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The top 5 Vintage Parker Pens.

At a rough count there are upwards of 150 different models that could qualify as a vintage Parker pen, not counting different versions of a particular pen.  Some 'pruning' was clearly needed to even begin to make a list of my top five so I limited my choice using the following criteria:

*  Typical price of a good example not more than £125.

*  Introduced after 1940 and before 1970.

*  Not too rare, in reasonable supply.

*  Practical enough to be an every day writer.

*  Likely to, at least, hold value.

Obviously, a list such as this is bound to be subjective to some extent, we all have our favourites, but I've tried to curb my enthusiasm for some models and evaluate others fairly.

In reverse order we have:


5. Parker 65: 

Introduced in 1967, there were three levels of trim: Classic (Lustralloy cap), Custom (Gold filled cap), and Consort (Rolled Gold cap with 'brick' pattern). 

Initially there were four colours: Black, Vista Blue, Rage red, and Charcoal Grey.  In 1969 Rage Red and Vista Blue were discontinued and replaced with Dark Blue and Maroon.  An all metal, gold trimmed  'Flighter De Luxe', pictured, was added in 1970.

Although the 65 is very similar to, and was based on, the 61 (same cap and barrel), the overall impression is of a much 'chunkier' pen.  The Flighter, in paricular, looks and feels more substantial somehow.  The main reason that the 61 didn't make this list was because the damned arrows on the section keep falling off.

The most striking difference in the 61 and the 65 is the huge and most impressive 'slab sided' 65 nib, visually the 61 nib is virtually absent.  The 65 was advertised as having a 'semi flexible' nib but I think that's pushing it a bit.  I would call it 'soft'.  One thing to be wary of with the 65 is that the seal between the ink and the outside world depends upon a thin seam of wax under the top edge of the nib.  The only practical way to check this is to fill the pen, write with it, and look for inky fingers.

The other main point to check is the section, they appear to be prone to shrinkage, the only cure is a replacement section.

The Parker 65 is an attractive and well built pen with a very good, solid feel.  It writes well with a very 'easy' action and some line variation can be coaxed out of it with a little practice.  The cartridge/converter filling arrangement is very practical and reliable, it seems to prefer use of an ink converter and bottled ink rather than the cartridges.  The converter is the cheaper option and is less harmful to the environment.

The Flighter De Luxe 65 is a good choice as an every day writer, it is much more robust than the plastic versions and more suited to being carried around without risk of accidental damage.  

A good Parker 65 with an ink converter and in full working order should set you back in the region of £60 to £80.


4. Parker 21 Super:

The Parker 21 was introduced in 1948, almost certainly an attempt by Parker to appeal to the less affluent, 'would be' Parker 51 buyers.  In 1952 the nib and feed assembly was redesigned and, in 1956 the Parker 21 Super, this pen, was added to the line.  The stylised arrow clip was to resurface in 1960 on the Parker 45 and persist well into the 1990s.  The picture shows the three versions of the Parker 21, Mk. l, Mk. ll, and Super, in descending order.

The pen is so similar to the 51 that it could well be considered as a cheaper version. The pens are the same shape and size, the caps are interchangeable.  the 21 has an 'Octanium' nib rather than the Gold one found on the 51 but both pens feature the finned ink collector, of governor as Parker called it.  This acts as a second ink reservoir an greatly improves performence with respect to inkflow:

 The 21 Super was made in the four solid colours; black, red, green and blue, green being the least common.  The simplified aerometric filling system is convenient and easy to use but it is advisable to hold the pen by the filler tube when filling rather than hold it by the 'U bar'.  This is only anchored at one side and can detach if repeatedly stressed.

The 'Octanium' nib, so called because Parker claimed eight different components to the alloy, is a good writer, firm and smooth, but without the 'soft' feel of a Gold nib.  The feel and balance of the pen is very good, best with the cap posted.

The Parker 21 Super is a good choice as an every day vintage writer, it is the choice of many fountain pen enthusiasts.  To what extent this is due to its similarity to the Parker 51 in appearence is hard to judge but it is a good pen in its own right.  A good, reconditioned example should cost in the region of £30 to £50.

Read a Parker 21 Review Here.


3. Parker Duofold A/F:


 The Parker Duofold AF was introduced in 1948 and offered in four solid colours: Black, Burgundy, Grey, and Blue.  The pen shown above is a Burgundy pen, although mos wou;d describe the colour a dark brown.

The 'AF' signified 'Aluminium Filler', as the button on the earlier pen was replaced with an Aluminium rod.  In some pens the rod was gold coloured Aluminium, as in this pen.  Internally the pen is the same as it's predecessor.

The filling mechanism is easy to use and has a little 'quirkiness' in the design of the filler button.  A well restored Duofold AF will  fill on just a single press of the button.   Depressing the button compresses the filler bar in such a way that it pushes against the sacc:

The button is housed under a 'blind cap', care should be taken not to lose this!

The pen is quite ' chunky' and, due to the thickness of the material, and the fact that the parts are machined from solid rod rather than injection moulded, it has a very solid and high quality feel.

The 14 Ct. gold nibs range from fine to broad points and have varying amounts of flexibility, although most are quite firm.  They have the pleasant 'soft' feel of most Parker Gold nibs and are usually excellent writers.  The nib and feed combination give good ink flow.

Although the Parker Duofold 'aerometric' fillers that replaced this pen are, undoubtedly, good pens in their own right, they do lack something in build quality and feeel when compared to the AF.

Replacing the ink sac on the pen is fairly straightforward but a tool to remove the filler button assembly is needed and setting the bar correctly can be abit tricky.  It would be advisable to only consider a pen that has been reconditioned and is in good working order.

When properly prepared the AF is a very, very good pen.  A sound, example should cost in the region of £50 to £75. 


2. Parker 75:


 The Parker 75 fountain pen is a remarkable pen.  In 1964 it was offered at $25, a staggering price tag for a pen produced for the 'mass market'.  On paper it looked doomed, it was nothing like the Parker 51 or Parker Duofold, the most successful Parker pens so far, it was a cartridge/converter filler made from solid Silver, the ballpoint pen was ravaging the fountain pen industry, and the 75 was outrageously expensive. Nevertheless, it exceeded all expectations in terms of sales and is one of the few maodels that became more successful during its production run, most die back after a year or two.

This was mainly due to the sheer quality of the pen, an attribute that makes it very collectable today.  The first 75s were made in a 'crosshatch' pattern from solid Sterling Silver.  The U.K. adverts claimed that the clip was solid Gold, although no such claim was made in the American marketing material.  When production started in France the pattern was referred to as 'Cisele', meaning 'Chiselled', This name has now benn adopted for all the 'Silver Crosshatch' pens.

A wide variety of finishes followed the 'Silver Crosshatch', including a Gold filled version, and a number of lacqueres finishes, referres to as the 'Lacque Collection'.  These include 'Thuya', a woodgrain/toertoiseshell hybrid, 'Jasper Red Quartz', 'Malachite Green', 'Burgundy', 'Grey', and 'Black'.

A vey useful, but underused, feature of the 75 is the adjustable nib angle.  The nib can be rotated in it's housing to give the optimum position for a particular user.  The triangular shape of the gripping section in the earlier pens, and the 'teardrop' shaped grips in the later ones ensure that the pen can be held in the correct orientation at each use.  This feature is particularly useful for left handed writers, the angle of the nib is more critical.

The nib is usually 14Ct. Gold, although some French made pens use 18Ct.  It is a large, handsome nib, and a great writer.


At around £125 the Parker 75 is at the top of our price range, but it is a fabulous pen which oozes quality and is very collletable.

Read a Parker 75 review here.

1. Parker 51:

In 1939 the Parker 51 was test marketed in Venezuela, columbia, Trinidad, and Curcao, the idea being that the pens would be tested in extreme conditions, notably heat and humidity.  Some mixed reports led to more 'tweaking' before the pen went on general sale in 1941.  The last Parker 51s were made in 1972, not counting the 2002 'Special Edition' and the 2021 'New Parker 51'.

There is a choice of filling systems, the 'Vacumatic' (1941- 1949) and the 'Aerometric' (1949-1972).  Although not universal, these pens are usually referred to as the Mk.l and the Mk.ll respectively.  Both systems work well, the Mk.ll Aerometric being less 'finicky' than the Mk.l Vacumatic.

The history of the Parker 51 is a fascinating tale, well documented in David Shepherd's brilliant 'Parker 51' book.  The fact that there is a book,in fact more than one, dedicated to the pen is a sign of the importance of the '51' in fountain pen evolution. 

Just about everything about the '51' that was 'right' in 1941 is still right today, it is a masterpiece of design and engineering.  It is a good sized pen with a very pleasing shape and feel.  It is also a superb writer.

Vintage fountain pen

The outatanding performence of the '51' is partly due to the multi finned 'inkcollector', or 'governer', as it was originally named.  This acts as a second reservoir for ink while the pen is in use and goes a long way to ensuring smooth and cansistent ink flow.  The same system is found in later Parker 75s and a 'cut down version in the Parler '17'.  The hooded nib section serves to keep the nib moist and prevent drying out. making the '51' a good 'starter'. An 'exploded' view of a '51' shows how the business end of the pen fits together, in this case the pen is a Vacumatic:

The Parker 51 nib is 14Ct. Gold and is cylindrical in shape, it fits snugly around the feed, again enhancing ink delivery.

The pen was made in two main trim styles, the 'Classic' has a 'Lustralloy' cap and the 'Custom' a rolled Gold cap.  Lustralloy is essentially a stinless steel variant given a 'frosted' finish on the caps.  The rolled Gold is usually 12 Ct. and 1/10th of the cap weight is Gold.  The Lustralloy finish wears quite readily but it is less prone to dints than the more expensive 'Custom' cap.  It is becoming increasingly difficult to find pens with 'ding free' caps.  This is hardly surprising as the number of pens made is very nearly equal to the number of caps and a good proportion of the caps will have sustained some degree of damage through normal use. 

A good, restored Parker 51 should bein the region of £85 to £125.

The term 'iconic' is often bandied about these days without any real considerstion of the meaning of the word.  A good definition is:

'Widely known and acknowledged for disinctive excellence.'

I think that suits the Parker 51 pretty well!

Read a Parker 51 Review Here.