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It spreads to a wide point, and then it narrows as it goes into the barrel. Underneath the nib will be a piece of rubber or plastic that will usually have cuts in it like fins. The most unusual nib available is called the music nib.
Music nibs were designed specifically for people who write on music paper, like a composer. It is very wide with a flat end on it and two cuts. Music nibs are very rare, and there are collectors that actually seek them out. If a pen has a music nib on it, it could double its price. Fountain pens are my specific interest, because up until the turn of the 20th century, there were just a couple of different ways you could write. You could write with a pencil or a pencil-like device or you could write with some form of an ink pen where you either dipped it, or it had some reservoir where it held the ink.
All the major designs in writing happened after , and there was tons of innovation in the first half of the 20th century. Every conceivable crazy way to write was tried. What we have today is mostly innovations around a ballpoint, but nobody really had a successful ballpoint design until the s, so much of the early writing instruments were either pencils or fountain pens. There were fountain pens before , but they had a barrel with the ink and then you would screw the nib unit on.
After , a lot of companies like the Conklin Pen Co. Sheaffer came out with the lever fill in , and then other people came up with other designs. In the s , there were different kinds of plunger fillers. Filling systems kept developing all the way up to the s when cartridges were invented.
Cartridge pens eventually took over because they were the simplest design of all. Cartridges were actually first tried in the late s. A company called the Eagle Pencil Company came out with a fountain pen that had glass cartridges where you took the wax off a little glass bottle, stuck the bottle onto the end of the nib, then screwed the barrel on. It was sold in packets full of little glass cartridges, but glass is not real reliable, so the pen failed in the market because they broke easily.
Mamoulides : There are three main kinds. Even though you hear about gel pens and roller balls and all that, every ballpoint pen works the same way. Those were first invented in the middle of the s, and one of the first manufacturers was a company called A. Cross, which is the Cross Pen Company today. It was a self-contained ballpoint pen that you could throw it away once you used it up. That pen became the genesis of the Bic pen company, which is now one of the largest pen manufacturers in the world.
Bic bought Sheaffer about 10 years ago. Parker is part of Newell Rubbermaid, as well as Waterman and a bunch of other brands. Montblanc is part of the Richemont group, a huge company that deals principally in jewelry and high-end products. Mamoulides : There were four companies that pen collectors in the U. Conklin is famous because they created the first successful self-filling pens. Even Mark Twain was used in their advertising.
Parker was started by George Parker. He was a salesman selling John Holland pens and decided to make his own. The Parker Lucky Curve came out just after the turn of century, and it had a special design that looked like a little hook inside the pen. It pressed the tail end of the feed up into the side of the barrel to prevent the pen from spitting ink on the paper when you turned it down, which was a common problem in early pens.
Waterman started off selling a lot of overlay pens. Their heyday was in the early part of the 20th century, and they gradually fell apart as a company in the U. The Moore Pen Company out of Boston had several innovative pens. One was called a safety pen. You filled it using a syringe, and it had a system whereby if you unscrew and screw on the barrel, the nib actually goes up inside the barrel instead of being screwed off the pin. Then you fill the pin up with ink and screw it the other way and the nib comes back out. The s was a very prosperous time.
In the late s, the main innovation was pens that were streamlined shape, led by the Sheaffer Balance. A lot of the s pens had plunger-type fillers or pneumatic-type fillers. The two big innovative pens in the U. In Europe, a company called Pelikan came out with a piston-filling pen. It had a knob on the end and if you continuously turned it, it would suck ink into the pen. In the U. The s became an innovative time, despite the Depression. Pen companies tried to introduce pen brands that were less expensive, so almost every major pen company had a secondary or tertiary line that people could buy in dime stores.
Sheaffer Pen Company. Conklin had a line called All American. In the s , pen designs became more modernized. Most collectors would say the Parker 51 is the most innovative pen ever made. The 51 Vacumatic fillers were made out of a new type of plastic called Lucite. The other big s innovation was made by two brothers, I believe they were Hungarian. They invented a ballpoint pen that the British used in World War II, and sold their design to the Eversharp Company, which came out with one of the first commercial ballpoint pens.
They called it the Eversharp CA for capillary action. Another company, Reynolds, basically ripped off that design without paying any royalty and introduced a pen called the Reynolds Rocket.
These two pens were introduced right at the end of the war, and became the first commercial ballpoint pens. They were sold for the same price as a high-end fountain pen and both of them had problems with leaking, so they were both horrible failures. The Eversharp pen just about broke the company with all the returns. The Reynolds Company went out of business because their pen was so bad. Sheaffer , Parker , all of them produced ballpoint pens by the mid s.
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The big transition in the s was from traditional fountain pens to ballpoints and cartridge pens. By , every pen company that wanted to survive had cartridge pens, and cartridge pens actually became the most popular type of fountain pen. Just about every pen made today is a cartridge pen. Mamoulides : In the first half of the s , pens were sold based on two things: they had to write well, and they had to hold more ink and be easier to fill than another pen. The other important thing was style; my pen is cooler than your pen. From the s to the s , there was a lot of transition.
It was, my pen is cleaner filling than your pen, rather than it holds more ink. By the s pens really diverged. Parker really led the way on this. In the early s, Parker introduced one of their most collected pens, the Parker From the beginning, it was a solid sterling silver pen with a cross-etched pattern that they designed from a cigarette lighter they saw. The design is called Cisele in French, and it was so popular and powerful that the 75 actually gave birth to many different types of models, including super expensive solid gold models.
Parker changed their whole business model towards manufacturing good quality ballpoints or very nice high-end pens that were in the middle- to high-end price range for the gift market. The brands that survive today principally exist as gift pens, like the Cross pens. As time went on, companies got fancier with materials and designs to make their pens more interesting to more people. The Sheaffer Legacy has six different finishes. Your collector wants every single one. So you have people that collect every single version of the Parker 75, of which there are probably 50 or The Sheaffer Snorkel has about a dozen different versions, and people who liked that pen are interested in the history and the different variations.
I know a collector in Richmond, Virginia who has every single color and every single style that the Snorkel was made in. Collectors like him try to find the best quality, least used, and best-looking versions of each one of those pens.
Sometimes pen companies would make a special pen that only one store or chain would sell. A good example is the recent Sheaffer Legacy, that has come out in certain colors that nobody knew existed because they only made them for one or two resellers. Levenger, which is a very large office supply store in Delray Beach, Florida, had certain models of Sheaffers manufactured for them that only they sold. The largest pen collecting society in the U. You can get copies of pen manufacturer paraphernalia from them to help identify at least the standard models of that manufacturer. And a lot of pen collecting is really the Sherlock Holmes stuff, trying to figure out what it is.
Or you look at similar items and make deductions based on those. Mamoulides : Yes. The big pen from the s that Sheaffer made was commonly called the Sheaffer Jade. The next highly collectible pen is the Balance, a torpedo-shaped pen that Sheaffer made for almost 20 years. They made them in a whole array of colors — every color of the rainbow except yellow. They made them in striped colors, in marble colors, and in plain colors. They are gorgeous pens in all different sizes. What was most unique about the Pen For Men is that it introduced the inlaid nib, which lays on top of the nib section and looks almost like a gold fingernail.
The last of the famous Sheaffer pen products was introduced in the s , a pen called the Targa. It goes back to the cylindrical look of the s. It was named after the Targa Florio race and the Porsche car called the Targa. They did the first commercial lever-fill pen back in the s , that was one of their first patents. They were the first company to mass-produce pens made out of plastic, and the first to produce a pen with a tubular-type nib, one of their more famous designs.
They also mass-produced pens with an inlaid nib. This was a company that was built around the question, how do we make a pen better, and that appeals to me in a big way. Walter Sheaffer sold pens in his jewelry store in Fort Madison, Iowa.
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He tinkered around, since he was a jeweler by trade, and cooked up a method to fill a pen by putting a sac in it. You pull the lever on a little bar which presses the sac, and the pen sucks up the ink. He patented that design and sold his first pen, the Sheaffer lever fill pen, in From then on, Sheaffer made pens in the back of his jewelry store.
He was a great marketer. He had great salespeople working for him and just kept growing every year, and finally had to build a separate factory to make pens. They went from a backroom shop to a company with hundreds of employees in less than 10 years, and were the largest pen manufacturer in the U. They were still in Fort Madison, Iowa up to the early s when they finally closed their plant.
They were one of the first companies to make their own ink, which they started doing in the s. Dip pens used India ink, which includes compounds that dry to a solid, and would clog up a fountain pen. So Sheaffer actually came up with their own ink. Everybody wanted this new-looking pen. Then in the s, they invented a new kind of nib called the Triumph nib.
It was a wraparound tubular or conical-shaped nib that was like nothing anybody else had, and it enhanced the end of the pen with that torpedo shape. They also introduced a type of filling system which was called a touchdown system.
You actually pushed a plunger and it caused the pen to suck up the ink into an ink sac. Why do I have to do that? One of the solutions they came up with was actually the most mechanically complex pen ever made. It was called the Snorkel, and actually extended the tube from the tip of the nib into the ink well, and when you pushed the plunger, it filled the pen without ever getting the nib inky.
So you could cleanly fill your pen and never have to wipe it. Sheaffer was constantly introducing stuff like that. Mamoulides : Parker made a famous, unusual pen called the Aztec. It was an eyedropper pen — a pen that you filled up by using a syringe to fill the barrel — and it had Aztec designs impressed on to a metal case around the hard-rubber barrel, including images of faces. It also had a swastika-type design, not like the Nazi swastika, but a three-armed design.
A lot of the really rare pens are early pens that were not made in large quantities. Parker made a pen that was a failure in the s. It was based on one of their most famous designs called the Duofold, which was a traditional tube-shaped pen, but it was made out of a very bright yellow plastic, because George Parker went to the Far East and saw that that kind of yellow was popular. The plastic was so brittle that they broke easily, so finding one in good condition is hard. So the Mandarin yellow pen became a very highly sought-out pen.
Waterman made a wonderful series of pens in the s called the Patricia, which was their top-of-the-line pen. The Moore Fingertip was an unusual pen failure. It was a response to the Parker 51, and it had almost a stainless steel bullet-shaped tip. Moore stuck a long gold-plated nib on top of that stainless steel end. I go to antique stores in unusual places to look for pens. Collectors scour antique malls, antique stores, and auctions. Most collectors these days buy on the Internet or at pen shows.
Chicago has one. Washington has the biggest in the world. People get together and swap pens, buy pens, get their stuff repaired, and get help valuing stuff. You see all sorts of stuff at pen shows that you might never see ever again in your life. The Fountain Pen Network, which is a chat-type website, has about 15, members. They want to write with something that puts ink on paper as opposed to typing on a screen. Just about every country and every part of the U. They tend to be older white guys, but I have noticed that there are more people now collecting from other ethnic groups in this country.
There are a lot of pen collectors in the U. People that collect only gold pens, pens made of 9 or 14 or 18 karat gold. People who collect pens that are only hard rubber. The earliest pens were all made up of hard rubber, and they have overlays of gold or sterling silver or aluminum. At the turn of the century, aluminum was actually an expensive rare metal, so some very rare pens have had aluminum overlays on them. Collectors buy pens for a variety of reasons. Almost every pen company makes limited-edition pens where they pull out all the stops in terms of the special engraving on the barrel, or special painting.
There are pens that are literally encrusted with diamonds. Probably the most expensive pens not made of precious metals are pens that are hand-painted in Japan with a gold and lacquer process known as Maki-e pens. A Maki-e pen is an urushi lacquer object with really exotic extraordinary designs. Pilot Namiki is one of the most famous companies to produce these pens. The Internet has good stuff and a lot of dubious stuff. A lot of very knowledgeable collectors hold court in these places and help the newbies understand more about what they bought and draw them in.
Also, a lot of places have pen clubs that meet regularly.
Here in Raleigh we have a pen club that meets every six weeks or so, the Triangle Pen Club. Mamoulides : The first thing is, do you want to write with a pen? Ballpoints have taught people that you have to press down in order to get it to put ink on paper. The main difference between a fountain pen and a ballpoint is when you touch the nib to the paper, ink goes on immediately, so your writing does not involve pressure in your hand.
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You can write just by gliding your hand across the paper, with the pen just touching the paper. So first decide how you like to write and then find a pen that will write that way. The second thing is, do you like to write with a lot of different colors? Some people like to change colors or even mix colors to get new colors when they write.