Video Eleven on Flickr posted the above image about a few recent antique store pen finds. A Parker “51” Aerometric in Midnight Blue, Sheaffer Balance in Red Carmine striated, Parker “51” Demi Vacumatic in Blue Cedar, Parker Challenger in Blue and an Esterbrook CA101 in Black.
I too had a recent antique pen find at a local antique mall. (Shown above) One that I don’t think I had been in before because I was quite overwhelmed (in a good way) at all they had to offer. I looked up and down each aisle at every booth looking to see if anyone had any pens for sale until I finally came upon one booth in the back that had an entire glass case filled with restored fountain pens.
The fifth pen in from the left, I spotted a Parker 51 Vacumatic for $40. Now I actually had a slight go-round with a few vacs before… I had purchased 2 regular 51 Vacs and a Demi from Ebay a while back and had 1 restored (including a nib replacement) for the cost of trading the other two away. When I received it back from repair, I just really didn’t like the way it wrote. Frustrated and out of more than a few clams, I sold it. It was black with a Lustraloy cap – same as in the tray above.
The man who runs the booth wasn’t there the day I stopped in, but I had one of the salespeople unlock the case and loan me a magnifying glass so I could check the nib. The body and cap were in pretty darn clean condition for a $40 price tag. The clip has a slight bend to it and the crystal isn’t perfect but eyeballing the nib through the glass, it looked good. A sign in the case said that all of the pens in the case had been restored and when I checked the Vac filler, it felt nice and springy. Asking if the $40 price was firm, I walked away with it for $36 plus tax.
When I got home, I found a bit of ink on the nib and wiped it off with a wet paper towel. Too lazy to flush it, I poured a small amount of Diamine Onyx ink into a sampler bottle and filled the pen. Squirted the first draw of ink back into the sink to ensure it was filling, which it was. Put the pen to paper and oh-my-goodness….. It has a smooth EF nib. It even writes smooth upside down! My only complaint is that it hard starts on the first letter when uncapped. After that, it’s fine. I’ve read that pen nibs that hard start are often rounded too much on the interior of the nib – which actually lends itself to the smoothness of the nib and well… I can live with that. I like it because the nib has a particular personality to it – something that all my pens don’t have. I do sometimes have issues seeing the orientation with a hooded nib (because I’m in denial over needing bi-focals) but I’m going to do my best to work past that because I like this pen.
There is a small inscription of the number 2 on the pen next to Parker “51” and “Made in USA.” The number 2 designates that this pen was manufactured in the 4th quarter of 1942. (There is a dot system that follows the numbering system and no dots = 4th quarter and my pen has no dots.) Someone told me that in 1942, the 51 wasn’t available in the USA because the were all being produced & shipped overseas for the war effort. Mind boggling. I am in possession of a 67 year old pen (which works fine) that may have very well traveled the world before ending up in my hands….
PS – I like it so much, I’ve written over 15 pages with it since Tuesday….