Unique

unique

I said in comments some days ago that I had never seen a lizardskin Unique. Peter Hinchcliffe kindly supplied me with an excellent image of one.
uniques
He also gave me a picture of several other beauties. How can these pens be so under-appreciated?

I’ve discussed Uniques before, if you care to search. I have nothing to add, really, except that my earliest speculation as to their history is pretty wide of the mark!

24 thoughts on “Unique

  1. Hi Deb,

    At least their under-appreciation means I can still afford them!

    I have an identical lizardskin which is branded “Richard-Morges” but perhaps that is a story for another day.

    I chose the other four pens because I thought that they represented four decades (at least) of the “Unique” pen quite well.

    The first is a hard rubber No. 6 from the 1920s which is fitted with a wonderfully flexible nib.

    The second is the only button-filler “Unique” I have been able to find. This was almost definitely 1930’s production and why they are so rare I have no idea. Incidentally the named clip appears to be made of brass and again I haven’t seen another.

    The third was my first ever “Unique” and is the most magnificent colour. The dark green and dark brown marble pens seem to have been produced in large numbers but this is a very unusual almost luminescent green.

    Finally the fourth pen is something of a mystery. I think this is a very late 1950s or even early 1960s pen and almost definitely produced after the closure of the Union Pen Co. Ltd. The pen itself is good quality and fitted with the type of “Unique” steel nib usually found on the Juniors.
    I believe the material is what Parker referred to as “Laidtone” and they stopped using it around 1948 (please correct me if I am wrong). I bought the pen from Portugal and it is simply marked “Unique” – “Foreign” but fitted with a “Unique – Made in England” nib which seems to be original. The other pens I have of that period have been made in France and are marked as such. Where was this made I wonder?

    Regards.

    Peter

    1. It sounds like you have a fine collection, Peter. Have you thought about getting something together about the history of Unique? In any case, thanks for your generosity with the photographs and information.

  2. Looking at Peter’s picture I was clearly wrong. That lizardskin has all the hallmarks of being of Unique manufacture.
    I’ve never seen the fourth pen but agree that is probably a fairly late product. If so, it may have come from Italy as Unique built up extensive contacts there.
    I’ve recently acquired a ball pen and pencil set where the box has a crude ‘Unique’ insert inside and the pens are only marked ‘Unique’. Interestingly there is a ‘K’ stamped on the clip.
    As said previously, what I believe to be the last ‘Unique’ pens sold are generic 51esque syringe fillers with no markings at all. I only know that they are Unique’s because they are still attached to a Unique sales card. Again I now believe that they are also Italian in origin.

  3. Just yesterday, the the twin to the 1920s No 6 arrived – a recent eBay capture. I had to use a loupe to see the Unique makers detail, so either well used, or well polished. Mine has a stunning wet, broad, semi-flex nib. Excellent pen and I am most pleased.

    1. Hi Peter / Deb,

      “The Unique Pen” was forced to register under the 1916 Registration of Business Names Act and although they did not register the company until November 1921 they declare that they were trading prior to the 1916 Act. In actual fact the owners first take premises in London in 1900.

  4. Dear Peter,
    I am from Lisbon and 6 years later I am reading this post after buying my first “The Unique” fountain pen. Could you please confirm if the one with the named clip has “The Unique” on the clip? This pen seems to be a Parker Duofold “Flat top” and has a Parker Duofold nib. I think Parker was one of the owners of this brand. and maybe this is the reason why.
    Thank you.

    1. Hello Joao,
      As you are replying to Peter, I suspect that you may be replying to an old comment. I don’t know which of several Unique posts you are referring to. I hadn’t thought of Unique as a Parker brand at any time. Perhaps we could explore this idea further

      1. Hello Joao / Deb,

        I have seen several references over the years (particularly in ebay pen descriptions) stating that Unique was a subsidiary of Parker. It was not! During the war years the Unique factory was given over to the production of small arms munitions and as a consequence there is some suggestion that some of their manufacturing of pens was moved temporarily during this period to Parker’s Newhaven production facility. I have not been able to find any evidence at all to support this suggestion but certainly Uniques were never branded as Parker.

        I hope that helps.

  5. Dear Sirs,
    Indeed there are several references to Parker and Unique.
    My answer was for Peter Hinchliffe, because mine has a button filler (never seen other like this) and the clip and the barrel has “The Unique” engraved. The shape of the pen is exactly the shape of the Parker Duofold “Flat top”. Is a beautiful fountain pen. How can I send a picture?
    Thank you for both comments.

      1. I sent already some pictures from my Unique fountain pen. You may post all these photos if you wish.

  6. It was here on this blog, May 3, 2011 (Unique), that someone posted the following: “I have heard it said that they were made at Newhaven, first by Valentine and later under Parker ownership, and it is likely that there was never a Unique manufacturing plant.”

    1. The relationship between the Union Pen Company and Unique is quite complicated. The Union Pen Company was one of many small pen manufacturers and appear to have developed a relationship with Unique in the 1920’s.

      Unique, like Stephens sold their own brand of pens but had them manufactured for them. It wasn’t until the early 1930’s that Unique became a stand alone company and took on their own manufacturing facility which was actually owned by Union Pen Company, by now an associated company, so Union made pens for Unique and others and Unique sold pens.

      It is also clear that Unique/ Union also outsouced production when demand was high. Lang’s being a strong contender as they also supplied nibs (at least prewar). I didn’t believe Altura/ Watermans were involved, as Lambrou had claimed until I found a Unique sporting a boxed lever.

      It is quite possible that production was out sourced to Valentines as they would make small batches for anyone. Early in the war Eversharp entered the market and had pens produced by Langs and Valentine’s. What isn’t clear is whether Eversharp were procuring those pens themselves or if it was through Unique who produced most if not all their later fountain pens.

    2. The problem with the ‘Duofold’ is that every man and his dog copied them in England. Some styleistically and others faithfully right down to the Christmas tree feed. That includes Valentine’s who are said to have made/ assembled batches for Parkers in the 1930’s as well, while their Progess pen was a clone obtained from Omas who had been owned by Parker’s for a short period earlier.

      There most definitely was a Unique manufacturing plant at 579 Kingston Road Raynes Park (Wimbledon) SW20. Unfortunately all be one building (which may have been Unique) has been levelled awaiting redevelopment. After its closure they moved across the road to 578 which still exists as a carpet remnants shop

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