I like the Parker 61 and have a bunch in my collection. I think the 61 has received some bad press over the years and I am writing in its defense. The downside to using fountain pens was that the process of filling them with ink was a messy business. Hence the ballpoint pen gained popularity in the 1950s. To address this problem Parker introduced the 61 in 1956. To fill the 61 you unscrew the barrel and place the back end of the pen in a bottle of ink for a few seconds (the length of time is debatable). The pen contains a porous material and fills thru capillary action and when you remove the pen from the bottle of ink there should be almost no ink to wipe off (this is debatable as well). You then screw the barrel back on and the pen is ready to write. Now, in my experience there always seems to be a small amount of excess ink which needs to be wiped off with a tissue. I’m willing to live with that minor issue. One of the major concerns about the filling mechanism was it clogging when not in use. True, but any fountain pen that has not been flushed and left for a period of time unused will have issues. In a later version of the 61 Parker did switch to a squeeze style converter for the filling mechanism. Another concern was that the decorative inlaid arrow on the gripping section was prone to falling off. That’s true, however, I’ve collected a number of them over the years and that has not happened to the ones I own. In comparison to the very popular 51 the 61 is a little shorter and smaller in girth. Like the 51, the 61 did come in a variety of colors and you can find them with both lustraloy and gold filled caps as well as a very attractive rainbow cap. There are pencils to match and both flighter (cap and body are stainless steel) and signet (cap and body are gold filled) versions. I think they write nicely and with proper care will serve you well. For more detailed information check out parkercollector.com. Happy collecting!
I’ve been collecting vintage fountain pens for some time now and I’ve come to the conclusion that the Parker 51 is my favorite. They write beautifully and are an easy to use/very reliable pen. One of the fun things about collecting 51s is that there are many varieties. The pen was made from the early 1940s to the early 1970s. For example, the early 51s came with a vacumatic fill mechanism and then Parker switched to an aerometric fill mechanism. Caps came in a variety of materials such as lustraloy (brushed stainless steel) and gold filled. Clips came in a variety of styles as well. The early 51s had a clip similar to the later Vacumatics and subsequently Parker switched to the arrow clip similar to the early Vacumatics. These pens came in a variety of colors and some of them, such as Nassau Green and Yellowstone (some call this mustard), are difficult to find. Some have the single jewel on the cap and some are double jeweled. Finally, the pen came in 2 sizes – standard and demi. And, by the way, there are mechanical pencils to match as well with all of the various caps and colors. OK, you can see where this is going – there are a lot of variations of this pen for the avid collector. Fred Rosenthal, owner of Bromfield Pen shop in Boston asked me on a recent visit, “How many 51s do you have?” While I have quite a few I am no where near finished collecting all of the variations out there. A good source of information is Parker51.com so check it out and happy collecting!
I run across tons of old print ads from small fountain pen manufacturers from all over the globe. They are so creative and engaging. Not just for the cool pens that they advertise, but also for the artwork and for the trip back in time.
It is wonderfully nostalgic to think back to the successful and large manufacturing base that the U.S. used to have where all of these small businesses used to compete rather successfully for market share (they probably didn’t call it that back then).
You can also find antique pen catalogues, posters, paraphernalia and ephemera for sale online and in various antique shops. You can also find vintage fountain pen commercials on You Tube like this one for Parker: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4iFXsadK7o
Just Google, “Vintage Fountain Pen Ads” and see what comes up!
Neil and Vicky Lander are happy to share their thoughts and news here!