Mentmore, which started production in 1923, is often regarded as one one of the smaller British companies but this is far from true. Until the company ceased trading under this name in the late fifties, sales of their own-branded pens were healthy and they also produced many no-name and promotional pens. The company’s earliest pen was the “Spot”, a high-quality pen with a white dot on the cap. It isn’t common now and is sought-after by collectors.
Mentmore is probably best remembered now for its Autoflow range of lever and button fillers. They are well made pens with efficient filling systems and appear in black hard rubber and black and variously-patterned celluloid. The 14ct gold “Osmi Iridium” nibs were made in-house. They usually have a generous amount of tipping material and most are firm mediums. Less often seen are the Mentmore 45 and 69 with sterling silver caps. Towards the end of the company’s life, a hooded-nibbed Diploma was produced. The quality of these injection-moulded pens was variable.
In 1927, the Mentmore Manufacturing Company created a subsidiary, Platignum, to make inexpensive pens aimed at the school student market. Most of the Platignum output had white metal or plated nibs, though there were some with with gold nibs. Platignum was innovative both technically and in aesthetic design. In the early days they utilised unusually-coloured hard rubbers, such as olive and black and yellow and black. Many of these pens were acceptably well made and can be found in good condition today. They also produced pens with an ink-view section and later, a version of Waterman’s capillary X-Pen was manufactured under licence. This was a high-quality pen which still occasionally turns up. In the late fifties Platignum produced the “Quick-Change” calligraphy pen, a lever filler that was threaded to accept different oblique and italic nibs. Unfortunately the plastic in these pens tends to shrink, so that caps often don’t fit well now, but a good one remains a usable calligraphy pen.
Around the same time the Varsity Pressmatic was offered. Made from better plastic, these steel nibbed squeeze-fillers have often survived well, though their odd design means they’re not to everyone’s taste! During the sixties, Platignum made some truly awful school pens, plastic with plastic “gold” caps that leaked on your fingers. They made many a school student of that era glad to switch to ballpoints. Since then, cheap cartridge Platignums appeared in the eighties and nineties and I believe Platignums are available once again, though I don’t know whether they are made by the same company or another that has bought the name.
That’s by no means a comprehensive listing of MMC output, whether as Mentmore or Platignum. Successful at both the quality and value ends of the market, they were an interesting company with a fascinating history yet to be written.