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10 Greatest/most Iconic Fountain Pens Ever Made


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I'd start with categories and then move to specifics.


Maybe the first workable mass-production stored-ink pen (a safety?), the first mass-market pen, the first pen explicitly and consciously designed (showing that the internals had been sorted out enogh for people to look to design as a goal in itself).the first mass-market cartridge pen, maybe even the first pen that started what appears to be a current revival ...


... and then wait for the second argument over the pens in each category ...

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You write this often. I think it's an inaccurate assessment, but you are entitled to the opinion.


I'm not a Montblanc fan, and I don't own one, but the Montblanc 146 or 149 not iconic? I must have slipped into an alternate universe where there aren't any other black, cigar-shaped pens with gold trim and a big gold nib.

I know my id is "mhosea", but you can call me Mike. It's an old Unix thing.

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No English pens? I would think that at least the Yard O Led pens could be iconic. Or the Onoto original plunger?


Post Script

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folllowing a suggestion above i would propose categories. hopefully one can find pens that cover every entry in every category and stay under the limit


1. national

gernan,us,uk,italian,japanese. all making pens for many years and all producing something special at sometime.


2. key steps

hard rubber, celluloid, lucite, resin, metal, eyedropper, lever, piston, vacumatic/touchdown, c/c, interchangable nib by user



3. key shapes/designs

flat top, cigar, hooded, open nib, inlaid nib, retractable/safety, pocket



4. line endurance

continual production for 30+ years perhaps?



5. nib types

flex, italic, manifold



the shortest list I can come up with that covers all these is


1. pelikan 400 German, piston, nib changing, many nib types, resin long endurance

2. Schaeffer Targa, flat top, us, metal, inlaid nib, long production, c/c

3. pilot VP Japanese, metal, EF nibs, interchangable, retractable, long endurance, c/c

4. onoto model??? celluloid UK, plunger, vacuum shutoff lock

5. waterman model 12, bchr, wet noodle, eyedropper us

6. parker 51 lucite, early with vacumatic filler, hooded nib

7. I don't know Italian pens well but perhaps aurora 88, piston, cigar, long production?

8. eversharp skyline us, lever filler, art deco,

9. for a pocket pen the kaweco with its long endurance seems correct


i also agree with others about eg twsbi. i would put them into a future classics line

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  1. TWSBI Diamond series (cheap, user serviceable, utilitarian design, much loved company and pen line)
  2. Sheaffer Snorkel
  3. Pilot VP (first retractable pen that gets everything right)
  4. Platinum 3776 Century (beautiful pens, deceptively high quality, slip n seal mechanism is a revelation)
  5. Lamy 27 (superbly utilitarian, vastly superior to the P51 in my opinion)
  6. Parker 51
  7. Sheaffer Touchdown (not as iconic as the Snorkel, but still a fantastic system)
  8. Lamy Safari (cheap, made fountain pens widely accessible to all ages, and still a highly recommended first pen)
  9. Pelikan M line (appeals to any budget, piston filler is the best available today)
  10. Esterbrook J line (HUGE variety of nibs, screw in/screw out nib swapping, cheap)

Why did you included the Parker 51 if you find the L27 Vastly superior? Interesting thought with the Platinum...I wouldn't call it iconic though...


Hence why the 27 was ranked higher than the 51. I still love the 51!


My list was in order :) and I stuck to the greatest/iconic, so some of these I just really really like.

Visit my blog Pentorium!

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Oh boy, this is a toughie!


Montblanc 149

Aurora 88

Sheaffer PFM

Lamy 2000

Parker 51

Waterman 52

Parker Vacumatic

Delta Dolce Vita

Pelikan Souveran 400

Sailor 1911


Eclectic - 3 Germans, 2 Italians, 4 Americans, and 1 Japanese - but that is the way it should be.




Using right now:

Parker 51 "F" nib runing PR Tanzanite

Narwhal Nautilus "F" nib running Montblanc Racing Green 

Edison Comet "F" nib running Leonardo Officina Italiana Blue

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i·con (kn)


1. also i·kon (kn)

a. An image; a representation.


2. An important and enduring symbol


(1) MB 149 - love it, hate it, instantly recognizable

(2) Omas Paragon/Wahl-Eversharp Doric - YOU fight about which came first

(3) Parker 51 - see #1, above. Millions, and millions, and millions...

(4) Parker Duofold - you try dropping out of airplanes. Big and flat topped. Say "Big Red" and what comes to mind?

(5) Sheaffer Balance - picking between the flat-top and the streamline, the winner. Besides, we have #4 above with the flat top look.

(6) Waterman HR - 12, 52. All riffs on the same pen, whether eyedropper, lever fill, overlay or ripple.

(7) Pelikan 100 on up to the 1000. Pistons on parade, on up to the 1000, a 100 on steroids.

(8) Parker Vacumatic - who doesn't recognize the stripes?

(9) Esterbrook J - the working man's Personal Point.

(10) Sheaffer Snorkel - PFM and snorks for all genders: a symbol of overengineering. Why would Men be afraid of a little ink on their fingers?


Note: no TWSBIs (call back in 10 or 15 years, or 2 years after the Safari goes iconic).

No Kaweco Sport (going all the way back to the original model, but hasn't passed the Tuckaway as a novelty. Hard for me to say iconic and terminally cute about the same pen).

Delta Dolce Vita ( can't leap frog all the other Italians that come to mind: see Omas.).



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I think the Sheaffer Flat top in green jade was historically significant because it was the first mass produced cellulose nitrate plastic (called Radite) fountain pen.


ps. It's my impression and memory (I am almost 70) that Esterbrook was a school pen. It was the first fountain pen one got in elementary school and the first pen one replaced or was gifted a better one when you graduated from high school. Sheaffer school pens were popular in high school. I don't recall any grown person using an Esterbrook, not even working men like my dad.

Edited by ANM

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time. TS Eliot

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  • 1 month later...

MB 149

MB 146

Pel m1000

Omas 360 old style

Omas Paragon Arte Italina HT Oversize

Sheaffer Balance Oversize Vac fill

Sheaffer PFM

Parker Duofold

Waterman Le Man 100

Montegrappa Extra

Pens are like watches , once you start a collection, you can hardly go back. And pens like all fine luxury items do improve with time


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  • 1 year later...

1. Waterman 52 (want)

2. Lamy 2000 (have)

3. Mont Blanc 149

4. Pelikan M800

5. Parker Duofold in Red

6. Sailor 1911S

7. Graf von Faber Castell Classic

8. Pilot M90

9. Aurora 88

10. Kaweco Student.


I've avoided Namiki and Nakaya because they aren't exactly mass produced.



tried to pick only one pen per make

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My list would be as follows (balancing great with iconic)


1. Parker 51 (gold cap preferred)

2. MB 149

3. Conklin Crescent

4. Pelikan M1000

5. Waterman 52

6. Shaeffer Snorkel

7. Pilot Falcon

8. Shaeffer Duofold flat top Sr (in jade)

9. Lamy Safari (not a particularly 'great' pen in my view, but instantly recognisable)

10. Visconti HS (bronze)

Edited by Uncial
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No English pens? I would think that at least the Yard O Led pens could be iconic. Or the Onoto original plunger?


Post Script

I was thinking that myself..


What I first thought of when I think of iconic pens are pens that changed the industry or you can still see their impact today. Even though I lack a lot of knowledge of fountain pen history I would have a list that goes something like


1. The first fountain pen

2. The original Onoto Plunger filler - they even had one sit at the bottom of the ocean for 70 years and were able to make it work again....

3. The first piston filling fountain pen.

4. The Sheaffer snorkel.

5. The MB 149 its impact can be seen everywhere.

6. Parker Duofold or Vacumatic, they are instantly recognizable and they are still impacting styles today.

7. Conway Stewart executive models. It at least appears that they were using some materials that nobody else at the time was.

8. The first flex nib fountain pen.

9. I'm not sure who came up with it first but I know Onoto was making demonstrator pens in the 30's.

10. Whichever model used the first converter system with cartridges.


Though I really would have liked to throw the 1937 Onoto Magna on the list and a few others. I think of being iconic as changing the industry or having a significant impact on it, and I don't know how much the Magna really impacted other than I've heard it's an amazing pen...

Edited by Quantum

Modern and Vintage Pens for sale at Nonlinear Pens and you can find me on Pinterest at Nonlinear.


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1. Parker '51'

2. Waterman 52 (really, any vintage hard rubber Waterman, but the 52 seems the most iconic to me)

3. Sheaffer Balance
4. Eversharp Skyline
5. Lamy 2000

6. Montblanc 149

7. Pelikan 400

8. Parker 45

9. Wahl Eversharp Doric

10. Namiki Vanishing Point

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As, imho, with the possible exception of the C/C Filler, there were no fundamental technological improvements after ca. 1945, my list stops at around 1950. I own only 4 pens of this list & I`ve tried to be objective & not let my descision be colored by likes/dislikes.


Here goes:


1. Mabie, Todd & Bard (timeless design, compared to which the 80+ years younger Lamy2000 looks seriously oudated today***) (representing early 19th Centuy ED fillers)

2. Waterman`s Safety Pen (How can you not have a Safety on the list ???)

3. Waterman`s 52

4. Parker Duofold (Red - nohing more iconographic for 1920ies)

5. Pelikan 100 (first piston filler)

6. Wahl-Eversharp Doric (quintessentially Art Deco)

7. Wahl-Eversharp Skyline

8. Parker 51

10.Montblanc 146/149


My condolences go to Japan, UK , France & Italy



1_To limit the list at 10, I had to throw out the Conklin Crescent & a Sheaffer & Parker Vacumatic

2_A Safety Pen MUST be on this list!

3_I don`t see why the Aurora 88 is supposed to be iconic. It`s a version of the P51 design & has been more or less copied by numerous brands in the 50ies (besides Aurora: Stylomine 303 & Ancora come to mind)


Suggestions for post 1950 pens:


_Pilot Vanishing Point

_Omas 360

_Sailor KOP, King Eagle nib (representing high priced & specialized Japanese pens)

_Noodler`s Konrad (a whole essay could be written why this is one of the most quintessential pens of the 21. Century, warts & all)


Sorry UK & France: Nothing iconic comes to mind (possible exception being France`s Stylomine 303)


***sorry, can`t be 100% objective ;)

Edited by Polanova
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Just at the birth of the fountain pen in the early 1880ies, Mabie,Todd & Bard came up with the ultimate minimalist FP-design, ca. 30 years before Bauhaus came into existence and about 85 years before the L2000.

Difficult to top that one!


Edited by Polanova
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Paul E. Wirt....best pens in the world in 1900, according to Sears and Roebuck's 1902 replica catalog which was one of the places he sold his pens.

The original Conklin, the first non-eyedropper pen.

The first lever Sheaffer, the perfection of the fountain pen.....really nothing better or faster.

The piston Pelikan 100 after it had the ink window.


The 146-9 look like Sheaffer New Balance.

The Aurora 88 combined the P-51 looks with a piston.

The P-51 and Snorkel.

And of course the Geha 725 with rolled gold trim....the sleekist and classiest of them all. :P

Edited by Bo Bo Olson

German vintage '50-70 semi-flex stubs and those in oblique give the real thing in On Demand line variation. Modern Oblique is a waste of money for a shadow of line variation. Being too lazy to Hunt for affordable vintage oblique pens, lets you 'hunt' for line variation instead of having it.

RIP...200's once great nib, now a double ball.:crybaby::wallbash:


The cheapest lessons are from those who learned expensive lessons. Ignorance is best for learning expensive lessons.




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Parker Vacumatic (king of gimmicky and intersting filling systems)


I would personally say that the king of gimmicky and interesting filling system would have to be Sheaffer's Snorkel. That being said, those things are #1 on my list.


Here's my list:

1/ Sheaffer Snorkel

2/ Esterbrook J

3/ Pilot VP

4/ Parker 51

5/ Parker Duofold

6/ Waterman's Ideal no. 12

7/ Eversharp Skyline

8/ Sheaffer Cartridge School Pen

9/ Parker 45

10/ Sheaffer Balance

Parker 51 Aerometric (F), Sheaffer Snorkel Clipper (PdAg F), Sheaffer Snorkel Statesman (M), red striated Sheaffer Balance Jr. (XF), Sheaffer Snorkel Statesman desk set (M), Reform 1745 (F), Jinhao x450 (M), Parker Vector (F), Pilot 78g (F), Pilot Metropolitan (M), Esterbrook LJ (9555 F), Sheaffer No-Nonsense calligraphy set (F, M, B Italic), Sheaffer School Pen (M), Sheaffer Touchdown Cadet (M), Sheaffer Fineline (341 F), Baoer 388 (F), Wearever lever-filler (M).

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  • 5 years later...

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