The Mabie Todd & Co Swan 4xxx series comes in three sizes, 42xx, 44xx and 46xx (the xx is a number that represents the body colour). These have No2, No4 & No6 size nibs and corresponding body sizes. This pen is a 4460 which is deciphered to mean 4=Leverless, 4=No4 nib, 60=black celluloid body.
The 4460 was manufactured in the UK in the mid-late 1940s. The 4xxx series have streamlined styling which was a big change from their immediate predecessors. These are the 0160, 1060 & 2060 shown below.
The 4xx series introduced streamlining but retained much of the same furniture and conservativeness:
The 4460 is a decent size of a pen, 135mm capped, 169mm posted and nearly 13mm barrel diameter. Mass is 17g, a result of the mainly celluloid construction. The new shape was an evocation of the advances in science and technology made during the war, particularly aeronautics. However, the advance is only skin deep. The Swan leverless system that was used through the 1930s and early 1940s used an entanglement bar and was known for being less than 100% efficient. Everything that I had read led me to believe that the new streamlined 4xxx series pens featured a different leverless system that used a more efficient pressure bar. When I dismantled this pen to check the state of the ink sac, the first surprise was that it had a friction fit section, I was expecting a threaded section. Opening the pen revealed the same old leverless system that had served M T & Co for many years. There must have been a transitional period as I have also seen these torpedo shaped pens stamped with the model numbers of the preceding series shown above. Anyway, the pen contained a flexible sac which sucked up ink, unfortunately it is only a size 18 which is too small and will be replaced soon.
Filling these pens is dead easy. Just put the nib end in ink to the point where the section is just submerged. Twist the knob at the end of the barrel fully anticlockwise then return it to the original position and wait a few seconds. The nature of the filling system means that the pen doesn't hold as much ink as it could but it is still a reasonable amount. The nib and section are entirely conventional consisting of a ladder feed and friction fit 14ct gold nib. The ladder feed is the same as can be found on a 1920s Swan, an indication that it is a design that works well. Swan nibs have a reputation as superb performers. This nib was very smooth on first use but seemed not quite right, indeed it clicked in use. Clicking is a sign that the tines are pressing on each other and inspection showed that one tine was very slightly bent inwards. A quick tweak sorted the problem and returned the nib to a lovely soft stubbish broad. A writing sample can be seen below (please ignore the colour, the scanner is not great).
There are so many vintage pens out there, but these Swans rate as some of the best. I think that this is being recognised in the pen collecting world as prices seem to be rising rapidly. I paid £37 for this 4460 which is a good price but it will be interesting to see where they go in the future.
Appearance & Design 10
Construction & Quality 10
Weight & Dimensions 10
Nib & Performance 10
Filling System & Maintenance 8
Cost & Value 8
I couldn't give it 60 because great though the 4460 is, the 4660 is even better.
Edited by Malcy, 07 October 2012 - 10:24.