Vintage Parker 51 Pens - The Classic Fountain Pen
The original Parker 51 was the biggest selling and probably most practical fountain pen ever made. It never leaked, always worked and rarely broke. With sales in excess of 20 million pens, it was ‘like a pen from another planet!’ It rapidly became 'the world's most wanted pen'
The Parker 51 Vacumatic
It was first launched to the American public in January 1941 in just four colours: India Black, Cedar Blue, Dover Grey and Cordovan Brown with a wide choice of cap styles. This initial version of the 51 was a vacumatic filler with a rubber diaphragm and filler button fitted in the end of the barrel, a system developed by Parker in the early 1930s. As demand grew, premier models in Buckskin Beige, Nassau Green and Yellowstone (Mustard) were added along with some stunning cap designs in solid 14k gold such as the famous Empire State and the Coronet pattern owned by Dwight D Eisenhower. These colours and cap designs are highly sought after today and are the focal points of many 51 collections
The Parker 51 Aerometric
In 1947, Parker’s factory in England also started producing 51s for the British and European markets and, with the Vacumatic filling system being seen as overly complicated, Parker worked towards a new type of filler which was longer lasting, more reliable and simpler to use. In 1949, the ‘New Aero-metric Parker 51’ was launched and described as ‘a clear case of improving on perfection’. Instead of the button operated rubber diaphragm filler, this new 51 came with a PVC pli-glass reservoir with a 30 year life expectancy - an astonishingly long life given that most pens then required a service every 5 years or so. In the event, even this projection proved to be a little pessimistic as 51s continue arriving here every month for their first service and sac replacement in 70 years!
This aerometric filling system was used in virtually all 51s until 1978 when production in the UK ceased. Small changes and improvements to the 51 continued almost annually from 1950 on with the major redesigns in 1971 with a streamlined Mark 2 followed by the final Mark 3 version in around 1975. A wide range of 51 variations were produced in both the UK and USA with slightly different timelines, and it is not unusual to find different colours, cap styles and imprints in US and UK production
Popular and Practical Parker 51 modelsOur most popular vintage Parker 51 pen is this Aerometric Mk1 with the Classic steel cap or the Custom rolled gold cap and rounded end to the barrel as shown here. Standard colours in the UK were black, burgundy, teal blue and grey. This model, with many variations, was in production in the USA and UK from around 1948 to the late 1960s. We sell, service and refurbish more of these Mk1 models than any other make or model of pen. The sophistication of their design and the outstanding quality of the materials make these, in our opinion, the best pens ever made!
Parker 51 Sales and Servicing
- David Shepherd's book on the Parker 51
- Detailed history of the Parker 51 on David Nishimura's site
- The Parker 51 colour range on Tony Fishier's site
- How did the Parker 51 get its name?