Vintage Esterbrook #956 Radio Pen for Ornamental Script CIRCA 1920s

+ $4.00 shipping
+ $4.00 shipping
In stock
Preparation takes 1-3 business days
Arrives from the United States


Item details

Note: The version you will be buying will be OLDER than the one pictured. The version that is pictured is from 1936 and the ones I am selling will be from the 1920s. These are fast becoming extremely hard to find! It seems word has traveled that this pen, being plated, lasts much longer when using caustic inks like Iron Gall. This is crucial to calligraphers as you can easily burn out a regular steel pen in one day or afternoon using iron gall with regular steel. With this pen, I have used it for weeks with no change in action and there has been no appreciative deterioration.

Esterbrook pens came in a variety of styles to suit the writing techniques of their customers. They also came in a variety of materials to suit their customers too. Before the 1900’s they used to use copper, nickel, gold, and even tar to coat their pens. Later, they invented a much more powerful plating called “Radio Plating.” This was a Silver-nickel alloy that coats the steel pen. It had to also have a pre-coat of copper in order for the alloy to bond with the steel. This plating was employed to combat the corrosive elements of oxygen, water, and iron gall. It was advertised to last twice as long as their regular steel pens which were advertised to write in excess of 100 miles. It didn’t hurt that the pens look absolutely stunning, sleek, and dare I say, sexy in this coating. The indented letters take on an awesome glow when the light reflects them; it’s truly beautiful and amazing. It is no surprise that Esterbrook used this process to coat only their most popular pens in their massive 250 different arsenal of pens. There were only a reported 26 different Radio Pens made.

Now, the pen featured here is the #956 Radio Pen. It is ‘technically’ a coated version of the #856 Technical Pen. However, one has to question why Esterbrook didn’t make a “928” which would have been a coated version of the #128 Extra Fine Elastic Pen? I can only surmise that they didn’t want to use the number “928” and wanted it to be a ‘higher’ number? I make this leap because it was known that the numerical value of pens was supposed to indicate function. The numbers were to indicate point type, flexibility, and hardness. Unfortunately, there is no obvious answer and it will remain a mystery for now. Be that as it may, the #956 is IDENTICAL to the #128 in every single detail. Therefore, I submit to you that this, #956 Radio Pen, is THE radio-plated version of the #128 Extra Fine Elastic Pen. In fact, I have supplied a photo comparing the #128 to the #956 so you can see for yourself. The significance of this realization is that not only will you be able to create wonderful ornamental scripts like Spencerian writing, or copperplate scripts, but that it will last you twice as long as normal and look beautiful at the same time! Once again, a hidden gem in the world of pens.

Please note that the #128 Extra Fine Elastic Pen is not for sale in THIS listing and is shown here for comparison. If you would like a #128, they are for sale here: This pen is new old stock and maintains its original factory finish. The pen is free from any oxidation, defects or rust. However, it does have a protective varnish that will need to be removed in order for the pen to function as it should. Simply dip into ink and wipe off to remove the varnish. This might need to be done a few times. You will know you have succeeded when the ink covers the pen evenly and doesn’t bunch up into blobs.

If you have any questions about this pen, or other pens, please do not hesitate to contact me or visit my website:

Average review
Happy Memorial weekend to you and your family. Thanks for the gorgeous nibs in addition to your beautiful Calligraphy. My bonus will be loved, too. I am sitting here making clay partitions in colorful array so I know who goes where until the usage defines who is who. Lol.
May 24, 2018 by Susan Kelley
This item arrived nicely packaged. I appreciated the extra touch. Thanks.
Feb 13, 2018 by James Gibbs
Mar 25, 2017 by bookh
Nov 9, 2016 by Moshik Nadav Typography

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Shipping & policies
Preparation takes 1-3 business days
Arrives from the United States
Estimated Shipping
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URGENT NOTICE FOR INTERNATIONAL BUYERS: I process all my shipping and declaration forms within Etsy. Etsy will automatically add the item's description, value, and amount paid in shipping to the declaration form. This information cannot be altered. Please consider your country's tariffs and import costs when making a purchase.

NOTICE: As of January 16th 2016, USPS has increased their shipping rates. Sadly, that means I have to increase my shipping rates. :(

I ship via USPS within 1 - 3 business days (depending on if Sunday is in the mix). I do not try to make money with shipping. I put an average cost and quite often the actual amount is more than what I quoted. Don't sweat it, I will not be asking for more money :). If an upgrade in shipping is available for less than a dollar more, I will upgrade at no extra charge. That's just how I roll! Also, if I fail to ship within 3 days (Sundays excluded) I will upgrade the shipping to Priority. If I am unable to ship within three business days, I typically upgrade to Priority. I cannot do this for international orders, I apologize.

I do ship internationally to anywhere USPS ships! However, it can take a bit of time to get the package, so please be patient! :) There is no method of determining how long a package will take to arrive at a foreign country. Typically, I have seen the package leave the USA within 3 - 5 business days. It will likely take a day to fly to any destination. It must then go through foreign customs. Then it will be sent to that country's delivery system. In my experience it can take as little as 8 - 10 days and as long as a month. Etsy does seem to have a way to track these packages when they are in other countries, so if you are concerned about where the package is, let me know and I can check the tracking.

PLEASE do not wait a month to notify me that you have not received your package (unless this is an international order). I will attempt to track down all packages before I consider them a loss.


Payment seems to be straight forward. :) I accept credit cards and paypal. I prefer either.

Returns & exchanges
I gladly accept returns and exchanges
Contact me within: 14 days of delivery
Ship items back within: 30 days of delivery
I don't accept cancellations
But please contact me if you have any problems with your order.
The following items can't be returned or exchanged
Because of the nature of these items, unless they arrive damaged or defective, I can't accept returns for:
  • Custom or personalized orders
  • Perishable products (like food or flowers)
  • Digital downloads
  • Intimate items (for health/hygiene reasons)
Conditions of return
Buyers are responsible for return shipping costs. If the item is not returned in its original condition, the buyer is responsible for any loss in value.
Additional return information
The items in my shop are sold "AS IS." I am selling vintage and antique items that are not replaceable; especially if they are used. I also do not price match.

These are items to be used as a supply and therefore they cannot be returned once used. I spend a good deal of time writing out the description of each item, so there should not be any confusion as to what is being purchased. I am available for questions regarding usage, so please do not hesitate to ask.

In regards to refunds, there would need to be a serious error on my part or a circumstance beyond normal control to warrant a full refund from me directly. Please contact me through Etsy to discuss any issues with the order. If you need to, please exercise your right to file a claim with Etsy.

In regards to lost packages, Etsy offers both buyer and seller protection. I will work through Etsy's official channels where these matters are concerned. I will do everything in my power to contact the postal service and fight to get the package back or to its intended destination. PLEASE NOTE that these procedures take time. Postal offices have to commit to an investigation as does Etsy. The sooner you report a lost package the quicker it will be to track it down. I also purchase insurance on every order.

I keep pristine records of all transactions, including receipts for shipment. I keep them on file for seven years. If proof of shipment is required by any party, it can be given easily.

With that said, I am more than reasonable, if there is an problem with the order I am happy to resolve the issue to mutual satisfaction where applicable.

In regards to EU customers, the online selling laws have changed. A customer is required to fill out a refund form and mail it before a refund can be processed. Please check your country's website or Etsy to locate such a form.

Additional policies

Prices and availability of the pens are subject to change without notice. The price of the pens are based on age, demand and availability. I will not price match other shops.

Understand that these pens are no longer made. Their value is increasing and their availability is decreasing. These pens are vastly superior to modern day dip pens. Therefore, they have an inherent, intrinsic value. Modern day dip pens cost between .75 to 1.25 USD a pen. The pens in my shop are vintage or antique as well as being tempered steel and thus are going to be more valuable. Some have plating made of gold and or silver, increasing their value further. Some are extremely popular as well as being very difficult to find. Especially for the renowned "Dream Nibs." Many times, an investment of hundreds or thousands of dollars is required to get these pens. It is becoming more and more difficult to acquire even for the most common of pens, because the price point is beyond my comfort level.

With that said, if you find these pens elsewhere for cheaper, by all means buy those pens up! I will not price match. People seeking a discount will have to contact me privately for a custom order. An order of 10 or more pens will receive a 10% discount.

Again, if you have questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact me. I am here to help.:)