There are many small pens: the various vintage pocket and ring top pens, modern Kaweco Sports, the various Japanese long-shorts and, I suppose, a host more. These pens have normal sized nibs, it is just the barrel and cap that is reduced. Then there are tiny pens: the Waterman Smallest Pen in the World, which I assume was just made to show that it could be done, the Peter Pan fountain pens and some Wyvern and Wahl Eversharp very small sets. These are pens that are proportionate in every respect, with very small nibs. The most famous and best of these is the Conway Stewart Dinkie.
I’ve tended, generally, to avoid them. The most modern ones are not worth much and some of the older ones are worth a great deal! I didn’t find them particularly easy to sell unless they were really outstanding. I’m a dealer not a collector and they didn’t really work for me. Of course, I’m interested in all fountain pens and the Dinkies began to appeal to me more. They get you in the end.
I remember a discussion that took place on the Fountain Pen Board some years ago, when someone said that Dinkies were for collecting rather than writing. They were too small to write with. Andy Russell replied to that saying (excuse me if I paraphrase, Andy, as I can no longer find the discussion) that of course they were for writing with, they were a huge seller and people didn’t buy them to look at. That of course is completely right. Some of the finest calligraphy ever written was done with birds’ feathers for goodness sake! I have seen a builder with hands like bear’s paws scribble a page of text with a stub of pencil less than an inch long. The notion that a pen has to be large enough to double as a weapon in a tight corner is an entirely modern one.
To the pen in hand: this is a Dinkie 540 from the 1940s. It’s a splendid little pen, like a Conway Stewart 286 in miniature. The colour is variously described as red moire or dark pink moire. Dusty pink would work for me. I filled this pen and wrote with it. It’s a delightful stubbish semi-flexible medium. Now, I am arthritic and I confess it is a little slender for someone with my affliction but I wrote a page of text with it without any difficulty. It’s exactly the same diameter as the wooden pencil I have in my jar, so those people who find a Dinkie too small to write with, can’t write with a pencil either. This is evidently a physical disability.
I’m not going to attempt to go over the history of the Dinkie – it has already been done splendidly by Andy Russell. Suffice it to say that if I were a collector, I could find no better field of collection than these wonderful, jewel-like and yet practical pens.