Iconic Pens

The theme for our Saturday, October 24, 2011 meeting was “Iconic Fountain Pens”.   

What makes an item, such as a pen, iconic?  When most of us hear the word “iconic” we think of people, places or things that are famous, well-known, widely-known, celebrated, renowned, fabled, legendary, notorious, infamous, illustrious,  or perhaps even “the one”.  At least, those are some of the words that come to mind when I think of something that is “iconic”.  

The theme for this week was for our members to share their thoughts on those fountain pens that were icons from their perspective as well as the reason(s) for their selections.  We asked them to think about whether it was a popular or well-known pen?  Was it something to do with the pen’s design or looks?  Maybe it revolutionized the look, function of pens or even how pens write?  Has it developed a bit of a cult following?  Perhaps it is not famous but infamous?  Is it inexpensive or does it cost a small fortune?  Was it made by one of the “iconic” brands or do you have trouble pronouncing or even remembering its brand?  

If you were to build a collection of pens based on an “iconic” theme, what would you consider to be the “must-have” pens?  These hypothetical exercises are great – there are no limits, e.g., you are not restricted to modern or vintage pens, etc.  You don’t have to own the pen, have ever owned the pen or even want to own the pen!  Heck, you don’t even have to have any money!  Although, I don’t want to suggest that a pen’s cost necessarily influences its status as an icon.  I can think of very expensive pens that I would not be surprised if many thought of them as an icon, or conversely, others thinking of one of any number of inexpensive (dare I say, “cheap”?) pens that could easily fit the bill, e.g., Lamy Safari. 

Enough of my dribble, here are several groups of pens (with photos) that different members of the LPC view as being iconic and why:

 

1. Sheaffer Balance. 1930s. The Balance began the tradition of streamlining the shape of pens with tapered caps and barrel ends, along with the use of plastics in colours not seen before. 

2. Parker Vacumatic.  1930s. Striped plastics, ink stored right in the barrel rather than a sac, and an “interesting” filling system – the Vac is still what I think of when I think of vintage pens. 

3.  Parker “51”.  1940’s. A hooded nib. “Writes Dry with Wet Ink” to quote the advertising of the day.  Introduced in 1939 and in production until 1972, the Parker “51” sold in the millions and is of the most successful fountain pens of all time. 

4.  Sheaffer Snorkel.  1950’s. The Sheaffer Triumph nib (also known as the wrap around nib or conical nib) was continued on the Snorkel filler.  One of the coolest and most complicated of the filling systems, the Snorkel was made in a multitude of colours and finishes. 

5.  Sheaffer Imperial/Lifetime.  1960’s. I don’t have a Sheaffer Pen For Men (PFM) so I am including my 1963 Lifetime with the famous inlaid nib.  The PFM introduced the now iconic inlaid nib that Sheaffer continues to use on their pens to this day.  The Imperial, Targa, Intrigue and Valor models all have the inlaid nib. 

6.  Parker 75 in Sterling Silver cisele pattern.  1960’s. A classy looking pen.  I am still waiting to see one on the TV series “Mad Men”. 

7.  Lamy Safari.  1980’s. The Safari was first introduced in 1980 and hasn’t changed in 30 years.  A great starter or school pen that is available in an array of colours and nib sizes.

 Another member’s group of “Iconic Pens”:
 
  1. Aurora 88.  An elegant Italian design that functions perfectly and has a hidden cache of ink, if needed.
  2. Sheaffer Targa.  Simplicity and variety.  One could spend a lifetime collecting these classic fountain pens with the inlaid nib.  Just check out one of the best pen sites on the internet – sheaffertarga.com
  3. Pilot/Namiki Vanishing Point.  Many people think this pen has a cult following but I disagree.  How many people do you know that own at least one Vanishing Point?  I would not be surprised if 3 out of 4 pen owners have one – that’s not a cult, that’s a club!
  4. Delta Dolce Vita.  Ah, the sweet life!  The first time I saw this pen I thought it was a bit much, I mean, who has the nerve to use a bright orange pen like this, especially a conservative business man like me.  It did not take too much longer before I owned one.  Actually, I have the double desk set as well!
  5. Conklin Crescent Filler.  Even non-pen people know this pen, it’s the one that Mark Twain uses – because it won’t roll off of a table.
  6. Lamy 2000.  A wonderful example of design and functionality. A simple design, the pen is made of black makrolon and is a piston filler, holding a ton of ink.  The flagship pen of LAMY.
  7. OMAS 360.  The non-conformist’s fountain pen because of its unconventional triangulated form.  It’s the type of pen that you either love or hate.  I happen to love it.  Unfortunately, OMAS screwed up its original design when it redesigned its line of pens.  If you want one of these, get the older “vintage” model.
  8. Pelikan M800 Souverän.   I loved this fountain pen from the very first time I saw its green striped barrel at Sleuth & Statesman in Toronto.  While I actually bought the black-blue model with silver trim first, I just had to have the original black-green model with gold trim.  In my mind, the green striped barrel makes it the quintessential fountain pen!
  9. Parker Duofold.  Not a big surprise that the Duofold is on this list, although most people would probably cite the vintage “Big Red” model.  Most people would put the Big Red as one of a dozen or so pens in a core collection of pens.  I like the blue ones myself, especially this remake of the “True Blue”.
  10. Waterman Edson.  A legendary and elegant pen.
  11. Conway Stewart #28 “Cracked Ice”.  Colourful plastics have been a signature of Conway Stewart.  The names of many of these colours, such as this one in Cracked Ice, have been adopted by collectors over the years. Other personal favourites include Reverse Cracked Ice and Tiger Eye.  Truth be told, my favourite models are #27 and #60 – I just grabbed the first Cracked Ice that I came across so please forgive my oversight!

 One more member’s quartet of Icons:
 
 

From top to bottom:

  1. Parker Vacumatic. Hey, it’s a Vacumatic, what more is there to say?
  2. Sheaffer Autograph.  The Autograph has a much wider cap band than the Sheaffer Signature and used to be one of their most expensive models.  It has the clip and the cap band made out of solid 14K gold. In fact, you could send the pen to Sheaffer along with your signature and they would engrave it on the cap band. This cap band has yet to be engraved.
  3. Esterbrook.  A classic double jewel J (full sized).
  4. Parker 51.  This aerometric filler with gold filled cap is Cocoa in colour, while not as rare as Nassau Green or Plum, is fairly uncommon.

A different view of the same quartet: 

 
And finally, the best part of every pen club meeting – writing with someone else’s iconic pen – in this case, a Parker 65 Flighter! 
 
 
Maybe you agree with these selections, maybe you have your own views.  We would love to hear from you!  Let us know what your iconic pen is and why?
 
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9 thoughts on “Iconic Pens

  1. Excellent choices, all round! I don’t own them (for obviou$ reason$ :)…… but I’d also include the Montblanc 149 (the classic “big fountain pen”) and the Waterman Patrician. The Wahl Doric and Waterman 100 Year pen could also be considered iconic and are certainly more affordable than the MB 149 and Patrician.

    1. I’d second the Mont Blanc 149…in fact I’d put it at the top of this list, head and shoulders above the rest in terms of iconic. It is undisputedly the most widely recognised fountain pen in the world & iconic shouldn’t just mean to fountain pen enthusiasts but to the wider public.

      1. Govapps, thank you for your comments. I agree with you that the MB 149 is a well known pen and should be included in our iconic list. Having said that, I am not so sure that it is head and shoulders above the rest. I know that when I first became interested in fountain pens, there were several other pens that I knew of/were quite interested in, such as the Parker 51, Duofold in Mandarin or Big Red, etc… before I learned about the MB 149. And I would even go so far to say that the first MB that caught my attention was the Jules Verne, a pen that still eludes me! Following that I learned of the MB Hemingway. Interesting (and probably endless) debate!8~>
        P.S. FYI, Penhero.com held a “World’s Greatest Pen” tournament in 2006. I won’t spoil the results, you can check it out yourself here

  2. I actually did this exercise by myself just yesterday, by way of first starting to put together my list of iconic camera designs… I ended up with pretty much most of the pens mentioned above, except for the following additions: Pelikan 100, CdA Ecridor, GvFC Pernambuco, Nakaya Decapod and, possibly, Aurora Optima.

    1. Mattias
      Thanks for your thoughts on this post. I am glad that you agree with many of our choices. Your suggested additions are also excellent selections, especially the Pelikan 100 and Aurora Optima, which are probably the best known of the four of them. I have seen a number of Caran d’Ache pens but I don’t know many people who own them. As for the Graf von Faber Castell pens, I own several of them that are less expensive but every one of them is of the highest quality! The Nakaya Decapod is a gorgeous 10-sided maki-e pen – one of our members owns one with a clip that I think is in Heki-tamenuri (Brown-Green).
      Cheers!
      Mike

  3. I have a gorgeous Waterman 100 Year Pen & Pencil set in its original case with written guarantee, BLUE, dated Dec. 14, 1940, sold by T. Eaton in Toronto, I have been trying to find out the value of this item, it is pictured in “THE FOUNTAIN PEN NETWORK” under New Members & the Waterman Forum, any help would be appreciated as I believe it could be ICONIC, thank you!

  4. Thank you, I am going to list it once I get the word out a bit, I think I am going to start high as I only have one & hate to sell it, take care 🙂

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