Mabie Todd Swan 3230

It was in the early nineteen-fifties that the uniform grey pens were popular.  Almost every pen manufacturer made a grey pen.  It was a sign of the (very slightly) changing times.  It was a reserved, dignified colour but it wasn’t black.  For a few short years, in fact, grey was the new black.  Then many of these lovely grey pens began to show an unpleasant yellow discolouration.  Though it didn’t affect every pen, it was indiscriminate – Swans, Parkers, Wyverns – all were likely to suffer this malaise.  By the late fifties the grey pen had gone, never to return except for Conway Stewart which turned out a few in the seventies with the same sad results.  If it was decaying sacs that caused the discolouring, one would have thought it would have affected every pen but it didn’t.  Was it a widely – but not universally – used ink?  I don’t know, but it varied from slight patches of barely discernible yellowing to whole pens that took on a pale, ghastly corpse-like hue.  Not nice.
This Swan 3230 is one of the few that didn’t succumb to the yellow plague.  Good thing too, because it’s a superb pen.  The gold plating has lasted well throughout and the plastic has readily taken a shine. 


It’s my impression  – I may be wrong – that the grey plastic is harder than the other colours Swan used at this time, and doesn’t take scratches so easily.


It has had the nib replaced, with a No 3 rather than the No 2 it originally had.  I’m happy to leave it where it is though.  It fits and writes well and it’s a rather nice broad, rarest of all the nib types back in the day.

The unpopularity of the grey pen remains today.  A grey Parker Victory, for instance, will always go for a few pounds less than an otherwise identical black one, and this bias persists across manufacturers.  If you want a bargain on a first rate Swan, wait until a grey one appears in ebay  But watch out for the dreaded yellow lurgy!


4 thoughts on “Mabie Todd Swan 3230

  1. Deb, this blog is always a little pleasure, you are always so informative. I confess I don’t like grey pens as much as other colors. (but I have a friend who is desperately looking for a PFM V in that color)

  2. I haven’t bought from you before, but really like your blog, informative, interesting and amusing!

    I have a 3230, but it is not the same as yours: light grey, two gold bands, no.2 nib, brass threads, and some faint brown staining (even slightly visible on the cap). Didn’t the number of bands relate in some way to the nib size?

    Bob B

    1. Hi Bob,
      The brass threads date your 3230 to 1948/49. They were discontinued after that. Do the number of bands relate to the nib size? I don’t think the relationship is that direct. It’s more to do with aiming the trim and the nib at a certain price level. However, there will be much more discussion on the subject of Swan model numbers in a near future post.

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