Vintage Parker 21 Review

Parker 21 writing sample

Prior to acquiring the reproduction style pens known as the HERO from China, I purchased a Parker 21 from Ebay. It turned out to have a crack in the plastic that caused ink to leak out of the pen which made me very sad. Sad because just writing a few lines with it had left me fairly convinced that the hooded nib pens were more than met the eye.

To give a little history, most folks who get interested in fountain pens hear about the legendary Parker 51 almost immediately. It is a hooded nib pen design as well but it is the wealthier cousin to the Parker 21. Where the 51 has a gold nib, the 21 has a steel nib. Overall the 21 uses a cheaper plastic material for the casing as well. For more information about the Parker 21, check out Richard’s Pens.

But… where Parker 51s can fetch over $100 on Ebay and various pen swap forums, a Parker 21 can be found for under $50 and sometimes a good deal less than that too, depending on condition. So for me, purchasing a Parker 21 was a gateway into possibly buying a Parker 51 in the future.

Parker 21 writing sample

Back to the Ebay debacle… the Parker I bought was unusable but thanks to the kindness of the pen world, Ivan R of Inktronics, offered me a “rough condition” Parker 21 that he had been given. I was honored to accept it and promised to pay it forward when the time was right. So the lovely red, hardly rough Parker 21 arrived this week and I filled it with ink and off I went.

The filler is an aerometric squeeze filler with a clear plastic sac and a metal pinch bar. I filled the pen with Noodlers Violet which a slightly more reddish purple. (Forgot to photograph! Will add a photo soon!)

Having tried two different Parker 21s and the HERO reproductions, I am still a little amazed at just how smoothly they write. If I close my eyes when I write, I can imagine that these are actually rollerballs — that’s how smoothly they write. Its really quite surprising. I miss seeing the beautiful fountain pen nib but I am willing to forgo that if it means skating across the paper.

The hooded nib makes the pen look a bit more utilitarian which has actually gotten comments in meetings (“Nice pen!”) and no one ever mentions the other pens or fountain pens I have in a meeting. Crazy, huh? There’s something about the streamlined look of the Parkers that appeal to people — even non-pen folk.

Parker 21  vs Chinese Hero 329

Just for comparison sake, I photographed the Parker 21 with the HERO 329 (top) to show how similar in size and shape they are. The Parker 21 is a bit wider and the end tapers more bluntly than the HERO. Also, the cap of the Parker is flat on top and the clips are different. The Parker 21 clip has a convex line on it and the 329 has a smooth clip.

Parker 21  vs Chinese Hero 329

Inside, the Parker 21 has a wider silver ring on the barrel where the nib and body connect. The 329 ring is lower on the body and a narrower ring. I tried to get a good macro shot of the nibs but was hugely unsuccessful but you can see in this photo that just a tiny bit of the fountain pen point is visible. You can also see the “rough” of which Ivan mentioned — there is a bit of wear on the plastic near the tip where someone may have tried to remove dirt or ink with something abrasive. I have some plastic polish I might try to shine it back up, but otherwise this pen is in great shape.

If you are curious about hooded nib pens, I do think the Parker 21 is a good place to start but, clearly, the less expensive pen also means the likelihood of more damage than the more expensive Parker 51 models. So I recommend proceeding with caution.

Do you like hooded nib pens? Do you own one. Opinions, please!

And thanks again to Ivan for giving me a chance to try it out!

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6 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Have I ever mentioned your writing is super cute? Because it is. This Parker is also very cute! I feel the same way about hooded nibs… I’m not so sure about them. I like to look at the whole nib – I think they’re so pretty. I won a Parker 51 a little while ago from Ravensmarch, which I was pretty thrilled about because everyone talks about them so I knew at some point I would have to have one. Turns out it writes like a dream!!! I can even accept the hooded nib for how well it writes – 100% reliable, super comfortable pen, etc. I am very pleased with it and I was very lucky to have won it!

  2. I am really glad you liked the pen and hope it gets used. Getting that pen out and getting it prepped for shipping to you got me all nostalgic and I have been using my green 21 more as of late. 🙂

  3. I have always wanted to try a real Parker 21, having used the Hero knockoffs and really enjoying them. The Hero was the first hooded fountain pen that I ever tried, but I discovered that I really like them and I’ve been acquiring more of them. I think hooded nibs have a sense of character that I appreciate. While the Parker 21 and 51 remain on my list, but I have acquired a semi-hooded Parker 45, a Waterman Taperite Crusader which was Waterman’s contender to the Parker 51 , and a semi-hooded Lady Sheaffer Seaspray (I think that nib is called the SylePoint – or something). I adore them all.

  4. I bought a used Parker 51 from an eBay seller for $35 about 5-6 yrs. ago. When I got it the sac inside that holds the ink wouldn’t fill. It sat in my pen case for all this time until I sent it to Jim Baer who was recommended by Richard of Richard’s Pens. Jim is in MA. My pen came back in great working shape, the filler feed thing had to be replaced, the ink sac, a general clean up…all for $50. Jim said given the condition of this 51 it would sell for $100-$160. I am very pleased to have the Parker in working condition that I enjoy so much. Hope you have the pleasure of owning one some day.

  5. I just received a pair of Parker 21s in the mail today — my first vintage pens. They even came with vintage Parker Superchrome blue-black ink. I, too, am not so sure about the hooded nib look (I also have a Sheaffer 330 on the way, because I couldn’t resist how beautiful the nib and section look). One of the 21s inked right up with the Superchrome, and I was off and running. The other — as described accurately by the eBay seller — is a bit clogged, so I’ve got it soaking in water and ammonia. But I agree with you, whether or not you’re into the look of the hooded nib, the writing experience is delightful. I’m so excited to have these pens!

  6. I liked you comparison of the Parker 21 and the Hero 329. I really like both pens. I love my Hero pens ever but as much as my Parkers.

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