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Challenger

Maker: Parker.

The Challenger was what we might call a popular-priced pen, introduced as a step up from the clearly bargain-level Parkettes.  In practical terms, this meant somewhat interesting body plastics, hardware that would not attract a great deal of attention whether good nor bad, and points that were somewhat flimsier than those on higher-priced pens.  I don’t take this last point as a mark against the brand, though, as this flimsiness generally manifests as interesting flexibility.  Apart from this small difference, there is little to choose between the Challenger and the Duofold or even Vacumatic in terms of overall quality.

As the Challenger went along, it was occasionally swept up in what I view as madness of the marketing wing of the company, something that frequently undoes the intentions of the designers (the best example of this effect I can think of is the Pontiac Fiero, which was designed as a business commuter rather than a sports car… until the ad flacks got to it).  This saw “luxury versions” of the Challenger appear, under the name Royal Challenger and Deluxe Challenger, with some remarkable plastics and occasionally whimsical fittings like a sword-shaped clip.  These manifestations were not quite the lipstick-on-a-pig effect that frequently comes from the tarting up of a bargain marque, and the Royal Challengers represent some of the more attractive pens Parker has made.

Throughout its existence, there were two sizes of Challenger, Standard and Slender.  The Standard was a rather stout object; compared to the “Striped” Duofolds which effectively replaced the Challenger, they almost appear squashed.  The Slender was a surprisingly non-sexist way of suggesting a pen in a “woman’s” size, not only narrower but shorter; surprising because Parker seldom hesitated use things like “Lady” or “Debutante” in a model name.

When the Duofold and Vacumatic were degraded to make room for the “51″ as the zenith of Parker’s art, the Challenger was muscled out of the line-up.

Production Run: 1934 – 1941

Cost When New:  In the first year, $2.50. The Royal Challengers, when they were on offer, went for $5.00, while Deluxe Challengers were $3.50.  The 1940 catalogue has them at $2.75 (for modern value, try this calculator).

Size: Deluxe Standard (pre-1937) 12.6 cm capped, 14.7 cm posted, 11.4 cm uncapped; Standard (post-1937) 12.8 cm long capped, 14.8 cm posted, 11.6 cm uncapped; Slender (post-1937) capped 11.8 cm, posted 14.3 cm, uncapped 10.8 cm.

Point: 14k Gold

Body: Celluloid

Filler: Button, capacity approx. 1.1 ml in the Standard, 0.7 ml in the Slender.

Parker Deluxe Challenger, in green. This is a late 1936 model, showing the earlier body styling, which is very similar to later Canadian Modernes.  The section, which I’ve foolishly left covered, does not have the ink-window of later models.

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Parker Challenger, Black Standard, 1937. Discolouration reveals that black hard rubber was still in use for some components.  This pen was apparently in use by a nurse (so much for the Slender’s target market) whose career saw her in Japan during the post-war occupation.  This is neither here nor there for its writing qualities, but I find it interesting to have a pen with a globe-spanning backstory.

Canadian-made Challenger, Standard Grey.  It lacks a date code, but the cap hardware and ink window suggest late 1937 or later.

1939 Challenger Deluxe, Slender Red… which is a somewhat tentative identification, since the triple bands on the Deluxe were supposed to have dropped to two in the 1937 re-design.

1940 Challenger, grey slender. It’s my wretched old camera’s work, but it is to scale (when opened in a separate window).

 

 

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