The Royal City Fountain Pen

These pens turn up occasionally in eBay, usually black chased like this one, but sometimes marbled. I wouldn’t intentionally buy one, but this one came to me as part of a job lot I bought for the sake of another pen that was included in it.

The pen could date as early as the late twenties, but I suspect that it’s later. Makers of cheap pens were often conservative in their designs, and this pen is about as cheap as pens of that period get. That said, it probably worked well enough when it was new. The nib is actually tipped rather than having a doubled-over end, as you see on many very cheap nibs. It was gold plated, though most of the gold-wash has gone. It’s marked “Warranted 14k Gold”, with the additional and important word “plated” sneakily hidden under the section. This was a trick that manufacturers of low-cost pens used extensively in the USA, but I don’t think this pen’s American.

The pen has no barrel or cap imprint but the word “foreign” is stamped on the lever. In those protectionist days, such a label doubtless had tariff implications that escape me, but it does narrow the field a little. Most imports were marked with their country of origin, like “Made in Germany” or “Swiss Made” for instance. Then there was “Empire Made” or “Commonwealth Made” which implied Hong Kong or India, among others. This elimination doesn’t leave many other countries that were capable of mass production in the nineteen-thirties, so I think we may assume Japan to be the most likely source of this pen. Maybe it’s a stretch, but I think that “Royal City” sounds like the kind of appellation that would have seemed dignified and impressive in Japanese but loses something in translation and becomes meaningless in a British context.

The pen is made from, I think, chased black plastic, rather than hard rubber. It shows little signs of use, but there is swelling of the barrel and the lever cut-out gapes. Either the threads are poorly cut or there is shrinkage of the barrel, as the cap doesn’t fit well. There’s no inner cap, so the nib would have tended to dry out and there was the possibility of leakage. To top it all, the pen was made in such a way that it cannot be taken apart to replace the sac.

If you see a Royal City pen offered for sale, don’t buy it. Really.


2 thoughts on “The Royal City Fountain Pen

  1. I bought one off e-bay a while ago and can say that they are made out of cheap nasty thin black plastic which suggests that it came from China recently. There is nothing about the pen which recommends purchasing it apart from the box.

    Don’t visit very often so I hope you have recovered.

    Regards, Peter

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