The 11 Best Vintage Fountain Pens (According to Owners)
When I first started getting into vintage fountain pens, I had no idea where to start looking. There's so much that still writes today. So let's make it easy and go over the most popular vintage pens together.
Here's my list of the best vintage fountain pens:
- Parker Duofold
- Waterman 52
- Parker 51
- Parker Vacumatic
- Pelikan 140, 400 & 600
- Conklin Endura
- Sheaffer Imperial
- Sheaffer Targa
- Wahl Eversharp Skyline
- Esterbrook J
- Conway Stewart 388
- Honorable Mentions
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it does contain some of the most iconic and well-respected vintage pens out there. Most of these pens are great starting pens if you're getting into vintage pens yourself.
I'll also explain what makes these pens so popular. After reading this article, you'll be able to point out the most iconic vintage pens, and immediately tell why it's iconic. So let's dive into the first one.
Price: around $50-300
The Parker Duofold seems to be on every vintage pen collector's list, and it's on mine now too. They have been made since 1921 and put Parker on the map, making them one of the most popular pen companies of their time. The original model was in a striking red, which helped with the marketing of the pen.
They are still made today, and whether you get a vintage or a contemporary one, most fountain pen users agree that it is one of the best fountain pens ever made.
The nib is duo-fold, fold twice, hence the name. The rigid nib allows it to be used on carbon paper as well.
Here is the best resource I've found on the Parker Duofold on the internet: go to ParkerPens.net
Parker Duofold Senior Big Red
The Parker Duofold Senior Big Red is a larger version of the regular Duofold. This is the flagship model of the Parker lineup. It's an iconic design, and most fountain pen enthusiasts will recognize it out of a lineup instantly.
Price: around $250
The Waterman 52 is another really well-known and well-respected vintage pen. It is a very light pen and has a slimmer design than, for example, the Duofold. It was made from 1915 - 1930s. There are a lot of finishes available, as it was already a popular pen at the time. If you prefer thicker pens, this might not be the one for you. However, if you like light pens to write long sessions, the Waterman 52 might be perfect.
The name 52 is Waterman's coding for the filling system (lever: #5) and the nib size (#2). The nib on most models is quite flexible, so the 52 has become an iconic pen, and one of the favorite writers, of many flex-nib-lovers.
Here's a good discussion on the 52: read at The Fountain Pen Network.
They used to be very cheap pens; nowadays, however, they are sought-after, since a lot of vintage pen lovers recommended them—because they are so cheap. Bummer.
Price: $50 - $80
The Parker 51 is the world's most sold fountain pen of all time. It's one of the most iconic designs in fountain pen history, and it is a great writer.
I have bought one recently from 1947, completely original, and I'm amazed at how well it writes out of the box. It's a pleasant writer, and I find I use it almost daily. It also looks gorgeous.
They come with an Aeromatic or Vacumatic filling system. Since they are widely available, they are not super expensive, and they are very good everyday writers. Thanks to its hooded nib, it stays wet for a very long time uncapped (minutes), making it a wonderful note-taking pen.
Its largest disadvantage is cleaning it. Vacumatic filling systems are very hard to disassemble, so be sure to use easy-to-clean inks, like Diamine's standard line.
There are a lot of Parker 51 inspired remakes that are cheap and also pretty good. If you're interested in getting one of those for under $10, I recommend reading my article on cheap hooded-nib pens I've actually used.
Parker revolutionized fountain pen functionality and design with this model, and while it is now a very familiar look, it was the first in its class. The older models all come with 14K gold nibs. They are very reliable writers, lightweight, and still a good everyday pen to use. If you're looking for an iconic design that you can use daily, without worrying about scratching or using the pen, get yourself a 51.
Here's a good resource on the Parker 51 if you want to read on at ParkerPens.net.
This is another pen that makes it into nearly all vintage pen lovers' list. The Parker Vacumatic is known for its large ink capacity (it uses the entire barrel as a reservoir), and its unique, semi-transparent design. Until now, fountain pens didn't show ink levels. Parker circumvented the problem by designing a barrel made of alternating transparent and solid bands. This design feature became iconic and is still recognized and admired today.
Its largest disadvantage, like the Parker 51, is cleaning it.
They all come with a 14K nib, and Parker's gold nibs were outstanding at the time. So apart from being a looker, this pen also writes very well. They are available with semi-flex nibs and in all (nib) sizes.
They are still worth the money, even when compared to brand new pens if you can find one that works properly and has a decent nib.
Here's a good resource on the Parker Vacumatic if you want to read on at ParkerPens.net.
Pelikan 140, 400 & 600
This is another of my personal favorites. Pelikan nibs from the 40s and 50s are adored by many fountain pen lovers. The Pelikan 140 was a simple production pen, made for the masses. It was quite affordable, and there are a lot available, making them still pretty affordable.
Some people find the 140 too small, which I can understand, but when I post it, I have no problems. It's a great everyday pen for long writing sessions. It stays wet for a very long time, and it has a very well-designed piston filler mechanism.
Mine is from 1954, I believe, and I just had to flush it out. The piston never leaks, it takes up ink like a mad man, and the pen writes like a dream.
I have the black version, but the more iconic design is the green-black striped, which is still made today. They should be available plentiful, since they were very popular at the time, and a lot have been sold.
You can also get a 400 or 600 if you like, which will be bigger in size and have a bit more heft to them. They use similar 14K gold nibs and ebonite feeds as the 140. My specific nib is very smooth, springy, and very wet. They use a somewhat larger design — longer and with narrower shoulders — and I think that is what makes this nib feel so different from other gold nibs.
To get more information on this pen, here is an excellent article on The Venerable Pelikan.com.
Pelikan still makes excellent pens today, but their post-war nibs are legendary. They still make their gold nibs by hand. Here's a well-done tour of the Pelikan factory by Appelboom pennen:
Conklin Endura has made very well-built pens in the 1930s, with flexible to stiff nibs. Their 30s pens are made from celluloid, which is a very durable material; hence the pens from these years don't have a lot of problems. Pens from the 1920s are made from a softer material and can develop micro-cracks around the lever.
The Endura comes with solid 14K nibs and a lever filler. The nibs are smooth, but generally a bit stiffer and dryer. The pen is large, with an above-average grip section, which is great if you like pens with a bit more heft to it.
Produced: 1960s - 1970s
Right among the top vintage pens, belongs a Sheaffer Imperial. These superb writers have a very recognizable, inlaid nib, unlike anything you've seen before. I own a Sheaffer Targa, which uses the same nib design, and I think it's one of the most beautiful nib designs I've ever seen.
It uses the same nib as the PMF (Pen For Men), which is a 14K gold nib. They generally have a bit of spring to them. The Imperial uses an Aeormatic squeeze converter and has a spring clip, which is another great design feature.
The Imperial is a somewhat thicker pen, with a seamless transition between the barrel and section. It has a minimalistic cap & clip design, that feels a bit Bauhaus.
Very beautiful pens that have very good nibs and provide an outstanding writing experience.
If you enjoy slimmer pens, and like the nib design of the Imperial, you could try the Sheaffer Targa. Admittedly, this is not a real vintage, but who cares; it's an arbitrary number anyway. It's a good old pen, so it's on the list.
My Targa writes like a charm, but I'm not that fond of the slim design, so I'll have to try an Imperial I'm afraid (what a pain!).
Read more on the Targa here (new tab).
Wahl Eversharp Skyline
The Skyline has a very distinctive cap design that also comes in ribbed gold-filled, which means it has a 14K gold outer layer (a lot thicker than gold-plated and a lot more durable). The clip ends on top of the cap, allowing you to clip it very deep into your pocket. It has very strong taper towards the end. It is a lever filler, which means there is a rubber sac inside you fill up by
The barrel has an elegant line to it, making it a comfortable pen to hold. The nib is very smooth and very flexible and provides a great writing experience. The Endura uses a one-of-a-kind feed design.
Read more at PenHero.com.
Esterbrook is an English brand that has made some very good pens in the post-war period. The Esterbrook J might be one of the best starter vintage pens for everyday use. They are inexpensive, well made, and they come in some beautiful finishes.
The J is made of resin with very high chatoyancy (depth). There are plenty of colors available. Like the Endura, it is a lever filler, which was very popular in the 1940s and 50s. They are very well made, not very expensive, and they write very well. Average-sized, they are comfortable to use, although the grip section might be a bit small for some people.
The biggest disadvantage might be that it doesn't come with a gold nib; however, their steel nibs are superb and might be the better choice for new fountain pen writers.
Maybe this is one of the best everyday vintage pens out there: not too expensive, a durable steel nib, gorgeous materials, and a reliable writer.
Read more at Esterbrook.net.
Conway Stewart 388
We end the list with a great-looking 50s fountain pen. The Conway Stewart 388 is another affordable beginner vintage fountain pen from the UK. It comes in beautiful celluloid, marble finishes, with gold-filled trim (which has a higher gold content than gold-plated trim). It uses a lever filling system. It's a bit slimmer but pretty long. They come with 14K gold nibs that write very smooth and consistent.
They are, like the other pens that have made this list, very reliable writers, comfortable to use, making a great everyday vintage fountain pen.
Below you'll find a dozen honorable mentions I am not yet familiar with but have made the list of many pen enthusiasts top vintage pen lists.
- Aurora 88
- Parker 21
- Waterman 12 PSF
- Sheaffer Snorkel
- Sheaffer Lifetime
- Sheaffer Balance
- Sheaffer Flat Top Lifetime
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I'm the owner of Mission Ink. I'm a professional writer, who writes longhand A LOT. After improving my own handwriting over the years, I want to help others to improve theirs, so they love to write.
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Our formula is simple, we offer good quality pens at realistic prices. All our pens have been fully serviced with particular attention being paid to the nibs so that they are guaranteed to be smooth and a pleasure to write with. They are described accurately and are provided with high resolution photographs so you can see all the details. We are the only pen website to provide a genuine writing sample of each pen. Browse through the huge range of pens and please feel free to drop us an email with any questions. Most orders are posted within one working day and all pens come with a one year warranty. We buy, sell and repair most brands of Pen but specialise in Vintage Parker, Waterman, Mabie Todd, Conway Stewart, Sheaffer, Wahl Eversharp, Esterbrook and Onoto Fountain Pens.
On our sister site www.vintagepenparts.co.uk we offer a range of ink Sacs, Diaphragms, nibs and spare parts for many vintage pens.
Vintage Fountain Pens: 5 Brands You Should Buy Now
Put some vintage fountain pens on your desk. Because lawyers write for a living. From briefs to battle plans, you’re always pounding a keyboard or jotting down notes. And while not much can be done about the haptic aesthetics of a computer keyboard, your jotting down can be leveled up with the stroke of a vintage fountain pen.
This shortlist of pens is in no way exhaustive. It’s just five pens. But I’m not here to tell you about every pen that’s for sale — that’s eBay’s job. I’m here to tell why you ought to pick up a fountain pen that’s as old as you are.
Vintage Fountain Pens Offer a Luxurious Return on Investment
A vintage pen is an investment you can write with. Good pens are brilliantly designed works of art that keep their value over time. Some pens gain value, and a rare few writing implements become iconic collectibles passed around by high-rolling stylophiles.
You should immediately buy a super expensive fountain pen. Like anything from Caran d’Ache. They manufacture some of the most coveted and pricey writing instruments in history. Their 1010 Diamonds Limited Edition pen made with white gold and deeply spangled with three cuts of diamonds goes for a cool $1 million, though you could just settle for the ordinary 1010 (sans diamonds, punk) at $19 grand.
Which is insane and no one is really suggesting you go buy a Caran d’Ache. I am suggesting you invest in a beautifully rendered artifact of civility and letters at a much lower price point. The five pens listed here are widely recognized affordable collectibles that gain value and write beautifully.
The Parker 51 Is the King of Vintage Fountain Pens
No pen has sold more than the Parker 51, which collectors consider the best pen ever made. More than 300 million pens were sold from its first run in 1941 to its last in 1972. The sheer volume of Parker 51s still in circulation means they aren’t exactly rare, but the history and lore of this pen keep the price up around $100. But that’s an average. There are many versions of the Parker 51 and some are rare and expensive. (This exhaustive list for serious collectors explores most of them.) A first-year Parker 51 has a small jewel on the cap and one on the barrel and lists between $300 and $500. If you’re crazy, you can go for the prized 18K rose gold pen designed by renowned goldsmith Celestino Praca in the 1950s.
Sheaffer Imperial Is an Incredible Pen
The Imperial IV is a favorite of mine for the way the nib is part of the barrel. Sheaffer pens were the first mass-produced plastic fountain pens and that nib is not their first design feature to gain notice. Their original pens, the Jade Seniors, sported a white inlay indicating they had a lifetime warranty. The white dot became a recognizable feature in offices and schools of post-Depression America when the economy was tough and cheap pens that lasted a lifetime were valuable. Other pen companies tried to emulate the white dot, but Depression-era Americans were savvy consumers and didn’t fall for it.
Sheaffers aren’t as pricey as other vintage pens, so they’re a great entry-level purchase. You can pick up a nice 1929 Jade Senior for as little as $100. Even a prized collectible, like a rolled gold 1979 Imperial 827 still in the box, only goes for $250.
Sheaffer manufactured a few limited editions, like the W.A. Sheaffer 1996 18K Commemorative Fountain Pen, which came in a beautiful wooden box displaying the original Sheaffer patent illustration and shipped with a lovely bottle of ink.
This Vintage Waterman Fountain Pen Is Amazing
Waterman fountain pens are historically significant since their founder, L.E. Waterman, pretty much invented the fountain pen as we know it today. Sometime in the 1880s, Waterman was trying to sell an insurance policy when his fountain pen’s flux capacitor malfunctioned and sent Waterman to 1958. Actually, no one knows exactly what happened, but one can assume there was ink everywhere, including on the disappointed visage of Waterman’s guest. Waterman was livid, but instead of buying a new pen, he invented one. He added hairline grooves to the nib that let air into the ink chamber, allowing for a smooth flow of ink. He also added a clip so the pen could be carried right side up in one’s pocket. Until WWII, Waterman pens were the top-selling fountain pens in the world, selling up to a thousand a day.
Going for a vintage Waterman means looking for one of the more coveted models, like a Patrician from the 1920s. A well-maintained Waterman Patrician sells for $300 to $1,500.
The more expensive version: A gold-plated Waterman 100 Year Pen in mint condition starts at $2,200 — if you can find one.
A Montblanc Fountain Pen Holds Onto Its Value
A Montblanc is a top-shelf fountain pen no matter which one you buy. They are an excellent investment for collectors because of their resale value. Montblanc was acquired by Alfred Dunhill Ltd. in 1977 and dropped all their more inexpensive pens, focusing solely on the reputation of the craftsmanship and material of their more expensive pens. Dunhill turned Montblanc into the iconic luxury product you can spend a week’s pay on.
Which is kind of why Montblanc fountain pens are so expensive. A new one at the lowest tier will set you back $500. Their price is based partly on their reputation; not necessarily as a highly capable writing instrument (which they are) but as the kind of writing instrument you buy to show everyone you have a Montblanc. It’s like a Porche you carry in your pocket. This is why the vintage pen market is riddled with fake Montblancs. So if you want to buy one on eBay, make sure you know how to spot the difference.
The Montblaniest Montblanc that ever Blancked Mont
If you’re feeling particularly Elon Musk-ish, get yourself the above Montblanc Autumn, Four Seasons Collection, described by the seller as “one of only a handful in the world. Crafted of 18K yellow gold and accented with a .07-carat, Top Wesselton VVS-clarity diamond drop, it is adorned with an intricate vine motif that wraps around the pen and sparkles with .57 carats of brown diamonds and .13 carats of cognac diamonds.” Just $22 grand.
Fountain Pen Obsession Starter Kit
If you are new to the history and lore of fountain pens, we’ve got plenty of options to help you scale your collection gradually. Check out Analog Attorney’s “Fountain Pen Obesssion Starter Kit,” here.
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For over 50 years Fountain Pen Hospital has been the ultimate source for Fine Writing Instruments � with a staff representing over 150 years aggregate pen experience, authorized dealership for all of its products, and the world's largest selection of pens. A four generation tradition since its founding in 1946, Fountain Pen Hospital's philosophy has been straightforward: prompt & friendly service, expert knowledge, our personal guarantee, great prices. This winning combination, together with our staff's 150 years aggregate pen experience has made us the fastest growing pen specialists in the world. We offer the world's largest selection of Fine Writing Instruments including fountain pens, rollerballs, ball pens, pencils, ink & refills, writing accessories, Limited Editions, Vintage Pens, Waterman and Montblanc.
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Up until the 1950’s Fountain pens were, to most people, the main instruments of writing. Their design changed considerably over the 50 or so years they were used. Some designs were extremely complex and ornate while others were very plain and simple. Today there are many collectors from all over the world who enjoy this diversity of design and the pure pleasure of writing with a fine vintage fountain pen. We always hold stocks of a large range of pens from fine everyday pens to very elaborate and rare items.
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