Parker 45

When we mention vintage pens, we all think of something slightly different.  For you it might be pens before 1980.  For me it’s pens before 1960.  That’s because by that date, the place of the fountain pen in the world had changed.  By that time the ballpoint had become completely reliable and was the writing instrument of choice.  My husband was ten in 1960 and he says that the ballpoint was the cool choice by then.  That’s what the schoolkids wanted to use but the teachers insisted on fountain pens.

After 1960 fountain pens were no longer just competing against each other; they were in a death-struggle with the ballpoint pen.  Several pen companies had already gone to the wall and the rest were suffering.  From then on, every fountain pen would be made in the knowledge that it would be in a fight for market share.  Pens were made for an ever-smaller niche.  As time went on more and more fountain pens were made with the hobbyist and collector in mind.

It was in 1960, right on the cusp of my date for the end of the vintage pen, that Parker brought out its budget 45.  I don’t propose to repeat the history of the 45.  You can find that on the excellent  The 45 was Parker’s first attempt at the cartridge/converter pen.  Some people say that the name is a nod to the Colt 45 and its cartridges.  Be that as it may, the 45 has some resemblance to the Parker 51.  It has a collector to control ink flow and the first 45s followed the plastic barrel/metal cap pattern of the 51.  Later ones were all plastic.  Then came Flighters, Insignias, the 45 CT Arrow and colourful Harlequins.  In one form or another the 45 was in production for 47 years.  I don’t know how many pens were sold, nor, I believe, does anyone else.  Hundreds of thousands I should think, and I believe it was Parker’s last really big seller.

For years I ignored the 45.  Most of its production years were too late for it to attract my interest.  Ebay is full of them and they don’t make much money.  Of course some came my way when they formed part of lots that I bought.  Apart from the converters, which can fail, every one I had worked well right away.  The nibs come in all shapes and sizes and are easily interchangeable.  With the exception of the Parker 17 (that’s for another day), I don’t like hooded nibs.  I find their looks unappealing and I have to look to ensure I’m holding the pen the right way.  That’s why Parker put the arrow on the hood of the 61.  But the 45 isn’t really an enclosed nib.  It’s partially hooded but enough of that little trangular nib protrudes that it’s instantly apparent which way up the pen is.

For one reason or another I’ve ended up with a lot of Parker 45s in recent times.  I put them up on the sales website for a peppercorn price and sooner or later they go.  Apart from the rather more special ones like the Harlequins and Insignias, they’re never going to be money-spinners because there are so many of them available.

I’ve kept one or two fine-nib Parker 45s because they write so well.  The plastic they are made from is light and they are very well balanced.  They don’t seem to be subject to any obvious faults like cracking or shrinkage.  The press-on cap can become loose but that’s easily repaired.  I find myself using a Parker 45 often.  The pen has sneaked into my heart.  From ignoring them for years I have become a Parker 45 enthusiast.

At a time when other pen manufacturers were struggling to sell fountain pens, Parker managed to turn out a succession of successes from the Aerometric Duofolds to the 45s and 17s and on to the elegant 75.  That may have fallen away in more recent times and, no longer a stand-alone company, its products may have lost the obvious stamp of Parker quality.  However, as long as the 45 remains ubiquitous we are unlikely to forget how good Parker once was.


13 thoughts on “Parker 45

  1. I ignored them too for many years. Then I bagged an olive green one, which reminds me of our kitchen when I was small, for around $10. Wet broad nib that’s really smooth, a nondescript pen but one that’s not apt to fail. Except for the converter, of course!

  2. Olive green is one of the ‘Happy Colours’ – if it’s too nondescript for you – please do send to me – I have the devil of a problem finding those colours …………. the others are yellow, orange, mauve and aqua.:-):-) – but agree olive is probably the least appealing.
    I’ve a single ballpoint in olive – perhaps they’re scarce.

  3. I only got into fountain pens in 2013 and got my first 45’s a couple of years later.They are definitely workhorses in the world of fountain pens. I have many higher end vintage and modern pens and my 45’s perform just as well as they do and I have one in my EDC almost constantly. Since that first 45 a couple of years ago I have obtained about a dozen of them in various colors. One with a personalization that I was able to use to locate the original owner.

  4. I find most of them have distorted sections. It doesn’t affect the function at all but does spoil the look a bit. I did my A levels and degree with one which taints them a little bit for me, but I always look at the nib when i come across them and will buy them if there is an unusual one in there.

    Paul, I think I have a spare olive (is that the sort of mid / dirty green?) if you are interested.

    1. thanks Simon – judging by my ballpoint – then yes, olive is a rather sombre green – just like dull olives – not a very green green.
      If you have an olive f.p. to spare and happy to part with same, then yes, I’d be a grateful recipient – do let me know the cost please.
      Not sure, but you may need to contact Deb who will pass my details to you – expect Deb will respond on this.
      Would agree that of the very few downsides to this pen, there is percentage that are affected by shrinkage of the section plastic. But 45s can be very common at times and aside from the rare ones, with patience many can be found in good nick eventually (that is apart from the Happy Colours:-))

  5. thanks for that assistance Deb. – much appreciated. You may be correct about the causes of distortion – I’ve noticed it on the odd 61 as well.

  6. I bought a Parker 45 when I was in college in the 1970s, and it was my workhorse pen for nearly 30 years. (I started using fountain pens in elementary high school in the 1960s, the really cheap Sheaffer cartridge school pens that were infinitely cooler than the ubiquitous ballpoints everyone else used. I still can’t bear to write with ballpoints…) I cannot count how many pages I’ve written with it, at least thousands, as I was a prolific journal keeper and letter writer for most of the time.

    I got a Montblanc to replace it in the 1990s, when I thought I had lost the Parker. Mind you, I didn’t know the Montblanc brand at the time, or that they were considered luxury pens. It was simply what the sales clerk recommended to me when I described what I needed in a pen, so I bought it. But it was never as reliable as my Parker 45, and wasn’t nearly as comfortable to use for long writing sessions. I was thrilled when the Parker showed up again in an old box of books I hadn’t unpacked. The Montblanc disappeared sometime later and I never looked for it.

    I still have the Parker 45, and yes, it was olive green and a medium point. If it were a fine point, I would probably still be using it. But sadly my tastes have changed as I grew older and my handwriting shrank in size. I now prefer fine lines for legibility reasons.

    Oh, the section distortions come from the little springy things inside the cap that press against the plastic to hold it on the pen. The ones on my pen are very pronounced, and I watched them develop over the years of use.

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