For more than forty years, tiny pens were extremely popular in Britain. Though several companies produced their own versions, by far the best known is the Conway Stewart Dinkie. It was introduced in 1922 or 1923, depending on who you read, and the first examples were advertised as men’s waistcoat pocket pens, but they soon became the favourite ladies’ pen, whether in purse form with no clip, the chatelaine type with a ring or as a standard pen with a pocket clip. Many of the earliest ones were in hard rubber but they soon became a showcase for the new material, casein, and appeared in an almost limitless range of wonderful colours and patterns. Later, in the post-war period, the 550 range Dinkies became miniature versions of the company’s standard pens, with the same shapes and patterns.
Though they were advertised as “the smallest practical fountain pen ever made”, I, for one, don’t find them practical. Though I have small hands, Dinkies are too small for me to write with for an extended period. What they are, though, is the collector’s pen par excellence. Such is the range of models and the variety of colours and patterns within each model that one could build a very large collection of Dinkies alone. Many of the pre-war models are rare or uncommon and fetch high prices.
The post-war 550 is very common and doesn’t fetch especially high prices. They’re beautifully made, jewel-like objects, and the sets are well-presented in attractive boxes. Popular as birthday and Christmas gifts, the sets often remained unused and frequently appear in first-class condition today.
This example is in what Jonathan Donahaye described as a “wallpaper pattern”.
The pen and pencil are in the “marbled green/black veins” pattern which was issued quite late in the 550 series. The gold plating is immaculate and I suspect that the pen and pencil have hardly ever been out of the box. The tiny nib is an example of the jeweller’s craft and the pen writes with some flexibility.