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J Series

Maker: Esterbrook.

When seeking Esterbrook pens out in the world, this is the sort that most often appears.  It was the final development of a series of changes made to the previous “Dollar” pens the company had made in the US since about 1934, and it was a corker.  While the higher ranked pen-makers offered more expensive pens using more exotic materials, the Esterbrook Js were vastly popular for the combination of affordability, sturdiness, and versatility.  The washer-style clip is a lot less likely to drop off in normal use than the tabbed clips more commonly used in low-cost pens.  The plastic is astonishingly resistant to scratches, and in most cases in patterned to conceal them.  The points can be swapped out, meaning that a change of inclination or an error in handling didn’t necessitate a new pen or a trip to the repairman.

I mentioned previously that the J was the end of a series of changes, although the various steps in that series were in fact also called J series pens by Esterbrook; the differences between the well-known 1948 pattern and what went before are such that the collecting community has set up sub-classes called “Early” and “Transitional”.  The “Early Js” start appearing in 1941, bearing clips unlike the previous models and of the same general shape as the  fully-evolved J, and including such non-standard things as ink windows in the section and piston fillers (which several sources refer to as “twist fillers” based merely on the action to run the piston and local usage).  The “Transitional J” appeared from 1944 to 1948, and mainly lacks the tail jewel that marks the standard J pens; at the start of the run, they also had a different cap jewel.

Also, at the end of 2014, a resurrection of both Esterbrook and the J Series were announced, and sales began in January 2015. The pen, however, has no lineal connections to the J’s original form, being a large, cartridge-filling, acrylic-bodied item. I mention it here only to acknowledge its existence; if I ever have a chance to examine one, it will appear on its own page.

Production Run: 1941 – 1960.

Cost When New: $2.00 on the peak development J, up to $2.95 by the end of the run (for modern value, try this calculator).

Size: J (standard size) – 12.7 cm long capped, 15.4 cm posted, 11.6 cm uncapped; SJ (short version) – 11.9 cm long capped, 14.7 cm posted, 10.8 cm uncapped; LJ (slender version) – same as J, just thinner.  The “Transitional” J is 12.5 cm long capped, 15.5 cm posted, 11.3 cm uncapped.

Point: Interchangible “Re-New” points.

Body: Celluloid (nitrate).

Filler: Lever, capacity approx. 0.9 ml

“Transitional” J in green, which from this angle is very hard to tell from the fully evolved form. The point is of much later production.

Silver Esterbrook J

The “icicle” colour pattern only appeared in LJ pens.

A comparison of caps and tails between “Transitional” and the fully-established J model. Later “Transitional” cap jewels looked more like the standard J; one assumes that getting the alignment right slowed down production.



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