Fountain Pen Collecting – The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword!
What Is It All About?
Fountain pen collecting happens to be one of those hobbies that not everyone understands. Spend big money on a classic writing instrument when a 39 cent BIC will do the same job? So, how does the collector of fine writing instruments justify their hobby? It really comes down to the appreciation of the beauty of the pen, the intricate craftsmanship and the way it puts ink down on the paper. It is the combination of these qualities that determines a pen’s value.
Fountain pen collecting is sometimes driven by historical significance, the technical aspect and simple aesthetic appeal. Today’s collector can find pens costing only a few dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Your desire to be a collector will have to be tempered by how much you can or want to spend.
Fountain Pen collecting does not have to be an expensive hobby. There are many older pens, like Esterbrooks that can be picked up on eBay and flea markets for a couple of dollars. Many times these are fixer uppers which with a small amount of effort can be brought back to their former beauty and functionality. You may collect a few of these after which I expect you will begin to look at higher quality pens like Waterman, Parker or Mont Blanc. Some pen makers, like Parker made both high quality pens as well as those produced cheaply for the masses. You will quickly figure out which these are and decide for yourself which are good buys.
My passion for fountain pen collecting eventually steered towards the Waterman brand as I found them high quality, great writers and reasonably priced. I owned a number of other pricey brands but found them to less comfortable to write with than the Waterman’s. I am sure you will also find your favorites.
There are a few logical steps to follow in order to get you off on the right foot.
Decide if you want to collect old pens or modern pens. Collecting modern pens is easier because of easy availability. Older pens will give you more variety to choose from, such as historical importance and those that introduced technological advancements.
Figure out what your budget is. As mentioned already, you can spend a little or spend a lot. Fortunately, there are pens in every price range so you can fit you budget no matter what.
For modern pens, there are lots of stores selling high quality pens as well as many on-line outlets. For vintage pens, you will most likely need to go on-line to dealer sites and auction sites like eBay. There are plenty of on-line forums where you can chat, listen and learn about your hobby as well as find good deals to purchase.
A word of caution, if you are looking for a old pen with its writing qualities in mind, you may want to stay away from non-specialist sellers on eBay. It is extremely difficult to assess a pens condition from pictures and incomplete descriptions.
Be aware the not all limited editions have the same market appeal, particularly those of less prominent pen makers.
Many sectors of the vintage pen market have been depressed for awhile now due to long time collectors retiring from the hobby and liquidating their collections. But this might be viewed as an opportunity. There are some excellent bargains out there for classic Waterman, Wahl and Conklin pens to name just a few.
Some Fountain Pen Collecting Tips
Beware of deals that look too good to be true. I can remember bidding on a classic Waterman Rhapsody on eBay. The normal going rate was about $100 but this one was listed for $50. I read the write-up carefully and found nothing to be worried about. I snatched it up. When it arrived I found that the pen had been broken and glued back together. Something that was not visible in the photos. I kept the pen for a couple of years and made a very careful repair including a polishing. I listed it on eBay with a full disclosure of my repair and sold it for $75. I got lucky!
As a rule, bigger pens are worth more than smaller pens. Vintage pens tend to be smaller and lighter than modern day larger pens mainly because the old pens were made for writing whereas many of today’s pens are status statements.
Collect what you like and realize that as you gain experience in this hobby, you will get more selective.
Pens that have been “Inked” are worth less than those that remain unused. I enjoyed writing with my pens and so a few of them were dedicated to that purpose while others simply remained a part of my collection.
There are tons of books, magazines and websites dedicated to collectors. You will find it well worth your time to do some reading before making the big purchases.
Keep all pen documentation, packaging and boxes you get. Pens without these will be worth significantly less if you go to sell or trade them.
A magnifying glass is very helpful in examining your pens or prospective pens.
Fountain Pen Collecting is a popular hobby all around the world and will likely continue to grow, increasing pen scarcity and drive up values. For this reason it should be a good time to get into the hobby. But remember, hobbies are all about having fun!