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June 2010: Ten Things I Learned from Andreas Lambrou’s Fountan Pens of the World

Extra Fine Points Index  ]

BY DON FLUCKINGER • Fountain pen books are a labor of love for the authors, who aren’t always writers by trade but pen lovers, all. As a means of celebrating these ladies and gents who give of themselves to the hobby by undertaking the long and often mundane process of assembling a pen book, I’m writing a series of articles exploring what they’ve given to me.

This month we’re featuring Andreas Lambrou’s Fountain Pens of the World, which every collector doesn’t have … yet. At some point, it’s obvious that the fat price tag nets you a definitive book of excellent quality — the kind of which is rare in this post-print world. And when it comes down to it, the cost to a collector isn’t much more than half (or some lesser fraction) the price of a classic vintage pen in mint condition.

At some point, it’s obvious that the fat price tag nets you a definitive book of excellent quality — the kind of which is rare in this post-print world. Extra Fine Points

Complete with vintage-style endpapers, the oversized tome is loaded with gorgeous pictures, thoughtfully arranged and wonderfully reproduced in (at least for pen collectors) mouth-watering detail. Lambrou’s text, too, will teach even hardcore pen people a thing or, in my case, 10:

  1. When L.E. Waterman came out with its classic precious metal casing pens in 1925 — Pansy Panel, Gothic, Sheraton, Hand-Engraved Vine, etc. — solid gold overlays ranged in price from $47 to $52.50. The silver ones ranged from $5.50 to $9.

    Fountain pen
    Waterman’s Ideal No 452, sterling overlay
  2. Conklin — a company near and dear to me because it hails from Toledo, OH, near the small town where I grew up — rode its rocket ride to popularity on the strength of advertising. Just six years into its existence in 1904, it boasted the second-largest advertising budget among pen manufacturers.

  3. The lowest-priced original Parker Jack-Knife Safety model cost only a buck and a half in 1912.

  4. A. T. Cross’s claim to fame was its excellent stylographic pens, its stock in trade during the first half century of its existence. Cross fountain pens from this pre-1930 era are tough to find.

  5. It was a couple of ex-Conklin salesmen, George Kraker and Ben Coulson, who convinced W. A. Sheaffer that his pens had a shot in the competitive market of 1912.

  6. Eversharp Dorics are 12-sided.

    Fountain pen
    Oversize Doric in Burma
  7. While it shared deep New England roots with competitors like LeBoeuf, Wahl, and A. T. Cross, Chilton moved to Long Island City from 1934 to its demise in 1941.

  8. De La Rue started out as a playing-card printer in the 1800s, before its Onoto pens became English bestsellers in the early 20th century.

Fountain pen
Early Onoto with over-under feed
  1. Conway Stewart might have been known as a lesser-light pen maker in the first half of the 20th century, but it was this aspect of its line that likely helped it weather the Depression, which forced many others out of business. In 1932, its most expensive pen retailed for a guinea (21 shillings).

  2. In a rare bad move, Pelikan came out with a Parker “51” clone in 1959, a piston filler called the P1. It flopped.

Next month, I’ll crack open another book and give you ten more nuggets you can take to your next pen-collector confab and with which you can blow away your peers. They’ll be amazed at your deep knowledge.

cover Further Reading: Fountain Pens of the World, by Andreas Lambrou
FPOTW: Probably the best-known book in the hobby, it’s filled with an incredible amount of text and pictures, and it is irreplaceable.

Don Fluckinger lives in Nashua, New Hampshire, and is the son-in-law of Richard Binder. His articles have been published in Antiques Roadshow Insider, The Boston Globe, and on the collectibles Web site. Please note: Any opinions stated in this column are Don’s alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Richard Binder or this Web site. Don Fluckinger
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