Parker "75"

Parker 75 Insignia (gold plated grid pattern), ca. late 1960s

By the early 1960s, with sales of the tempramental 61 flagging, Parker needed a new flagship product for its lineup. Drawing features from the low-priced 45 and the rare VP model, designer Don Doman created the Parker 75 under the supervision of Kenneth Parker (George's son). It first went on sale in 1964, the 76th year of the company's existence, and remained in production through the early 90s (when it was replaced by the very similar Sonnet).

The original 75 (right and bottom) was made of sterling silver engraved with a grid pattern (later, the French word "ciselé" would be used for this pattern). The pen was stained and burnished to give it an antique appearance. The jewels at each end, and the arrow clip, were gold plated. Gold-filled, vermeil, and solid gold models would also appear, as well as other engraving patterns. Matching ballpoints and propeller pencils were offered. Toward the end of the run, French 75s also came in attractive lacquer finishes. The most celebrated 75, however, was a sterling grid patterned pen made from silver salvaged from sunken Spanish treasure ships.

The 75 used a cartridge/converter filler system derived from that of the 45. The section was molded from a styrene-like plastic, and years of unscrewing and overtightening can take their toll on the threads (a discreetly-placed strip of clear tape fixed up this particular example). The lack of reinforcement of this joint is the one touch of cheapness that mars this otherwise exemplary pen.

The business end of the 75 was based on the VP, and was designed to be adjustable to fit the user's grip. Its section was scalloped to have a roughly triangular cross-section, and the 14k point could be rotated to put the nib in proper position for writing. A graduated ring just behind the point emphasized this feature, although only some of the 75s provided the helpful "zero point" on this scale. Parker publicity made much of this feature, but it seems to have disappeared from future offerings, along with the triangular section.

I consider the Parker 75 to be one of the best U.S. pens of recent years; it is just the right size, very well balanced, an excellent writer, and has a very luxurious appearance. My high-school algebra teacher used one of these, inspring my interest in fountain pens. Years later, while in college, I spent a few weeks' pizza and beer money to buy a new 75 like this one; the pen worked its way loose from the cap and fell out a hole in my shirt pocket (heartbeaking!). In a fit of nostalgia, I picked up the pictured pen at a recent pen show. Not long after this page was posted, I managed to lose this pen; this was the first time I've lost a good pen since...well, since I lost the last 75!

Sterling 75s seem to be very hot just now, with prices greatly in excess of $100. On the search for a replacement, I picked up the 14k gold filled Insigna model pictured above at the most recent D.C. show, for less than most of the sterling pens were fetching. The heavy gold fill of the Insignia allowed the barrel to be engraved, and a blank panel is provided on the barrel for this purpose. Let's hope I can manage to hang onto this one!

This file last posted on:
2005-Jan-20 17:50:26 CST
MCMVIII, the red network