Sheaffer Imperial IV

I admire Sheaffers for their creativity and innovation. Not so much their technical innovation; the Touchdown and Vac Fill don’t strike me as especially elegant or efficient. It’s more their aesthetic innovation that appeals to me, that and their quality. The Balance, the Triumph nib and the inlaid nib – these things show the creativity of the Sheaffer company in its heyday.

This is a Sheaffer Imperial IV. There are so many similar pens in the Sheaffer output from the 60s to the 90s that it is quite difficult to work out which is which. This pen has one version of the inlaid nib and I find it very elegant and beautiful, particularly in a pen that was not very expensive. Not everyone likes the inlaid nib. I’m not quite sure what it is that they dislike about it but I suppose all innovations will seem strange to some.

The Imperial IV doesn’t make a high price. I don’t remember what I paid for this one but it wasn’t much. It remains with me because of the quality of the nib. It’s the only medium that I have – I usually use only fine or extra-fine. This nib is such a pleasure to use that I forgive it the broader line.

I believe that the Imperial IV was made from 1964 to 1976, a good run which accounts for the fact that they are still common. My pen remains in good condition despite its age. The only flaw is in the loss of plating on the clip. The plating on the broad cap band remains perfectly good. The plastic – whatever it is – shows little sign of the passage of the years. The gold nib has had no accidents and it remains in great shape. Though this pen was intended for use with Sheaffer cartridges it accepts short international ones without difficulty.

These pens and others which resemble it closely, with either gold or steel nibs, can be picked up for a song. Not really a collector’s pen, it’s a bargain for those who want an inexpensive high-quality everyday writer.

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The Parker Televisor Mark I

I’ve had the slender version of the Televisor before but this is my first full-size Standard. It’s 132 mm capped whereas the Slender is 122 mm, an appreciable difference in the hand. Parker made these pens from 1935 to 1938, in other words, around the same period as the Thrift Pens. The Televisor cost a little more than them and I don’t think it would be right to include it with those pens. The only real resemblance is in the clip which is pretty much the same as the one on the Challenger.

Otherwise, I think, it’s very much its own pen, rather unlike other Parkers. This one, with its Pearl And Black hatched pattern, shows off the three slim cap rings well. The rounded ends are distinctive and remind me a little of one version of the Esterbrook Relief. It has an ink window which offers a rather small view of the contents of the pen. It isn’t entirely impractical, though. Hold the pen horizontally and give the ink time to settle and it will give a good indication of how much ink is left

This, I believe, was the first Parker to be made only in Canada, for the British market. The original nib is quite distinctive. Not only is it marked as a Canadian product, Televisor nibs are usually springy and even flexible. The ball end clip identifies this as the first version of the Televisor. Like most Parkers of this period it is a button filler and it uses the hanging pressure bar which allows the pen to be fitted with a friction fit section.

Televisor. That’s an odd name, but it reflects the fact that television was the great innovation of the time and the word was on everyone’s lips. It also hints at the presence of the ink visible section. The Televisor proved to be a considerable success and these pens appear quite commonly today. They are instantly snapped up for the same reason as they sold so well in the thirties: the Televisor is an exceptionally good pen!

Pilot Super 150V

Ordinary Japanese pens of the fifties and sixties are not well covered either in the various pen books I have or on the web. Searching for Pilots, I found plenty of references to the Capless/Vanishing Point, the Myu and the Murex but little else.

The seller described this pen as the Pilot Super 150V. I believe it was made from 1956 on. Some were made in the Pilot plant in Brazil. I don’t know whether this pen was made there but the inscription on the nib says that it was made in Japan.

Looking at this pen, I see hints of other things. The barrel shape and end remind me of the Parker 61 and the nib is like the “fingernail” nibs that Sheaffer made around that time. The anodised cap looks like those on Pilot’s long-shorts. I think these resemblances are no more than Pilot following the fountain pen fashions of the time.

I like fine and extra-fine nibs and that is where Japanese pens, Pilot especially, really shine. This pen is an EF and a particularly good one. It’s a cartridge/converter filler and unlike some other companies, Pilot has never changed the style of its carts so the present day Pilot cartridges and converters fit.

I think it is the very unfamiliarity of the older Japanese pens that appeals to me. I have occasionally had prewar Japanese pens, ink-in-the-barrel pens with a shut-off valve and sometimes exceptionally flexible steel nibs. After the war, as illustrated by this pen, Japanese manufacturers quickly caught up with more modern styles and filling systems.

Swan 3250, Revisited

I’ve written about the Swan 3250 before but it’s worthy of further consideration. It’s part of that post-war series of pens that were fitted with brass threads. Soon after, that feature was dropped.

The colour is very dark. I have seen, in eBay listings, the pen described as black or chocolate brown. It is actually burgundy but it needs a strong light to really appreciate it. The plastic that the 3250 is made from appears to be especially hard and durable. The barrel imprint is invariably fresh and clear.

Strangely, there seem to be two versions of the 3250 – or perhaps three, if one includes the Calligraph. This pen, as the number would indicate has a No 2 nib. It also has two cap rings. But I have seen several – too many to be an error – with a No 3 nib and three cap rings, still bearing the number 3250 on the barrel. It’s just another of Mabie Todd’s numbering puzzles.

Mabie Todd’s major failing lies in the gold plating which wears easily. This example is pretty good; there is even plating on the ball end of the clip. The lever is slightly humped, and there is brassing at the high point.

These nibs are often flexible to some degree and this one is no exception. It gives appreciable line variation. The 3250 is a sound pen and one in good condition, as many of them are, will compete well with many much more expensive modern pens. It has a better nib than any modern pen, it looks good and is robust enough to outlast many present-day pens

Parker Victory Mark IV

I grow ever more aware of the quality of the Newhaven Parkers, especially in their early years. They are a pleasure to work on and a pleasure to write with. Of all their products I admire the Victory Mark IV most, not only the best of the Victory series, but the best of the Duofold group of pens of the forties, fifties and sixties.

The Victory Mark IV has it all. It has the classic tapered shape, the beautiful understated clip and the shallow pointed clip screw, the slightly proud paired cap bands, a long well-shaped blind cap and the sculptured aluminium button. It is more than just the sum of these parts; it all fits together in a splendidly harmonious whole.

The clip is somewhat of the style of the one that adorned the Challenger some years earlier. It is a simple elongated and truncated triangle with the word “Parker” contained within subtly inscribed lines. It’s an altogether more elegant clip than the overworked arrow clip, a cliche that many manufacturers had employed.

This pen was only made in solid colours: black, grey, dark green and burgundy. I think that was a wise choice. The shape would not work so well in marbled colours.

This pen was only in production for four years, from 1948 to 1952. The next, and final, version of the Victory was fully subsumed within the Duofold range and was identical to the Junior. To my mind, the button filling system is more satisfying and elegant, in the engineering sense, than the Aerometric, and the aluminium button brought the system into the space age.

Gold Nibs

I have a number of good pens without nibs, brands for which I don’t have spares. Some were given to me and others arrived in a batch that I bought. I am tempted to say that the batch were the result of stripping out the nibs for their gold value but I don’t know that with certainty.

What to do with them? If I try to hang onto these pens until correct nibs happen to become available they may sit here forever. What I have done with several is to fit them with either suitable (but not correct) gold or steel nibs and I will offer them for sale at a very low price, making sure that potential buyers are made aware that the nibs are not original. It’s a poor solution but the only one I have.

Nibs are a rare resource. Cracked nibs – everyday ones – cannot be economically repaired. More worrying is the constant sacrifice of valuable pens for the paltry few pounds that the gold of the nib will fetch. There has been much discussion of this over the years but it still continues because we are preaching to the choir. We are not reaching the people who actually do this, the house clearance people or gold traders. They see the gleam of the nib which is all that interests them, unaware or uncaring that the whole pen is worth a lot more.

A Tant and a Kumar

Rob Parsons has kindly provided me with photographs and details of these two pens. The first is a Tant (on the left), a pen I have heard of but not seen. It’s a rather odd-looking lever filler. The step down from the barrel to the section is abrupt and severe. I suspect that it might be quite uncomfortable in use. The nib is gold plated steel.

Tant, according to Stephen Hull’s book* was primarily a manufacturer of parts pens for other firms. Tant began production in the early years of the twentieth century and survived until the late thirties. They do not appear to have made many pens under their own name. This pen appears to be a real rarity.

The other pen, a Kumar eyedropper, is rather a puzzle. I can find no record of a Kumar pen but the word is Indian, being a Hindu or Buddhist title and a forename and surname in South Asia. It is the most common surname in Uttar Pradesh. I would suggest, with no more evidence than that, that this is an Indian pen, despite being quite British-looking.

A crack in the cap has been repaired and the ornament attached to the cap seems to be later, not original. It is an elegant pen. The nib is a replacement, a steel Nova nib, so that doesn’t help in identifying it.

*The English Fountain Pen Industry 1875 to 1975.