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Parker Challenger

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5 replies to this topic

#1 superfreeka



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Posted 07 January 2009 - 06:36

Up for review: 1939 Parker Challenger in Black and Grey Celluloid (4th Pen, at the bottom)


Background: I've been using this pen for a solid seven months now for classroom notes, signatures and general writing under just about every condition I think a pen may reasonably be made subject to. I'd like to note now that the construction of the pen is solid - really solid. Not weight-wise or anything to that effect; I mean the pen just oozes quality manufacturing.

First Impressions: I purchased the pen for $40 shipping included from a fellow member of the FPN. Its looks enthralled me, and when I found out that it was within the upper limits of my student budget, I simply had to have it. The pen initially arrived well-packaged and ready to write. I was impressed with the pen's appearance right from the get-go.

Score: 6/7

Disclaimer: I am not the kind of guy who likes thought and $ put into the packaging of a pen, so the lack of a true presentation experience did not hurt the score. This is just a personal preference.


Appearance and Design: Mottled white, gray and black celluloid comprise the body and cap of the pen. Silver accents adorn the clip and cap band. On my particular example, the plating has begun to show some moderate brassing, but this is to be expected on a 70 year old pen. The clip is very well done, with a fair sized metal ball on the end of the arm. The clip performs flawlessly - not too loose, not too tight, and most importantly, not at all wobbly. The word "PARKER" is stamped prominently on the face of the clip. The gripping section is plastic, and I'd imagine it would get slippery if it wasn't for the upward slant of the end of the section. This slant retards your hand from coming off the section and onto the nib.

The nib itself is fairly pedestrian and unadorned, sans an inscription proclaiming "PARKER PEN - Made in U.S.A." with a production code underneath that I'm not able to make out clearly at the moment. The nib is copper in color.

Very classy design. Excellent overall feel and ergonomics.

Score: 7/7

(Slightly different Red version)

Size and Weight: I would say that the pen is a true medium weight and of average section girth. It is easily usable both posted and unposted. I prefer posted, but that's a personal choice. A very nice pen to hold in my medium sized paws. It feels very natural, and the tapering of the section is very functional as well as asthetically pleasing.

(Green version with gold trimmings)

Nib: What's a car without its tires? This particular nib is a mixed bag, but I see it in a positive light. When I received the pen, it felt scratchy and awkward whenever I would use it. It wrote like someone tweaked it to write like a left-foot oblique (it was not grinded this way). I have since realligned the tines and let me tell ya -- WOW!! This is now my most sensuous and reliable writer. It writes first time - every time. It lays down a pretty wet (7/10) medium-fine line with the most subtle and enjoyable feedback I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing in either a vintage or a modern fountain pen.

Again, the first impression I had with the pen during actual writing was a bit sour. This mars an otherwise perfect score. Marvellous nib otherwise.

Score: 6/7

Filling System: Classic button-filler covered by a black blind cap which screws seamlessly onto the end of the Challenger. Reliable fill. Sizable ink capacity.

Cost/Value: For $40 I got a beautiful piece of history, well built and ready to keep on writing for another 70 years. The value of this pen was outstanding.

Score: 7/7

Conclusion: One of my top 3 favorite pens. Its twist off cap, while classy, is too much of a hassle during erratic note taking sessions, preventing it from being the perfect pen for me. Otherwise, this pen model has got to be one of the best kept secrets in vintage pens. Or fountain pens. Period.

Overall Score: 6.5/7

-- superfreeka

Edited by superfreeka, 07 January 2009 - 15:51.

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#2 Breck


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Posted 07 January 2009 - 12:42

Great review, thanks! This pen has interested me for some time, and my next Parker will most likely be a Challenger.

#3 rroossinck


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Posted 07 January 2009 - 13:04

Nice work, superfreeka! Having just sold one of those this morning, I can relate quite well to your first impressions - and you're right...they ARE nice writers. Even mine with an "unintentionally obliqued" nib, was pretty darn spectacular!

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#4 david i

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 13:30

I am fond of the mid level Parkers from the 1930's. Happy to see others like them too. i have a few long articles/chapters brewing on these pens, but thought I'd requote an earlier thread on these, for those who'd like to supplement the eye candy above with some info about the evolution of the Parker Challenger Family, comprising Challenger, Deluxe Challenger, and Royal Challenger.

The following is but tip of the iceberg, but should put some of this in period context.




(From an old FPN Thread)

A nice review of a pretty pen. As I've had chance to own and handle more than a few of these and have a rather long chapter/section in process about the Challenger Family, I thought i'd add a bit of background here smile.gif

Parker's Challenger Family appeared in 1934 and ran through 1940.

Three core series within the family include :

Challenger, proper 1934-1940
Deluxe Challenger 1934-1940
Royal Challenger 1937-1940




Each of these series featured two models:

Standard (about 5 1/8")
Slender (about 4 5/8")

The Challenger appeared in five "mottled" colors:
and- for just one year- Blue

Deluxe Challenger had four "plaque" colors

Royal Challenger had three Chevron colors


Regular Challenger saw two core types/generations, marked mainly by the switch from Ball Clip to Blade Clip. Deluxe Challenger saw similar evolution.

First Generation Deluxe pen with ball-clip. Note the plaque-on-black color

Second Gen regular Challenger with blade clip in fairly uncommon Blue. Note the mottled pattern

Royal Challenger had three types squeezed into a three-four year period.

Condition is important for value, as is preservation of color.

Often these make nice quite writers.


#5 superfreeka



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Posted 07 January 2009 - 21:08

A great follow-up, David. Thank you.
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#6 FrankB


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Posted 07 January 2009 - 21:38

Thanks for a good review.

I have acquired a lot of Parkers over the decades, but somehow I missed the Challenger. I am going to have to consider one after this thread. Thanks for the reminder. headsmack.gif

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