I was asked recently what British pen I would suggest to someone new to vintage who wanted an everyday writer. The first consideration would be nib type: flex or firm, fine, medium or broad, stub or oblique.
If the answer is firm medium the field is wide open and choice would be down to aesthetics and which pen suits your hand. There are some great Parkers, Summits and Mentmores that would fit the bill.
If you need something less common – right oblique, say, or flexible needlepoint it may take a little time to find the pen of your choice but when you do it will almost certainly be a Swan, though Parkers can surprise you, not usually for flexibility but for stubs and obliques.
Maybe your pen has to be colourful. That suggests Conway Stewarts and Burnhams. There are some nicely-patterned Swans too, and to bring in a surprise name, Platignum brought out some amazing patterns in the 1930s if you don’t mind steel nibs. You’d also want one that didn’t have loose cap rings and they’re harder to find.
If we assume, for the sake of argument, that the desired pen is a semiflex medium and you would like some colour but you don’t want to spend too much on it, I would suggest a Dickinson’s Croxley in one of their various marbled patterns. Sound, under-appreciated pens with very good nibs.
If you want a firm medium stub we can look among the various Parkers. The English 51s are not infrequently stubs. They’re not to my taste but that’s not the issue here.
If the pen of your dreams is a fine flexible – with a lot of flex, that is – it will be found among the early Swans right up to the 1930s, eyedropper, lever or Leverless, plain or patterned. Later ones do exist but are much less common.
This could go on forever but these are a few suggestions that might open the door to British vintage pens. If you want a more specific answer, email me. To head my critics off at the pass, these suggestions are not exclusive. For instance, one of the most flexible pens I’ve had was a Wyvern but that was also the only flexible Wyvern I’ve ever had. Conway Stewart oblique stubs do exist, and very good they are, but they’re not common.