Antiques Roadshow in West Sussex

I’ve just got back from the last filming day for the Antiques Roadshow this season. It was held at the wonderful Weald & Downland open air museum, near Chichester in Sussex. Despite heavy rain predicted, the weather stayed dry, and the sun even shone at one point! Thousands made the journey to see us, and some amazing treasures were uncovered.
I filmed two pieces, both of which I loved, but it was a very busy day so we’ll see if they make it to the final programme.
One of the pieces I couldn’t film, partly as it came in too late, was the little treasure above. And when I say little, I mean tiny. It’s only  1.5inches (4cm) long – basically the size of a match! Known as the ‘Smallest Pen In The World’, it’s a fully functioning fountain pen despite it’s diminuitive size. It was made by Waterman in the US around 1920, effectively as a marketing tool. Displayed in shops, or shown to prospective retailers or clients, it showcased Waterman’s skills at making fountain pens. Continuing the theme, it was accompanied in its task by a ‘giant’ Waterman No.20. Collectors often refer to it as the ‘Doll Pen’ as another example sits on the King’s Library table in Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, completed in 1924, and now on display in Windsor Castle.
It’s made from black hard (vulcanised) rubber, but the sharp-eyed will have noticed that it’s brown. Reacting to moisture in the air and the environment, the rubber has oxidised over time, and its shiny blackness can only be restored by polishing the brown oxidised layer away. But that would also remove the tiny company imprint on the barrel, which would reduce the desirability and value.
This one is a standard eyedropper model, but it was also made in a ‘safety’ version with a retractable nib. Both of these versions were also made in red hard rubber. Both variations in colour and mechanism are even rarer (and considerably more valuable) than this version. And this version is rare enough – I’ve only ever handled four.
The owner had stored it in a drawer since she was given it, aged 3, in 1944. She’d never considered it had any value. Although it was discoloured, it did have it’s rare original box and both were undamaged. She was absolutely delighted when I put a conservative £400-600 on it, adding that it may well fetch more. That’s over £100 per centimetre!
The new series of the BBC Antiques Roadshow starts on Sunday September 18th, at 8pm, when the first of two shows filmed in Manchester will air. The two West Sussex shows will air in April next year. In the meantime, to have a sneak peak of the day at Weald & Downland, check out Gary Marlowe’s truly fantastic photographs from the day by clicking here.

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