1. Is the Parker “51” a collectible fountain pen?
The first Parker “51” was produced in 1939, close to seventy years ago. Although the “51” was mass produced with over 300 million pens made, it has become a hot collectible in the last 10 years. Not all “51s” are the same, and while the vast majority are well under $100, some of the rarer examples can command thousands of dollars.
2. How much is my Parker 51 worth?
The answer is that it depends. The most common 51, say a Parker “51” special is worth around $20 unrestored, with some of the more rare examples with solid gold caps and unusual colors worth into the thousands of dollars. Condition is also very important. Dented caps and engraved names will reduce the value of most “51s”.
3. Is the Parker “51” still in production?
The last Parker “51” was made in the U.S. around 1972, although production continued into the 1980’s in South America. In 2001, Parker re-introduced the Parker “51” as a limited edition. Although similiar in looks and functionality, it is in reality a very different pen from the original.
4. Does the Parker “51” have a 14k nib?
Most Parker “51” did come with a 14k nib. But, in 1950 Parker introduced the Special “51” with an Octanium nib, a steel alloy. Most of these pens are marked Special “51”, but late production in the 60s seem to have 14k gold nibs while marked Special. Also, you must keep in mind that through the years, a lot of nibs have been replaced, often with what was available.
5. Most Parker “51s” seem to have a fine nib. Did Parker make any wider nibs for the “51”?
It is true that most Parker “51s” found in the U.S. seem to have a fine nib and to a lesser degree, medium nibs. Anything wider than that is truely unusual in a U.S. made “51”, but Parker did make a wide variety of nibs for the “51”, including Broads, stubs and obliques. They are rather hard to come by and command a nice premium when you find them.
6. Can I get a flexible nib for my “51”?
Generally the answer is no. In its service manuals Parker instructed its repairmen to fit the hood right up to the nib. This was done to regulate flow. By definition, a flexible nib needs some space to “flex”. All this said, I have seen claims of nibs with some flexibility on “51s”, but never as those founds in early Waterman or Eversharp pens.
7. Why do some Parker “51” have a blue diamond on the clip?
The Blue Diamond was Parker’s mark for lifetime warranty. The Blue diamond was removed in mid-1947 due to an FTC ruling against lifetime warranties.
8. Were all Parker “51s” made in the U.S.?
Although the majority of Parker “51s” were made in the U.S., considerable production also took place in England and Canada. Later in the production cycle of the “51”, production also started in South America, especifically Columbia and Argentina.
9. I have an old Parker “51” that does not work. Can it be fixed?
Fortunately, parts for Parker “51s” are plentiful and in almost all instances a Parker “51” can be brought back to perfect working order by most competent pen repairmen.
10. I have a Parker “51” that says “Special” on the filler. Is this a better pen than a regular “51”?
The Parker “51” Special was actually the lower end pen in the “51” line, priced lower. They came with an octanium nib (steel) instead of 14k gold, and the caps were most often shiny Lustroloy (stainless steel) with a black jewel, although performance was essentially the same as a regular “51”. Note that as stated in question #3, later production in the 1960s often came with a 14k nib, although marked “Special”.
11. Why are some “51s” available in the $30-$35 range on ebay and some dealers can ask more than $100 for a similar pen?
Most “51s” sold on ebay are unrestored and using one without getting it serviced is literally gambling. Old vacumatic fillers may seem to work initially, but will likely fail in the future. Old aerometric fillers will probably have a good sac, but in a lot of cases the breather tube will be clogged and corroded, and as a result the pen will not fill completely. A complete overhaul will cost around $30. Some of the more reputable dealers will even offer a limited guarantee. Maybe that great ebay bargain does not turn out to be such a great buy after all.
12. I have read that Parker “51s” with double jewels are more desirable and expensive. What are they talking about?
All Parker “51s” have a “jewel” on the cap, be it gray marbled plastic, black plastic or aluminum metal. Some Parker “51s” will also have a similar “jewel” at the end of the barrel instead of the more rounded blincap. This is referred to as a “Double Jewel” pen. They were not made anywhere in the same quantity as the rounded blindcap pens and thus are harder to come by. “Double Jewels” are only found in the vacumatic series of the “51”.