Uniquely Unique

Uniques, it seems, are not well regarded. Even good examples sell for very little in eBay and most retailers avoid them. I think this is because of a reputation for poor quality, which is not entirely deserved. Unique, like many another pen manufacturer, made pens to suit all pockets and purposes, and in the 1930s they turned out pens that were the equal of any produced by the better-known manufacturers. By the post-war period it is true that they did not set their sights so high, but nonetheless they were still capable of producing good pens that are still available to the pen buyer with a discerning eye.


I don’t suppose that this was an expensive pen, and no more was spent on fripperies like gold plating or 14 carat gold than was absolutely necessary. In other words, the trim has a gold wash and the nib is quite small. In reality, of course, the only bit of the nib that does any work for you isn’t made of gold and it’s that little grey bit at the tip, so the size of the nib is much less to do with practicality than with bling. The gold wash, sadly, is another matter. It is disappointing that such an otherwise beautiful pen should be spoiled for what must have been comparatively little outlay. There’s an element of “the ship was lost for a ha’pworth of tar” here. However, the gold has lasted on the lever and the cap band and the clip is not unpleasant to look at, being bright and shiny though devoid of any hint of gold.


But look at that pattern! It may be wrapped celluloid sheet rather than machined from the rod as would have been the way in earlier days, but Unique is far from unique (oh stop it!) in that cheese-paring saving. Such highly respected manufacturers as Conway Stewart and Valentine did it, too. Unique, it has to be said, has done it rather well. Putting the pattern on the slant looks very good, and what a pattern it is, somehow combining both marbling and hatching. Also, there is no sign of the unfortunate delaminating that so often afflicts Valentines made by this method, and sometimes even Conway Stewarts.


But this is a pen made probably in the 1950s, not a limited edition of today, so it isn’t just about appearances; it’s expected to work. And work it does, very well. It has something of the Long-Short about it. Capped, it’s a modest 11.7cm but posted, it’s a quite practical 14cm. The small nib is a delight to write with, as smooth as one could wish and with enough flexibility to satisfy those to whom a firm nib is anathema.


There are good pens that will never appeal to collectors. The Dickinson Croxley is such a pen; well-made, an excellent writer, but because there is such a paucity of models it would form one of the world’s smaller collections. Croxleys, therefore, sell well as writers’ pens. Unique on the other hand, in its much longer history, produced a great many models and in its later days used some very fine plastic patterns. I would guess you could fill a display case or two with Uniques. The writing sample above speaks for itself. It’s a writer’s pen, too. If you want to snag an excellent and decorative British pen for very little money, get yourself a Unique. Buy with caution, I hasten to add, because some of their cheaper pens truly are shoddy, but there are fine bargains to be had.

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