George Parker patented his first pen in 1889 when he was still teaching telegraphy students how to transcribe Morse code. In 1894, he invented and patented his "lucky curve" feed system, which greatly reduced the leakage that was a common problem of early eyedropper fountain pens. By 1905, Parker’s Lucky Curve pens were a force to be reckoned with in the growing fountain-pen industry.

The Parker Jack Knife Safety pen arrived in 1911. Its cap could be screwed down to the pen’s body, making it ink-tight. One especially prized model had a transparent, amber, Bakelite body. Other Parker pens from the 1910s include the no. 15, a ladies model with a mother-of-pearl barrel and black hard-rubber caps that were either crowned by a semi-precious stone or covered in gold-filled filigree. The Parker no. 16 was a very small pen with gold-filled filigree, while the descriptive name of the Black Giant pretty much sums up its utilitarian design.

The Jack Knife evolved into the "Big Red" button-filler Duofold in 1921, which was advertised to "rival the beauty of the scarlet tanager." Duofolds in Mandarin yellow and lapis lazuli followed in 1927. Vintage yellow Duofolds are extremely collectible, but a blue model named for the Zaner Blouser calligraphy school is one of the most rare Parkers ever made.

In fact, as a group, the vintage Parker Duofold fountain pens from the 1920s are extraordinarily beautiful writing instruments. Jade pens made out of a branded plastic called Permanite were sold in a variety of sizes (Junior, Ladies, Senior) and in sets with matching mechanical pencils. Some Duofolds had pearl handles and caps, veined with black plastic. Apple green and "Modernistic blue" were other popular colors, as were moiré-patterned fountain pens, which ranged from pink to blue.

The Vacumatics followed the Duofolds in 1932. These pens held twice as much ink as those that had preceded them (102 percent more, to be specific), and, for the first time, the clip on the cap was shaped like an arrow, which would become a symbol of the Parker brand. These were also Parker’s first mass-produced pens. Some had horizontal layers of silver alternating with translucent plastic, which allowed the user to see how much ink was left in the pen. Codes were printed on all Vacumatic barrels, making them relatively easy to date today.

A Junior Vacumatic was introduced in 1934—the Golden Web pattern from that series lasted only from 1936 until about 1938, making it a particularly prized Parker for collectors. Even more rare is the Imperial Vacumatic from 1939, which was produced to compete with the Sheaffer Crest.

That same year, 1939, the company finished developing the pen for which it would become best known, the Parker 51. Released in 1941, the pen used a new, quick-drying ink, which m...

The original Parker 51 had a quick-action, vacumatic-type filler, but in 1948, this was replaced with an aerometric filler, which was actually similar to some of the sleeve-filler systems that had been around for 40 years. 1948 was also the year the pen’s arrow clip was redesigned.

Parker 51s are not especially valuable, so collectors who want to actually use one to write with would do well to choose a post-1948 model, since they tend to work better. For collectors who want to find a 51 to put away, look for models with solid-gold caps, Empire 51s, pens with small aluminum "jewels" at the bases of their clips, and the pre-production models tested in Venezuela, Columbia, Spain, and other climates with high humidity to test the tolerances of the ink.

Other notable Parker pens from the post-war era include the Parkette, a low-priced, lever-filler model from the early 1950s that looked like a 51 but was marketed to students; the Parker Jotter, which was Parker’s 1954 entry into the ballpoint pen wars (the 51 Jotter resembled the famous Parker 51); the self-wicking (but, at $20, expensive for its time) Parker 61 from 1956; and the Parker 75 of 1964, whose silver, engraved, grid-pattern body was an instant classic.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Ernesto Soler's extensive homage to one of the most popular pens ever produced, the Parker "51," introduced in 1941… [read review or visit site]

Jim Mamoulides' vintage and modern pen-cyclopedia. Start at the main gallery, featuring detailed articles (with pho… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage 1945 Striped Duofold Senior Parker Vacumatic Fountain Pen ~ Restored!Parker Senior Duofold Streamline, Mandarin Yellow, C1930, Lot #24Parker Duofold True Blue Centennial Ltd Edition Fountain Pen 2006. 18c M Nib.Extremely Rare 999 Fine Silver Parker Lucky Curve Fountain Pen #3 Nib , No MonoOversize Parker Vacumatic, C1936, Lot #20Parker Vacumatic Grouping, Lot #2518k Solid Gold Parker Button Filler, C1928, Lot #27Vintage 1945 Silver Pearl Stripe Parker Vacumatic Major Fountain Pen ~ RestoredParker 51 14 Ct Gold Nib Fountain Pen Rolled Gold Cap Box Serviced A Beauty Parker Duofold Solid Silver 925 1st Issue Rollerball. 1991 Boxed. N.o.s. MintParker 45 Custom Fountain Pen * Midnight Blue * 14k Medium Nib * France Pre 1980Vintage Parker Duofold Junior Fountain Pen 14k Nib, Button-filler C.1928 UsaVintage Parker Azure Blue Pearl Vacumatic Pen 1944 Restored Flexible Nib **Vintage Estate Lot Of 5 Parker 14k Gold Filled Metal Desk Fountain Pens Nr SmsVintage Parker Duofold Ns Fountain Pen 14k Nib, Button Filler, 1946-48 EnglandTwenty Vintage Fountain Pens Parker Conway Burnham Waterman Gold Nibs EtcFive Parker Pens, Danish Vac, Lot #22Four Scarce Vintage Parker Pencils, 1 X Depression & 3 X Vest Pocket, Lot #53Gold Filled Parker Duofold, C1928, Lot #23Vintage 1945 Parker "51" Vacumatic Fountain Pen ~ Gold Filled Cap ~ Restored!Parker 75 Sterling Silver Lot 11 Fountain Pen RareVintage Parker 51 Custom Blue Diamond Fountain Pen - Vac Rod Fill - U.s.a 1944Vintage Parker Lucky Curve Fountain Pen - Black Chased - Broad Nib - C1920'sParker #45 Eyedropper Parts, Good Cap!! C1910, Lot #26Vintage Parker 51 Double-jewel Deluxe Mki Blue Diamond 16k Gold Fountain PenSeven Working Vintage Senior Parker Duofold Pencils, Lot #46Scarce, Vintage Parker Wooden Barrel Fountain PenVintage Parker 75 Ballpoint Ball Pen - Lacquer Thuya - 130 MmVintage Parker 51 Fountain Pen In Burgundy Lustraloy Cap Boxed Vintage 1945 Parker Vacumatic Azure Blue Striped Fountain PenNine Working Vintage Parker Pencils, Lady & Junior Duofold & Pastel, Lot #47Senior Parker Duofold Lot, 8 Pieces, Lot #21Vintage Parker Vacumatic Fountain Pen Double Jewel Laminated Golden Brown 4 5/8' Vtg. Cordovan Brown Parker 51 Vacumatic Fill Fountain Pen And Pencil Set W/boxVintage Parker Three Fountain Pen & Pencil Set In Red Boxed Parker 17 EtcParker Vacumatic Oversized Pen In Grey PearlRestored Parker Duofold Lucky Curve Fountain Pen Ten Vintage Nibs, 7 X Parker, 1 X Pelikan, 1 X Lipic, 1 X Weidlich , Lot #55Vintage Parker 65 Flighter Fountain Pen Brushed Stainless Steel BoxedExcellent Parker Senior Duofold Fountain Pen - C1954.Parker Duofold Fountain Pen Sterling Silver International NewJudd's Vintage Sterling Silver Parker 51 Fountain Pen For PartsParker 1930s Vacumatic Fountain Pen In Tiger Stripe BlackParker Duofold Fountain Pen Sterling Silver International Broad Pt New In BoxVintage Parker 75 Cisele Sterling Silver Ball Point Pen Excellent ConditionVintage Parker Thrift Time Depression Fountain Pen W/box 14ct. Flex Nib ExVintage Parker Duofold Senior Green Jade Marble Flat-top Button-fil Fountain PenContemporary Parker Fountain Pen - Boxed - TestedVintage Parker 51 De Luxe Fountain Pen- Mk1 Aero-metric Fill - Broad Nib - C1958Vintage Parker 51 Classic Fountain Pen, Ballpoint & Pencil Triple Set - SuperbVintage Parker 75 Burgundy 14k Nib Fountain Pen GcParker 51 Mk1 Fountain Pen - Blue + Rg Cap - 14k Gold Filled 135 Mm - ExcellentNice Vintage Parker Sonnet Sterling Silver France Ballpoint Pen End JewelVintage 1948 Parker 51 Fountain Pen - Vacumatic - Restored!1947 Parker Vacumatic Major; Emerald Pearl; 14k Solid Gold Flexy Nib; RestoredParker 51 Mk1 Fountain Pen Teal Blue + Lustraloy Cap 14k Gold Med 140mm Nr MintVintage Parker 75 Sterling Silver Fountain Pen In Original Box Parker Sterling Ballpoint PenLarge Lapis Blue Parker Fountain PenParker 51 Mk1 Fountain Pen Teal Blue + Lustraloy Cap 14k Gold Fine 140mm Nr Mint