As 2021 draws to a close we have been reflecting on some of the great releases from this past year. One in particular has stood out - the 100th Anniversary Edition Parker Duofold. It is perhaps the personal affinity held with Parker Duofold that springs a sense of nostalgia though perhaps more potently is the admiration for an iconic brand which produces excellent writing equipment and the celebration of one of their most popular models - the Duofold.
Bandless Duofold. Image: Wikipedia
We have discussed at length the background of the Parker Duofold in Parker Duofold: The Making of an Icon, go have a little read if you're interested. In the meantime, here’s a super speedy recap.
A Brief History of The Parker Duofold
Initially released in 1921 (no points for guessing this as the centenary pen was released in 2021!) as an offshoot of the successful Parker Jack Knife Safety line. The original Duofolds were undoubtedly a premium luxury item at the time costing $7 (equivalent to around $100 or £77 today) which amounts to almost 10% of the weekly average income in the USA at the time. With such a high price point you would imagine that quite a ‘safe’ design would have been conceptualised to ensure that sales were high on the item. The original Duofold was a shocking bright red which, when paired with the whopping size of the Parker Duofold (5.5 inches when capped) earned it the nickname Big Red. At the time, the Duofold would have stood out significantly against a sea of sensible sleek black pens suited to the average professional. Unfortunately, the dyes used to create the gorgeous red hue caused the hard rubber material the duofold was constructed from to become brittle. This means that there is a scarcity of original models available for collectors.
Parker Duofold pens from a 1920s magazine advertisement
Throughout its time, the Parker Duofold was a bestseller for Parker Pens but its wider importance for the brand should not be understated. The variation within the Duofold range and the popularity of the model meant that a previously ever expanding catalogue of models from Parker could be streamlined which allowed for the manufacturing process to be simplified and made more efficient. Although the Duofold was eventually supplanted by the Vacumatic, the Duofold remained popular - especially in Europe - and production continued on Parker’s Duofold throughout the 1930’s, albeit on a much smaller scale than before. Duofold's success allowed for the expansion of Parker Pens with funds being directed towards research and development. This led to the release of the infamous ‘Quink’ , the quick drying ink.
The Duofolds which were produced throughout the latter half of the 1930’s, took style inspiration from the Vac, with slim and sleek designs prevailed and in 1940 the name ‘Duofold’ was revived, though the Classic Duofolds as we know them had had their moment.
Anatomy of the Duofold. Image Credit: David Nishimura Vintage Pens & Writing Equipment
The ‘modern’ Duofolds were produced well into the 1960s and were a steady seller in varying sizes, colours and designs but they very much chugged along quietly in the background with the award winning Parker 51, the Parker Jotter (sold 3.5 million in its first year) ballpoint, and even the emblematic arrow clip taking centre stage. In the 1970s a lower end pen dubbed the ‘Big Red’ named after the nickname of the original Duofold, was released but really the resurgence of popularity for the Duofold took place in the 1980s.
The 80’s saw Parker restore the Duofold as its flagship offering and in celebration of the company’s centenary the Duofold Centennial Series was released with Fountain Pens, Rollerballs and Pencils. The success of the series supported the later introduction of the Duofold international line which was smaller than the Centennial but evoked the classic Duofold Design which the Centennial series had revived. The main difference in the Parker Duofolds created in the 1980s was the move away from the button filler mechanism to a converter/cartridge system, bringing Duofold into the 20th Century. Both the Centennial series and the International Lines were huge successes.
So, what was it about the original Parker Duofold that made it so special? A simple answer would be that the Parker Duofold remained true to George Safford Parker’s original ethos of making quality pens with exceptional writing characteristics and although there are some incredibly stylish models, for the most part Parker duofolds hold a quiet elegance which was understated and tasteful. The variations which were born from the introduction of celluloid made for increased interest among collectors, both at the time of release and for contemporary enthusiasts.
George Safford Parker
Through every iteration of the Duofold, great care was taken to ensure that each element of the anatomy of the pen was of high quality and that style didn’t compromise the writing integrity of the piece.
The 100th Anniversary Edition Parker Duofold: A celebration of Excellence
100 years since the launch of the original Parker Duofold and Parker honours the proud traditions of their company and the writing instruments they create with the anniversary edition of the Parker Duofold.
The 1920’s was a time of immense change and excitement - a sentiment much needed in 2021! That bold and progressive spirit is captured through a modern interpretation of three of the Duofold's most iconic finishes; Black, Lapis Lazuli and of course ... Big Red.
As with the originals, the anniversary editions of the Parker duofold are individually hand-assembled with the expertise and craftsmanship that Parker are known for. Comprising 22 components, the internal workings of this centenary edition are as beautiful as its external appearance. The intricate pattern decorating the cap and barrel is formed by delicately fusing multiple thin layers of precious resin together to create a series of striking coloured bands.
The cap jewel and 18k solid gold nib bear Duofold’s symbol of excellence, the Ace of Spades motif, alongside the years ‘1921-2021’. This centennial size pen has a choice of Fine or Medium nib and is presented in Parker's Prestige gift box.
With only 100 available worldwide, the Parker Duofold 100 year anniversary edition is a special pen, representing a special history which all began with one man's dream to make an excellent pen.