Saturday, August 17, 2013

Graf Zeppelin dip pen

When the Graf Zeppelin visited Estonia in 1930, one of the more noteworthy souvenirs of the occasion was this silver dip pen in the shape of the famous airship. How many were made and how they were sold is not known. They are not common, but I have seen several examples over the years. Though they have considerable heft, many are disfigured by dents -- typically towards the tail, as if the pen had been idly rapped against a table edge.
The details -- gondola, engine nacelles, tailfins -- are in low relief, allowing the pen to be held comfortably for writing. Clearly, this was intended as a functional novelty item.

This example, like most, is lightly engraved with the owner's name. It bears the usual Estonian silver hallmarks (835 fine, rather than the 925 of sterling), but no maker's mark. Quite a few of these Graf Zeppelin dip pens are marked with the "OV" stamp of Tallin silversmith Oskar Vük, leading many to assume that Vük was the maker. Yet the absence of a maker's mark on the other specimens indicates that a maker's mark was not required, and that the "OV" stamp may in fact be a retailer's mark (noting also the very real possibility that Vük was the manufacturer, but left off the "OV" stamp on pens to be sold to other retailers).

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