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344, The Humble Montblanc


Rosetta59

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In a previous review I managed to introduce a brief timeline of the 34x series. Now I wish to present to our community a revised, enlarged and corrected version. I hope it may be useful.

 

Many pictures are borrowed from the websites penboard.de and hepworthdixon.com. Tom Westerich (penboard) and Michael Knott (hepworthdixon) kindly permitted me to employ their marvelous images.

 

 

 

MB 344, the humble Montblanc

The Montblanc 34x series was introduced on the market at the beginning of the fifties; the starting year being 1951 or 1952, even if some pre-series are presumably from 1950. The first type (34x) was produced until 1953; the second (3-4x), after some restyling, from 1953 up to 1957, and the third (34x), from 1957 up to 1960, when the production was halted. The 34x series was intended as a third tier (i.e. third price range) following the flagship 14x and the middle priced 24x / 25x / 26x.

344 / 342 stand for: 3 (third tier); 4 (piston filling system); and 4 / 2 (the nib size)

 

Tech Specifications

Technically speaking these fountain pens are of ordinary level, as expected from an “jeden erschwinglich” economy range (so to speak… the original price of a 344 model in 1952-53 was 20 DM, with a contemporary exchange rate of 11.70 DM for a UK pound, this translates in 34 shillings and two pence, when a Conway Stewart 58 – the top of the line during those years – was priced 31 shillings and six pence). Models 34x do not show smart technical innovations, but the quality is nevertheless high. The clip is retained by a domed stud, with a white Montblanc signet inlaid to the top. The clip is a ring-type, screw mounted, it has a frozen drop shape. The cap itself screws on the body of the pen. The models 342 and 3-42 are 125 mm long when closed, their diameter is 13 mm and the weight is 15.8 gr. The models 344 and 3-44 are 134 mm long when closed, their diameter is 13.5 mm and the weight is 17.5 gr. Variations do exist among the series.

 

fpn_1452198783__01.jpg

 

Montblanc brochure with available models - 1955 (?)

Materials

The very initial production run consisted of celluloid models with an amber ink window. Thereafter the 34x were produced in molded injection plastic with a pale blue ink window. The cap ring (only one) was gold filled as well as the clip. The nib was gold 14 ct. (models 34xG and 3-4xG). Until 1957, the 34x and 3-4x models were equipped also with steel nibs. The feed was made in ebonite.

 

Filling System

On these fountain pens we found a classic piston filling system, already employed by Montblanc in its whole production at the time. The first series have a cork sealed, prewar-like piston with a shorter knob, while the later series have a plastic seal piston.

 

Versions

The 34x fountain pens were made in two sizes, related to the nib class: the smaller 342 (with a size 2 nib) and the medium 344 (with a size 4 nib). The letter “G” was added to the model number of the pens (Goldfeder) when a gold nib was employed; no letter when the nib was stainless steel (at least until 1957, when the 344 -w/o added letters- had a gold nib).

The first 34x series had the single gold band near the cap’s lip. On the cap there was the iconic prewar engraving MONT- ^^BLANC. The ink window on the first celluloid models was amber; the following models were plastic with a pale blue window. The section is concave in the former version. The piston knob has a shorter size than the newer versions. It is engraved with the model #, the “G”, when appropriate, and the tip size . The feed in ebonite is flat (“ski slope”) with long grooves and the domed stud on the cap is engraved with the outline of the Montblanc star, like the old 33x series.

The final 34x version (1957 up to 1960) is made in injection molded plastic. The cap ring was substituted with a gold band which covered the cap’s lip and was engraved with “MONTBLANC” and “ * 344 * ” or “ * 342 * ”. The iconic prewar engraving on the cap was withdrawn (even if there are very scarce transitional samples with both engravings). The ink window remained pale blue and the section was straight. On the domed stud a solid white Montblanc star appeared as on the 14x series. The piston knob was a long one, with the nib size engraved. The feed is now rounded with full length grooves. The nib was always in gold 14 ct. on the 344. Some 342 “G” do exist in this last version. So, probably, some 342 with steel nib were available in the last production run.

 

Production Timeline (proposed scheme – a similar one may apply to the 342 / 3-42)

Production dates are proposed on the basis of MB catalogues, brochures and the book “Collectible Stars”(cit. page 13)

 

344G(1). First production run, 1950 (?) Models 344G and 344.

The star on the top is outlined white. On the cap there is engraved: MONT-^^BLANC. The cap ring, unengraved, leaves a free lip. The piston knob is short (with 344G or 344 and the tip size engraved), the ink window is amber and the body is made in celluloid. The feed is made in ebonite, with a “ski-slope” shape. The section is a smooth center-concave shaped cylinder.

 

344G(2). Second series, 1951 - 1953 (?) Models 344G and 344.

Same as above, but the body is made in injection molded plastic. The ink window is pale blue. There are both long and short ink window versions.

 

3-44G(1). Third series, 1953 – 1954 (?) Models 3-44G and 3-44. (Note that there is the dash)

The star on the top is outlined white. On the cap there is engraved: MONT-^^BLANC. The cap ring, unengraved, leaves a free lip. The piston knob is short (with 3-44G or 3-44 and the tip size engraved), the long ink window is pale blue and the body is made in injection molded plastic. The feed is made in ebonite, with a “ski-slope” shape. The section is the usual concave.

 

3-44G(2). Fourth series, 1954 – 1956 (?) Models 3-44G and 3-44. (Note that there is the dash)

The star on the top is outlined white. On the cap there is engraved: MONT-^^BLANC. The cap band, unengraved, covers the lip. The piston knob is short (with 3-44G or 3-44 and the tip size engraved), the long (or short) ink window is pale blue and the body is made in injection molded plastic. The feed is made in ebonite, with a “ski-slope” shape. The section is the usual concave.

 

3-44G(3). Fifth series, 1956 – 1957 (?) Models 3-44G and 3-44. (Note that there is the dash)

The star on the top is solid white and smaller than the outlined. On the cap there is engraved: MONT-^^BLANC. The cap band, unengraved, covers the lip. The piston knob is long (with 3-44G or 3-44 and the tip size engraved), the short ink window is pale blue and the body is made in injection molded plastic. The feed is made in ebonite, with a “ski-slope” shape. The section can be either the usual concave one or the newer straight truncated cone, smooth.

 

344(3). Sixth series (and last), 1957 – 1960 Model 344 (all with gold nib 14 ct.)

The star on the top is solid white and smaller than the outlined. The cap is unengraved. The cap band, engraved with “MONTBLANC *344*”, covers the lip. The piston knob is long (with the tip size engraved), the short ink window is pale blue and the body is made in injection molded plastic. The feed is made in ebonite, with a “rounded” shape and two long grooves. The section is a straight truncated cone, smooth.

 

fpn_1452198904__02.jpg

Page from a Montblanc Catalogue, 1957

 

Colours

These pens were initially produced only in glossy black. Then plastic models followed where the color was petrol blue, mahogany red, olive green, and pearl grey, with a clear ink window or no window at all. Some red models are described as “burgundy”. Generally speaking the fancy models were probably intended for export. At least one model was manufactured in Spain (see the last image before the "MB star").

 

Nibs

These pens were produced with two nib sizes: #2 and #4, such as the final number of the model (either 342 and 344). There were two types: a gold plated steel nib (342 and 344 of the first series) and a solid 14 ct. gold (342 G / 344 G on the former series and 342 / 344 on the latter). #2 nib is 23 mm long, while #4 nib is 28 mm long. Tip size ranged from EF to BB (oblique types were available). On the nib there was engraved (in six lines): “MONT”, “BLANC”, “14C”, MONTBLANC, “585”, and “342” or “344” (hidden under the section).

 

fpn_1452198939__03.jpg

 

Timeline adapted from www.fountainpen.it

fpn_1452201379__aaatimeline.jpg

 

 

 

Model 344(3) 1957 – 1960 (penboard.de)fpn_1452199006__04.jpg

 

On the web a great deal of information is available :

more than half a million sites are the result of a simple search with keywords “Montblanc 344” or “Montblanc 3-44”; more than 1500 images are available on the net in the same search.

 

 

Summary Table – 344 / 3-44 Versions

fpn_1452201479__bbbtimeline.jpg

 

Anyway, “mixed” or “franken” models do exist with caps, knobs or feeds added in a further period. In this table and in the whole article, only those models with multiple entries in different websites, such as penboard, hepworth-dixon, eBay, and other dotcoms, were considered. This in order to possibly avoid a frankenpen to be identified as an additional version.

 

A page from a vintage Montblanc catalogue, probably ‘54, since there are both the 24x models and the 042 with steel nib (1954 was the last production year of the 24x series and the start of the 042).

Here the 344 represented is a 3-44[G](2).

fpn_1452199073__05.jpg

 

Nat – (Italy) Dec 2015

 

Images

 

344G(1) Made in celluloid with the amber window. This appears to be the original first production run.

fpn_1452199130__06.jpg

 

penboard.de

 

 

 

344G(2) (Long Window) the body is plastic with the blue window.

fpn_1452199165__07.jpg

 

 

3-44G(1) (Long Window) the cap ring is not at lip.On the knob the model number is already with a dash.

fpn_1452199199__08.jpg

penboard.de

 

 

3-44G(2) The star is still outlined but the cap band covers the lip.

fpn_1452199249__09.jpg

hepworthdixon.com

 

fpn_1452202554__senza_titolo2.jpg

​ ​

The two feeds we find on the different 344 and 3-44 models: the old type (ski-slope) is on the left.

The former type was in use by Montblanc from 1950-52 to 1955, while the newer type was emplo-yed from 1955 onwards (as in the article by Barry Gabay on PenWorld: Dating Montblanc 149s). The pen on the left has the former concave smooth section, while the newer has the straight one. (hepworthdixon.com)

 

 

 

3-44[G](3) (Short Window) the cap band is unengraved and the star is solid white. “G” is not engraved on the knob because this pen had probably a native steel nib.

fpn_1452199686__11.jpg

penboard.de

 

 

 

Final Model 344(3) (Short Window) the engraving is now on the cap band. White solid star.

fpn_1452199760__12.jpg

Model 344G(1) España (note the stud)

fpn_1452199805__13.jpg_________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

The Montblanc Star*:

fpn_1452199858__14.jpg

This is the cap of a Montblanc 344(3), the latest model 1957-1960 - (personal author’s collection).

*Actually it is not a star, but a graphic representation of the six glaciers on top of the Mont Blanc.

 

The price of a 344, from 1950 to the production end, in 1960, was 20 DM. Practically speaking, it was about 1/7th of the price of the Troy Ounce of Gold. Considering the price of the gold ounce now (December 2015, one gold ounce = 984 € or 1075 $), we have 141 € or 154 $.

 

In the book “Collectible Stars” by J.Rosler & S.Wallrafen (O.W. Gmbh, Oberhausen 2001), the rarity of the 344 models is set at the 2nd ranking (i.e. easy to find) and the price is set at 02 (from 50 to 150 euros – 2001).

 

The average price of a vintage 344 on eBay in November 2015 is 155 US $ (from 72 to 311 US $).

The average price of a vintage 344 on eBay in December 2015 is 188 US $ (from 101 to 483 US $).

 

The price requested on eBay for vintage 344s for sale today, 20th Dec 2015, ranges from 225 to 369 US $ (dependent on the conditions of the pen).

 

In the book “Collectible Stars”, already cited, we find (page 31) only three types of 344s: first (id 1095), produced 1951-53 has the star outlined and cap ring above the lip; second (id 1098), produced 1954-56 has the solid white star and an unengraved cap ring above the lip; third (id 1100), produced 1957-60, has the solid white star and the engraved cap band covers the lip.

1095 ………… is identifiable with either the present 344G(1) or 344G(2)

1098 ………… I have never seen pictures of this 344 subtype

1100 ………… is identifiable with the present 344(3)

 

Notably, the 3-44 (note the dash) models are not quoted in the book

_________________________________________________

 

 

MB MAINTENANCE BOOKLET 1956: pages 12,13 (here the pen is a 3-44[G](2)) From the site www.caprafico.com

fpn_1452199894__15_1.jpg

 

“PREVIOUS MODELS” (i.e. those older than 1956) pages 48,49 (here the pen is a 344G(1 or 2))

 

fpn_1452199926__15_2.jpg

 

Note: -The new piston with the long knob (page 13)

-The old piston with a shorter knob (page 49)

-A mistake in the “exploded” view of the piston,

a short (instead of a longer) cone is shown (page 13)

-The cap band covers the lip (page 12)

-The new barrel (page 12)

-The cap ring leaves the lip free (page 48)

-The old barrel (page 48)

 

 

Hope this may be of help.

 

Edited by Rosetta59

Greetings from Italy to you all !!

;)

 

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Posted Images

Another possible option was the "manifold" nib, i.e. a very hard nib (a nail) to be employed with carbon paper..., such as the following (first pix from penboard.de and second from FPN...)

 

fpn_1452283833__mb344iiidef.jpg

fpn_1452283933__manifold.jpg

 

...with a blue stud on the cap !

 

Greetings from Italy to you all !!

;)

 

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Fantastic review Rosetta59. The 344 is great pen and the one I have has a very nice broad nib.

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My 344 is the most comfortable and smoothest writing pen I own, and yet its appearance is completely ordinary and unassuming, so I can take it anywhere without anyone noticing it. Magnificent, yet supremely practical.

 

Thanks for such a thorough review of a great pen.

Rationalizing pen and ink purchases since 1967.

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Thanks jmccarty, I agree with you: the 344 is a superb smooth writer in an understated look...

Greetings from Italy to you all !!

;)

 

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You made me fall in love with it :) Many thanks for such comprehensive illustrated overview.

Simply Super.

:thumbup: :thumbup:

Cheers - Amr S Laithy

Email: amrslaithy@gmail.com

Cairo Egypt

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A nice pen, and a very comprehensive thorough review, thanks.

Thanks for your words, it's nice to receive feedback !

Greetings from Italy to you all !!

;)

 

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Wow! This is great - thank you for sharing your knowledge with us!!!

Knowledge is a nonsense without sharing it !

Thanks to you !

Greetings from Italy to you all !!

;)

 

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Awesome info. I happen to have the 342 and 344 so this is very useful info.

I'm happy that you found it useful !!!

Greetings from Italy to you all !!

;)

 

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Fantastic review Rosetta59. The 344 is great pen and the one I have has a very nice broad nib.

Thanks to you! I agree, the 344 is indeed a great fountain pen !!!

Greetings from Italy to you all !!

;)

 

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You made me fall in love with it :) Many thanks for such comprehensive illustrated overview.

Simply Super.

:thumbup: :thumbup:

Thanks to you for your kind words !!

Greetings from Italy to you all !!

;)

 

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  • 3 months later...

Having just acquired a 3-42 G, (my very first MB) this is very helpful in me dating my pen! With so many quick changes, it can be hard to determine proper time frames but your overview is brilliant!!

 

Thank you for sharing with us!!

So, what's your point?

(Mine is a flexible F.)

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Thanks for your post!

...knowledge is nothing without sharing... research is zero without publishing...

 

Having just acquired a 3-42 G, (my very first MB) this is very helpful in me dating my pen! With so many quick changes, it can be hard to determine proper time frames but your overview is brilliant!!

 

Thank you for sharing with us!!

Greetings from Italy to you all !!

;)

 

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Thank you for the review! I have one of the last production model 344G as one of my daily writers, it is a wonderful pen (got an M nib unit installed in it and a spare even more flexy F/EF nib unit that I safeguard until I find another 344G). :)

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