High Quality Dip Pens


This is an unusual entry for me.  Dip pens are certainly not core to what I do, but Mabie Todd is.  Looking at these two treasures I suspect that dip pens may feature here a little more often.  I spotted this glorious dip pen when it first appeared on eBay.  It had a bid or two and I think it was around £6.00 at that time.  I knew that it would go higher – very, very much higher, but I hoped that it would not go beyond what I could afford, and as luck would have it I managed to obtain it within the budget I had set myself.


Mabie Todd as you may well know is one of the oldest pen companies.  It was formed as Mabie Todd & Co. some time in the 1840s and kept that name until 1873 when it became Mabie Todd & Bard.  It reverted to Mabie Todd in 1907.  As this nib is marked Mabie Todd, it could have originated in either of those periods but common sense suggests it is much more likely to be the latter.  The increasing popularity of fountain pens did not mean an immediate end to the production of dip pens which indeed continues to this day.  These very high quality dip pens were probably only made until around 1920, so give or take, this pen’s around 100 years old and is in splendid condition.  The large No. 3 nib is very flexible indeed.  Sorry there’s no writing sample – I’m just no good with dip pens.


The handle may be ivory but I think it’s more likely to be celluloid, and it is hand-painted with a very fetching floral design.  It’s a wonderful survival and while these high-quality fountain pens are not rare as a class, individual designs are often represented by only a few surviving examples.
It was, I believe, good value for money, but the seller (acetateblue in ebay – I recommend him highly!) kindly included another high-quality dip pen as a gift.  This one is a Grieshaber of probably around the same date.  Again, the nib is very flexible.  It’s a little smaller, probably around the No. 2 size.  The handle is mother-of-pearl and again the condition is very good.  Grieshaber is not well known here but it was an old established nib and pen company dating back to 1884.  They produced some outstanding high-quality dip pens and later went on to produce good quality fountain pens though they were generally conservative in style.
I confess that I don’t know a great deal about dip pens and dip pen holders.  I keep an eye on the market and have a general awareness of what’s available and how the prices run, but there’s a whole world of knowledge on this subject that I have yet to acquire.


8 thoughts on “High Quality Dip Pens

  1. Hi Deb,

    Sincere congratulations on your purchase.

    They are indeed two beautiful dip pens. I wish all of my dip pens were like that although funny enough I also bought a Mabie Todd dip pen few weeks ago. Just gorgeous stuff.

    You did not mention but hopefully your Mabie Todd has also got a solid gold nib. They are so flexible that makes many other ‘flexible’ nib pens look much firmer.

    Try to do some copperplate writing with it. It is just out of this world.

    Kind regards,


    1. I did give it a try and the flexibility is out of this world. Due to my own cack-handedness I was unable to produce anything I could include in the article. Yes, the Mabie Todd is gold too.

  2. They are gorgeous; I have never seen such lovely pens. When I read the compound noun “dip-pen” as with Marcel Proust’s Madeleine, I am immediately taken back to 1950s school days: beastly scratchy pens in foul-tasting painted wooden holders, used with ink (in a pottery inkwell) that appeared to have been dredged up from the legendary black bog! And then getting a slap when the writing did not turn out quite as it should. Problem was that some little creeps seemed to be able to do neat stuff; I never could.

    Congratulations, I hope you enjoy using them.

    1. Your memory of schooldays equates very closely with my husband’s, except that he remembers a bakelite inkwell and a whack across the knuckles with a ruler instead of a slap. To this day he can make nothing of dip pens though he’s a good writer. I’m not any better. Someone suggested that if I practised with a dip pen every day for half an hour I would be proficient in a month. Maybe I’ll try that, time and arthritis permitting.

      1. Yes, a sort of “Tract for the Times” perhaps – and yes I do remember the rap with the ruler and a form-master who was deadly accurate when hurling a piece of chalk at a miscreant .

        I recall that much later, when I was perhaps 15, new desks arrived; we thought it very funny that each came provided with a white plastics inkwell. These were never used for their intended purpose, but, I regret to say were popular for the noise they made when trodden upon.
        Naughty boys I suppose!

      2. Husband had a teacher who threw the blackboard duster!

        This could turn into, “When I were a lad we walked ten mile uphill to school in a blizzard, and teacher thrashed us for an hour to warm us up…”

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