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.
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.
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.
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!