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Profile: The Parker 75

Reference Info Index | Glossopedia  ]


Parker Advertisement, 1971 Magnifying glass
This 1971 Parker Christ­mas-sea­son adver­tise­ment conc­en­trates the read­er’s atten­tion on the one fea­ture of the 75 that no com­pet­ing foun­tain pen could boast, a nib that could be turned to adapt the pen to its owner.

Logo It was the 1960s. The ballpoint pen was taking over the world, and while the Parker Pen Company had a finger in the pie with its excellent T-Ball Jotter ballpoint, that was not where Kenneth Parker wanted his company to be. The “51” was still selling, especially when paired with the Jotter, but it was on a downward curve. The space-age technology of the 61 had never made that pen a real sales winner. Low-priced pens like the Jotter and the phenomenally popular 45 still cost money to make, and the low margins they sold for meant small profit for Parker. What could Parker do to retain its status as an innovative manufacturer of top-line pens?

Inventing a New Pen

In 1962, Parker introduced the Don Doman-designed VP (“Very Personal”), a pen with a muss-free filler, an ergonomic section, and a nib that could be rotated in the section to suit the user’s grip. While it was a good pen, the VP did not take off like the rocket that it was hoped to be. Just a year later, working under close direction from Kenneth Parker, Doman (whose earlier credits also included the 61 and the 45) finished designing the winner that Parker had so much desired. But now that they had it, what should they call it? Taking a cue from the “51”, whose development was finished in 1939, Parker’s 51st year as a company, the new pen was named the Parker 75 Sterling Ciselé because its development was finished during Parker’s 75th year in business.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

The French word ciselé means “chiseled,” and the 75 truly was chiseled (engraved): the solid sterling silver cap and barrel were manufactured smooth, incised with a crosshatched grid (U.S. Patent No D205,872) inspired by the design of Parker’s personal 19th-century English sterling silver cigarette case, and turned black by oxidation with sulfur. The parts were then tumbled with walnut shells to remove the oxidation from the exposed surface, leaving the engraved grid as a darker pattern, and polished. Over time, the pen would acquire the patina of use, becoming more beautiful as the years went by. Later in the 75’s lifetime, the oxidation and tumbling steps were omitted, and the engraved lines were left to darken with time.

The VP’s filling system had consisted of a removable squeeze-filling reservoir. Because that design proved to be too fragile and also did not offer the convenience of cartridges, Parker and Doman borrowed the 75’s cartridge/converter filling system from the 45. The triangular ergonomic gripping section and the adjustable nib came from the VP. Parker had wanted the 75 to be expensive, but solid gold would have been entirely too expensive, so he settled for silver. The new pen hit the market in 1964 at the unusually high price of $25.00. And it sold. With its innovative design and timeless classic styling, the 75 continued growing in popularity into the 1990s, and it remained in Parker’s stable until 1994, when it was discontinued in favor of the new kid on the block, the Sonnet.

NibThe triangular ergonomic section and screw-interchangeable adjustable nib that had given the VP its name stand foremost among the features that made the 75 great. But Parker had learned some valuable lessons from the VP, most importantly that the nib unit should be easier to interchange and adjust. The VP’s nib unit has a short threaded shank; if the threads become clogged with dried ink, unscrewing the nib unit is difficult because the mating part within the pen turns with it. But if the threads are not clogged, turning the nib counterclockwise to adjust it can unscrew it instead.

NibThe original design for the 75’s nib unit includes a long thin “spike” (my term) feed adapted from the very successful 45. As in the VP, the 45’s nib unit screws into the pen; but in the 75, the nib unit is held in the pen solely by friction against a gasket ring that occupies approximately 15" (5 mm) at the front end of the section, and it simply pulls out. This design also makes it easy to rotate the nib to suit the user’s preferred writing position. Parker even included a small plastic wrench (below, left) with each 75 so that the user could adjust the nib without getting inky fingers. Given the ease of removing the nib, it made good sense to sell nibs separately, and this Parker did with the 75 (as well as with the 45 and VP).

75_toolIn the pen, the nib unit’s feed rests within the interior of a collector similar to that in a “51” or 61, except that the 75’s collector is built into the section and is virtually nonremovable. Later French-made 75s have a redesigned nib unit with an 18K nib and a large-diameter “collector” feed. NibIntroduced in 1991, this version, with its collector fins readily accessible, makes it much easier to clean a pen that has become seriously clogged. The redesigned feed is somewhat larger in diameter than the built-in collector in the original 75 design, however, and Parker reworked the exterior shape of the section to accommodate it. The revised design eliminates the triangular ergonomic design in favor of a slightly fatter circular shape. Interestingly, the circular section retains three ribbed areas reminiscent of the flattened gripping areas of the earlier section, but there is no real need to rotate the nib in the newer version to align it unless the user is uncomfortably sensitive to the locations of the ribbed areas. Shown below for comparison are the two sections; the revised version is to the right.

Fountain pen sectionFountain pen section

Trimming Out the Section

As shown in the images above, the table end of the section was fitted with a metal trim ring. The initial trim ring (shown above, left) was solid metal, screwed onto the end of the section like a nut and glued there, and it held up remarkably well under the corrosive effects of ink. There were two generations of this ring:

  1. Roll-engraved index lines all around, with a numeral 0 marking the top center index line to help the user orient the nib, a pattern similar to that on the VP’s plastic section, which had gold-colored index markings hot-stamped into the surface.

  2. Index lines as above, but without the 0 index mark and no longer accurately aligned with the shape of the section, serving more as decoration than as useful guides.

In 1970, a gold-plated brass band, slightly narrower at 0.120" (3.05 mm) and made of thin brass like a cap band, replaced the solid ring. Secured by a threaded plastic ring that replaced the metal ring, the new band was eventually found to extend too close to the end of the section: exposed to corrosive chemical action by the ink, the edge closer to the end of the section gradually “rotted away.” It was replaced in 1991 with a narrower ring (above, right) that did not extend so closely to the end of the section.

Threading the Section

Parker 75s made from the model’s introduction until sometime around the end of 1965 had plastic gripping sections fitted with metal threads (shown below, upper). The metal threads were determined to be too costly and not really necessary, and they were eliminated on all later production (below, lower). In some instances of the later version, the plastic used for the section shrank slightly over the years — possibly due to storage in a heated environment — and a shrunken section might not screw securely into the barrel.

Fountain pen guts
Fountain pen guts

The two images above also illustrate the first-model converter for the 75 (commonly referred to as a “fat” squeeze converter) and the later model that fits all subsequent Parker pens, including the extremely slender Parker 180 and Classic.

Editing the Cap

Collectors refer to the first-generation 75, which had a flat cap-crown tassie (called a “button”), as the “flat-top” 75. For a brief period between the 75’s introduction and the end of the 1960s, a version appeared with tassies having a shallow conical depression instead of the flat end.

Although new models were introduced every so often, subtle changes appeared ar random times and without fanfare. The following changed were all made to the cap in the first two or three years of the 75’s life cycle:

In 1970, Parker started shipping 75s with a new tassie that had a small circular depression on the end of the cap. Pens with this depression are commonly called “dish-top” 75s. The company could personalize pens by installing into the depression a company logo, an emblem, or a cabochon (shown below on a 75 Florence), and the new design also made the 75 even more desirable for those not wanting to pay the additional cost for a personalized pen, by providing an easy way for users themselves to personalize their pens. Purchasers could request a free “personal touch” kit (shown to the right above), consisting of two sheets of letters printed in gold with black circular backgrounds and die-cut for easy removal from the self-adhesive material’s backing sheet. The kit’s instructions explained how to lift the desired letter from the sheet, place it into the depression on the “button,” and press it down with the front end of a retracted ballpoint pen or similer instrument to lock it in position.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

Nibs — Not as Numberless as the Stars in the Sky

Because of the astonishing variety of nib grades offered for the 75, Parker started out using numerical nib identifiers instead of meaningful letters (F, M, etc.), but did in a few cases return to letters later. Numerical identifiers, located (if present) in a recessed area on the underside of the feed, can be annoying and confusing. Not only do they make it more difficult to determine just what kind of point a particular nib has, but they are also inconsistent from pen model to pen model and, as it turns out, sometimes even within a given pen model over time. The numerical series for any given pen model may or may not have "holes" in it. For example, the series of U.S.-made 14K nibs for the Parker 75 includes nibs numbered 82 (fine Arabic) and 83 (medium Arabic). Was there a broad Arabic numbered 84? Even Parker's records do not provide all the answers.

The following table includes numerical and letter-style identifiers for U.S.-made 14K nibs, French-made 14K (585) nibs, and French-made 18K (750) nibs. All of the numbered 14K nibs have spike feeds. Most numbered 18K nibs have collector feeds; there do exist, however, numbered 18K nibs with spike feeds. (I know of spike-feed nibs numbered 92 and 95.) Not included in the table are 14K nibs and spike-feed 18K nibs that are identified by meaningful letters rather than numbers; an unknown number of nib grades produced in Parker’s proprietary stainless steel (Octanium); a very small number of titanium nibs, all with medium tips, made in 1972; and white gold nibs, of which a single example was documented by Lih-Tah Wong in 2013.

In February 1972, Richard Nixon took two 75s fitted with titanium nibs to China and presented them to Chinese officials.

75_ti_nib

14K Nibs, U.S.
Description Identifier Description Identifier

Needle Point 61 Extra Broad Stub 72
Accountant 62 Stub Thin Music 73
Extra Fine 63 Medium Oblique 75
Steno 64 Broad Oblique 77
Fine 65 Reverse Medium Oblique 79
Medium 66 Fine Arabic 82
Broad 67 Medium Arabic 83
Extra Broad 68 Extra Broad Executive 88
Fine Stub 69 Fine Italic 97
Medium Stub 70 Heavy Italic 98
Broad Stub 71

14K (585) Nibs, French
Description Identifier Description Identifier

Needle Point 11 Broad Italic 54
Fine Oblique 32 Broad Oblique Italic 15° 55
Reverse Fine Oblique 33 Broad Oblique Italic 30° 58
Fine Italic 34 Extra Broad 61
Fine Oblique Italic 15° 35 Extra Broad Oblique 62
Fine Oblique Italic 30° 38 Reverse Extra Broad Oblique 63
Medium Oblique 42 Extra Extra Broad 71
Reverse Medium Oblique 43 Extra Extra Broad Oblique 72
Medium Italic 44 Reverse Extra Extra Broad Oblique 73
Medium Oblique Italic 15° 45 Calligraphic Broad BI
Medium Oblique Italic 30° 48 Calligraphic Fine FI
Broad Oblique 52 Calligraphic Medium MI
Reverse Broad Oblique 53

18K (750) Nibs, French
Description Identifier Description Identifier

Fine Oblique Italic 74 Broad Oblique 89
Medium Oblique Italic 75 Extra Broad Oblique 91
Broad Oblique Italic 76 Extra Extra Broad Oblique 92
Reverse Fine Oblique Italic 77 Reverse Medium Oblique 93
Reverse Medium Oblique Italic 78 Medium Italic 94
Reverse Broad Oblique Italic 79 Broad Italic 95
Needle Point 80 Reverse Fine Oblique 96
Extra Fine 81 Reverse Broad Oblique 97
Fine 82 Fine Italic 98
Medium 83 Calligraphic Broad BI
Broad 84 Calligraphic Fine FI
Extra Broad 85 Calligraphic Medium MI
Extra Extra Broad 86 Calligraphic Broad Oblique BO
Fine Oblique 87 Calligraphic Fine Oblique FO
Medium Oblique 88 Calligraphic Medium Oblique MO

Special Editions

Parker produced several special- or limited-edition Parker 75 versions over the model’s product run. The most notable of these are as follows:

Also of more than passing interest are four fountain pens and an unknown number of ballpoints made in 1968 using material recovered from the Atlas rocket booster that sent Colonel John H. Glenn into Earth orbit on his historic February 20, 1962, flight, the United States’ first manned orbital mission. The fountain pens’ caps and barrels were made of rocket material, and the button-actuated Sterling Silver Ciselé ballpoints had buttons made of it. One of the fountain pens was given to Col. Glenn, one was given to then-President Lyndon B. Johnson, and the Parker family retained the other two (one of which has since been sold at auction).

Colors and Finishes

The Parker 75 was produced in more colors and finishes than any other Parker model except the 45. The following list is taken primarily from Tony Fischier’s web site, reorganized for this article.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass

Year Colors/Finishes Introducexd

1964 Sterling Silver Ciselé
1965 Sterling Silver Ciselé
Plain vermeil
Insignia Ciselé, vermeil
Presidential, plain solid 14K gold (above, top)
1966 Vermeil Ciselé
Plain sterling silver
Spanish Treasure Limited Edition
1970 Ambassador
Insignia Rainbow
1972 Flighter Deluxe
1976 Americana Special Edition
1977 RMS Queen Elizabeth Special Editiom (above, second)
1979 Tortoiseshell lacquer, Chinese characters on cap
Woodgrain lacquer, Chinese characters on cap
Jasper Quartz lacquer, Chinese characters on cap
Malachite lacquer, Chinese characters on cap
Lapis Lazulii lacquer, Chinese characters on cap
1981 Thuya lacquer, no Chinese characters
Jasper Quartz lacquer, no Chinese characters (above, third)
Malachite lacquer, no Chinese characters
Lapis Lazulii lacquer, no Chinese characters
1983 Black lacquer
Burgundy lacquer
Blue lacquer (above, bottom)
Matte black lacquer

Since the 1949 introduction of the “51” Flighter, Parker has made space in the product line for a Flighter edition of most models. There was a 61 Jet Flighter, and there was of course a 75 Flighter. (There was not a VP flighter, probably because the VP did not remain in the catalog for more than a couple of years.) The 75 Flighter became a family in itself; at its 1972 introduction, Parker named it the Flighter Deluxe for its gold-plated furniture, apparently to make way for the addition of the later 75 Flighter CT, which was fitted with the increasingly popular chrome-plated furniture and, in some instances, with an Octanium nib. Other Parker pens, even including the venerable 45, have since appeared with Flighters in Deluxe and CT versions.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass

As illustrated by the Deluxe version above, early 75 Flighters had a very narrow incised gold-plated trim band (more easily seen in the zoomed image) near the cap lip. This band later disappeared from the Deluxe version, and there was no band like it on the 75 Flighter CT.

An additional French-made metal collection, offered in gold-plated, silver-plated, or sterling silver versions, was called Place Vendôme and was offered in the following patterns. Years of introduction, where available, are in square brackets.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Basketweave
Damier [1980]
Diamante [1968]
Écorce [1968]
Écossais [1971]
Flammé [1968]
Florence (sterling silver) [1980]
Florence (vermeil) [1983]
Fougère (sterling silver) [1980]
Fougère (solid 18K gold) [1980]
Fougère (vermeil) [1983]
Godron (silver plated) [1968]
Godron (gold plated) [1968]
Godron (solid 18K gold)
Godron (sterling silver) [1983]
Grain d’Orge (silver plated) [1971]
Grain d’Orge (gold plated) [1971] (above,
        middle)
Milleraies (silver plated) [1984] (above,
        top)
Milleraies (gold plated) [1984]
Perlé [1968] (above, bottom)
Prince de Galles (silver plated) [1976]
Prince de Galles (gold plated) [1976]
Sterling Silver Ciselé
Zebra (solid white gold)

Vermeil and lacquer offerings (except black and Thuya lacquers) were discontinued in the late 1980s. The final range of offerings was as follows:

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Black lacquer
Milleraies (22K gold plated)
Perlé (22K gold plated)
Sterling Silver Ciselé
Thuya lacquer (above)

Bigger and Better

In 1983, in a major reorganization of its model range, Parker eliminated the aging 61 and 65 along with the never-popular 85 and 105, replacing them with a new, even more upscale member of the 75 family, which it called the Premier. The new pen, made in France, was a little longer, a little wider, and a little heavier than the 75, and it received an 18K gold nib. The section trim band, the same gold band that was later found to extend too close to the end of the section, was trimmed with rolled lines resembling the index lines in the 75’s original metal trim ring. The distinctive new cap band and the two end tassies were faceted, and both ends were finished with flat-faced inset black onyx jewels. For the rest, the Premier was a 75. It even shared some body finishes with the 75, but it also received a few new ones; the range was as follows:

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Athènes, 22K gold plated with lacquer
        stripes (above)
Chinese Lacquer
Grain d’Orge (barleycorn), 22K gold
        plated
Grain d’Orge (barleycorn), “22K” silver
        plated
Noir, black turned cast acrylic Presidential, Godron, solid 9K gold
Presidential, Godron, solid 18K gold
Sterling Silver Ciselé

For reasons of material strength, the Noir version was noticeably thicker than the metal versions.

Toward the end of its product life, the Premier was also being manufactured in England. That end came in 1992 if you go by the Premier’s last catalog appearance, or in 1994 if you adhere to some sources that say the Premier was discontinued at the same time as the 75.

Collectible!

Like the “51”, the 75 was advertised as “The World’s Most Wanted Pen,” and it probably ranks immediately after the Parker “51” as the most collectible vintage pen in the world. There are myriad colors and finishes, and examples in excellent condition are still to be found at prices nowhere near the “outrageously expensive” level (as well as above that level). (Among the colors and finishes floating around are numerous different prototypes, complicating the completist’s situation but making the quest just that much more interesting.) User-grade examples are also fairly common — and with the bewildering variety of nibs that exist for it (albeit many styles are difficult to find), the 75 makes an excellent everyday carry pen.



Notes:
  1. Some sources state that the blackening was done with enamel. Although this is correct for the Sonnet, it is not correct for the 75. I have restored a 75 barrel and cap by dropping them into a dip-type silver polishing solution, which very quickly converted the oxidation, turning the black lines silver. Treatment with flowers of sulfur turned the entire part black, and careful hand polishing restored the original silver finish of the exposed areas.  Return

  2. I have seen a French 14K MI nib, and I have a report of a BI. From these two nibs I extrapolate the existence of all three types. My thanks to Robert Lott, who showed me the MI and all three of the French 18K FO, MO, and BO nibs.  Return

  3. The non-Deluxe Flighter shown in this article was a prototype, shop number B-03228. It appears through the courtesy of Lee Chait, who lent it for photography.  Return

  4. The silver-plated Grain d’Orge Premier was marketed as being 22C (22K) silver plated; but strictly speaking, karat measure is used only in reference to gold. The silver fineness that would be equivalent to 22K is 917.  Return


The information in this article is as accurate as possible, but you should not take it as absolutely authoritative or complete. If you have additions or corrections to this page, please consider sharing them with us to improve the accuracy of our information. My thanks to Tony Fischier and Lih-Tah Wong, whose websites supplied a good share of the information here.

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