Category Archives: Pen Ads of Yesteryear

Sex Doesn’t Always Sell

Some ads get so ridiculous we have to laugh. The advertising campaign for the Cross Verve is always good for a chuckle, but it sure didn’t seem to help sell any pens. It isn’t difficult to imagine the ads as pinups for teenage boys, but the sales for the Cross Verve were awful. I don’t think the pen lasted in production for more than a year or so.

Failed fountain pen advertising for the Cross Verve.

They say that sex sells, but sometimes too much sex distracts from the product. Cross Verve sales never seemed to rise to the occasion that this couple did.

The ad featured a hot young couple wrapped around each other in only their underwear, and the woman is trying to write a card using a Cross Verve ballpoint pen. The man is reaching under her cami to advance their foreplay.

The woman looks mildly perturbed that her letter-writing is being interrupted. I always like to image the caption of what she’s saying to him.

“Stop squirming. I’m trying to write Mother.”

“God, you suck as a desk.”

“Do you mind? I’m trying to write a postcard.”

“How am I supposed to wrap my supple thighs around you and write a letter, if you’re going to get all handsy every time?”

The Cross Verve was actually a good writing pen, even if it was a bit on the ugly ultra-modern side. Sadly, it didn’t seem that even a hot young couple in the mood could sell it…although people might have been a bit too distracted by the hot young couple to notice or care much about the pen.

Still Hunting Parker Vac Desk Set Trumpet

While searching for the perfect matching desk base trumpets for his special Parker Vacumatic and radio desk set, Jaime A. found this great ad from 1936. We love these classic Vac desk sets from Parker. The 1930s might have been a miserable time to live, with the economy in the tank, but, man, they had style.

Check out these great desk sets Parker was offering in 1936. Imagine stumbling on a pen shop back in the day with those looking minty fresh.

Check out these great desk sets Parker was offering in 1936. Imagine stumbling on a pen shop back in the day with those looking minty fresh.

Was Norman Rockwell a Pen Addict?

With their passion for Parker overriding their desire to kiss under the mistletoe, clearly painter Norman Rockwell understood the obsession of pen collectors around the world. Happy Holidays!

With their passion for Parker overriding their desire to kiss under the mistletoe, clearly painter Norman Rockwell understood the obsession of pen collectors around the world. Happy Holidays!

Just one look at this vintage Parker ad, and you know that its painter Norman Rockwell understood pen collectors very well. Sure, it might look a little schmaltzy with two attractive young lovers ignoring one another’s lips under the mistletoe, but they just got new Parker 61s! Of course, they are geeked about their new treasures!

We, here at ThePenMarket.com, hope you get exactly what you want this holiday season!

With respect to all faiths and those without faith, have a Merry Christmas, Happy (belated) Hanukkah, a Joyous Kwanzaa, a Fun Festivus, a Super Solstice and a generally warm winter filled with peace and love.

May you get your heart’s desire.

Best wishes from all of us at ThePenMarket.com

Santa Backs Parker Again; Mail Deadline Dec. 17

Here is Santa peddling Parker button fillers in 1900. These were the "safety sealed" precursors to the Duofold.

Here is Santa peddling Parker button fillers in 1900. These were the “safety sealed” precursors to the Duofold.

A close friend of the blog sent us a card that is ideal for a pen collector. It is the 1900 Parker advertising campaign, and we thought you might get a kick out of it.

It would appear that Parker once again funded the jolly old elf for another year to use his likeness.

Also, time is running out to get your orders in on time for Christmas! In conversations with customers and Postal Officials, a backlog of deliveries is starting to push back the time it takes for a package to arrive via Priority Mail.

When the post office gets a little behind, we cannot guarantee anything, but it would appear your best bet is to have orders ship via priority mail by Dec. 17. The closer you are to Chicago, perhaps the more you can fudge it, but it would be best to have your orders in to us on the 16th to go out with the mail on the 17th.

Pen Ads of World War I

Today, essentially, marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. It is still one of the most savage wars the world has ever known. It left nearly 2% of the world’s population dead: 23 million. There is a good reason those who fought it were called the Lost Generation.

Sealed button-filling pens and take-anywhere ink tablets were revolutionary new creations for sailors and doughboys hoping to write home during the first world war.

Sealed button-filling pens and take-anywhere ink tablets were revolutionary new creations for sailors and doughboys hoping to write home during the first world war.

Yet, there’s no reason wholesale slaughter shouldn’t prevent the tide of marketing.

Parker had a particularly fascinating line of pens aimed directly at servicemen in the trenches. These pre-Duofold pens were considered “sealed” and leak proof. Best of all, you no longer needed fragile glass bottles of ink, which would not withstand the rigors of combat.

Parker sold special ink tablets. These dried tablets could be dropped in a cup of water or any other small container for a nearly instant supply of ink to fill a pen and write your family or sweetheart back home.

These ads come from around 1917, when the United States officially entered the war, which ended Nov. 11, 1918.

Enlist the safety-sealed button filling Parker pens for your needs at school or while fighting in the trenches in this classic WWI Parker ad.

Enlist the safety-sealed button filling Parker pens for your needs at school or while fighting in the trenches in this classic WWI Parker ad.




Please note the artillery is being moved by horses in the ads. This would be the last war to see horses used with any widespread practical regularity. It also would be the last to see swords and lances issued with actual intent for battlefield use. (Yes, the Japanese issued swords in WWII, but they were strictly weapons of last resort.) Cockades and spikes also saw their last use on helmets. Battlefields would be dominated by machine guns and the newly invented tanks. Oceans were devastated by submarines. And for the first time, aircraft could fly over enemy territory to observe movements, attack with machine guns and drop bombs. Cars and trucks came to play vital roles. Motorized ambulances saved countless lives. And chemical warfare would devastate countless people with agonizing pain and misery…if not death.

Getting back to the ads, I love that a pack of more than 30 ink tablets cost only 10 cents. Do any of these tablets still exist? I would love to see some and try one.

Eversharp Sells America on the Doric

We recently added a classic Eversharp Doric Junior to our vintage pens collection, and it is striking how handsome it remains, despite a great deal of wear. The layers of transluscent greens still flash through history as if impervious to age.

Here is the page from the 1932 Everharp catalog that shows the very Doric Junior model we carry. Notice how this rep's catalog is color but most of the pen ads are black and white. With such beautiful pens, why weren't all their ads color?

Here is the page from the 1932 Everharp catalog that shows the very Doric Junior model we carry. Notice how this rep’s catalog is color but most of the pen ads are black and white. With such beautiful pens, why weren’t all their ads color?

This made it surprising for me to have difficulty finding color advertising for these remarkable pens. True, the Depression was savaging America during the time these pens were produced. Also true, color ads were and are not cheap compared to black and white ads.

Nevertheless, the one thing that really stands out on the Doric compared to any other pen Sheaffer, Parker and Waterman had in production was the vibrant color and patterns in these pens. You would think they would want to make that the most prominent feature in the ad.

This page from the 1932 Eversharp catalog shows the very pen we now carry. It lists the color as Kashmir Pearl. The catalog itself is in color, which would have helped sell it to pen shops around the country. Yet, the print ad below it, which was published in “Time” magazine in 1935 is like all of the Doric ads my search turned up…black and white.

Here's an Eversharp Doric ad featured in Time Magazine back in 1935. Despite the cool adjustable nib, wouldn't you agree the color version would have helped sell many more pens?

Here’s an Eversharp Doric ad featured in Time Magazine back in 1935. Despite the cool adjustable nib, wouldn’t you agree the color version would have helped sell many more pens?

Not once mentioning the colors of the pen, it tauts a never-leak safety seal of some kind. That would have been an especially important feature on the pen at the time, but the only leak preventer I see in the pen is the inner cap, which most major brands had dating at least back into the 1920s.

Also peculiar is that the ad states the pen holds more ink. The Parker Vacumatic more successfully lays claim to that than any other pen that decade. ANNND, it never mentions the adjustable nib prominently featured in the illustration. That adjuster was supposed to help the pen write thinner and thicker lines, a feature you’d think Eversharp would be shouting to anyone in hear shot.

Then again, just listen to the radio or watch TV, and we still have ample ads that don’t discuss the product’s best features. Heck, sometimes, you can’t even tell what they’re trying to sell.

Santa: Fickle Pen Collector or Genius Fundraiser?

Celebrity endorsements don’t come cheap, but it appears that Santa has been in high demand with every brand who has approached him over the years.

Santa makes a celebrity endorsement of Waterman pens in 1904.

Santa makes a celebrity endorsement of Waterman pens in 1904.

In 1904 he says Waterman is the best. In 1939 he was hooked on the Parker Vacumatic. In between those years, and well after, old St. Nick has been quick to shill for just about every major and minor pen maker in the world.

At first I thought I should chastise Father Christmas for his inability to pick a favorite vintage pen.

Then I got to thinking about the bigger picture. That’s when I realized what a bloody genius Santa truely is.

Santa has to deliver presents to all of the good boys and girls around the entire planet in just 24 hours. This year alone we’re looking at approximately 3 billion children. True, not all of them are good, but for now we’ll give most of them the benefit of any doubt.

Santa also cashes in on Parker Vacumatics. Could it be that St. Nick cashes in on all of these endorsement deals to raise the funds necessary to give more than 9 billion gifts every year?

Santa also cashes in on Parker Vacumatics. Could it be that St. Nick cashes in on all of these endorsement deals to raise the funds necessary to give more than 9 billion gifts every year?

In many cases, Santa delivers more than one toy per child. Even if we average it out to just 3 toys per child, that’s 9 billion toys.

That is more than a boatload of toys. Perhaps in a bygone era Santa could get away with 9 magic reindeer, but the jolly old elf will need rockets and more on his sleigh to cart that type of tonnage around the world. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to imagine such a modern sled as that runs up to $500 million or even $1B.

Even a living saint can’t magically generate enough cash for a rocket sled and 9 billion toys in one year…unless…

Unless he cashes in on his celebrity endorsements! By advertising every brand of every product imaginable, St. Nick could easily gin up trillions every year! Coca Cola alone has likely paid him hundreds of billions. Why else would a single bottle of Christmas Coke cost nearly $2?! A dollar of that must go to pay for Santa’s likeness on the bottle and packaging.

As inspired as Santa’s marketing and fundraising is, he can always use a little extra help from the rest of us.

To help the big guy out, it is not too late to visit Toys for Tots today and make a donation. Just click this Toys for Tots, and you will be directed straight to their donations web page.

Thank you, and have a Merry Christmas!

We Don’t Want No Fountain Pen Drama, Ladies

Despite the beautiful watercolor painting and classic 1930s fashion, this vintage pen ad is loaded with sexism that seems sure to guarantee the Lady Duofold never sold.

Despite the beautiful watercolor painting and classic 1930s fashion, this vintage pen ad is loaded with sexism that seems sure to guarantee the Lady Duofold never sold.

Seriously, how effective was this catty Parker Duofold ad from 1931?!

The ad headline reads like a movie synopsis for a cheap melodrama about a bunch of bitchy women who haven’t got much else to complain about in life. In case it is too small on your computer or mobile device it reads: “She laughingly apologized whenever she borrowed a pen, but she left a trail of ill will.”

It is hilarious for all of the wrong reasons.

The copy block only gets better…I mean worse:

“She had an ‘inexpensive’ pen, but it never seemed to work. In buying it, she thought she was saving money. But she only ran into people’s debt by borrowing pens.

“Because her request always met a courteous smile, she little suspected herself of being a nuisance.”

Is it any wonder Parker stopped making “Lady’s” pens not long after this ad came out in 1931?

As bad as the marketing was, the Lady Duofolds were and still are remarkably good pens. They write smoothly and are easy to maintain. We have a very nice one for sale, if you don’t mind a little discoloration. It still works perfectly. CLICK HERE to see this fully restored vintage pen.

The Last Endorsement Deal Poets Got?

Could it be that this 1957 Parker ad featuring Carl Sandburg was the last time a living poet was paid to endorse a pen?

Could it be that this 1957 Parker ad featuring Carl Sandburg was the last time a living poet was paid to endorse a pen?

When was the last time you saw a poet getting the opportunity to endorse any luxury item?

This Parker ad from 1957 might be it. The legendary Carl Sandburg eyes a brand new Parker 61 and its mess-free filling mechanism in this classic ad.

You would think modern pen makers would be hitting poetry slams across America looking for popular writers to promote the use of their pens. You, unfortunately, are a logical person. We don’t even see best-selling authors getting endorsement deals for pens, computers or anything.

How did the people who famously use these tools the most get left out of the conversation. One would think that any brand of pen or laptop Stephen King, Nora Roberts or J.K. Rowling chose to promote would sell off the shelves.

Tell us: Aside from the Mont Blanc writer series (those writers are dead and have no say), when was the last time you saw a living poet…or any writer in a pen ad?

Learn from Vintage Pen Ads

Vintage pen ads tell us so much. They help us catalog what a company once offered, introduce us to new pens we want to collect and provide insights to the culture and economics of the past.

Vintage pen ads tell us so much. They help us catalog what a company once offered, introduce us to new pens we want to collect and provide insights to the culture and economics of the past.

I love old catalog ads such as this one because they go far to help me identify old pens, their sizes and their design alternatives.

I am forever stumbling upon hard rubber Waterman’s from the 19-teens and 1920s, and I am never quite certain which ones were given sterling silver or gold filigree by the factory or by a local jeweler plying his artistic talents to a basic black pen–as was a frequent occurance during that time.

These ads also help to establish various sizes of pen models and their original pricing. For example: The top pen in the ad comes with the exact same gold mounts in sizes 12 (small) through 16 (large). I now know how many pens I will have to hunt down and find if I want that same model in all sizes with those gold mounts.

After daydreaming for a minute, wishing I had a time machine to go back to the early 1920s to buy gold and silver pens for less than the price of a cocktail in downtown Chicago today, I have fun with the advertising copy.

This ad was very challenging to make in 1924ish. There were no computers or Indesign programs to pop it together. Intricate artwork, cutting, pasting and more went into this very expensive ad for its time. However, you can’t help but wonder who the copy editor was.

“Prices vary according to size of gold pen contained”…???

Even then wouldn’t it have been easier to say, “Prices vary by the amount of gold in each pen”?

I guess I can see why Sheaffer always beat out Waterman. According to our last ad post, Sheaffer pens come with a “cunning” box. Waterman’s pens only came with a “neat” box. Who wouldn’t prefer a pen box that can play chess and carry a conversation with wit?