Less Common Pens – Roll-Tip


I don’t suppose there’s anyone out there building a collection of Roll-Tip pens.  Beginning about 1951 this London company turned out rock-bottom basic fountain and ballpoint pens in a variety of styles.  The products were price-driven but they did the job well enough for the company to be consistently profitable.  Over time they acquired or became associated with Penkala Pens and Queensway, both well known for lower end mass market pens.  In 1963 a further acquisition placed them with no less a luminary than Conway Stewart, but this was not the Conway Stewart of forties and fifties fame, but a company intent on swapping quality for price.
I’m not sure when this cartridge-filling Roll-Tip was produced.  It’s in an attractive pastel green plastic with a brushed steel cap.  The English-made folded-tip nib is probably stainless steel and has a Parker 45 look about it.  The pen will take small international cartridges.  The cap still fits firmly and the pen writes well.
What does one say about pens like this?  Most of the pens that were in this price range have been scrapped long ago, or like the execrable Queensways continue to exist in a ruinous state.  This pen isn’t like that.  It’s in good condition, it isn’t unattractive and it probably shares a level of quality with many modern pens.  Also, it has to be said that these very inexpensive pens probably reflected the writing experience of most people more closely than a high-quality Swan or Conway Stewart.
What does one do with them?  Are they worthy of our interest?  Do I chuck this pen away or do I offer it at a nominal price to anyone who might want it?  After all, it writes just as well as a more expensive pen and it has proven durability.  It would probably make an excellent daily writer until the folded nib finally wears out, but even that is a long time away.

12 thoughts on “Less Common Pens – Roll-Tip

  1. Might there be an argument to suggest that pens like this are more in need of protection than the ones from the big famous companies? As such pens would have been the ‘normal’ pens of the day, isn’t there a risk that they might be lost to the passing of time?

    Usually, the everyday tools and artifacts say more about people than the luxury goods.

    1. Very well put, Duncan. I agree, at least for those pens that can be put back in working order. There are some, like the pens from the thirties and forties that were marked “Foreign” and were clearly never intended to be serviced that we have little option but to let go. However, unless a collector or user base appears for these pens, it’s unlikely that restorers will put time into them. Yes, the odd one maybe, for the curiosity value, but beyond that… Trouble is, they don’t put bread on the table and restorers like to eat now and again too.

      It’s a difficult one. Pens like this Roll-Tip have interest from a social history viewpoint, rather than any intrinsic interest in the pen. They don’t break new ground, they are not admirable in design or construction (though this one is adequate) and the people who made them mass-produced them as limited lifetime products. On the other hand, people are buying Chinese pens some of which are nowhere near as good as the Roll-Tip.

  2. I still have my Roll-tip Queensway pen that i put to good use during my school days in the early 1960’s. I still have fond memories of using this pen and with an interest in calligraphy have often tried to obtain replacement ink cartridges for this pen but with little success.

    1. Do the short international cartridges not fit? These later Queensways with Rolltip manufacturing and quality control (which was good) seem to be very durable. I hope you can find a cartridge to fit your pen.

  3. Hi

    I have a Roll-tip set that is lovely in its own right. It is a fountain pen, ballpoint pen and pencil set in a lovely shade of blue. Of course, the quality is not that of a sheaffer or parker. Frankly, I don’t find that the quality is up there with some of the Arnolds that I own. However, it is a nice set.

    1. These pens at the bottom end of the scale have their interest too. They’re often a better reflection of what was owned and used by the ordinary person than the Swans and Conway Stewarts which just have a better survival rate.

  4. I have two “brand new” roll tip fountain pens with original packaging at 5 cartridges, been trying to find more information on them.

    1. Roll-Tip had been around since the early 50s producing cheap ballpoints and fountain pens. They were taken over by Conway Stewart, around 1963 I think, and produced pens similar to the Conway Stewart output. They have little or no intrinsic value but may be of interest to a completist Conway Stewart collector.

  5. I have a Rolltip that was in a box of misc. pens I bought at auction. It’s made of a shiny black plastic with an ink window and a plunger filler. I doubt if it would come apart as its probably been glued with a solvent adhesive. However after cleaning it works fine. About the same size as a Parker Vector and writes very similarly. I assume this was pre-cartridge technology.

    1. They made basic, inexpensive pens. Quite a lot have survived, many of them in working condition. They were taken over by Conway Stewart in the mid-60s and thereafter they were just rebadged Conway Stewarts.

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