This is yet another of Esterbrook’s pens whose name as used by all and sundry has no connection with what Esterbrook called the thing. Esterbrook essentially considered it to be three separate pens: the Model A (slender), Model B (‘standard’ according to most sources, but we might think of it as wide), and Model H (demi length) This pen followed Esterbrook’s initial offering in US fountain pen market, the “V-Clip” (also just what people started calling it), likely because the V-Clip’s clip was not particularly reliable. The Dollar’s clip was, or at least started out, the same exterior shape as the V-Clip’s, but with more metal in the middle to prevent damage.
Interestingly, the metal involved was stainless steel rather than the almost universal brass– while more expensive, the steel didn’t require plating for good looks. This meant is was relatively economical relative to the more expensive makers’ processes for laying down thick and durable plating, and at the same time it didn’t lead to brisk disappointment like the wretchedly thin plating used by so many low-end makers. Esterbrook did eventually switch to plated non-stainless steel as a response to the demands of the wartime economy, which also saw the disappearance of cap-bands.
The Dollar pen was meant to offer a relatively high-quality pen to people who viewed the $2.00 to $3.00 starter pens of Sheaffer or Parker as unattainable luxury– a fairly large demographic as The Great Depression continued to gnaw on the world’s economy. At $1.00, it was still more expensive than a really cheap pen but it offered durability and the extra economy of the Re-New point system; the point would wear out like a cheap pen’s, but more slowly, and you didn’t have to shell out for a whole new pen when it did. This is an appealing set of features for their target market. There was a little huckstering involved, though, because the marketing for the Dollar pens spoke of “$1.00 and up” because some more interestingly coloured versions went for $1.50. My sources vary a little on just where this jump in price occurred– it may be that anything but black cost extra, or that only some particularly attractive colours were elevated.
The Dollar pen was replaced by the evolutionary links leading from it to the J Series pens, although there is some overlap in the production.
Production Run: 1934 to 1942.
Cost When New: $1.00 to $1.50 (for modern value, try this calculator).
Size: 12.0 cm long capped, 15.3 cm posted, 11.2 cm uncapped (Model A)
Point: Interchangible “Re-New” points.
Body: Celluloid (nitrate).
Filler: Lever, capacity approx. 1.2 ml
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