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Parker 1st Type "Thrift Pen" and True Blue Eye Candy


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#1 david i

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 03:48 PM

Parker had flat-top sub-duofold 2nd tier pens of good quality late in the flat top era, such as the Parker DQ. Around the time Parker was gearing up to switch to streamlined style, it introduced a quality 2nd-tier pen in the color, Modernistic Blue... the Parker True Blue. Had the color not started with the flat-top era and been found only streamlined, had it lacked specific catalogue description-- which we are fortunate to have-- it likely today would be considered just another of the so-called "Parker Thrift Time" pens. In fact, some pens from the streamlined era which do tend to be called "Thrift Pens", look rather like streamlined True Blue but in colors not referenced in this model by Parker. Who knows, sans catalogue info today we might be calling it the Taffy colored Thrift Pen.

As with most pens of pale celluoid, the white portions of the pen often are found discolored, and even the blue can fade. As with diamonds color preservation is an important part of value/cachet for old celluoid pens, and collectors thus cherish specimens with well preserved color. Price varies significantly in that context.

The True Blue was reissued as a modern Duofold a few years ago, a nice tribute to this 1928-1929'ish pen.

I've seen many and have handled many and have sold several. On the occasion of finding one with very nice color, I've tended to pop it into the personal collection, though I do not hunt True Blue with a competist bent.

Pens are found long and short, flat-top and streamlined. All have same girth. Recollection is that caps (at least for streamlined pens) are same length on long and short models (barrels are different length), though I must pull some pens to confirm. Suspect short pens were shown both ring-top and clip, though must confirm that as well.

The following three are gems, the three I have in my own collection. The streamlined pen still with price sticker and has killer color; the *slightly* ambered pen at center having still great color and having about the nicest pattern to the plastic I've seen.



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Here is an example of more typical barrel color, followed by another shot of the middle pen above, done with similar technique to the pen with the darkened barrel. Both of these are long models from their respective eras


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regards

David
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#2 John Danza

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 06:59 PM

Great pens David. I really like the True Blue model. I've been fortunate to own three examples that had perfect or near perfect color, but I've sent them all on to other homes. The only photo I have available is below, a streamlined junior that is part of a traveling desk set. I found this unusual, because the traveling desk sets were typically done with the small pastel pens. However, anything could have been done in the 1930s to get product moving.

Through ads we can see some change in the way Parker referred to these pens. Initially, they were just referred to as "Three Fifty" in the color "Modern Blue and White". There is also an ad showing the color name as "Modernistic Blue". However, the name "True Blue" works its way into the advertisements at the point that the streamline pens have come out. Example ads are below.

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#3 david i

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 07:18 PM

Great pens David. I really like the True Blue model. I've been fortunate to own three examples that had perfect or near perfect color, but I've sent them all on to other homes. The only photo I have available is below, a streamlined junior that is part of a traveling desk set. I found this unusual, because the traveling desk sets were typically done with the small pastel pens. However, anything could have been done in the 1930s to get product moving.

Through ads we can see some change in the way Parker referred to these pens. Initially, they were just referred to as "Three Fifty" in the color "Modern Blue and White". There is also an ad showing the color name as "Modernistic Blue". However, the name "True Blue" works its way into the advertisements at the point that the streamline pens have come out. Example ads are below.

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Hi John,

Some beautiful examples of the pen. I believe I examined that desk set with you at a Chicago Pen Show a few years back?

Thanks for adding to the academic flavor of this thread, with those adverts. I have couple catalogue pages and adverts, but I have not collated the ads.

Your ads also show some of the challenges to the nomenclature of old pens, that challenge of course being old news to longtime pen collectors ;)

So... at least in your ads, the streamlined pen was called True Blue, but the flat-tops were... not. Obviously, I'll change that stance if contrary info is presented.

Earlier pens did the generic "$3.50" thing, which Parker did with a number of other period pens that we tend to lump under the "thrift" label such as the 1933 pens I've shown elsewhere (will hunt link later). Color was variably described.

So, is it optimal to call the flat-tops "True Blue" as well, even if they were not described as such by Parker? Split, with "Parker Lucky Curve done in "true blue" plastic"? Lump, as in... "who cares if a year earlier Parker didn't use the model name, we can put a asterisk for the few who care and keep it simple for the majority that does not, and call 'em all True Blue?"

I will post a couple more True Blue shots a bit later.

regards

David
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#4 John Danza

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 07:32 PM

Good questions David. I'll have to think on those before replying. But as for seeing that set in Chicago a few years back, I'm sure you did. I had it there about three years ago and sold it to Ed Fingerman (of Fountain Pen Hospital).

Here's one more pen example that is definitely in the drool category. This is from the display in the Parker Room in the Rock County Historical Society museum in Janesville. The True Blue in this photo is a Zaner-Blosser model done in a pattern of True Blue that I've never seen. Also notice that there are no cap rings. For some reason, Zaner-Blosser Parkers seem to show up as True Blues somewhat often, "often" being a relative term because they're all pretty scarce.

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#5 david i

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 07:44 PM

Good questions David. I'll have to think on those before replying. But as for seeing that set in Chicago a few years back, I'm sure you did. I had it there about three years ago and sold it to Ed Fingerman (of Fountain Pen Hospital).

Here's one more pen example that is definitely in the drool category. This is from the display in the Parker Room in the Rock County Historical Society museum in Janesville. The True Blue in this photo is a Zaner-Blosser model done in a pattern of True Blue that I've never seen. Also notice that there are no cap rings. For some reason, Zaner-Blosser Parkers seem to show up as True Blues somewhat often, "often" being a relative term because they're all pretty scarce.


Great photo. Maybe on my next visit to Janesville, I can convince them to sell the collection ;)

Note too that not all ZB True Blues are band-less. And, yes, a little later I will provide evidence to back that assertion...

regards

david
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#6 matt

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 07:54 PM

Does the pattern "fade" out on two sides of the cap or barrel (not sure about the wild-patterned one in the Janesville museum photo) and indicate that these were produced from rod stock (drilled from blocks of material) and not from wrapped sheet material? If so, that's pretty solid construction for a "cheaper" $3.50 pen.



#7 John Danza

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 11:48 PM

So... at least in your ads, the streamlined pen was called True Blue, but the flat-tops were... not. Obviously, I'll change that stance if contrary info is presented.

Earlier pens did the generic "$3.50" thing, which Parker did with a number of other period pens that we tend to lump under the "thrift" label such as the 1933 pens I've shown elsewhere (will hunt link later). Color was variably described.

So, is it optimal to call the flat-tops "True Blue" as well, even if they were not described as such by Parker? Split, with "Parker Lucky Curve done in "true blue" plastic"? Lump, as in... "who cares if a year earlier Parker didn't use the model name, we can put a asterisk for the few who care and keep it simple for the majority that does not, and call 'em all True Blue?"

I will post a couple more True Blue shots a bit later.



This is probably one of those areas where collector convention on nomenclature probably makes sense. The flat-tops and streamlines are the same pattern, so it would be somewhat awkward to refer to them with different names. I don't have sufficient ads or catalogs to determine when the name change occurred. I can tell you from a marketing standpoint however, it doesn't make a lot of sense to have a pen's name or identity tied directly to its price ("Three Fifty"). It makes it pretty difficult to change the price because you have to change the name then. Plus it's a good thing for competitors to play off of to portay your product as excessively priced.


Does the pattern "fade" out on two sides of the cap or barrel (not sure about the wild-patterned one in the Janesville museum photo) and indicate that these were produced from rod stock (drilled from blocks of material) and not from wrapped sheet material? If so, that's pretty solid construction for a "cheaper" $3.50 pen.


Hi Matt,

I've never seen a seam in any of these pens, so my assumption has been that they are from solid stock. The fading or discoloration tends to be fairly uniform around the circumference of the barrel, for the most part. It's hard to generalize about that sort of thing. However, even the most pristine examples tend to have a little discoloration at the point the barrel meets the section and at the hole for the button filling mechanism, probably because those parts of the barrel are in direct contact with hard rubber parts (the discoloration in these pens being blamed on outgassing from the rubber sac).

John Danza


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#8 david i

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 12:00 AM

This is probably one of those areas where collector convention on nomenclature probably makes sense. The flat-tops and streamlines are the same pattern, so it would be somewhat awkward to refer to them with different names. I don't have sufficient ads or catalogs to determine when the name change occurred. I can tell you from a marketing standpoint however, it doesn't make a lot of sense to have a pen's name or identity tied directly to its price ("Three Fifty"). It makes it pretty difficult to change the price because you have to change the name then. Plus it's a good thing for competitors to play off of to portay your product as excessively priced.


Hi John,

I don't disagree... at a practical level... regarding our use in retrospect of the True Blue model name. The unnamed flat-top version and the named strreamlined version were same price, same niche, bracketing a style shift that swept the entire line. We can accept a model name that was in-evolution. Still, in threads such as this, for the perhaps handful of us who get kick out of just... heck... knowing... the history, the discussion has merit.

Still, I would not jump too quickly to conclusion about how or why Parker marketed pens, at least not based on views of how we ourselves might market them if the company was ours today. We've seen in other threads that pen makers then didn't always meet our expectations today (eg. Parker bulb filling Pencopen, etc) ;)

Parker continued to market pens using price essentially as model name; the 1931 "Thrift" ad does that. The 1933 Parkergram "names" the stepped-end 'thrift'-ish pen using just a price... and so forth. Not that Parker's approach then makes my job easier now...

regards

David
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#9 david i

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 12:27 AM

I'm going to broaden this thread just a bit, noting the material below no doubt is fodder for an independent thread.

By now we've several times addressed the notion that collectors describe a wide range of Parker pens during the streamlined (1929+) era as "Parker Thrift Time" pens (or variants on that phrase), pens that generally were decent quality, button-fil, second-tier items, ones carrying merely bland "Parker" imprints without model names. The "Thrift" label comes from the appearance of just one of the several pen styles for which we use the "Thrift" name, in an advertisement in 1931 which alluded to the Great Depression, mentioning "Thrift TIme" but which did not call the pen a "Thrift" pen. Probably in an information vacuum, in which collectors in the early days of collectable pendom had fewer bits of Parker literature than we have today, lumping all pen styles from that period in with the single pen shown in the ad and assigning the "Thrift" label... had a certain... convenience. But, realize that an intended "Parker Thrift Pen" does not exist. As more information has come to light, some of the several "Thrift" pens have gained model names, sometimes just names derived from their price, such as "Parker's $3.50 Pen". Most of these pens-- even now with model names-- still tend to fall into (or at least overlap) the Thrift Pen category.

The earliest style pen that is part of this collector created Thrift Pen category are pens that resemble the streamlined True Blue.

Pens are catalogued in True Blue's color, and since the 1928-9 catalogues perhaps have been with the hobby a long time, most collectors today do not label the True Blue a Thrift Pen. It meets all criteria, save that today we have a model name for it. The matching style jet black pen-- which most collectors consider a Thrift pen and which arguably can be called The Raven-- also is shown in catalogues, with price varying with trim level, described in catalogue as "our raven black and gold pen", but not clearly assigned a model name.

Things get interesting regarding other color streamlined flat-top (there also are some similar streamlined rounded-top) pens. Some are a bit longer than True Blue. Some have double cap-bands (as True Blue did during the prior year's non-streamlined flat-top version). No one has offered catalogue pages or advert for the two types of black/bronze, the gray/red, the Jade that looks quite like Duofold's Jade. These pens-- which appeared perhaps 2 years before that infamous "Thrift Time" Parker ad-- are classic "Thrift Time" Parkers.

Were these all part of the True Blue/Raven family, targeting a same general niche? DId color evolved during a brief couple year (or shorter) run, as we strongly suspect was the case for the 1932-1932 "Thrift" Moderne and Premier pens? Were the relatively scarce non-black non-True-Blue pens made for niche markets though? We don't know.

Some of these did appear with a more rounded black top piece, as did the classic "Thrift Pen" creme-bronze example that is shown in the 1931 "Thrift" ad. Were they just later variants on a theme, or did they serve a different niche Again... don't know.

I am pleased to offer what is probably the most comprehensive image of the earliest style Parker "Thrift" pen, those with streamlined flat-top look, noting that I am including True Blue and the (raven) Black pen, as really they seem to serve same niche. The creme-bronze is same color as the round-top pen from the 1931 Advert, and frankly I don't know if ring-top apparatus required a flat-ish top. it is possible this pencil should belong with the slightly later 1931-style round-top pens. Still..

The Jade is near mint with "perfect" color. I've seen fewer than 10 Jade pens of this sort. This is the best.

Comments and your images are invited.

First, with my usual diffuse lighting.

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Next, with flash, giving some harsh reflections but showing better some of the pearlescence and metallescence (sic?).

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regards

david
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#10 matt

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 02:41 AM

snip

Does the pattern "fade" out on two sides of the cap or barrel (not sure about the wild-patterned one in the Janesville museum photo) and indicate that these were produced from rod stock (drilled from blocks of material) and not from wrapped sheet material? If so, that's pretty solid construction for a "cheaper" $3.50 pen.


Hi Matt,

I've never seen a seam in any of these pens, so my assumption has been that they are from solid stock. The fading or discoloration tends to be fairly uniform around the circumference of the barrel, for the most part. It's hard to generalize about that sort of thing. However, even the most pristine examples tend to have a little discoloration at the point the barrel meets the section and at the hole for the button filling mechanism, probably because those parts of the barrel are in direct contact with hard rubber parts (the discoloration in these pens being blamed on outgassing from the rubber sac).


John, you answered my question in spite of my poor choice of words to describe the pattern - that it was cut from rod stock. Not discoloration; what I meant was how the pattern "fades" from sharp geometric to blurred rounded shapes and back every 1/4 turn as you rotate the cap/barrel, much like the differences in the grain on a wood dowel. I couldn't picture it produced from sheet stock - the pattern would be continuous except for a seam.

thanks,

Matt

Edited by matt, 11 January 2012 - 02:46 AM.


#11 david i

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 02:51 AM

John, you answered my question in spite of my poor choice of words to describe the pattern - that it was cut from rod stock. Not discoloration; what I meant was how the pattern "fades" from sharp geometric to blurred rounded shapes and back every 1/4 turn as you rotate the cap/barrel, much like the differences in the grain on a wood dowel. I couldn't picture it produced from sheet stock - the pattern would be continuous except for a seam.

thanks,

Matt


Hi Matt,

And... this makes sense, though I'd not considered it before. All Parker's Duofolds (prior to the 1939 "Toothbrush") were of solid stock, not wrapped sheets. Early Sheaffer Balance too. Probably true for plastic Wahl and Conklin in late 1920's though I've not checked. The use of wrapped sheet plastic seems to have started later for at least most of the big guys. I have not checked all the 1929-ish pens I showed in my last post, but I'd bet we don't see wrapped plastic. My guess as to the first sheet-wrapped stock for Parker would be the 1932 (possibly actually 1931) Parco (pre-Parkette). And, actually, I've not checked my early Parcos yet.

Another tidbit growing from a pen thread. Cool :)

regards

David
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#12 matt

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 02:57 AM

David, are your Thrift pens a different size from all the streamlined Duofolds - Lady, Jr, Special?/long Jr, and Sr? Or does only the nib and imprint distinguish your jade pen from a Duofold? Drooling on my keyboard....

#13 david i

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 03:19 AM

David, are your Thrift pens a different size from all the streamlined Duofolds - Lady, Jr, Special?/long Jr, and Sr? Or does only the nib and imprint distinguish your jade pen from a Duofold? Drooling on my keyboard....



Hi Matt,

There remain elements to characterize, and as is often the cases with pens residing near the edge where defined product gives way to the chaoplasm, things can get a bit fuzzy. Note that some of these have full length clips, others short clips which are-- i believe-- identical to clips from vest pocket duofold. Implicit in that observation is that all the pens cited are slender girth (noting Duofold Senior is OS, Duofold Junior is standard, Duofold Juniorette is slender).


The Jade pen thus is diameter of a Duofold Juniorette, the length just about of a Duofold Senior, and has a bland Parker imprint. It is not just a typical size Duofold which received an anomalous non-DF imprint (we have discussed imprint quirks in other threads).

One day we should examine slender Duofold (Juniorette, Vest Pocket) regarding clips. I see long and short (vest pocket) clips on Juniorettes. Should look to see what catalogues showed. Even though the clips are swappable, I've seen enough turn up both ways-- and have seen these slender "thrift" pens both with with short and long clips-- that it is possible the clips mixed it up at the source, perhaps some used during certain time then switch to the other length. This does mean that a beaten black thrift pen from this era in some cases can donate clip to a precious vest pocket Duofold. Good to know.

regards

David
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#14 George

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 03:33 AM

I can verify that the short thrift time clips indeed are the same clip as the vest pocket Duofold. I am guilty of thrift time clip swapping.

Regards,
George

#15 John Danza

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 05:11 AM

I thought I would join in on David's jade pen. The pen below I owned for a short while, then moved it along. I've seen one other like this, flat-top with a single thin cap band. This pen had a plain jane imprint similar to David's, indicating to me a 1930s manufacture even with the flat-top form. The pen was a Juniorette diameter but with a Senior length. Again, no catalog entry that I've ever seen. Perhaps this corresponds with the thought that Parker was putting together whatever they had material for during the Depression, just to create product with as little a cost as possible?

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#16 david i

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 05:46 AM

I thought I would join in on David's jade pen. The pen below I owned for a short while, then moved it along. I've seen one other like this, flat-top with a single thin cap band. This pen had a plain jane imprint similar to David's, indicating to me a 1930s manufacture even with the flat-top form. The pen was a Juniorette diameter but with a Senior length. Again, no catalog entry that I've ever seen. Perhaps this corresponds with the thought that Parker was putting together whatever they had material for during the Depression, just to create product with as little a cost as possible?

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Wow. That is... interesting. It raises all the usual painful Parker issues. I'll toss a sequence.

1. I've never seen a slender jade flat-top equivalent to my slender jade 'thrift' streamlined pen.

2. Generally, one would-- as you imply-- expect at least a "Parker Lucky Curve" imprint on a sub-duofold from the flat-top era, with some exotic exceptions (Parker Patrician, etc). The bland "Parker Pen" imprint is suggestive of 1929+ appearance, though it might at least be worth refreshing (as I've forgotten) whether some of the other under-the-radar late-flat-top-era pens (Parker 5X? or is that just a nib marking) might have bland imprints. The Duofold book by Zazove I believe touched on those odd pens. Tomorrow...

3. Adding to our pain, late issue early pens are known. Flat-Top Duofolds in Yellow turn up with barrel date codes suggesting 1939!! Barrel replacement on those? Late assemblage of core repair stock for parts blow out??? Late routine production of which there is no company evidence (we do see that with late Sheaffer flat-tops)??? BUT, how to map notions of late parts assembly or of barrel repair when-- unlike Yellow Duofolds found with late markings-- there is no evidence for Parker production of a green slender long non-Duofold flat-top in the first place? Or could there have been one. Time to review old lists for exotica. Susan Wirth once guessed/opined as to some sort of secretary model Duofold slender but long. But, she did not have details and might have been applying a 'creative" label to the very Jade pen I posted. I

Sooo... we are left with.

A) Is there a forgotten-by-us green flat-top Duofold in this anomalous size that could at least donate the celluloid size (the band would still be wrong)?

B), Could the bland "Parker" imprint have pre-dated the shift to streamlined contour? I do have vague recollection that some of my BIg Red Duofolds (last year flat-tops or some such) have "Parker Duofold" imprints without "Lucky Curve". What would we get if some late "sub-Duofold" flat top Lucky Curve pens, were issued without the "Lucky Curve" imprint? "Duofold Lucky Curve" became "Duofold". Plain "Lucky Curve" would become...????

C) Could a late flat-top that derived from "no known typical early Jade flat-top" have been issued after 1929 in the streamlined era with a late imprint, as fresh production?

Danged if I know. I will want to peek at the Book to see if anything of this sort from the Archives is cited.

regards

david



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#17 John Jenkins

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 03:51 AM

Great thread. I've only a couple small additions.

We're really dealing with two imprints. The fore mentioned one line Geo.S Parker PARKER Made in U.S.A. and the two line like this:

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This imprint is less common and while my guess is that if anything it appears earlier rather than later. I need to sift through my examples to see if there is any suggestioned direction.


The ringtops appear in both crisp corner streamlined and round top (admitedly with only one round example):

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The round tops are found at least in the cream & gold and black & gold:

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JJ
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#18 John Danza

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 03:50 PM

The ringtops appear in both crisp corner streamlined and round top (admitedly with only one round example):


Hi John,

I too have seen occasional round top streamlined. I have a question about them. Do you think that these were actually designed and manufactured this way, or are they the result of wear to pens that were otherwise "crisp corner", as you name them? This is opinion only, without having done much research, but I think they could be wear, at least partially. I say this because back in the mid-1980s, when it was stylish to wear three piece suits, all of mine had vests. The pens I carried were the typical Cross gold-filled pen and pencil set that everyone needed to have because it made you look like an up-and-comer. After a while, I noticed that the black tops of the pen and pencil had been rounded off to the point where the little gold-colored metal disk inset into the top of the pen fell out.

I know I'm just asking opinion at this point, but any thoughts on this being wear?

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#19 John Jenkins

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 09:59 PM


The ringtops appear in both crisp corner streamlined and round top (admitedly with only one round example):


Hi John,

I too have seen occasional round top streamlined. I have a question about them. Do you think that these were actually designed and manufactured this way, or are they the result of wear to pens that were otherwise "crisp corner", as you name them? This is opinion only, without having done much research, but I think they could be wear, at least partially. I say this because back in the mid-1980s, when it was stylish to wear three piece suits, all of mine had vests. The pens I carried were the typical Cross gold-filled pen and pencil set that everyone needed to have because it made you look like an up-and-comer. After a while, I noticed that the black tops of the pen and pencil had been rounded off to the point where the little gold-colored metal disk inset into the top of the pen fell out.

I know I'm just asking opinion at this point, but any thoughts on this being wear?


I don't think so. The ends are HR just like so many other Parkers, but the rounded ends appear on only a small subset. And they're too symetrical to be wear. All this said, there is variance in the amount of rounding as is particularly evident on the blind caps of my examples.
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#20 david i

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 10:17 PM

I too have seen occasional round top streamlined. I have a question about them. Do you think that these were actually designed and manufactured this way, or are they the result of wear to pens that were otherwise "crisp corner", as you name them? This is opinion only, without having done much research, but I think they could be wear, at least partially. I say this because back in the mid-1980s, when it was stylish to wear three piece suits, all of mine had vests. The pens I carried were the typical Cross gold-filled pen and pencil set that everyone needed to have because it made you look like an up-and-comer. After a while, I noticed that the black tops of the pen and pencil had been rounded off to the point where the little gold-colored metal disk inset into the top of the pen fell out.

I know I'm just asking opinion at this point, but any thoughts on this being wear?




Hi John(s),

Cannot prove anything but gut reaction is to greatly disfavor that round top early "Thrift" pens are "worn flat top" pens.

I note, btw, that a related but ostensibly non-Thrift series, the Parker Pastel, which like True Blue straddles the flat-top to streamlined shift and thus can be found both ways with a 1928-1929'ish run, do turn up with... rounded tops too. Just as the True Blue arguably is a Thrift Pen (noting again the haziness of the "Thrift pen" notion), the streamlined Pastel pens also are. They have bland "Parker" imprint. Had we not catalogue pages for them, we'd be calling the "Pastel Thrifts" no doubt ;)

I do suspect some of the round tops actually have taller end pieces than typical streamlined flat-end pens, though really I should look closely at couple before assuming. Too, doesn't the 1931 "Thrift Time" ad show a rounded cap end piece? Finally, if wear explained the shape, I'd expect to see Duofolds and True Blues with rounded look.

I'm amenable to counter points.

regards

d
David R. Isaacson MD. Website: VACUMANIA.com for quality old pens with full warranty.
Email: isaacson@frontiernet.net

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