Mabie Todd Swan 3261 (Again!)

I note that this is becoming something of a Swan blog. That’s not really my intention, but I suppose it does reflect my own preferences. Also, I think I’ve written about the Swan 3261 before but as it’s the model I restore most, I think I can risk writing about it again.

The 3261 was at the lower end of the Swan price range. It’s a close relative of the pen I wrote about last, also designed in 1948 and produced from then into the early fifties. Judging by the numbers I see, it was probably Mabie Todd’s most popular pen of the time. It was fitted with some of the most delightful nibs too; stubs, oblique stubs and flexible nibs abound among 3261s.

After a long period when Swans were made only in celluloid, the 3261 and some of its larger siblings reverted to black hard rubber. Why this should be so remains a mystery. Perhaps there were large stocks of it which needed to be used up. Maybe it was customer demand, though this seems quite unlikely. It’s unlikely too – though I suppose possible – that among the other post-war shortages was a dearth of celluloid. Whatever the reason, I think we have cause to be grateful. BHR is warm and pleasant to the touch and it makes for a light pen, which I prefer.

These pens were exceptionally well made. In a sense, they’re over-engineered, with the brass threads and screw-in section. They’re not without their faults, though. Many of these BHR torpedo-shaped Swans have cracks in the cap lip. They fade, though in most cases the fading is slight, to a pleasant chocolate brown which only serves to remind us that this is a natural substance, which weathers in a natural way. The barrel imprints wear away much more than is the case with earlier BHR or celluloid Swans, and most show some wear on the gold plating, especially on the cap rings. Though it doesn’t concern the user or collector, repairers need to be careful with this one, as the peg that the sac attaches to is fragile and will break easily if care isn’t taken with the knock-out block.

When everything else has been considered, the final approval of any pen lies in whether it is good to write with, and the 3261 certainly is. Light and perfectly balanced, well-shaped for the hand and equipped with superb nibs, these are fine writing instruments. These torpedo-shaped pens were just about the last of the great Swans. We’re lucky that there are so many of them around.


5 thoughts on “Mabie Todd Swan 3261 (Again!)

  1. I like Swans from this era a lot. As you say there is a wonderful range of nibs to try including flexy, stub etc. I haven’t tried the 3xxx series but I have a wonderful stub nibbed 4660 and a 4230 with a superb wet noodle nib. They won’t be the last and your post inspires me to look at the 3xxx series.

    What do you know of the model numbering system?

    Of the four digits-

    Digit 1 = filler type: 4=leverless, 3=lever fill
    Digit 2 = nib size from 1 to 6 as far as I have seen
    Digit 3 = From 2 to 6 from what I have seen but I have no idea what it indicates
    Digit 4 = Mostly 0 but can be 1 or may be other digits. Again I have no idea what it indicates.

    I haven’t a clue what the last two digits indicate?

    1. Hi Malcolm,

      I believe you’re right on the first two digits. The third one is, I think, a colour code. 4 is green and 7 is one of the blues, for instance. Not so sure about the final one, but it may be material, e.g celluloid or BHR.

      Thank you for subscribing. I hope you enjoy the blog.


    2. In the case of an earlier example say 100/61, or 205/60. The 6 = Black (Chased?), and the 0/1 = Celluloid, or Hard Rubber. So in the case of a 205/60 (which has a #2 nib as opposed to a #1 from a 1xx/xx), it’s Black Chased Celluloid, if it were /61 it’d be black chased hard rubber, so in the case of the 3261, the 61 is BCHR.

      1. Hi Karl,

        Good to see you here.

        61 is black hard rubber whether it’s chased or not. 60 is black, made from a material which is not black hard rubber. I hesitate to say celluloid because many Mabie Todd pens are made from a plastic which is not celluloid, and nobody these days can tell what it is.

        Mabie Todd codes are rather better understood now than they were a few of years ago but they are still complicated and they were changed on a couple of occasions

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