A Gold-Filled Swan Leverless


Here’s a nice little box.  What can be in there?
It’s a full-sized (13.7 cm) gold filled Swan which, for once, we can date precisely to 1947 – or even more precisely to 28 February 1947.  It’s a very elegant, understated pen.  By this late date these gold filled overlay pens were being made in Britain rather than in America.
The complete inscription reads “Fredk J Hampson.  28th February 1947”.  There is no clue as to the significance of the date, whether it be a birthday, a retiral or some other major signpost along the path of life – in particular, the life of Fred J Hampson.  It’s not a particularly common name, and I found two potential candidates.  The 1901 Census for Lambeth, London includes a Frederick J Hampson, born in 1896 and the youngest of a family of eight.  It’s quite possible that this was his pen.
There was also a company by the name of Frederick J Hampson in Atlantic Street, Broadheath, Altrincham, Cheshire.  The company was dissolved a year after the date of this inscription, in 1948.  Significant?  Coincidental?  I don’t know.

This is a Leverless, which looks especially good as an overlay pen.  The turn button at the end of the barrel is nicely finished and integrated into the smooth streamlining.  The date is not insignificant in Swan’s history.  It was in that and the following year that the plans were laid and production initiated for the cigar-shaped pens that followed this type.  It would be interesting to know what they did for presentation pens in that later style.  I’ve never seen one and perhaps Swan chose to remain with the elegant lines of this Leverless and the similarly slender and elegant Swan Minor 2.
Beautiful as it is, it’s not an ornament and it has clearly been used, though carefully.  There is a pinhead dent in the top Of the cap, and there is a little loss of gold at the end of the section next to the nib which has been caused by the more caustic inks of the mid-century.  Otherwise, it is in superb condition, showing little evidence of its age.  It remains a very usable pen to this day, with a good ink capacity and a splendidly flexible fine/medium nib.


11 thoughts on “A Gold-Filled Swan Leverless

  1. I use a near-identical gold-filled Swan Leverless. The ink sac is a little narrow for the pen which means that the twist-filler mechanism does not wring it out enough with a resultant reduced ink capacity. Some experts advise against too wide an ink sac to avoid entanglement with the pressure bar.
    Though the engraving on the pen shown is from 1947, I think this is a pre-war model which must have been sold after the war for presentation. The bend in the pocket clip is not found in the post-war models built by Mabie Todd.
    An elegant fountain pen.

    1. The usual problem with Leverless Swans is that they have been restored as if they were a lever or button-filler with a ridiculously narrow sac. I’ve seen 12s or 14s used, and of course the pressure bar merely circles around them. Marshall and Oldfield recommend using a sac that fully fills the barrel. For full-sized pens like this I use a 22. I’ve never come across a sac becoming entangled with the bar in an inappropriate way – after all the bar is meant to entangle the sac. Which experts are you quoting?

  2. David Nishimura of vintagepens.com is the only person I have read on the subject and his views do go against the received wisdom on this matter.Incidentally, is the size 22 sac that you use with a leverless pen a necked sac?

    1. I certainly respect David’s opinion in most things but I’m not sure what he’s getting at here. I use necked sacs when I can get them. When they are not available I use an ordinary sac and bind it with yarn at the nipple. That works well.

      You were saying that you thought the pen was earlier than 1947. It is a bit anomalous. However, I’ve seen this style of pen with an apparently later date on several occasions. I think they continued to manufacture this pen for use with overlays because the later model was unsuitable. Just my opinion, who can say? In the absence of company records we have to make of it what we will on the basis of slender empirical evidence.

  3. Yes, the destruction of company records in the war creates difficulties for dating the leverless overlays. A company catalogue from the early post-war years, if it exists, ought to show whether this kind of pen was being manufactured though, even there, instances of out-of-catalogue manufacture exist for other companies.

  4. The engraved date of a presentation pen does not indicate when the pen was made. Fortunately, however, I have just come across an internet picture of a Swan Leverless overlay in 14 carat gold which has London hallmarks and the mandatory manufacturing date gold and silver products which is 1949, The clip also has a step. This settles the issue.

    1. That’s the date of the overlay. It doesn’t necessarily indicate when the pen was made.

      For most purposes, the engraved date will do. That’s when the pen was sold and it wasn’t used before that. It’s unlikely that it would have been unsold in the shop for any great length of time. That tended not to happen until the advent of the reliable ballpoint pen, when interest in fountain pens began to fall away.

  5. Hallmarks with the date on the overlay are a more definite indication of the date of manufacture than the date engraved on a presentation pen. Pens were not engraved with dates, or anything else, except at the time of sale but precious metal overlays had to be dated and hallmarked by law. A metal overlay pen being expensive for those times would not, in all likelihood, be snapped up the moment it came into the shop. The turnover would be higher in the second-line and third line pens.
    New pens with engravings would not be bought.at all.
    That is why even second-hand pens with engravings fetch a lower price today.

    1. The pursuit of an exact manufacturing date for pens is a foolish enterprise. Not all overlays were applied in the factory. Some were fitted by jewellers and that was not done at the point-of-sale. The best source for pen dates is in printed material like production records, advertisements and catalogues, and these provide a range of manufacturing dates. As collectors we want to know where pens fall within the production of a company but an actual date, where it appears, is interesting and something of a bonus, but really of no great importance. It is unfortunate that company records for Mabie Todd no longer exist. As a result there are several pens within their output that are quite hard to date with absolute certainty. Often, we will know when they went into production but we don’t know when they ceased to be made.

      At the very top end of pen collecting, where pens fetch many thousands of pounds, there is a strong wish for it to be as original as possible and that is reflected in the price. However, for the everyday pens that I mostly trade in, including those with overlays, engravings don’t take a price penalty. That’s my experience in many years of selling pens.

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