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Aka Thriftime pens and Depression pens

anfangxtremely attractive pens the Duette, Moderne and Premier are often referred to as Parker "Thrift time pens" or "Depression pens". They are today rather rare. When offered they were cheap, somewhat brittle, but extremely attractive pens somewhat similiar to the Duofold line.

The Great Depression cut sales for all pen makers dramatically. In 1929 Parker made a profit of an incredible $5 million and by 1932 sales were down to under $1.2.

anfangnly between 1929 and 1930, Parker's profits were cut in half. Many smaller companies of course didn't have the stamina and disappeared alltogether. When things started to go downhill two things happened in the pen market. Companies went bankrupt and closeout sales started to flood the market with cheap pens. To compete the great pen makers of the time found it it wise to sell their product at discount prices. There was an incredible amount of pens out there but not much profit being done. Parker, who wisely prepared during the seven years of plenteousness for the seven

parker duette

A selection of colours for the Duette Jr (small with metal clip screw).

years of dearth (even if it was more like five years), were well equipped to face the times. They decided not to compromise the company and hurting the brand by selling expensive pens cheap. Parker had spent years building the brand, especially the flagship Duofold, persuading people to buy them at $10, when other similiar quality pens went for $5. All this would go down the drain if they were to sell them for a fourth of the price. Furthermore there would be a distinct risk that faithful customers — who indeed had paid $10 for a Duofold — would be a tad irritated if their neighbors were able to buy it for $3.
What to do then? Parker still needed revenues...

anfangn early 1927 Parker had introduced the attractive slender and small ladies line pen nicknamed the Pastel. They were ment as a ladies alternative to the rather dull black Parker DQ (Duofold quality) and the Raven Black, in the low price range. The Pastel sold for $3.50 for the pens and $3.00 for the pencils. The Pastel very quick became rather popular, much because of the bright and happy colours they were produced in. The colours were of course a result of Parker abandoning the the old hard rubber for the new plastic, known as "permanite". The Pastel followed the Duofold in design, filling, mechanism, clip, attachment and general style. In short in every aspect, save size and colour. And the Pastel had sold well...

parker duette

A selection of colours for the Duette Jr (small with metal clip screw).

anfangarker developed and quietly began selling a new design, cheap school-pens in 1932. They sold in dime stores and were almost not advertised. The only ads that appeared were as inserts in general merchandise catalogues. They didn't have a brand name but one ad mentions the "Thriftime" pen. The pens were produced in two sizes, both resembling the Duofold. Eventually the smaller model (11.5 mm) was referred to as the Duette and although the larger (12.5 mm) was only referred to as the "Gift set", collectors view them as two sizes of a Duette. The Duette Sr had a plastic clip screw, the colour of the pen, while the Duette Jr had a metal clip screw. Some colours differ between the two models.

anfangwo Thriftime models of similiar design and appearance was produced in Canada, the Premiere (Duette Sr) and the Moderne (Duette Jr) which followed the US design. There were also similiar pens produced in the UK. Canadian pens often had English nibs, since the trade relations between the countries were very good during this period. The Duette is first mentioned in the January 1932 issue of the Parkergram (a Parker in-house news letter) as "low priced Duettes" and "To meet the insistent demand of the juvenile market". Irrespective of the times, students had to be

able to write. The Duette had a very flat, gold filled brass clip screw and a Duofold style ball ended clip. It sported a single, narrow, gold filled cap band, had a black section, a blind cap the colour of the pen and was a button filler. The nib was marked "Parker fountain pen". There are also examples of ring-top Duettes with a metal "cap" that covers and overlaps the end.

anfanghe Duette Jr sold for $3.75 as a pen/pencil set. $3.00 for the pen and $1.50 for the pencil separately. The Duette Sr went for $5.00 for the set. The Duofold Senior kept selling for $10, despite the depression, some people still had money to buy them.
The first Duettes came in the following designs:
Duette Jr and Sr:

    romb Grey and red
    romb Blue and black
    romb Mahogany and white (called Red onyx on the Premiere)

The second series, Duette Jr:

    romb Cherry red
    romb Black
    romb Green pearl and black
    romb Bronze and black

parker thrift pen

A ring top Depression pen from around 1934 stepped clip screw,
ring top and three cap bands

Duette Sr:
    romb Bronze and blue
    romb Turquoise
    romb Cream and blue
    romb Red and black marble
    romb Green and black marble
    romb Camouflage
The final series were made from old Duofold stock:

Duette Jr:

    romb Green and pearl

Duette Sr:

    romb Lapis blue
    romb Black and pearl
here are however examples of many more colour variations. At least 18, maybe as many as 30. Here are some of them (repeating them above):

    romb Grey and red (specks)
    romb Mahogany and white (lines)
    romb Cherry red
    romb Cherry red and bronze
    romb Black
    romb Pearl and black marble (Doufold Deluxe style Lines)
    romb Cream and black marble (lines)
    romb Cream and blue marble(lines)
    romb Cream and black (chunks)
    romb Red and black marble(mottled)
    romb Green and black marble (lines)
    romb Bronze and black
    romb Bronze and blue (chunks)
    romb Bronze and blue (lines)
    romb Bronze white and blue (lines)
    romb Bronze and cream (chunks)
    romb Turquoise
    romb Camouflage (lines)
    romb Camouflage with bronze (lines)
    romb Green pearl and black (Challenger style) (chunks)
    romb Green and pearl (Doufold style Sea green)
    romb Green and gold
    romb Onyx
    romb Blue and black (chunks)
    romb Grey and black (possibly) (chunks)
    romb Lapis blue (Duofold style)

anfanghe Duettes was very popular among students. This, and the fact that they are rather brittle and prone to ink-discolouration, makes it hard on us collectors. It is hard to find items without bite marks, scratches and so on.
    There were also a third pen, resembling the Duofold, offered in 1932. Contrary to the Duettes it had the black clip screws and blind caps of the Duofolds. It was offered with a clip or ring-top. Die hard Duette collectors are reluctant to group these last Duofold-thrift pens with the Duettes, although they were made in some of the same plastics.

anfangetween 1933 and 1935 a variety of cheaper pens in interesting colours continued to be produced. Even if the depression lasted until 1939 or 1941 (depending on who you're asking) the Unemployment Relief Act of 1933 made things look a little brighter. Parker discontinued the Duettes in 1933, the unnamed Duofold-thrift probably didn't even make it that far, they seem to be very rare. Other Depression pens surfaced in a variety of designs, many very rare. There are three ringed Depression pens with the middle ring being wider, there are Depression pens

with stepped clip screws, a feature adopted by the Parkette, there are rounded pens, very similiar to the Canadian Televisor but where Televisor had a black clip screw and blind cap this was in the colour of the body. There are even strange stepped clip screws with ring tops. Most of these pens came in marbled designs later adopted by the Parkettes and Challengers to come. The Moderne was revived in Canada in the late 1930's to clean out old stock. It was in every way, save the body imprint, identical to the late style Challenger. The Parker Parco, introduced in late 1932 actually eventually became the Parkette since the first year Parkette was identical to the Parco with the exception of the clip. The clip was a three step chevron similar to the Parkette, with the exception of the step above the chevrons.

anfanghe Duettes were produced for a short time only. Maybe just for a year or two. But the strategy of never discounting top line pens had paid off. By the end of the depression, the field was dominated by four companies, in order of size, Parker, Sheaffer, Waterman, and Eversharp.


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