Posted in Collection, Pens, Stories

Building a Collection of Pens & When to Say Enough

Earlier this month, I was in a meeting with my work colleagues where I diligently took notes. Throughout the meeting I got odd looks …. as I was writing with my 1928 Duofold. The discussion eventually turned to my pen. I gladly passed the pen around for each to examine and use. None could believe the pen was 90+ years old. I explained that collecting and refurbishment of vintage fountain pens is a hobby of mine. That I bought this pen, restored it and since it was personalized researched the original owner.

My collection, to the amusement of myself, “is not a collection” as I don’t collect pens (lying to myself). Initially, I would not admit to collecting pens, but as fountain pen people know, they have a way of accumulating – it just happens. My collection generally hovers around 40 pens after periodic culling. So how did it all begin?

Glad you ask and truth be told, I do not know how it happened. At first, I owned a couple inexpensive Waterman and all was perfect. A decade later, I inherited a couple inoperative Esterbrooks, taught myself how to repair and restore them. BAM, I was hooked. Magically, my interest expanded to include French, and English pens now most recently, Turkish, Chinese and Indian pens.

There are three primary types of pens: 1) dip pens which are dipped into an inkwell, 2) fountain pens with a self-contained ink reservoir, and 3) ballpoint pens with a little ball that allows ink to flow out when the pen is put to paper. All three types are available as contemporary or vintage pens. Vintage pens are highly collectible and come in a wide variety of colors and styles, ranging from those with elaborate gold casings to simple plastic cigar-shaped designs. Contemporary pens are readily available with lazer etched designs, amazing color schemes, custom designs or simple plastic designs.

Vintage, Modern or Both

Keep in mind, collecting pens is not a good investment, I do this for fun. The people who collect vintage pens tend to be history nerds or enjoy nostalgia, which is why my wife calls me a “loser.” There is nothing stopping you from including both vintage and contemporary pens in your collection.

How does one make a decision and not break the bank. For starters, I focused on pens a little off the beaten path, something odd just like me. Do not let anyone tell you what you should or should not like. When you’re first starting off or simply focusing on a small collection – every choice counts, and to me I’d think twice before looking at “boring” pens because someone told me I “had to have it” in my collection.

To me dip pens are interesting, ballpoint pens are boring – I primarily focus on fountain pens. A couple pointers that may help you skinny down that list of potential pens:

  • Aesthetically pleasing or unique
  • Something with everyday comfort
  • Something fancy and shiny
  • Cool filler system
  • And always consider the nib

Acquiring Pens

Let me begin with once you find and acquire pen #1 it’s not long before you find another one to lust after. Even worse, you develop FOMO (fear of missing out). With that warning in mind, contemporary pens are readily available at Amazon, Jetpens, Pen Boutique, Vanness, Etsy, even Kickstarter plus the better stationary stores – the internet provides many options. Vintage pens are more for the individuals who enjoy the chase. A good place to search for fountain pens is at flea markets and some antique shops. Be aware some dealers may expect a premium that is not justified by quality. eBay is also a popular destination, the pen will most likely not be functional and don’t forget the ever present “buyer beware.” As with contemporary pens, the internet is a good place to acquire refurbished quality vintage pens, like David Nishimura’s VintagePen.com, and Tim’s Vintage Pens. A fun option is a pen show, where both contemporary and vintage pens are available.

Not so much about acquisition, but look for a local pen enthusiast group. Most often they can be found on Facebook. These groups are an invaluable source of information and support.

How Much Should This Cost?

Chinese pens can cost as little as $5 while premium pens can sell for over a $1,000. I do not buy expensive pens, I enjoy the challenge of finding inexpensive pens that write well, so 90% of my pens cost under $50. I recommend before making any purchase, take the time to research selling prices. And lastly, always stay within your budget.

Final Thoughts

Our expectations disappoint us, not our collections. There is obviously nothing wrong with having goals and dreams but don’t expect to achieve them quickly or reach those goals within a small or specific amount of time. – New-Lune.com

I’d rather buy a variety of inexpensive pens than a single expensive pen. This allows me the flexibility to explore options without feeling guilty and to enjoy myself. Also, it is easy to sell inexpensive pens. So be yourself and have fun.

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