Is it an overstatement to suggest that the Parker Jotter is the most important writing implement of the 20th century? I don’t think so. While it was not the first ballpoint pen widely available to the buying public, it was the first ballpoint that was both reliable and affordable. Introduced in 1954, the Jotter original cost $2.50 (about $24 in 2014 dollars). Considering that a standard, well-built Jotter can be had for less $10 and that various “deluxe” versions with upgraded materials go for about $20, the Jotter remains a solid buy.
The Parker Jotter is on any short list of iconic pen designs. While its basic shape has not changed in 60 years, there have been a handful of modifications over the years. The clip and plunger have gone through a few iterations and the body comes in more colors and designs than you can easily count. Early on, the clip got its arrow shape and the engraved feathers have come and gone and the plunger has been rounded, flattened and rounded again. These small tweaks are nice and all, but for me, the fun of collecting Jotters is all about the colors and designs. But why would anyone need more than one Jotter? Well, for a small investment, you can get a consistent writing experience in a variety of colors and designs to suit any situation or mood at work, school or home. Of course, the same can be said for other widely-available pen designs such as Retro 51 or the Fisher Space Pen.
The build quality of the Jotter is solid. Of the 20 plus Jotters I’ve owned during 20 plus years, I’ve never had a hint of an issue with the body or clip sections. I have lost the tiny spring that sits inside the tip of the body, so you’ll want to take care not to loss the spring when replacing the refill. The spring usually stays inside the pen when changing refills, but every now and then it will get stuck on the end of the refill and you may lose it if you’re not paying attention.
One minor, yet noticeable, alteration done to the Jotter sometime in the 1980s was swapping the brass threads for plastic threads inside the cap section. It’s not a huge difference, but I do like the extra bit of weight the brass threads provide.
There are literally dozens upon dozens of refills made by a variety of manufacturers. So, while we’re not talking fountain-pen-range-of-options here, surely you can find at least one refill that works for your typical needs. Personally, I’m partial to the newer Quink refills made by Parker and Fisher Space Pen refills. Other folks swear by the EasyFlow 9000 from Schmidt or the various gel refills made by Monteverde, which brings me to a quick bit of advice. If you audition an older Jotter, look inside the pen first. If it has an older Parker refill then do not give the writing experience any credence. Instead, focus on the design and condition of the pen itself and know that you’ll be able to get a solid writing experience with a new refill.
It’s an icon. It’s well built. It accommodates a variety of refill options. Put it all together and the inevitable conclusion is that you should get a Jotter (or two or three) and spend a bit of time and money finding a preferred refill. Personally, I prefer the metal Jotters to the plastic ones. Unless it’s an older Jotter with the brass threads, I find the plastic versions to be too light; I would rather write with the added heft of the all-metal editions. Once you find a workable combination, keep the pen handy and I suspect you’ll find yourself reaching for the Jotter more often than you might have thought.
(Note – This review was prepared a few months ago just before That One Pen went into hibernation. It’s longer than most reviews will be from now on but it seemed like a bad idea to let this review go to waste.)