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Parker Super 21


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25 replies to this topic

#1 tonybelding

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Posted 13 September 2010 - 22:53

If there's any pen that's gained legendary status among collectors -- and notably here on FPN -- it would have to be the Parker "51". First introduced in 1941, it was way ahead of its time, and was produced in millions over the decades that followed.

When I was new to vintage fountain pens, I wanted the 51 that everyone kept talking about, so I groveled over the eBay listings until I found a nameless pen that sure did look like a 51 in great condition -- and got what I thought was a great deal on it. After it arrived I was surprised to see the number 21 engraved on the cap. What a ripoff! It also had a fatter nib than I was accustomed to, so I pushed it into the back of my cabinet and forgot about it.

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Can you tell them apart?



The name of this pen has led to some degree of confusion, because it was preceded by another Parker 21 -- a very different creature. The original (non-super) 21 lacked the tubular nib of the 51, but had a plastic hood covering its conventional nib to make it superficially resemble the 51, at least from a distance.

The Super 21, by comparison, uses a tubular nib and a design closely based upon the 51. It is effectively a cost-reduced Parker 51. It wasn't the first cost-reduced 51, having been preceded by the 51 Special. The Special had used a nib made from Parker's special alloy, "octanium", instead of gold, and the hoop-style aerometric filler that had appeared on the Parker 51 Demi. The Super 21 reduced costs further by simplifying the design of the cap and eliminating the breather tube. (I think the Special had a breather tube, right?)

I tend to think of the Super 21 as holding a position in the Parker 51 line much like that of the M200 in the Pelikan Souveran line. It may be at the bottom, but it's still a card-carrying member of the posse (unlike that not-so-super 21 which was merely a pretender). I've heard a story that some die-hard Parker collectors keep their 51s stored away safely and use Super 21s as their daily writers.

Recently a pretty large stash of NOS (New Old Stock, meaning never sold, inked or used) pens was uncovered and put up for sale on eBay through the Peyton Street Antiques store. They've been selling the basic Super 21 for $42.95 each with a choice of F or XF nibs. I was intrigued, and I felt that with all I'd learned about these pens, I had to take a closer look. I picked out a red one with the fine nib, to go with the teal medium-nibbed example I already had.

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Jackpot!



My original teal-colored Super 21 that I got a few years ago came in a simple display box with the Parker name stamped on it. The newer one didn't come with any box or instructions, just a tag on the clip showing the nib size. I did judge it to be in new condition, though. It's shiny, clean and unblemished!

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New Old Stock Super 21s



The only part of the pen that showed any evidence of age was the ink sac, which is made from a PVC plastic. Soft plastics such as PVC are known to deteriorate over time -- though not nearly to the extent that rubber does -- and typically start to get gummy after about 10 years or so. The sac on the Super 21 was just starting to feel slightly gummy. Considering that these pens were last manufactured in 1965, it's remarkably well preserved. It's still clear, pliable, and fully intact, and would appear to have decades of life left in it.

Many inks -- I might even suggest "most inks" -- will stain the sac, and it was common for these to turn dark blue or black after a very short period of use. That's normal for these pens. However, it is possible to keep them clear if you select your inks carefully. Noodler's "bulletproof" or "eternal" inks, with their cellulose-reactive dyes, are less likely to stain the plastic. I've used Noodler's Black and Violet Vote (AKA Iraqi Indigo) with no staining. I have also found out that Diamine Presidential Blue will quickly stain the sac a deep and very permanent purple.


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Fillers revealed: vacumatic 51, aerometric 51, Super 21, 51 Demi





The instructions for filling the pen reads:

PARKER
TO FILL
PRESS RIBBED BAR FOUR
TIMES, WIPE FRONT END,
PEN POINT DOWN, WITH
SOFT TISSUE
USE PARKER INK
THE PARKER PEN COMPANY
MADE IN U.S.A.


I found that three squeezes on the bar pretty much got all the ink in that it was going to take. I suspect the lack of a breather tube prevents the sac from filling up to its full capacity. This pen is quick and easy to fill: the hooded nib is easy to wipe off with a tissue, because there aren't a lot of exposed feed fins to carefully blot your way around.

The slip-on cap also is convenient. My 51 Demi has a metal clutch ring for the cap to grab onto. The Super 21s have a metal ring that looks very similar but doesn't seem to serve the purpose, as it's slightly smaller in diameter than the plastic body. Even so, the cap goes on and off easily and smoothly. It's a convenient pen to deploy.

My Super 21s both have caps made from a metal that looks like brushed stainless steel, although a magnet doesn't cling to them. They have the Parker arrow clip just like a 51, but they lack the decorative plastic "jewel". The end is just a piece of shiny metal, which is convex on one of my pens and dimpled inward on the other. The cap may be simplified, but it looks good and feels sturdy. It doesn't give any impression of flimsiness at all. The brushed metal actually looks shinier than the matte-finished lustroloy cap of my 51 Demi. I think it's a good match for these vivid colors, red and teal, although the Super 21 was also made in subdued tones such as black, gray, and deep blue.

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The teal pen has the nib and feed protruding a bit further out of the hood than one normally sees in a 51. The red pen has its nib and feed set further in. In both of them the nib, feed and hood are lined up correctly, nothing was assembled crooked.

So, how do they write? The M nib on the teal pen was slightly rough. I eventually did a wee bit of brown-paper-bag smoothing on it with good results. The red pen needed no adjustment at all. It's semi-flexible, giving me some variation of ink flow and shading dependent on the pressure I apply.

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Taking into account the price these pens are selling for, and their virtually new condition, I think they're a bargain. It's true the cap design doesn't look quite as distinguished as a 51, and the cost-reduced materials and simplified components probably aren't quite as durable and reliable as a 51 -- but then, how many 51s do you find in this condition? A used 51 may have any number of problems that require repair or restoration work, whereas you can snag a new-condition Super 21 off eBay, fill it, and start writing with confidence.



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There's a "Flighter" variant too!



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#2 ajd

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Posted 14 September 2010 - 00:08

Thanks for the great write-up. I saw these yesterday and was thinkining about picking up one in gray.

#3 hari317

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Posted 14 September 2010 - 09:00

Excellent review and thanks for the comparison shots. It is very informative.

IIRC, the Parker 21 super and the 51 Special both are equipped with breather tubes of shorter length than the Standard 51 Aero breather tube.

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#4 italiansallion

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Posted 14 September 2010 - 10:23

i want the flighter!

#5 tonybelding

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Posted 14 September 2010 - 10:57

IIRC, the Parker 21 super and the 51 Special both are equipped with breather tubes of shorter length than the Standard 51 Aero breather tube.


Thanks! I didn't disassemble mine, so I could only tell that I didn't see any tube extending up into the visible part of the sac, as there is on the 51 Demi.

#6 777

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Posted 14 September 2010 - 13:23

Awesome review! Thanks! I'm wanting to pick one of these up for a little knock around pen. Looks like just what I'm looking for. :D

Regards,
777

Need a pen repaired or a nib re-ground? I'd love to help you out.


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#7 Rufus

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Posted 14 September 2010 - 16:00

I bought a Parker 21 Super in 1962 and used it through secondary school, university and my working life. I still have that pen today and it writes as well as it did 48 years ago when I bought it. The only repairs I've done have been cosmetic: I replaced the nib hood as the plastic around the nib had started to deteriorate and I replaced the sac just to be on the safe side. The point is is that neither repair was strictly necessary as the pen performed flawlessly at the time; I just wanted to be safe rather than sorry.
Bryan

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#8 klw

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Posted 14 September 2010 - 16:41

Well this make me feel good. My gray, fine point shipped this morning from Peyton Street Pens. I've seen others selling the occasional NOS Super "21" for as much as $120 so the price is definitely right. Now to wait impatiently :P for the postman each day.

#9 Philosoraptor

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Posted 14 September 2010 - 18:09

I bought one of the NOS Super 21's from that group. I went with the dark blue. And, at a little over $40 dollars, these pens are a steal. I really like mine and prefer to ink it with Noodler's Dark Matter. Given their condition, I would recommend one of these NOS Parker's as a starter pen. I wish I'd started with one of these, rather than my Lamy Safari.
"No one can be a great thinker who does not recognize that as a thinker it is his first duty to follow his intellect to whatever conclusions it may lead. Truth gains more even by the errors of one who, with due study, and preparation, thinks for himself, than by the true opinions of those who only hold them because they do not suffer themselves to think." -J.S. Mill, On Liberty

#10 aditya.shevade

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Posted 16 September 2010 - 13:14

Nice post.
Current Daily Writers → Parker 45 Flighter with Blue Quink, Pelikan Pelikano with Pelikan Blue.
Wishlist → TWSBI Diamond 530, Lamy 2000, Parker 51.
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#11 nxn96

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Posted 16 September 2010 - 16:27

Nice write up. I agree that the price for these pens is quite reasonable given that they are NOS and overall a pen with a high degree of build quality. Thanks too for making the distinction between this pen and the prior 21 series. They are really pens of a different character, and this one is certainly more "51"-like.

#12 klw

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 04:26

Mine came in the mail today. I'm impressed.:cloud9: It was sent appropriately, wrapped in bubble warp in a postal service box. No shop wear, the only thing that belies its age is a slight stickiness to the sac. Hmmm, 20 years from now it may need to be replaced. In gray, it's a very dignified pen. It may be the inexpensive brother of the "51" but the pedigree shows through. Of course I couldn't be bothered to do anything before inking her up (Lamy Turquoise) but she writes and flows nicely right out of the box. I figure within a week she'll be close to perfect. This one goes into the rotation right away and may well be the new daily driver. Since I've seen these (NOS) going for over $100, this is a sweet deal. (Just don't tell my wife I paid $40 for a $5 pen) :wub:

A tip of the hat to Teri of Peyton Street Pens. It shipped promptly, was packed appropriately, came with a coupon good on a future order, AND came with a second pen. A skinny, metal bodied, no-name unit with one international short cartridge and a "Genius Iridium Point" nib. I dipped it and it works. Not a big thing but a nice touch. I'm sure I'll buy from them again.

Edited by klw, 17 September 2010 - 04:26.


#13 ToasterPastry

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 05:50

Since there has been no index to Pen Reviews since Feb 2010 (which has become a rather sore subject with me), I thought I would toss in my review of the Parker 21 (the non-Super version). It's interesting to see a completely different, but very similar, opinion/review of the same pen. It's also funny how we both acquired the pen from eBay based on a bad photograph. My pen is definitely not New Old Stock. But it's easily one of my favorite daily writers. I paid $15 for mine. Best investment I ever made.

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#14 ilovepens123

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Posted 18 September 2010 - 03:55

I feel really lucky I bought a super 21 as a 21 from a estate sale on Ebay and I had to pay 9.99+ 2.98 shipping. It was in like new condition an is a fine point that is incredibly smooth. The clutch ring is pure 21, all else is pure 51. This has become one of my favorite pens (of which I own way to many) It really is nicer than my Parker 51 demi this I found for 17.50. My 21 super is made of acrylic (some say Lucite) not styrene.

#15 alvarez57

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Posted 18 September 2010 - 08:24

Very nice collection. These pens are almost eternal-lasting. Good workhorses:thumbup:.

sonia alvarez

 

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#16 Mr.Wote

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Posted 18 September 2010 - 09:40

I got a gray fine-nib one about a month ago, it has quickly become the pen I hand to my students who ask about my "weird pens" (I work with elementary schoolers).

I've got mine loaded with a mix of J. Herbin Eclat de Saphir and Gris Nuage, in about a 3:10 ratio. Makes for a nice soft blue color that seems to fit the understated appearance.

#17 ajd

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Posted 18 September 2010 - 12:18

I received mine yesterday and I'm not impressed. The nib is very scratchy on the upstroke and it looks like nib and hood are out of alignment. The hood tip is over the left tine. I'm going to be sending it back.

#18 MSA

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Posted 18 September 2010 - 12:29

I have seen NOS Super 21's being sold by a seller member called Athar201 (?) for around $30. Wonder if he still has some more.

I bought one from him. One from Ernesto Soler and then finally a flighter from Terim. These are great pens. I like the thickness of the pen. The only thing I dont like is the shortness of the thread section compared to the 51 and also the fact that you dont have an option to get a gold nib on the 21.
Mohammad Salahuddin Ayubi

#19 MSA

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Posted 18 September 2010 - 12:35

for Ajd....

I had the same problem with two of my new old stocks. On both of mine I found out the sweet spot of the nib is slightly to the right.

The ink flow was bad out of the box also. Ernesto (Parker51.com) said that this is because of remnants of the manufacturing chemicals in the pen. He advised me to leave the pen soaked in water overnight.

Best of Luck.
Mohammad Salahuddin Ayubi

#20 cuza

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Posted 18 September 2010 - 13:40

Well said Tonybelding. The P21 is often overlooked or dismissed due to the more popular P51. Fortunately, I am one the was able to get an NOS red P21 from Peyton.

cuza






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