine and semi-flexible.

There is a professional personalisation on the barrel. The gold is in good condition and shows no wear. This is a pen with a lot of bling but it is also eminently practical.

It’s a pen that you really want to write with. I’ve had other good Pelikans, early pens with very flexible nibs, but this is the best writer of them all.

My Assistant Says…


She can fix pens all she wants.  I’m off!

Value and Price

There are many areas of collection where the price of an object is by no means always easy to establish. Often, those with little expertise in an area of, say, collectables, immediately assume that the old item that has come their way must be precious. Rarity is regarded in the same way.

For example, a charity shop that I include in my regular local sweep had a selection of fountain pens, each on offer for £50. Sadly, not one of them was worth so much. I offered to value the pens for them. Initially they were a little suspicious but I assured them that I wouldn’t buy any of them myself. They were greatly disappointed by the prices I put on their collection of Osmiroids, Platignums and Sheaffer school pens. Even then, at my greatly reduced prices the pens didn’t sell. The trouble was that there weren’t many fountain pen collectors or users in that district. For all I know they may still have the pens in their stock. Something has no value if nobody wants it. If those pens had had gold nibs, doubtless one of those critters who tour around looking for gold, silver and “antiques” might have bought them. Stainless steel isn’t so attractive.

I rarely sell by auction these days but when I did I always hoped for a bidding war to break out over one of my pens. It occasionally happened. A pen that was maybe worth £40 sold for twice that. That was about the best I did but I have seen some auctions exceeding their value by very much more.

Then there is the seller who doesn’t know how valuable his pen is. I remember buying a Waterman 52 from a seller who also had a Conway Stewart Floral 22 up for auction that day. He started both pens at £10. I paid £28 for the Waterman. Someone paid £300 for the Floral. I congratulated him on a good price. He was astounded by the “value” of the Conway Stewart. He had inherited both pens from a relative and had no idea of their actual price. The 52, a larger and more solid pen was the most valuable, in his estimation. The bidding and final price on the Conway Stewart absolutely floored him!

Personally, I would agree with his original valuation. The Waterman 52 is one of the best pens ever made whereas the Conway Stewart Floral is a trashy little thing with a paper pattern behind clear plastic. The market thinks differently, however, and the market rules.

In modern pens, the inclusion of a gold nib rather than a stainless steel one elevates the price by a multiple of the value of the very small amount of gold. People buy those pens at the asking price so it seems once more that the market determines the price, not the value of the components plus a normal level of profit.

One might say, I suppose, that value in something as straightforward as fountain pens – unlike fine art or footballers – is capable of calculation, taking into account such variables as rarity and desirability. Price, on the other hand, is incalculable, rather like the winning number in the National Lottery.

In general, of course, price doesn’t vary greatly from some reasonable calculation of value. EBay, and auctions generally, are the great levellers of expectations and establishers of that place where price and value meet. If you don’t believe that, have a look at how prices for unrestored fountain pens have changed over the last decade. They have consistently risen. Occasionally there would be a leap but mostly the rise has been gradual. Is that because demand has increased? I see no evidence for that. For vintage pens it may even be falling. It’s supply that is in decline. Old pens are a finite resource. They’re not making any more of them!

Parker Vacumatic

I know nothing about Parker Vacumatics. Can anyone tell me which model this is?

I’ve studied the various websites like and Richard Binder’s. The more I study the more confused I get!

It measures 139 mm capped. It has the plastic plunger and the threaded collar is metal. It has a plain diamond clip.

Old Inks

I have enough ink here to last me for several lifetimes. The oldest, I suppose, is the Stephens Blue/Black in the ceramic bottle. It’s excellent ink. The rest are good too with the exception of the Websters Diamine which is faded.

Though those inks don’t have the very bright colours of some modern inks, they are very pleasant and they go very well with the old pens I handle.