Favorite 5: Vintage Fountain Pens

It’s been over a year since my Favorite 5 Vintage Fountain Pens list changed. I revisited the list six months ago but decided there weren’t any changes. In the last six months I’ve been almost all modern. Because of this, picking a favorite 5 was a bit easier since by definition (at least my definition) a favorite pen should be one that is used. So I didn’t have to decide from among my entire vintage accumulation. A vintage pen is any pen manufactured before I was born. Here’s my current list.

1. Esterbrook J (any of them)

Esterbrook J with 8440 nib

I moved the Esterbrook J to the top spot since it was easily the most used vintage pen these past six months. Maybe it’s a cheat since I used several barrels and many different nibs, but that’s what makes the Estie J a favorite. Now that I’ve run through all my nibs (although there are many I don’t have) maybe I can narrow it down to a favorite nib or two (or six) for the next update. No real review of the pen but the nibs are indexed here with links to their reviews.

2. Sheaffer Balance Lifetime Oversize c1935

Sheaffer Balance Oversize - Marine Green

This pen gets used so often because of it’s looks. The custom stub nib is a smooth writer. While the stub is far wider than my typical fine or extra fine preference my horizons are expanding and I’ve grown to love this nib. It was a coin toss between this and the Esterbrooks for the top slot. The Esterbrooks won on volume. I was surprised to see I haven’t reviewed this pen. At the very least I need to do a photo post.

3. Sheaffer PFM I

Photo of a Sheaffer PFM I on a mirror

This is borderline vintage. Since most were sold before my birth I choose to believe mine were manufactured before I was born. This is the low end trim for the PFM line but it works well for me. The photo and the review are of my first PFM which was blue. I bought a second PFM I in green which is my color preference. Review

4. Sheaffer Balance Junior c1931 with custom stub nib

Sheaffer Balance Junior c1931

This ugly pen used to top my Fav 5 list. It’s still a smooth stub nib that I love, but I’ve used it less over the last six months. Review.

5. Parker Vacumatic Maxima (1942) Silver Pearl with Nickel Trim

Parker Vacumatic Maxima (1942) Pearl Grey

This was second vintage pen (an Esterbrook $1 was my first) and it’s still a favorite. I love the vintage Vacumatic finishes and this one is in pretty good shape. I haven’t used it recently but since this article jogged my memory I’ll be inking it up.

Wrapping Up

The Parker Duofold Senior c1928 (Big Red) is a sentimental favorite but it was reluctantly dropped from the list in favor of the Sheaffer PFM I. Big Red leaks a bit around the nib which has kept me from using it. But I have to admit, sentiment aside I’d have to pick the PFM over Big Red even if it didn’t leak. The other four pens were on my first Fav 5 list although they’ve swapped positions around. What’s your favorite vintage pen?

4 thoughts on “Favorite 5: Vintage Fountain Pens

  1. I like your choices for the “Favorite 5: Vintage Fountain Pens”. Having used both the PFM and the Duofold Sr. for many years, I would also choose the PFM. The Vacumatic is another great choice, not only because it’s one of the most beautiful pens ever made, but also because the innovative filler mechanism held more ink that any other contemporary pen.
    The Esterbrook “J” pen is also a winner, if for no other reasons than the screw-in nibs and extreme durability.
    While I also like the Sheaffer Balance pens from the 1930s on your list, perhaps there are too many Sheaffer pens and not enough representatives from other manufacturers. Some of the “numbered” Waterman pens, like the “94” would make a good addition to your list. Other candidates include the popular Parker 51, the Eversharp Skyline, and some of the Conklin models.
    Harvey Levine

    • Hi Harvey,
      I admit a Sheaffer bias which is one reason I use the word “Favorite”, I don’t claim to be objective :). I don’t have any vintage Watermans which is something I should probably change. While it’s a classic, the Parker 51 isn’t a pen I want due to the hooded nib so it will never be a favorite for me even if I do get one. Eversharp and Conklins do come up on my radar on occasion but I’ve never picked on up.
      Thanks for the informative comment which will give others (and me) some excellent choices to look at.

  2. Very nice write-up. All of your pens here were worthy. My favorite in my colection is a Pelikan 400NN c. 1956 with a flex nib. Came to me with nib creep and I had it adjusted by a pro and now it is a pleasure to use. I do not own a Sheaffer, but it is on my list. I like to see the whole nib, too. I am not a fan of hooded nibs…which is not a popular POV among some of the most revered modern pens. the nib on the PFM, however, has appeal.

  3. I almost agree that these fountain pens are perhaps the best of all time, but I must add that the Parker 51 stands above good and evil.

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