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A Good Day Hunting Pens
Vintage treasure hunt
from the fountain pen of Len Provisor

If you collect vintage pens as I do, we all have the dream of someday walking into a treasure trove of long forgotten pens stashed away in a back room or closet. It can happen, it has happened and it will happen again, hopefully sooner than later.

On a recent excursion I came across two rather scarce pens among a pile of beaten "51"s, some Duofold Streamline pencils and a pile of assorted Jotter ballpoints.
The seller had the pens all neatly laid out on a table, my well trained eyes instantly scanning the entire group. My habit is to scan everything from one end to the other, looking for the distinctive Parker images I collect. Two pens caught my attention immediately, but do you remember I once said, "Don't ever let them see your pupils dilate, your hands tremble, and never, never, never break out in a sweat". Easier said than done. I sat down.

Now, the one that caught my eye was not the Parker Holy Grail, called the "Pen of Pens" reputedly a solid gold floral repousse eyedropper encrusted with gemstones.
That's another story, by the way.

Very early eyedropper pens are getting harder to find these days, so when one comes my way I am extremely grateful for the chance to obtain them. My focus for the last few years has really been "51"s because they are everyday users, much easier to find and have a great variety of colors and cap designs which appeal to me.

Laying before me were a few "51"s with double jewels, very used but decent , some very clean Duofold Sr. Streamline pencils in Pearl/Black and Jade.
The stunner was a #10 black/red mottled hard rubber "Twist" eyedropper.

Parker Cable Twist

About 5 ¾" long and 3/8" cap diameter and I believe was first introduced on 1903. The Parker dealer magazine "Side Talk" describes "This pen is preferred by many who like the corrugated handle, which gives the fingers something to grasp and prevent from slipping when moist or sweaty." The nib is a #3 size and the slightly oversize barrel holds a very ample supply of ink. The model before me was produced in 1909, by the shape and taper of the distinctive section and sold at the handsome price of $6.00.

Parker #10 Twist

At this period in Parker history one of the most aggressive among competition was Waterman Pen Co. Both pen makers produced excellent working writing instruments, therefore the focus of marketing and consumer appeal in large part would employ the distinctive designs and decorations of these pens. It was at this time that high quality jewelry decoration wrapped these pens from such silversmiths as Heath, Unger Bros. and others. Elaborate sterling silver filigree and gold overlays sold to the wealthy. Snakes, the famous Awaynu Indian "Aztec" (inspired by his visit to Santa Fe, NM in early 1900) floral repousse, pearl and abalone panels with gold bands and fancy 14K and 18K pens at $10. to $20.
Waterman also produced a pen with a "Twist" pattern, and I believe these variations of the basic hard rubber pens was simply an attempt to give variety to everyday affordable pens that sold most often. Among other pre-1900 Parker designs for hard rubber pens, was an "anti-roll" hexagonal mid-section or full length hex of the barrel, a "Spiral" twist and a great variety of wavy chasing patterns.

Parker Combo

The other fountain pen was a 1932 Parker Combo or combination pen/pencil. It is produced of a plastic material used during the Depression, other pens produced at this time are also referred to as "Depression" pens. This one is a dark brown or bronze color with a gold speckle finish. I believe this was the only modern period that Parker produced a Combo model. This is a patented model, unscrewed from the mid-section, was a button filler and featured a ring clip like the Duofolds and had a small nib smaller than a #2.
The only other combo made by Parker Pen was introduced around 1907, and as described in "Shop Talk" is called "A New Thing". The name Combo did not exist then, so it was cleverly called a Bookeeper's Special #100 model and sold for $6.00

Bookeepers Special

Described as "Here is something designed especially for bookeepers. It is a double fountain pen, one end for black ink and the other for red. The ink reservoir for the red ink is mottled red, which indicates at a glance the color of the ink in that barrel. The other end of the fountain is black, which also indicates the color of the ink therein. Every bookeeper who has seen and tried this is simply delighted with it. The fountain can be disjointed, if desired, thus making two complete fountains, in which event they can be carried in the pocket in the ordinary way."

Many other combos were produced by major pen makers such as Waterman, Conklin, Schnell and Mabie Todd. Some were plain plastic, many were fancy sterling silver or solid gold. Most often the ones found today are of a lower quality, but are a very popular theme for many vintage pen collectors.

Today combos are back among modern pen makers. Some beautiful models have been recently produced by Conway Stewart, Visconti, Bexley, Lamy and some even have pens with as many as 4 different points refills such as ballpoints in red, black, lead and a stylus for a palm computers. Also very popular are laser pointer pens for educators and lecturers.
How far can combo's go? I have even seen a "cell phone" pen. A typical ballpoint with a discrete silent red LED on the cap that flashes when your have a call.
As long as technology marches on, there will always be room for another variation of the old writing instrument and a novelty combination.



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