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Omas Arco pens included in a 1938 mail catalogue offer an insight on the popularity of arco celluloid in the past

Nowadays collectors go crazy for rare items and are ready to pay top prices for pieces which are supposed to be the highest productive expression of a company or a brand….

In most cases this is true and what is considered rare and highly desirable today, was also very desirable and precious at the time of production…

Sometimes, instead, what is rare today can be something that in the past had a very limited commercial success, resulting in a low number of items being objectively sold.

What does it mean?

It means that nowadays we are willing to add in our collections items which very few people were willing to buy when they were first offered onto the market.

In the end these items were sold to gross dealers, sold at a discount, marketed by any possible commercial means just to reduce their makers’ stock and loss…

This does not necessarily mean that these items were not “good enough”. It may simply be that they did not meet with the taste of the general public of the time….

What would you think if this was true for Omas Arco pens of the 1930’s?

The truth is that this super famous, extra-desirable Omas Arco celluloid pens, at the time of production were simply celluloid pens, and arco was just one of the many color variations you could choose…and maybe not even the most favorite one.


The presence of Omas Arco pens in a 1938 Turin-based  mail catalogue supports this theory.  Mail catalogues were very fashionable at the time in Italy and they generally offered nice products at an affordable prices. There were mail catalogues where you could buy pens with overlay like Waterman, Kaweco or minor brands, catalogues where you could buy spare parts like nibs or pressure bars and catalogues where you could buy desk sets, pocket pens, stationary items, inks and anything your household may need.

They offered the opportunity to people who lived in secluded parts of Italy and had no easy  access to retail shops, to buy all the goods they needed, from clothes to writing instruments.

This marketing strategy was the very low cost  of the items which were offered for sale. The items which were listed for sale were generally bought in bulk at a discounted price by various makers…

Most manufacturers were in fact ready to grant discounts for their items, to get rid of remaining old-fashioned stock, especially when new lines of products were about to be launched on the market.

After all, if you lived in a secluded Italian village in the middle of nowhere, how could you be aware of the newest trends and fashionable colour/items of the time.? You were always a step backward and mail catalogues were there to fill the gap.

The Vagnino catalogue in these pictures dates back to 1938 and it offers some very nice Omas Extra, and Minerva pens. Omas Extra pens were introduced in 1932 and the Minervas in 1934.

In 1936, Omas had launched the Lucens series, an innovative line with transparent barrel and reverse plunger filling mechanism.

So what? Nobody would buy lever fillers anymore. They were cumbersome, old fashioned and not trendy at all. The trend was transparency, full barrel capacity, a highly technological filling system.


But people in small, secluded villages… would not know. There was no internet, no Facebook, no Instagram at the time and news took a lot of time to spread. As a whole the range of items offered by Vagnino Catalogues was medium to high quality. Many other mail catalogues existed at the time which offered cheaper items and lower quality pens.

All mail catalogues worked in the same way: they had a standard series of items which in many cases were produced on commission to be specifically sold through catalogues, plus a variety of “leftovers”, unsold stocks were added to have a more desirable and articulated offer.   This way various makers could  get rid of their unsold stock at bargain prices through these catalogues, while the newest fashionable lines were placed in the shop windows of the most elegant pen shops in Milan, Rome,Florence, Turin….

Here another couple of pages from the catalogue, which offered Omas, Minerva and Pelikan pens  and pencils of various makers as well as items of any kind, from clothes to pieces of furniture…

Would you ever think that our highly desirable, sought after, precious Omas Arco Extra Lever fillers, were part of unsold stocks to be marketed at discounted prices to leave room for the new lines??



Credits: personal collection