No. 333 1/2 Prototype
This pen is from the personal collection of Marcwithac - a generous contributor on FPN and vintage pen collector with exceptional taste!
The No. 333 1/2 pictured here is not your ordinary No. 333 1/2. You will not find it in any catalogues. Because it was never produced commercially. Was it a prototype? Was it made for the purpose of training or as a curious experiment by an apprentice at the Montblanc factory? Was it made as a special order for an important client? These are popular hypotheses, but cannot be substantiated with any evidence, unfortunately.
The regular-production 333½ model was a popular low-cost or economical model produced before, during, and a little after WWII. The pens during the war were made with steel nibs, but the ones before and after the war were made with 14c gold. The 333 1/2 was armed with a Kontolfüller or simple piston filler. This model was more commonly found in black. However, one catalogue from the 1930s does confirm that the 333 1/2 came in black, blue, green, and pearl. Today, the coloured versions are far rarer and command a much higher value than the modest black model. You can see some examples of these colourful versions in previous articles -> link.
The No. 333 1/2 range was made in Germany, though variants of this design were also either manufactured in (or simply exported to) Denmark and Spain. Regarding the blue striated pen we have here, it's difficult to know where it might have been made. But, an expert tells me it was probably at a factory in Hungary. Montblanc pens with special colours and materials have been known to originate from Hungary.
Blue striated No. 333 1/2 belonging to Eizo Fuji
Text Translation: The piston system, where the cover of the tail shaft is removed, was adopted for a long time from the 1930's to the 1950's. The valve is made of cork and needs to be replaced every few years. 333 1/2 horizontal blue stripe prototype around 1935, 280.000 yen. All horizontal stripe models are prototypes and never hit the market. Museum piece."
Pic Credit: Japanese pen magazine Shumi No Bungu Bako, Vol. 31, 2014
With regard to the colour, at first glance, it resembles the famous Parker Vacumatic striped celluloid design made in the 1920s-late 40s. The striped design was used by many other brands that originated from Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and other countries, in the 1940-50s. The colour is deep and mesmerizing! In fact, a few prototype Montblacs with similar striped colours have been found.
With regard to the material, while it looks like the Parker it is a little different. The Parkers were made from celluloid rods, while this particular pen seems to be made from a celluloid laminate that was folded - noticed the seam on the cap and how the striations don't perfectly match at the seam. This is common in cheaper vintage pens, in my experience. For example, this Danish variant of the 333 1/2 (link). When these pens age they tend to pull away and unfold at the seams, as I have personally experienced with two different brands in the past. However, their beauty is undeniable, and this particular pen seems to be in mint condition making the owner a very lucky man!
Dating this pen is tricky! Since it has a gold nib, we know that it was highly like to be made before or after World War II. Catalogues from the late 1930s show the 333 1/2 with one cap ring, while a catalogue from the late 1940s shows a black 333 1/2 with two cap rings like our blue striated pen. Also, Collectible Stars I shows two variants of blind caps, and the one that looks like our blue striated pen is said to be a post-war version. Considering this, I date the pen in this article to be made between between 1947-52.
Danish MB Masterpiece prototypes and a German Meisterstück prototype
Pic Credits: Collectible Stars I (left), Motnbalnc Diary (mid), and Japanese pen magazine Shumi No Bungu Bako, Vol. 31, 2014 (right)
Pic Credit: Fountain Pens of the World, A. Lambrou
One of several late-1930s catalogues showing the 333x line with single cap bands
Late-1940s catalogue showing the 333x line with double cap bands
For bibliography, see Resources page -->link