Collecting Rotring’s Technical Pens

Introduction 1

Collecting Rotring’s technical pens can be very tricky. The first Rapidograph entered the market in 1953 and up to circa 1980 – when it was deleted – Rotring produced 7 major different lines of pens with interchangeable parts. Almost every parts from every pen during 27 years where compatible, permutable and interchangeable. During this period, millions of pens where produced, so it’s easy to figure why it’s a challenge to identify inevitably a specific model.

So far, I have identified 7 major lines of pens, 6 minor lines, for a total of almost 380 specific pens.

The 1953 Rapidograph was offered in 5 different design, the Variant in 4, the Varioscript in 4, the Micronorm in 3, the Foliograph in 3, the Isograph in 8, The modern Rapidograh in 3. Plus you have minor lines like the Primus, the Rapidoliner, the Blankograph, the Rotring 1300 & 1400…

You can easily mix a 1958 Variant body with a 1977 Micronorm nib and a 1968 Varioscript cap, the pen will be fully working ! This situation (theoretically) ended in 1976 when the Isograph was introduced. Except for the barrel and cartridge, no part was compatible with previous lines. It was supposed to supersede every other technical pen Rotring ever produced, but due to their popularity, efficiency and widespread use, old lines where still produced up to the early 1980’s and spare nibs where still available much later in this decade.

The Isograph is still produced to this day, 40 years after his introduction, which made him the champion of longevity in the Rotring lines. From 1976 to 2016, it went through at last 8 different designs. The difference are quite subtle and – of course – every parts are fully compatible.

Compatibilty and flexibility which was one of the main force and great innovation of the Rotring pens has become a nightmare for collectors. Rotring’s pens are also fragile, particularly the smaller nib size, so when a draftsman broke a nib and doesn’t have the exact replacement one at hand, he frequently swap with any at his disposal regardless of the integrity of the pen. That leads to incoherent pens and sets sold today on the second hand market as « Original » or « New in Box ». Only close examination can determine the real pedigree of a pen. I’ve pictured below some « Dr. Frankenstein » Rotring, mixing up parts from difference era. These pens are, however, fully working. Of course, I’ve been a bit far in mixing the parts, but this is to give you an idea of what you can found on Internet.

Introduction 2

Confusing things further up, Rotring never indicate any production date on their products (until very recently) and sometimes use identical reference number for different design. For Rotting, a Variant is a Variant whether it’s a 1958 or a 1980 model. Even the officials catalogs rarely have a release date, and you have to find the legal very small printer’s indication to identify it (when there is one).

All this facts gave the collector a very complex task to build a coherent collection of Rotring’s technical pens. I’m collecting and researching this area for years now, and found it is time to try to organize this mess. I’m by no way an expert – just an enthusiast  – but I think I have gathered enough materials, documentations and informations to give it a try. This is (and will remain I guess) a « work in progress » things as I can’t be definitive on many things. My primary source of informations are Rotring books, catalogs, leaflets, brochures, instructions leaflets and the numerous ads published in the press. These ads are invaluable because with the publication date of the magazine, you can be precisely date when a new product appears on the market. Secondary source is of course found on Internet, but informations must always been considered with caution. I have already bought « complete vintage sets » that looks pretty cohesive, but on closer examination… ops! that 0.2 looks like it’s different from the others…

The purpose of this series of post is to provide a comprehensive, detailed, documented view of Rotring’s technical pens from 1953 to 2016.



I’m responsible for any errors, omissions or mistakes that may appear in these posts. I’m not working for Rotring or any of his affiliates, so as the name of this blog implies, everything here is « unofficial ». However, I’m trying to be as rigorous as I can, and every information given here has been checked and verified as much as I can. Rotring history is not very documented on the Internet, and I think this is a story to be told. I will gladly accept any remarks or comments that can improve this essay. If you have any informations that you don’t find here, if you used to worked for Rotring, if you were a retailer, if you have documents to share I’ll be very happy to include your informations in this serie of posts. Please do not hesitate to contact me, it’s easy to leave a comment and it can helps a lot!


8 réflexions sur “Collecting Rotring’s Technical Pens

  1. I am truly happy to see, among the many books you displayed as source material, the amazing « Perspective Drawing for technicians » by Anselm & Rivalan, edited by Rotring itself and listed as one of their own catalogue items. A great book on technical drawing, and one of the best example of « good » product placement I could witness so far.

    Small side story: I was looking for the book one year ago, and I was almost resigned to buy a German copy on Ebay, when I discovered there was actually an Italian translation edited by Pitagora Editrice publishing company in 1984, with all its wonderful additional material. I got the book, and then found another copy (plus all its supplementary material in pristine condition) in a second-hand bookshop some months later.

    Question: will you ever post a complete bibliography of the books you used as source material? I would be interested in finding great titles on drafting and technical drawing; even if they are in German (which I can hardly grasp), the drawings alone might be helpful to improve my knowledge on the topic.


  2. Great blog. You have some really nice items.
    I enjoy playing around with some vintage pen plotters. Maybe you can help me.
    Oposite to the drawing pens with the plotter pens there is absolutly nothing interchangeable.
    Every bit has its own thread or lenght. I have some boxes with many pieces, adapters and nibs from differnet manufactures and having problems sorting them out.
    Is there some vintage Rotring catolog or price list with pictures and numbers on the web somewhere? I do need a Staedtler catalog too. I guess 1990 would be a good time as penplotter where state of the art then.


    • Hello Steve, Thanks for your kind words and interest in my blog. Plotter pen is indeed a complicated subject with many many difference references and products. The good news is I’ve got the perfect document for you (well I guess) : a 11 pages 1990 Rotring document with all references, adaptators, accessories… including 4 pages crammed with compatibility charts. I’ve converted it to a pdf file. Please send me your e-mail address if you want me to send it. You can reach me at olivier[at] (replace the « [at] » by a regular @. Best Regards. Olivier


  3. Hello Olivier, I stumbled across your blog when looking for information on Rotring pens, and looking for any pens still for sale. I started using Rotring pens in 1971 and did so until 1993 when I switched to drawing on CAD. Since then I have used pencil and felt tipped pens for manual drafting when required. I have recently been restoring my pens, and luckily whilst living on the UK in 1980-1984 and visiting Germany in 1990 I stocked up on replacement nibs. I recently purchased an Ultrasonic Cleaner from Aldi in Brisbane where I live, and this has removed all of the old dry ink with multiple cleaning cycles. I have a simple question which you might confirm or comment on. Rotring Variants are essentially a drawing pen, while I recall that Rotring Varioscript are a stencil lettering pen.


    • Hi David, Thnak for your interrest in my blog and kind words. You are absolutely right : The Variant line were made for drawing/sketching and the Varioscript line for lettering (mostly through plastic template). The two line eventually merged when Rotring issued the Isograph and [New] Rapidograph lines in the 1970’s ans 1980’s


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