I really love blue pens. Many of the “keepers” in my current collection are blue pens (Cedar Blue “51”, Conklin Duragraph, Pilot VP, blue-striped M805, Levenger True Writer, etc.). So, when this strange lapis blue pen called a “Tibet-Extra” came up for sale back in February/March 2009, I was keenly interested. Sadly, I missed out on it because my message was too late. I was heartbroken about it, and since I wasn’t sure who picked it up, I was pretty sure that I’d never see it again. I saved the pictures on my hard drive so I could still have something to reference if I ever ran across another one, but I was pretty sure that this one was long gone.
Never say never…
About a month or so ago, I saw a post in the Fountain Pen Network’s Marketplace that advertised an old flat top that I had originally restored and re-ground and sold, along with a bunch of other pens for sale. Curiousity got the better of me, and I clicked it. I was pleasantly surprised (shocked, actually) to see that same Tibet-Extra on sale again! Needless to say, I wasted no time in laying claim to it. It arrived a few days later, and it’s time to do the review.
This is a gorgeous blue & white lapis blue pen. For its age (which I’d estimate at about 70-75 years), it’s in remarkably good shape. The nickel-plated clip and capbands are in reasonably good shape and they’re nice and tight, and the celluloid body is in great shape with only minor wear marks. The color is also very nice, and it hasn’t discolored much at all. The hard rubber section (?) is still a deep rich black. All in all, it’s beautiful.
The Tibet-Extra is a very traditional Italian shape, complete with lots of classic Italian design elements that you’ll still find in many modern Italians today. See the pictures for a handful of close-ups of these.
The shape is really very nice, and extremely comfortable. It’s not quite a torpedo-shaped pen per se, but has some swell around the middle (strangely, it seems to have taken the shape of its new owner!). It feels great in the hand, and although I’m more comfortable using it posted, it’s not horrible to write with un-posted. It’s about 5″ tall capped and 6″ posted. It’s also nice and lightweight in the hand; it weighs somewhere in the 20-ish gram range when full of ink.
The original nib on this pen was a steel ABT #4 with some flex to it. As the pen needed a little work when I got it, though, I opted to switch it out since I already had it apart. I took out the nib for a variety of reasons, but mainly it was because as a lefty, I can’t use flex nibs as easily as a right-hander. It was more comfortable to put in something more rigid. Right now, it’s sporting a two-tone 14K Sheaffer’s Lifetime nib from an old Balance that was a basketcase when I got it. If I can determine who manufactured this pen (I’m guessing it might have been Columbus, but I wouldn’t swear to it), I might look for a period-correct nib, but for now this Sheaffer’s Balance nib is working out just fine. It’s very firm, quite smooth, and flows quite generously. Thick, saturated inks work pretty well in this one. Might be a good pen for Noodler’s HoD.
Button filler, which I have restored with a general cleaning, new pressbar, and a new sac. When I got it, the pressbar had pretty much fallen apart, so I replaced it and fitted it with a new sac. Works great!
Cost and Value
No idea what this one is worth, but I’d imagine I’d have a hard time replacing it for the $100 I paid for it. I’ve done a fair bit of looking on the web in some of the various nooks & crannies where you might find vintage Italian information, and nothing has turned up. The original seller also noted that this was the only Tibet he’d ever seen, and I know he’s been collecting for many years longer than I. I doubt I could replace it for double my investment, if one could be found.
Vintage Italian pens are great ways to have a lot of fun in this hobby. They had some great designs, interesting takes on the design elements that they borrowed from other manufacturers, and many of the vintage Italians that show up on the open market today make terrific writers even though they don’t say Omas, Visconti, Ancora, Aurora, or any of the other big names. Many of these pens bring up more questions than they provide answers (as regarding origins, anyway), and that’s part of the big fun for me.