How to Decode a Serial Number With a Waterman Pen

Written by andrew latham Google
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How to Decode a Serial Number With a Waterman Pen
A solid gold barrel overlay pen is coded by a 3 in the hundreds place of a four-digit Waterman's serial number. (Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images)

Waterman pens are both a collector's item and, for some, a symbol of prestige and elegance. Since Waterman began manufacturing luxury pens in 1883, the company has produced a large variety of pen designs and models. The older, and more valuable models are especially prized by collectors and are registered by their serial numbers in catalogues. American-made pens manufactured before 1930 were branded with a four-digit numerical code on the pen's barrel. You can decode the serial number of these catalogues by understanding the system Waterman used to generate the code.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Read the last digit, or unit digit, of the Waterman's pen serial number. This digit tells you the size of the pen's nib.

  2. 2

    Discover the type of pen described by the serial number by reading the next to last digit, or the tens place digit. For instance, number one describes a slip-fit eyedropper, a number five is used for a lever-filler pen and seven is used for screw-cap eyedropper pens.

  3. 3

    Decipher the overlay and trim band configuration of the pen by reading the hundreds and thousands position, that is the third and fourth digit from the end of the serial number. For example, a solid gold cap top band will have a nine in the hundreds place, while a silver barrel overlay will have a two. Gold filled pens are the only ones that use the thousand place. They are coded with a zero.

  4. 4

    Read the suffix at the end of the serial number to find additional information on the pen. For instance, a pocket model will have the suffix "V," while an overlay covering barrel will have the suffix "LEC."

Tips and warnings

  • There are some differences between the serial numbers used for British- and French-made pens. For example, French-made pens use a seven in the hundreds place to identify solid 18K gold and seven for silver pens.
  • Waterman was not always consistent when using this serial number system. Do not purchase a pen based only on this serial number code. Check with an expert before purchasing a Waterman collectors' pen.

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