88 and Rialto 1988-Present
by Jim Mamoulides 1/5/02 - Updated 2/11/04
The Parker 88, released in 1988, is, in effect, a fancy dressed up Vector. A Parker internal document shows the pen was released in 1987, though the official history shows a 1988 date, which coincides with the model name. Like cars, the "model year" may have been a future date, rather than the actual release or the internal document may indicate test-marketing release.
The Parker 88 is virtually the same pen with all 23 karat gold plated trim, including the stainless steel nib (now 23 carat gold plated), and all-metal construction with either a lacquer finish or precious metal plating. The cap top has more of a rounded crown than the Vector and a round bright metal insert rather than the Vector's "minus sign". The barrel end has this same insert. The clip is essentially borrowed from the 95 and is a much-refined design, with a detailed arrowhead point and dense feathering lines. The Vector has gone upscale.
Unlike the Vector, the Parker 88 was offered as a cartridge / converter pen, using the same long Parker cartridges as well as bottle filling with a very slender press-bar converter. Interestingly, the line has only been offered as a fountain pen and capped ballpoint, using the same barrel and cap as the fountain pen and a Parker ballpoint refill. More nib grades were offered, including extra fine, fine, medium and broad. As with the Vector, the barrel end is a plastic stem, slightly smaller than the main barrel, made so the cap posts snugly, and it, too has a round plated insert on the end. The section is tubular and ends with the tiny plated nib.
The high line of the Parker 88 was the Place Vendome series of precious metal plated pens, with longitudinal engraved, or "fluted", or "Corinth" lines (depending on the market) running the length of the cap and barrel, and retailing for US $135.00 for the fountain pen. Matte finish pens were US $40.00. Some packaging I've seen has the Place Vendome name on different level models, indicating Parker may have been trying the name out for marketing purposes. All Parker product list and catalog information I have shows use of either Parker 88 on all models or Place Vendome on the plated models. The Place Vendome line was discontinued in 1994, when the line was renamed Rialto.
The 88 came in three finishes over solid brass, either plated, Matte or Laque. Plated finishes are fluted all 22 carat gold plate with Corinth pattern engraving and maroon section and barrel end or fluted all silver plate with Corinth pattern engraving and dark green section and barrel end. Matte finishes are an epoxy coating, and included Black, Navy with maroon section and barrel end, and Blue or Gray with dark green section and barrel end. Laque finishes are a high gloss lacquer in Blue or Maroon Laque with dark green section and barrel end, Ivory (white) Laque with maroon section and barrel end, and Black Laque. All models came with 22 carat gold plated trim. All finishes were available until the line was updated and renamed Rialto in 1994.
In 1988, the Matte Gray and silver plate finishes were discontinued. Matte Blue was introduced in 1989, along with "Speckled Blue" Laque. New colors were added in 1993. In 1993 all pens were changed to black plastic sections and barrel ends, continued in the Rialto line.
The Rialto is essentially the same pen as the 88, and was initially offered in the same set of finishes, plated, Matte or Laque. A "Metallic" finish was introduced in 1994. Plated finishes are fluted all 23 carat gold plate with Corinth pattern engraving or fluted all silver plate with Corinth pattern engraving. Matte finishes are an epoxy coating, and included Black, Navy, and Dark Green. Laque finishes are a high gloss lacquer in Blue, Maroon and Ivory (white). All models came with 23 carat gold plated trim and black plastic sections and barrel ends.
In 1996, Parker updated the line and introduced three new swirled Laque finishes, Aqua (dark green), Dusk (dark brown), and Lava (dark red). The pens are now slightly lighter weight brass construction and the black plastic sections and barrel ends now have plastic inserts instead of gold. The section is redesigned, now being all plastic, including the threads (the previous versions have metal threads), and the gold trim ring slips over the threads, much as on the Parker 45, instead of being fixed. Nibs are updated with a new scrolled engraving. Parker now offers a slide converter for the Rialto. All Rialtos have 23K gold plated trim.
The matte pens are the lowest priced. The fountain pen retails for 60.00 and the matching ballpoint for 49.00. The Laque fountain pen retails for 65.00 and its matching ballpoint for 53.00. The Rialto is not presently offered in the North American market, but is commonly available in many world markets.
Identification of 88 and Rialto models can be tricky. Early 88s and late painted Rialtos are fairly easy, as the early 88s all have maroon or dark green plastic sections and barrel ends, except the Matte Black. Late Rialtos all have black plastic sections and barrel ends with plastic inserts. If you have a silver plate pen with a dark green section, it's an 88 Place Vendome from 1988. Dating pens from 1993 through 1995 is probably impossible, as there is no appreciable difference as Parker changed the section and barrel end to black plastic the year before he model name changed. They are exactly the same pen, with only a name change.
I don't really know where to start with the Parker 88 Place Vendome. On the table it looks like a bright shiny Vector. Someone dressed up this school pen for a night out. Picked up, the pen feels heavier and the finish is quite bright, even the plastic has more shine. Inked and put to paper, the school pen lineage shows in the nib. This is really a more expensive dress up of the Vector, much like the Flighter and black anodized Vector, only these pens are a lot more gilded.
The 88, like the Vector, is a small and slender pen at 5 1/8 inches long capped and 6 1/8 inches posted. Its all-metal construction makes it heavier than most Vectors, save the Flighter. The cap easily posts onto the plastic knob end of the barrel and stays snug. Posted, the pen is quite long and thin, like a long, silver-plated pencil. Balance is good, capped or posted.
This Place Vendome is fitted with a smooth and wet writing medium nib. It's not very expressive, but that wasn't expected. This is a utility pen in fancy clothes. The Parker long refill cartridges work fine, as does the press bar converter, my preference. One might think the small cylindrical section would be uncomfortable, but it works well enough.
The 88 clip is more refined, but works just like the clip on the Vector, springing enough to slip on even a heavy shirt. It sits quite low in the pocket and the fancy clip is definitely more eye-catching than the Vector.
I don't find Vectors particularly exciting, and frankly, I didn't expect much from the 88. Everything said, "It's a Vector!" But the pen grew on me. I'll admit, this is probably because of the Vector Flighter in my collection, but the added weight makes a big positive difference to this design. I've seen the Laque pens, and they are actually very appealing, probably the most of the line. The Rialto is a pen that is perfect for someone who wants a dependable utility pen in a pretty case and isn't concerned about expressive writing. Rialtos are a current line and can be had new well under US $100.00, and depending on the model, under US $50.00.
Thanks to Arthur Levy to identifying the Black Laque finish on the Place Vendome series.
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