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Planning Retirement Online

Family Treasures - Edition 24 
December 2005

Miller's Price Guide 

Purchase Miller's Price Guide 2004/2005

Family Treasures 24

Jill Churchill, who writes on antiques and collectables for YOURS magazine, continues her series on antiques and collectables.      




Fountain pens

Just as we are learning to a tap out emails and texts, the market for ‘real’ writing is booming. So think twice before you write off an old pen!

Young fashionistas will tell you: owning a fine old pen is one of today’s style statements. Maybe because there’s nothing quite like signing one’s name with a flourish of nib on paper …


Parker fountain pen  

Pen names

This is a good time to seek out the pen that maybe you were given as a special passing-exams present, back in pre-ballpoint days. Best of all: find the pen that father or grandfather owned in the 1930s.

Good names to seek are Parker, Swan, Conway Stewart, De La Rue, Onoto, Schaeffer, Platinum, Pelikan, Waterman and Montblanc. Once you’ve found one of the names, you need to do some detective work about its age, and the rarity of design. See Find Out More, below.

Some basic rules …


  • A pen with a coloured barrel is generally better than a black one.

  • Big, chunky models are more sought-after than slim ‘ladies’ pens.

  • Rippled or marbled barrels generally add value.

  • Ornamental metal overlay or filigree is especially worth a closer look.

… and guide prices


  • The famous Parker 51 was made in such quantities from 1941 onwards that it’s still possible to buy a second-hand one (plain black, rocket shape, hooded nib) in working condition for ?10 if you’re lucky. But ask a specialist before you sell: even a ‘simple’ Parker may be rare if it came from America, has an unusual cap, or is in exceptional condition. And if you have a Parker Duofold Senior from the 1920s, its value can range from ?100 to ?1,000 – they were made in blue, red, jade green and yellow, with yellow (known as ‘mandarin’) being the most valuable.

  • Early Conway Stewarts, preferable 1930-1950 vintage and marbled or veined in pattern, are reckoned to be going up in value, although worth not much more than about ?40 today.

  • Pre-war Watermans made of rolled gold with fancy engraving could fetch ?200.

  • Rarity to look for: a Dunhill Namiki, result of a 1930s collaboration between the famous cigarette-lighter makers and a Japanese lacquering company. Each pen is a work of art – auction bids might go up to ?10,000.

Broken? Don’t despair …

Even if your pen isn’t in working order (it’s generally the rubber ink sac that has perished), it may still have some value. Keen collectors have no objection to buying a ‘restored’ pen, and there’s even a market for the necessary spare parts. You may find an interested local restorer under ‘Writing Equipment’ in Yellow Pages, or – for truly specialist advice – take a look at 
Reckon to pay between ?10 and ?20 for a simple repair.

Find Out More


  • A Miller’s Collector’s Guide called Pens and Writing Equipment by Jim Marshall is good value at ?5.99 – plenty of colour photographs, tips and addresses of dealers.

  • Bloomsbury Auctions in London (020 7495 9494) hold four specialist sales a year. Their glossy catalogue, with estimated prices, costs ?10.
    The Writing Equipment Society holds regular meetings and issues a newsletter. Membership details from



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