Fake Parker Pens. A counterfeit Sonnet.
This is a very nice Parker Sonnet in 'Gold Lustre' dating from around 2007. But it isn't!.
The Parker Sonnet is one of the few pens to be couterfeited on an industrial scale from its inception to the current time. Various more expensive pens, such as some Montblanc and Dupont models have also been targeted. I read recently about an individual who had been making 'antique' pens from bits and pieces of plastic and metal, fitting an authentic nib and selling them for many hundreds of pounds each.
It is not difficult to see why couterfeiters should invest time and money into the very expensive pens, some people may well be fooled into forking out a huge amount for what they believe is the genuine article whilst others may be happy to pay a smaller amount for an article they suspect to be fake but may fool their associates and friends. It takes all types, as they say.
But why bother to invest in large scale production of a comparitively modestly priced pen such as the Parker Sonnet? The answer appears to be connected to the fact that, in some areas, particularly the far East, literacy adds status and what better proof of literacy than owning a Parker pen? So volume of sales appears to be the driving factor.
I have no reason to want to show off my literacy, such as it is, but I do like Parker pens. A few years ago I was idly browsing pens on eBay when I saw this Gold Lustre Sonnet. I didn't own a Sonnet at the time and I was attracted to the pen because it was listed as in new condition and was too expensive to be a fake, or so I thought. I shelled out £55 somewhat apprehensively but was quite confident that eBay would see that I was not out of pocket should the pen turn out to be counterfeit. The images, description and buy it now price all suggested this was not the case.
The pen arrived fairly quickly. It was sent without a box or packaging and as soon as I held the pen and looked losely at it I knew, for certain, it was a fake.
The pen felt the right weight and balance but it had a finish that I can only describe as, well, unfinished. The plating looked thin and the imprints rough, further inspection confirmed my fears so I contacted the seller and said I had been sold a couterfeit pen, he/she didn't argue, told me to keep the pen, and refunded me in full.
I reported the details of the transaction to eBay who, it seems, did nothing as the same seller continued listing the pens and sold quite a few at £55 each, not bad as I later found out I could buy as many as I wanted for £3.50 each!
So how do you check if you suspect a Sonnet may be a dud? Unortunately many of the clues may be hidden, or simply not visible in the photographs if you are buying online, but the main points are:
1. The quality of the plating on a Gold filled example or the Lacquer in other models.
The plating may appear 'washed out' when compared to a 'real' pen and it will wear very quickly. I have only used the pen a hanfdul of times but the plateing has the appearence o that on a decades old pen. The clutch ring deteriorated almost immediately and the plating on the cap band followed suit soon after.
On fake pens the engraving is often not as deep or sharp as it is on a 'real' Sonnet, particularly the lines representing the 'feathers' on the clip. The font used is often a simple 'san serif' style, it is easier to reproduce than the serif styles used by Parker.
3. Date codes.
This is very odd. On my example the date code, lllQ, as shown in the potograph, refers to the first quater of 1990. The Sonnet wasn't introduced until 1993 and the Gold Lustre finish, this pen, until 2008. A serious error by the counterfeiter, one can only conclude that they were unaware of the significance of the mysterious numbers they had seen on Parker pens.
Notice also that the date stamp is very rough and imprecise.
4. The nib.
Depending on the model the Sonnet nib was either 18Ct.Gold/Rhodium 2 tone, 18Ct. Gold, Gold plated steel, or steel. Fake Sonnets frequently turn up with the wrong fake nib for the model so it's always worth checking which nib the pen should have.
The 'magnet test' for a Gold nib should be treated with caution. There are materials which are not attracted to a magnet and can be plated to look like Gold. So, if the nib is attracted to the magnet it is definitely not Gold but if it is not attracted it may well still not be Gold. The nib on my example falls into the second category, it is not attracted to a magnet but the silver coloured base metal can be clearly seen where the plating has worn.
5. The Parker Hallmark.
All Gold Parker nibs are stamped with a diamond containing a cross motif. Genuine Parkers bear a cross formed by a clear arrow and two letter 'P's. The counterfeiters seem to be unable to reproduce this, perhaps it is too small or their stamping devices, so resort to a simple cross. The photos show the fake nib and a nib from a wonderul Sonnet predecessor, the Parker Premier.
On this pen the feed is stamped 'F' for 'fine' but writes with a medium line, not fine. It has a large 'blob' of tipping so writes with very little 'character' but it is reasonably smooth. The pen leaks a lot, I've tried different converters and cartriges to no avail, I think it must be a fault in the seating inside the section. The best thing that can be said about this pen is that it looks quuite good from a distance.
Counterfeit Sonnets are always sold without boxes or packaging, presumably because they are too difficult to fake to a high standard and not worth the bother.
I note that now, March 2020, a seller from China is selling 'Excellent Parker pen Sonnet series. Gold Clip, 0.5mm Medium nib fountain pen' for between £3.99 and £8.99 including postage. A Parker gift box is available for £3.99. I suppose this is o.k. in some respects as you know it has to be fake but it is certainly not good for Parker. He is an eBay top rated seller and also offers Parker Urbans, IMs, and a range of gemstones, all fake.. What is not o.k. is that there are also a number of 'private selllers' offering these pens at auction and getting up to £100. Of course, there are also a large number of genuine Sonnets for sale at reasonable prices for the genuine article.
Even discounting the bulk sellers of obviously counterfeit goods there are far too many Parker Sonnets on eBay, my advice would be to steer clear completely or only consider established sellers. If the pen is listed as new old stock or similar it should have a Sonnet box and packaging.
All this is a real shame as the Parker Sonnet is undoubtedly a good pen, although not in the same class as its predecessor, the sublime '75', IMHO as they say these days.