A Coral Blackbird

In eBay during the week there was a late Blackbird in the colour known as coral. These pens are not common. I’ve seen them before but not often. I bid on it in a half-hearted way and I didn’t get it. I was disappointed but not too disappointed. It was something of a rarity but it was also unattractive to my mind.

Ink had penetrated the cap and barrel in several places and it seemed unlikely that it could be completely cleaned. The other thing that was against it was the colour. It reminded me of creepy, scary pink plastic dolls. I wasn’t a girly-girl as a child. Dolls didn’t do it for me. They looked like dead things. Dead things that blinked, said, “Mama,” and even, in the most horrifying of cases, walked!

Those late lever fill Blackbirds are far from the best of the Mabie Todd output but I’ve had ones in marbled blue or red that were attractive. They sold quickly so it seems that other people shared my appreciation. I wonder if the coral one would have sold so well. It might have reminded some of an amputated finger.


Edit to add:  On further consideration, this pen is rather earlier than I originally thought.  Thirties, perhaps.

And again, maybe not!

21 thoughts on “A Coral Blackbird

  1. Hmm, it might be a ….significant bit of M.T history, but to me it’s a singularly unattractive little pen.
    I’ve got, and seen some much more pleasant ‘coral’ coloured pens ! Plus, as you say, it was from towards the end of their heyday.

  2. When this one arrives I’ll tell you more re the ink damage – though I’m hoping the staining is on the outside only, and that some judicious use of fine grades of w. & d. followed by some micro-gloss polish might remove these blemishes – must wait and see.
    For whatever reasons, the seller appears to have a less than high feedback rating, so I might regret this one, but I also considered the pen to be scarce and since the outlay wasn’t exorbitant I’m more than happy even if the condition isn’t first quality.
    The pen was described as pink, and going on the ebay image alone I’m tempted to agree – I have a M.T./Swan f.p. in coral – albeit one only – and in the flesh coral is in my opinion not the attractive shade you might imagine – it’s more of a dull brownish pink, not really the bright appealing colour of real coral, which I thought was more of a red.
    But – again I could have the wrong end of the stick, and perhaps the seller’s pix were doctored in some way to make the pen appear pink, though can’t imagine why, since most non-pen collectors probably lack knowledge of the rare colours from M.T. with which to attempt to hike the value.
    Certainly if the ebay pictures are passably accurate then this pen isn’t coral, though maybe this is what coral looks like when it fades:-)

    I don’t see the word pink used on either Steve Hull’s list of M.T. Blackbird colours, or ditto on the other list compiled by Hugh (forgotten his surname) – so really quite mystified – and must wait to see the pen.

    As to age, my initial thoughts were that this one was a 1950s pen – the long clip is reminiscent of others from that period, with long clips, and I didn’t consider them to be early. On looking closer at my examples, with long clips, they all appear to have a slightly recessed gilt coloured metal jewel – whereas this pen has a black ‘plastic’ jewel. So now really not sure – though until proven otherwise I’m going for a later design.

    What makes you say earlier Deborah – not a trick question, just interested:-)

    1. The black plastic jewel reminds me of other thirties pens I have had. I’m only guessing at coral as the colour – there is no pink so far as I can tell. That would be /73, perhaps faded.

      I have seen a pen like this before, but it is very uncommon. I think you got a rare pen for a good price. I hope it will clean up well.

      Just watch out for that amputated finger…

  3. if Andy is listening, would appreciate his input as to which colour he considers this is.

  4. thanks Deborah – I do agree that this shell pink does look a tad kitsch/cheap – am sure somewhere in the past I’ve seen an Osmiroid with this colour. Peering at the pix it does seem that the nib is a Blackbird which is something to be grateful for. Don’t think it will be with me until some time near the middle of next week, but will up-date you in due course.

  5. As this one has the black clip screw, it is from the very last knockings of MT – about 1956. The range then had colours called Kashmir Beige and Mexican Tan. I’m guessing it is the former.

    1. I have photographed an apparently identical Blackbird for the forthcoming Swan book. Steve dates this at 1956, as Simon says, but with no other information as to a colour identification name or number. The actual colour is an orangey-pink (nothing like coral), but I’m fairly certain it is the same as the pen originally pictured, which has maybe faded a little. From Simon’s options, based on the original colour, I’d prefer the Mexican Tan, but I really have no idea!

  6. very big thanks to Simon and Andy for their knowledgeable input. Thinking of the base names mentioned – beige and tan – neither are exactly what we might imagine to be associated with what so far looks not a long way from a shell pink. But designers and ad men aren’t perhaps known for their accuracy, and the connotation implied in words like Kashmir and Mexican may well sell more pens than saying simply ‘pink’.
    Obviously I can provide more pix when I have this one, if Deborah so wishes.

  7. Hey guys, there will undoubtedly be purists spinning in their graves …but I had a little waterman W2 with nasty ink stains around the thread end of the barrel and …here we go …judicious application of household bleach on a cotton bud made the stains disappear !!!! Worked for me , no guarantees or responsibility 😜

  8. Bleach I can understand as removing some stains etc., Rob, but couple of questions – was your pen celluloid – and what was the colour of the pen.
    Some materials might react less well to bleach – assume your application was neat? 🙂

    1. …..didn’t think anyone would like that. However it did work. It was a grey W2. And I assume they are a type of plastic that didn’t react to the bleach !
      I certainly wouldn’t do it to anything valuable or made of something I wasn’t sure about.
      Hope my cred didn’t just go down the drain 🤣

  9. thanks, I will stay some distance from the stuff then. My arsenal of cleaners is usually limited to the very fine w. & d. papers and liquid micro-gloss products.
    I’m not too bothered if I don’t get the pen back to it’s ‘just left the factory look’ – I’m happy for the pen to retain a little of life’s affects, though I’m hoping that I can reduce some of the ink blemishes.

    1. A weak ammonia solution should be OK. Bleach is sodium hypochloride and is notorious in the pen world. It will eat metals and alloys and will destroy cellulose fibres over time. It is said that it will damage rubber but I don’t know whether that’s true or not.

  10. Jeremy Collingridge did an experiment on de-oxidizing BHR in the WES journal a couple of years ago. He tried bleach, and if I remember correctly, thought it gave some of the best results. No mention of any damage. I tried it on an extremely oxidized spare barrel and it didn’t seem to do any damage (nor was it effective at blackening the barrel/


    1. I’ve tried that too. It leaves a very rough surface. For a brief period a decade ago it was suggested as a re-blacking method but I don’t think anyone takes it seriously now.

  11. I’ve used Mark Hoover’s product and the results have been good on some pens, but it can be unpredictable – just wish I knew his formula:-) I have too many oxidized pens in both BHR and BCHR – can’t seem to stay away from buying them, especially it they’re M.T. – I have a liking for old f.ps. – I’m really not into buying pristine pens only – there’s too much history in these old things to ignore them, even when they appear shabby. So, when I get the time I’ve plenty of brown or semi-brown pens to experiment on, and if anyone has suggestions as to a potential de-oxidizing substance that might be used, do shout.
    If it wasn’t for losing the chasing patterns then the rather long winded abrasive method using w. & d. would be the answer.
    The quest is to find a suitable concoction that will dissolve the oxidized material without harming the restof the BHR.

    A weak solution of ammonia is recommended often as a flushing agent to clean the internals of pens when there’s some suspicion of clogging or poor ink flow, so might be tempted to give that a go.

    Forgot to offer sympathies to Deborah that she was outbid on this one – I know how frustrating being outbid can make you feel:-)

    1. I’m glad you got the pen, Paul. As regards re-blacking – which I don’t do – the only thing that seems successful at the moment is the Hoover concoction. Of course we don’t know what’s in the Hoover mixture; perhaps the pens will crumble away to a little pile of dust in a year or two. Rubbing down will work well with smooth pens but most are chased.

      I’m outbid on most pens I bid on. I’m determined to keep my prices down as far as I can and I don’t pay inflated prices. If I don’t get one pen I’ll get another.

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