Posted in Collection, Stories

A Vintage Pen Condition Rating System

This is not really applicable to those not interested in vintage pens. For those who do collect and use vintage pens, the shape, and condition of the pen is relevant. Some pens we own for the joy of ownership while others are owned with the expectation of using them. A few of my pens make up the first category (my Gold Starry 59 is an example) while most are working and expected to take their turn in the rotation. Though working, these pens are not all the same. Some are well aged while others are near perfect (cherry as I would say).

As you have learned, I keep track of my pens, nibs, and ink usage using software called Airtable. This is the third of four posts discussing how I use Airtable to manage my collection. Actually, this was the post that made me add the 2 back story posts. As a recap, Airtable is an online software database for dummies (like me). Each base is divided into tabs, the first tab contains the pens. On this tab, I have created a column called “Rating.” This field contains a list of rating options that I assign describing the condition of the pen.

The Rating System

The real challenge, develop a rating system. I have an advantage there, I’ve designed and configured several Quality Management systems, thus the concept of rating codes, etc. was very easy to come by. I opted for a design with quality categories and a standardized series of “defect” codes.

What is simpler than the ABCs of quality. Ok I made that up, but you have to agree the following categories work well:

  • A = Amazing
  • B = BEAutiful
  • C = Common (appropriate for the age)
  • X = Yuck
  • N = New

Defect Codes

Associated with each quality category I have assigned a standardized defect code ranging from 1-9, where 1 is a significant defect and 9 is minimal. Shhhh, I don’t want to hurt their feelings but every pen has an issue, no 10s in my collection.

Standardized Defect Codes

Now an established uniform rating system (Quality category+Defect code) I can compare pens to pens. This makes it easy for me to determine which pens are exceptional and which ones are well, not.

For those of you who own vintage pens, do you give any thought to the over condition of the pen?



I'm a loser as my wife likes to tell me, I enjoy researching dead cousins and playing with fountain pens.

7 thoughts on “A Vintage Pen Condition Rating System

  1. Got me on your first sentence Danny. Vintage recording like this is really useful for both your own needs and for others to have insights if you, shudder to believe you would, sell them further down the line. I like your alphabet observations on the quality description. BEAutiful made me smile. I’m going to imagine it means Best Ever Acquisition. But the A for amazing kind of challenges that one! Great read and love your tenacity and application here. All the best.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gray, I am pleased you understand where I’m coming from. Contemporary pens simply work, while vintage pens may work, they may be problem free, they may even look new. Age has a way of introducing challenges. BTW, I have a post coming up that begins with a quote from you. All the best.


      1. Thank you! Look forward to that then. A couple of days ago I found two pens in a charity shop the other day. A Conway Stewart 286 for £7. 50. It needed an ink sac. Works now beautifully. Nib is a glorious writing experience. The second pen, a Parker, has a worn barrel imprint so not sure which model. Looks like a Duofold. It has a rogue silver Parker cap which is obviously not the original one. So no indications there. It was £20 simply because it worked. Both pens have gold nibs and the Parker is a challenge to be honest. There you go. As you say, ‘Win some, Lose some’. Bought a ‘Manuscript’ pen wooden box. It had 4 coloured art inks, a bunch of about 10 nibs, two decent pen nib holders and the longevity of two nibs in the holders, from one simple dip, was unbelievably good. ‘Manuscript’ is a make I never used before. Shall look into it a bit more. First impressions? Really nice stuff. All the best Danny.


  2. Danny, using some kind of database for keeping track of the condition of your vintage pens is amazing. 15 years ago I designed databases for a transport company in Belgium. This was fun, keeping track of data from the trucks, drivers, clients, maintenance, orders, … and connect everything into a database. Today I only have a database for my fountain pens. For doing this I use Notion. I will post this month (euh…next month 🙂 how I manage my fountain pen database. To answer your question: I only have a few vintage pens so a database is not necessary. In some way I want to give my pens a score, but it’s no always obvious to convert a feeling into a score. I think it’s important to give a good definition to your rating system. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading and the comment. A database for the pens seemed like a logical step. It has changed dramatically in the last 18 months. The rating system be the most recent addition. I also use to to track my ink usage (though I am not disciplined). In this fashion I can track the ink to a pen to a nib. Overkill I agree, but it keeps me out of trouble. I look forward to your solution next month. All the best.

      Liked by 1 person

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