Update 8/26/2009: Please refer to this linked FPN thread for updates to the number system.
Mind you, I don’t own any vintage Conklin crescents, yet I became obsessed trying to figure out what all the model numbers mean. So many of these crescent pens look, well, so much alike.
And now my disclaimer: I am not a fountain pen expert in any way shape or form! I am just a geek who loves and uses fountain pens, and who is also enamored of organizational systems. Also there will always be exceptions to the rule. For example a pen without a model number at all. I will add to the information when and if more is revealed.
The experts among you reading this, please chime in and kindly correct any misinformation or misinterpretation in this post. I’d appreciate it!
In a 1913 Conklin catalog I found “A Key to Our System of Numbering.” (On page 32 to be exact.) Thank you, Conklin!
Thank you, especially, to those who preserve vintage pen catalogs, pamphlets and the like! I found catalogs in two places: Bills Pens and the new Pen Collectors of America website. You gotta be a member to access the online PCA reference library. For $40 a year (US) you have access to the online library, and get the wonderful magazine, The Pennant.
A Conklin Crescent model number seems to consist predominately of two parts: a nib size and an adornment code. A third part to the model number can also be found in the form of letters (e.g., “NL”) and refers to the style of the holder. This information holds up until around 1920 when model numbers begin to grow and I could not find any further keys to interpret them.
Gold pens, filigrees, and pen and pencil sets have a somewhat different numbering system which is not covered here, but presumably the very first number of the model will refer to the nib size.
If there is a readable imprint on the pen body, the model number should be there. Numbers may consist of two or three figures. They may or may not be followed by letters. Model numbers look something like these:
There were tons of model numbers, and the following numbering system should only be applied to the vintage Crescent pens. In examining Conklin catalogs from 1909 to 1926, the system worked pretty well for deciphering pen models up until around 1920/1921.
As stated in the 1913 catalog, “Each figure in the number of a Conklin pen has a meaning,” designating the size or style of the nib or body of the pen. Some numbers have letters after a pen number (i.e., 211PNL). The letters, of course, also have meaning.
The 1st Number
The first number represents the size of the nib. The literal size nib, not the point (fine, medium, etc.) of the nib. Conklin nib sizes range from 2 through 8, small to large respectively. Therefore, if the first number of the pen model is “2” you should expect to find a corresponding #2 nib on your pen. If the number on the nib is different then it is very likely it is not the nib original to the pen.
The Last Number
Generally, model numbers will contain 2 or 3 numbers. The last number represents whether or not the pen has gold bands or trim. (In 1913 adornments were referred to as 18K gold filled. Bands or trim are 14K or otherwise in different years.)
- 0 means the pen has no gold bands or trim.
- 1 means there is a 1/4″ band on the cap.
- 2 means there is a 1/2″ band on the cap.
- 3 means the cap has a chatelaine, or ring top, tip.
These are the only numbers mentioned in the 1913 catalog.
A 1909 catalog reveals additional numbers:
- 6 seems to mean a 3/16″ band
- 8 seams to mean a 3/4″ band
What happened to 4, 5 and 7? I don’t know! Here’s what I have found:
- 4 shows up in a 1921 catalog but I could not define it.
- 5 shows up in the same catalog and I also could not define it. Anyone know, for example, what is a 25 or a 75 model?
Exceptions to the last number rule per Conklin’s 1909 catalog include:
- Silver Filigree pens #210 to #610.
- Pens numbered 211 to 611 and 321 to 621
A model number might have a letter or two at the end of it. Conklin refers to these letters as “the suffix.” The suffix refers to the style of the holder. Known suffixes are:
- NL means “Non-Leakable” style.
- P means “Pocket” or shorter style.
- PNL means a “Pocket Non-Leakable” style.
In the 1920 catalog another letter appears:
- C which means the pen has a clip on the cap. The catalog calls the clip a “Pocket Clip.” It seems the “C” was used on the order form to obtain a pen with the Pocket Clip. I don’t believe the “C” actually shows up on the pen model itself, but it could show up on a box as a label.
I have often seen collectors refer to an “S” suffix. I could not find it in any of the limited number of catalogs available to me. The “S” is believed to refer to the “Slip Cap” style of the cap. Even though early catalogs showed off the Slip Cap there was not an “S” suffix in mention.
- S consensus says it means Slip Cap, or slip-on style of the cap.
Putting It All Together
Sometimes a model number has three figures! That too, has a very specific meaning according to the 1909 catalog. “If a number consists of three figures, such as No. 340 or No. 530, it indicates that the gold pen used is a different size from that usually put in that holder.” “Gold pen” means the nib. For example, 340 translates into a #3 nib in a #4 pen holder. The last figure in 340 is 0 which would mean there is no band or trim on the pen.
Taking our list of Conklin Crescent models that appear near the start of this very long post, let’s intrepret them.
- 20 = a #2 nib in its regular holder with no band or trim.
- 340NL = a #3 nib in a #4 holder with no band or trim, and in the “Non-Leakable” style.
- 60 = #6 nib in its regular holder witih no band or trim.
- 60NL = #6 nib in its regular holder with no band or trim, and in the “Non-Leakable” style.
- 42 = a #4 nib in its regular holder with a 1/2″ band on the cap.
- 211PNL = #2 nib in a #1 holder with a 1/4″ band on the cap, in the “Pocket Non-Leakable” style.
- 521 = a #5 nib in a #2 holder with a 1/4″ band on the cap.
- 40P = a #4 nib in its regular holder with no adornment, and in the “Pocket” style.
The 1909 catalog refers to the absence of a suffix or letters as indication “the holder is of the Regular or Slip Cap style.” I’ve also seen the catalogs refer to “Regular” as the “long” style.
Again note, the “NL” does not refer to the length of the pen, but to “Non-Leakable.” The non-leakable feature of the Crescent fountain pen refers to an inner cap inside the cap to ensure a leak free pen while carrying it around “in any position.”
The “NL” designation does not appear in the 1920 or later catalogs that I reviewed. The Crescent disappears from Conklin’s line during the 1920’s. The 1924 “Pen and Pencil” catalog had no Crescent pens, and focused on the new Endura lever filling fountain pen.
I’m posting a modified version of this information on FPN for feedback and correction.
If you’ve read this far, you must be a geek too.