Friday, June 4, 2021

Newest Acquisitions (Virtual "Show & Tell") ~ part 206

When I first started collecting fountain pens (about twenty years ago), my interest lay mostly with vintage pens. My collecting focus, however, has changed over the years... so much, in fact, that the pen below is the first vintage fountain pen I bought since the pandemic started. It's a model I'd had my eye on for many years (but somehow never got around to acquiring until late 2020) - a lovely Parker 'VP' fountain pen which I acquired via eBay from longtime vintage pen collector Pearce Jarvis (eBay username: "penpalace") in Toronto (Mississauga)...

(all photos by Maja ~ please click on images to enlarge)
My Parker 'VP' fountain pen and a new pen roll I recently acquired (more about that later...)

The 'VP' model was only made for two years (1962-1964) and, likely due to its short production life, only came in four colours (black, grey, blue and red) and two cap types (gold-plated and Lustraloy - Parker's name for their brushed stainless steel). My particular 'VP' is blue (more of a "petrol blue", as Pearce described it) with a shiny gold-plated lined cap - a great colour combination.

The Parker 'VP' model was the predecessor of the iconic Parker '75' fountain pen and shares many design features in common with it, such as....

(note the index points - marking the nib rotation selected by the user - stamped at the nib end of the section)

 ....that distinctively-shaped nib, the ribbed triangular gripping section, and a nib assembly that can be rotated to adjust to the user's preferred angle of writing. This latter "personal" feature gave the model its name - "VP" , which stands for "Very Personal" - and shows how forward-thinking Parker was in designing a fountain pen with this ergonomic feature; as far as I know, no other manufacturer has made a pen with a nib that can be adjusted by its user. The grip section of the 'VP' is gently-rounded and wider than the section on the Parker '75', which makes for a pen that is very comfortable to hold and, with its adjustable nib, a real pleasure to use. 

The 'VP' was offered with fifteen different nib choices (all in 14K gold), including some exotic nibs such as Music and Arabic. The underside of my VP's feed is stamped "66", which indicates it came with a Medium nib (there's a scan of a 1962 Parker 'VP' pamphlet here that outlines all its design features).

The photo above shows my 'VP's' filling mechanism--a removable filler called the Parker Clean Filler. This filler was designed to be pulled out of the section, dipped in ink, squeezed several times to draw up the ink, and then replaced in the section --- no nib-wiping required! I didn't want to remove the filler for the reasons mentioned in the next paragraph so I just left it in place (and no, my VPs nib isn't bent --it's just shadows)

So, with all of these cool features, why was the Parker 'VP' only made for two years?
Answer: The VPs filler was made of a brittle plastic, which made its "neck" (not visible in the photo above) prone to breakage. Parker's service department became flooded with VPs with broken fillers and this, sadly, lead to the end of the 'VP' in 1964. The 'VP' was replaced by the hugely-successful Parker '75' model (which used the more robust cartridge/converter filling mechanism) the same year. Both the '75' and the 'VP' were designed by Parker's chief designer Don Doman, who also designed Parker's famous '45' ,'61' and 'T1' models.

Tip #1: If you do find a used Parker 'VP' fountain pen for sale, make sure to check/ask if its filling mechanism is intact--spare 'VP' fillers are almost impossible to find, and the cost of a reproduction filler runs upwards of $65 USD at the time of this writing (Ron Zorn of Main Street Pens makes them-

Tips #2: If you have a Parker 'VP' with an intact filler, you can still fill your pen without removing the filler -- simply unscrew the barrel, fully immerse the nib in bottled ink, squeeze the filler 4-5 times, wipe the nib, and screw the barrel back on! 

As fortunate as I was to find a 'VP' with an unbroken filler, my 'VP' did come with a short, tight barrel crack near its threads. I suspect that this happened when someone over-tightened the barrel, because there is virtually no pressure exerted on this area if the pen is held as it was intended (with one's fingers on the ribbed part of the section). I'm fairly confident that this small flaw won't be a problem for me down the road. Pearce did mention the crack in his eBay auction description and I think that's why I got the pen for such a low price ($50 CAD incl. shipping) - an undamaged 'VP' would cost a lot more. The 'VP' is a great vintage fountain pen, so it's sad to think that its fragile filler survived for 60 years, but that its barrel might have cracked from something as easily-avoidable as over-tightening :(

Onto happier thoughts now --- my new pen roll! (shown above)

I was surfing on eBay for pen rolls and came across this one. It looked beautiful and the price was right, so I quickly used the "Buy It Now" to purchase it as there were only two left at the time. The roll appears to be made of heavy cotton and holds ten large fountain pens comfortably. The name of the fabric used to make it is called
"Golden Wave", and I absolutely love it.

(Above: a closeup of the beautiful "Golden Wave" fabric)

The gold-coloured threading is eye-catching --but not garishly so-- and the bright colours of the waves really "pop". I'm no expert but the pen roll seems to be very well-made, and at $16.49 CAD including shipping (from eBay seller "kakapenstoreo"), was an amazing bargain. The seller eventually sold out of this design, but it was back in stock (and for the same low price) when I checked today.

Lastly, some outdoor photos of my Parker 'VP' fountain pen that show its true colour a bit better:

For more information on the Parker 'VP' fountain pen, I highly recommend reading Richard Binder's excellent profile of it here, as well as Tony Fischier's entry on his extensive site (link).

A side view of the pen (below) showing that its nib isn't bent ;)

(Below) A closeup of the nib in better lighting. You might be able to see the section's index marks a bit better (
to see enlarged images of the photos, left-click on a photo to enlarge it, then right-click & select "View image" or "Open image in new tab", then left-click again.):

Sorry for the long blog post!  I didn't intend to write that much about the 'VP', but it has so many cool features.

~ photos & reviews by Maja ~

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