I collect quite a few things but pens is not one of them. Sure, I had to write with a fountain pen at school but to be honest it was a real pain in the behind. My pen – a Parker of some sort (I still have somewhere) was scratchy and leaked on occasions. Young boys and ink pens do not mix!
All the above-noted said, later in my business life I did buy a couple of nice Parker and Montblanc sets. I had, I suppose, a job that one could justify wielding one occasionally in front of a client. Again though, the fountain pens were not that practical so I just use the ball point pens or roller-ball type ones. I do feel though that one writes much better with an ink pen!
In recent years I have had to clear much of my Mother’s belongings as she is now in a care home and sadly has dementia. Amongst much stuff I came across, was her Conway Stewart pen. I remember her using this a great deal in the 60′ and 70’s – until it was consigned to her desk drawer. Having gone to art college, my Mother was quite “arty” all round, and this was reflected in her handwriting which was quite elaborate if not that legible! Anyway, having found the pen again, I very nearly discarded as it was on the small side, a bit discoloured and did not suck up ink any more. When I did dip the nib into ink it was horribly scratchy. I did though decide to keep – mainly for sentimental reasons I guess.
Coming more to the present, I was wandering around York about six months ago and I came across a pen shop. I decided to pop in as it looked quite interesting. There I met the owner, Mike Lewandowski. We ended up chatting for an hour or so, as it turned out Mike was a keen watch collector too. Needless to say we ended up studying the various photos of our collections on our mobiles! In the end, we did get back to pens and I mentioned Mum’s old pen. To be honest, I did not recall the make at that time so described it to Mike. He said he thought he knew what it was, and showed me a reference book which had an article and image of the very pen! In addition, the article and Mike said it was a pretty rare!
I mentioned to Mike that the pen was defective, but he said he could service/repair it for not too much money. We agreed that when I was next in town I would bring in. So, a month or so later I did just that. Mike finished the work in a couple of weeks and I tried it out. It worked beautifully!
Between Mike and the good old internet I have gleaned a bit more on the pen and the manufacturer. Conway Stewart commenced in 1905 in London by two entrepreneurs – Frank Jarvis and Tommy Garner. The name though is thought to be taken from a comedy double act popular at the time! The company’s heyday was from around the 1st WW up to the 60’s when their pens were attractive, innovative and fairly affordable. However cheap plastics and the ball point pens from abroad proved stiff competition, and the company was sold in the late 60’s and relocated to Wales. They soldiered on but went into receivership in 1975. The company was resurrected in the 1990s and made a number of valuable bespoke pens for special occasions – politicians and companies etc. However, they closed again in 2014, but in 2015 came back again due to the investment of enthusiastic people in the pen industry. The current range looks fantastic and with prices ranging from £300-400 would be viewed as luxury pen maker!
The pen in question – called the 22 Floral, was made in around 1955/56. The reason it is rare is twofold. Firstly, it was only made over one year and one run. Estimates range from 200 to 2000 units. Secondly, due to the manufacturing process, they do not survive in decent condition. Initially I was concerned over a couple of bands of discolouration (initially I thought from sunlight) but for this pen it is quite common.
The pen is made of bonded celluloid paper! The flowers are not painted, but applied to a sheet of celluloid that is then wrapped around the pen. You can actually see the seam. However, the discolouration seems to be caused by the deterioration of the internal rubber sac/bladder and is apparently due to a sulphur discharge!!
The pen was made for the female hand so it is quite small at some 12.4 cm. It has as standard a 14 CT gold 5 medium nib. The lever and pocket clip are gold plated. The Greek style band on the lower end of the cap is unusual for Conways, and to my mind looks gold rather than plated. The flowers – another feminine give-away, look like roses and are a maroon/brown colour and the foliage green.
There is probably not much more so say – other than I have been using the pen occasionally and it is very easy to use now it has been serviced, although a bit short for me.
Oh, the rarity factor and value? Well, it is by any measure quite sought after and so mint examples with original packaging seem to go for some £1,000 and a bit more. My pen – although not perfect, is still worth about half that. So, a good job I did not consign to the bin!
Words/Images. The Writer