Here’s a mystery pen. I would be grateful for your comments. I’m no expert on the Parker brand but I’m not entirely ignorant of it either. However, this mixture of mercies has me beat. I might mention that it was raised in Fountain Pen Network but they were not helpful, I’m informed. That’s how I remember FPN when I was a member some years ago. Long on opinions, short on facts. To be fair, though, FPN is first class when you need to know what colour of ink to put in your latest Montblanc.
All that aside, here’s the story with the pen. It’s short at 115 mm capped. Parker Duofold is stamped on the barrel, off-centre towards the section. The aforesaid section is translucent. Was there ever a Duofold with a translucent section? It also has a Televisor-style multi-part pressure bar. I confess I cannot remember whether any of the Duofolds ever had that style of bar. The pattern is in the style of the earliest Newhaven Duofolds and Victories. The nib is imprinted, “Parker USA” and does not have the usual indication of 14K gold, though that is undoubtedly what it’s made from. I believe that the nib and feed are replacements.
The pen bears enough of a resemblance to the pens made for Parker by Valentine to be one of that production run and its size might indicate a “Lady” pen. I seem to remember that the USA Streamline Lady Duofolds were around that size. It’s the odd accoutrements that puzzle me. It might be that some part of this arises from replacement parts being fitted but that doesn’t really work as an explanation because the translucent section and compound pressure bar work together. A screw-in section could not be replaced by a friction-fit one without machining. In any case, a friction-fit section would be pushed out by a traditional bar.
What do you think?
I sold an English Parker Duofold the other day. What’s so special about that? Well, the Aerometric and AF Duofolds just don’t sell that well. It’s a strange thing. An English Duofold, in terms of quality, is as good a pen as the best of the 50s Swans, and that’s real quality. They don’t have any special problems. The sacs in the aerometric ones seem to last forever and the AFs are very straightforward to repair should they need a new sac. Some say they have a tendency to crack in the cap lip but I have handled lots of them and I can’t see that it’s a common problem.
They are perhaps a little bland to some eyes, but you could say the same thing about many self coloured modern pens which sell well enough. The nibs are generally inflexible but again, most modern pens are the same. The AF, in particular, has some nice features like the aluminium pushbutton and the better section. The plastic that they are made from, which I understand to be a form of Perspex, readily takes a beautiful shine with just a rub of a polishing cloth
When new, these were quite expensive pens, associated mostly with doctors, lawyers and other professionals. Now they go for buttons. It’s a strange old pen world.
Usually I like workhorse pens but the Parker 25 Flighter will have to be the exception that proves the rule golden.
In the 70s Parker thought they had spotted a niche in the market that needed filling: an inexpensive pen that would appeal to the 18 to 30 age group. They engaged the services of Kenneth Grange, a successful industrial designer, already well known for such things as the Kodak Instamatic camera, Wilkinson Sword razors and the InterCity 125 high-speed train.
His intention was to create a pen of functional simplicity, inexpensive to produce and well-nigh indestructible. I think he probably succeeded on all counts but he also managed to make one of the uglier pens there is, especially when capped, showing the barrel that descends rapidly from one diameter to a smaller one. It can be said that this ensures secure posting of the cap on the barrel, but that problem had been solved rather more elegantly many decades earlier. Posted, it looks a little better, especially if you don’t look at that stubby piece of metal that passes for an nib.
On the example I have, and probably on all the rest, the tipping material is almost spherical with the result that the line is exactly the same in all directions and tends towards a soft edge. In its favour, it can be said that it writes reliably at all times. After all with as simple a shell for an ink cartridge as this, there’s very little that can go wrong.
Priced low, it sold moderately well until it was discontinued in 1990. Surprisingly, it has generated some interest among collectors. The blue and black trim colours are the most common; rarer and more in demand are orange, green and the quite rare white.
This is one of the few pens I cannot enjoy writing with. The line is too vague and unvarying. Grange’s design seems to have removed almost all the attributes that make a pen a pleasure to use and to look at – it has been reduced to a basic writing stick.
Throughout the fifties, there can be little doubt that the Duofold Aerometric was the most popular pen in Britain. Hardly surprising, given its high quality. The aerometric system made for easy, clean filling and the streamlined shape was not only satisfying in itself; it was influential right up to the present day.
The beautifully cast arrow clip with its cowling and “jewel” sets off the cap perfectly.
The chevrons make the cap ring instantly recognisable.
Duofold nibs are usually inflexible – the time of the flexible nib had finally passed by, even in Britain – but they are reliable and the pen writes every time. If British Duofolds have a fault, it is that the material they are made from is a little soft and the barrel imprint is often faint or missing. A perceived fault these days is that they are bland. Perhaps, and perhaps what is seen by some as blandness is just classic perfection. Pared down to the essentials, with the only decoration being in the gold-filled trim, the modern eye isn’t always suited to such understatement.
These are great pens. Everyone should have one. The Fifties Duofold is the baseline against which you judge everything else.
This one (in case you hadn’t noticed) is red – the deep red of fresh blood. For me, this is the best Duofold.
The rest of today, for me, will be pen restoration. My assistant says she will lend a paw. Or two.
I’ve had a couple of people kindly inform me that the last pen I wrote about is not a Parker 180 but a rather later Parker Classic. This only goes to show that I can get things wrong too! In fact, I get things wrong quite often, but my trusty readership usually sets me on the correct path, for which I’m duly thankful.
As people search these pages for information on pens they’re interested in, I think the best thing to do is go back and completely edit the article. Otherwise I’m going to be unintentionally misinforming people. But I’ll do it tomorrow, because now I’m going to go and put my feet up and watch a movie.