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When my father died a couple of years ago we didn't imagine we'd fine so many classic pens that would turn out to be a rather large private hoard. Amongst the many fine brands I had already recognised, the humble Parker Vector pens made up some of his collection, much of which have now been passed down to me. I now have a mix of classic designs that are well made, can accept standard and current ink replacements as well as mix in with my own collections. The original Parker Vector has always come with a hard plastic presentation box with a plastic grey felt lined insert with brand name and a little paper manual tucked in behind the grey insert. However these days you'll find cheaper priced pens in a blister pack made up of either one or two pens or the same presentation box but with a plastic grey branded insert with pen clip.
The Product, The Promise & The Price
Outwith my father's hoard, my story with Parker's famous Vector pens started independently when I was a teenager and got a summer job working in a Volvo car dealership. I got many free merchandise gifts including various pens and stationery and one of the many pen gifts was a Parker Vector roller ball pen, which at that time during the 1980's was nothing to laugh about in terms of value. Back in the 1970's and 1980's if you were ever given a Parker pen from any of their range, you were seen with a different kind of attitude, almost Yuppie-fied even if the term during the 1970's had not been born yet until the middle of the Eighties.
These days you can find Parker Vector pens at so many stockists including WH Smith, John Lewis and even humble newsagents if you know where to look. Against the ordinary BIC pen and "middle of the road" plastic Papermate to their silver and gold premium metal bodied pens, if there is one other brand that is instantly recognisable sat at a classic, timeless and yet premium level, it is Parker but like Papermate, both companies are American by origin and prices differ in their home countries, as well as general designs. I'd say for those who love pens, both companies seem to have a strong devoted fan line up, with Parker being the most popular now over Papermate that ruled previous market generations.
Whilst hunting around for bargains around Poundstretcher, I found blister packs of the single Vector on sale for a mere £2-99! I've also seen the same pen in my local Morrisons and Tesco where the stationery is located, so it does pay to look around! Of course what you have to put up with sometimes, is the most garish designs of neon colours, or black with green peppered ball like designs or stripes in likewise loud colours on them. Put up with that and you have a great product, regardless of the body design even if the products have clearly been marked down because of their look. Parker Vector pens are available in blue or black ink, but it is usually blue ink that is the most popular and states this clearly on the top or bottom of the newer or older blister packs at the front. Premium prices outwith Poundstretcher et al start at £5-99 to £24, hence it is worthwhile looking at the latter stockists instead of going premium for a matt block single coloured body, or a posh steel, platinum or gold version.
General Design & Quality
The Vector is a classic design - there's no denying it - slim, smart and compact (12cm length by 0.5cm diameter) it is easy to pick out by its chunky width and likewise easy to store away thanks to is cosy compact shape that fits most pen holders in briefcases and laptop bags. With the purchase comes a certain elegance and uniqueness thanks to the trademark arrow strong metal clip at the top of the pen, strong matt colours that never fade or unique pattern designs that make look awkward from an angle but seem to hold up to most abuse.
The Vector is one of the most popular (and available) Parker styles I've seen in many UK stockists. There have also been other places I've seen them that have been the most surprising on cost. The pen is usually encased in a clear plastic frontage with cardboard backing and the more expensive prices lead to the original acrylic and black presentation box with grey insert, sometimes charging more if two Vector pens have been included.
Other variations consist of £7-99 to £12-99 priced special edition twin blister packs containing a similarly designed pop-automatic pencil with 0.5mm lead or push function ball point alongside the normal pen is also available. However, the ballpoint push style is often encased in a lighter plastic compared to the metal bottom body and has one uniform design without a replaceable lid. If the Vector original has a design on the body or matt colour, the accompanying "free" pen or pencil emulates it.
However, on very thin paper, the ink can sometimes go through to the backing, making it less ideal for signing official papers etc but can also be a bit of a bind. It isn't always perfect however as the ink can sometimes blot too (although some other owners will probably say the opposite) if the pen hasn't been used in a while, so it isn't any different in its delivery compared to other pen types. It is also a good indication that the ink will need replacing if used constantly and my example when purchased in October 2009 has really gone the distance without a replacement tank! Ink replacements are usually available from John Lewis or other department stores at a cost of £6-99 to £12-99 or more but the instant downside is that there are not always available and in this respect WH Smith is a better bet for most ink replacements where Parker's brands are concerned on the high street. Check the cheapy student special shop (and one I often adore) "Stationery Box," as they stock quite a few Vector pens and their replacements too.
Whilst the ink is easy to rely on and seldom runs once it is written with instantly, the metal shaft that acts as the grip area to where my fingers would naturally pinch around is made of strong brushed stainless steel. Whilst this is made well to keep the ink replacement tank inside, the brushed steel can be slippery and can take the user a bit of time to get used to its cold, smooth nature. The replacement tank inside is like a smaller pen and has a handy frosted top to check the level of the ink left over.
In my experience, the bigger problem with the Parker Vector in recent years is the mixed bag of quality over its largely fuss free ink performance. The pens back in the 1980's had a solid thicker feeling top with the arrow clip and would easily push and lock onto the back of the pen when in use, never falling off and easy to pull off when finished using the pen.
The more recent versions of the Parker Vector pens suffer from poorer plastic tops that fall off the end, or in constant use crack at the rim making it impossible to fit on the end and stay there.
Another issue is that the metal arrow clips are impossible to stay in the original position if they have been bent outwards to accommodate fitting on thicker clothing. Sadly, once the clip is pulled outwards it is impossible to give the pen the slim look when the arrow clip can't be pushed inwards. This then gives the pen an awkward appearance, abused looking and detracts it from its smooth, slim line original appearance.
Whilst is not hard to dislike the Parker Vector pen, it isn't hard to choose other alternatives. But for the fact that from time to time you can actually find the pen at cheaper prices and for the garish designs that are printed on permanently, the Parker Vector pen is still worth considering because of its timeless and seamless look.