Tag Archives: Pelikan

Controversy in Chicago Part III: Let’s Help the Rookies

Now that veteran vendors and rookie pen collectors are breaking the ice, let’s lend some veteran assistance to the rookies navigating their first pen shows.

1421 Waterman PhileasYour first pen show is bound to be an overwhelming affair. There will be tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of vintage and modern pens. You will find rarities you never dreamed of seeing in the flesh, and you will probably want to spend 10 times the amount of money you intended to spend. Plus, there are all of the custom services, which might take months to get performed through the U.S. mail but you can have satisfactorily completed in a single morning or afternoon at a pen show. And then there are the spare parts, inkwells, papers and cases!

To help you safely navigate your first pen shows, here is some advice that ought to help you breakdown the experience and keep it positive.

PRE-GAME STRATEGY
Set a budget and a goal for the show. Need some repairs done? Want a nib ground to perfection? Looking for certain pens? Organize all that you hope to achieve.

1324 Waterman 100 Year PenYour best bet is to put together a list of all the things you’re looking for and hope to do. This way you can take some time to marvel at the splendor of the distractions before you check in on your list to focus on your goals.

Loyal reader Justin P. recommends contacting your favorite eBay and other online vendors to see if they will be at the show. If they are, let them know you can’t wait to see them there and give them a heads up to your list of pens or merchandise that you want. Many will gladly set it aside for you so that you can have first dibs. Plus, it always helps to put names to faces by meeting in person.

Many shows are offering more and more seminars about repairs and the histories of the brands. Check out the show schedule online or in your show pamphlet to see what special events you don’t want to miss. Set an alarm on your phone or watch to help you remember it is time to head over to the seminar. Time passes remarkably quickly, and it is easy to get sidetracked.

If the show offers a weekend pass, you might want to get it. To make the most of the show, it helps to attend all of the days it is open. Day one is your best opportunity to pick up a really rare pen before somebody else snatches it. If it is a 4-day show, days 2 and 4 are quieter days, which are better for meeting new people and asking more questions about the pens and the hobby. Day 3/Saturday will be the busiest day. During trading hours, few vendors will likely want to talk for long because this is their best opportunity to sell the most and pay for their expenses.

Glass Topped CaseYet, some of the best times are after the formal trading closes for the day. You’ll often find clusters of vendors and collectors hanging out, talking or getting a drink. Strike up a conversation with them and get to know who they are, what their pen passions are and let them get to know you. Pen People, regardless of their experience with the hobby, are usually very friendly and chatty. People can usually be found talking pens in the lobby of the venue well into the wee hours of the morning.

SERVICES:
As I don’t do any nib grinding or Mont Blanc piston repair work, I love coming to the shows to take advantage of these services. The trick to navigating these services is to be there the minute the doors to the show open in the morning. If you are one of the first on the repair-person’s list, you can guarantee your pens get done that day.

Be sure to clearly explain to the repair folks what you want done and ask for an estimate first, so you know their prices and aren’t hit with sticker shock. Most repairs are fairly affordable, but it is always best to know what to expect. Vendors won’t mind fixing 2 or 3 pens for you at the show, but don’t expect for them to fix an entire shoebox full of pens at the show. They might ask to take that many pens home with them to work on later.

L15S Lamy Calligraphy NibsAt most shows you can expect to find full-time repair specialists such as Mike and Linda Kennedy of Indy-Pen-Dance, Ron Zorn, Richard Binder and “Mike It Work.” All four of these vendors are nationally known for their excellence. You can’t go wrong with any of them. If you do have 15 to 20 pens you want restored at the show, it might be best to spread 3 or 4 amongst each of them to see who’s work you like best. Expect also a minimum repair bill to be $20 to $25 per pen. It could be up around $40 to $50 if you want your nib ground to a new size and shape.

If you are having nib work done, be patient and remember it is very precise and time-consuming work. Don’t rush your grinder. However, as you are asking for a very specific and personalized repair, don’t be afraid to say the nib still doesn’t feel right when they ask you to test it. They want you to be happy with their services, and they will work hard to get the precise feel you want in your nib. If they spend an inordinately long amount of time getting your pen just right, they might charge you an extra $5 or $10, which is okay. Time is money, and you will get to enjoy that pen and nib for the rest of your life.

DEALING WITH VENDORS
It came as a great shock to me that not all vendors are there to sell. Some table holders are just there to meet with old friends, show off an impressive collection or to do any number of other things. For most of us, it is a business.

To avoid getting overwhelmed or making rash purchases of the first things you see, spend some time walking around and keeping an eye out for the merchandise on the tables. I like to make a complete sweep of the show before making any purchases…unless I spot something rare that I must buy quickly or not see again.

Don’t be shy. Say hi to the vendors and don’t be afraid to tell them what you’re looking for. It is really easy to overlook the pens you’re looking for on tables that seem lightly populated with pens.

Keep a running tally of prices in your head or on a notepad. It is safe to assume you will find dozens of similar pens at the show. Prices and quality could range all over. Plus, it will help you keep from going over your budget…or show you there is room from an extra new treasure.

1262CWhen you are ready to get serious about buying a pen, there is a whole checklist of things to do:

  • ASK the vendor if you can pick up and examine his or her pen (You’d be surprised at how many people break pens or inadvertently mess up an organizational system.)
  • Look over the pen carefully for cracks, dents, imprint quality and brassing
  • ALWAYS try first to UNSCREW the cap. NEVER YANK on a cap.
  • Search for cracks on the lip of the cap with your thumbnail. If you spin the lip of a cap over your thumbnail, it will gently pick up any crack that might not be visible to the eye.
  • Use a loupe to examine the nib. Are there cracks? Is the tipping good? Are the tines aligned? Are one of the tine tips cracked just below the tipping and about to pop free?
  • If the nib looks okay, then test it for flex with your thumbnail. Put the underside of the nib’s tip on the top of your thumbnail and gently add pressure.
  • ASK if you can test the filling system. If you feel any pressure or resistance in the filling system, don’t force it. Ask the vendor if it needs restoration? (Lots of vendors complain about people breaking levers and other pen parts while checking out the filling system.)
  • Finally, ask if the vendor has ink and if you can dip the pen to try it out.

CLOSING THE DEAL
Cash is king. All pen dealers accept cash. However, many are now accepting credit cards due to the simplicity of smart phones and apps by Square and PayPal.

Before you start negotiating the final price, ask if they accept credit cards…if that is all you have with which to pay. This might save everybody some time and trouble. Don’t be upset if they say yes but also tack on an extra 2% or 3% to cover the fee charged by the credit card company. Some deals run the profit margin pretty thin, and it is fair to pay the processing fee.

1265 Pelikan 400NNTo negotiate a deal well, it helps to be well informed about the pen you are buying and its current prices. Be sure to highlight any flaws in the pen and make an offer that is fair and realistic. Don’t be afraid to walk away from a deal that is still too high for you. Yet, don’t be afraid to accept a counter offer that is reasonable, especially if you received good customer service.

Many vendors don’t put prices on their pens. Some of them like to game you a bit to see how much you are willing to pay. Let’s say you’re looking at an aerometric Parker 51 in black with a lustraloy cap. You ask how much, and the vendor replies $100. It’s okay to smile, say thanks and put it back down. Unless it has something rare like a stub nib or some other uncommon feature, he or she will likely counter, “Well how much were you hoping it would be?” You can honestly say–because you know there are 3 bajillion black 51s in the world–that you were hoping for around $50. The vendor will likely acquiesce with something like, “Well, I can do $55.”

Feel free to ask vendors lots of questions, BUT understand that they might expect you to buy something if you take up too much of their time. If you have tons of questions, but aren’t ready to buy, save them until you are with a vendor whose pens you will be buying or until the show slows down and the vendor has more free time to talk.

And, of course, if you do get a cranky vendor who doesn’t treat you as you feel you should be treated, just move on to the next. There are often well over 100 vendors at most shows, and somebody nice will likely have just what you’re looking for.

Have fun!

Pen Collector Profile: Nan Sampson, Author

For the longest time, dead people were the sole focus of our “Famous People & Pens” series. Then I got it through my thick skull that many of our living customers are actual working writers, and…HEY!…why not profile them and their work?!

There is a reason I was never hired as a rocket scientist by NASA.

Starting today, I will profile the first of many writers and famous, or soon-to-be-famous, people who love fountain pens and other luxury writing instruments. I will absolutely continue to find the stories behind historical figures and their favorite pens, but my live interviews are hopefully going to rock your world.

Nan Sampson, author of Restless Natives, ponder's her next story idea while holding her Waterman Phileas fountain pen.

Nan Sampson, author of Restless Natives, ponder’s her next story idea while holding her Waterman Phileas fountain pen.

Without further ado, let me introduce you to Nan Sampson. Nan has just published her very first novel: “Restless Natives.” It is a murder mystery that is now available for a Kindle download on Amazon. Her book released last week. Although this is her first published novel, she has been writing for her entire life and is a marketing executive in the Chicagoland area.

As a pen collector, she has a penchant for Waterman and Pelikan pens. She also has a thing for green Sheaffer’s Scrip from the 1950s.

DRIPPY MUSINGS: Hi, Nan. Welcome to ThePenMarket.com’s Drippy Musings. How does it feel to have your first novel published and available on Amazon?

NAN SAMPSON: It is amazing.  A lifetime dream come true.  Although the biggest realization has been that now that I’ve had my moment of celebration, the work goes on.  Book two in the series awaits, plus I’ve other projects lined up, like planes circling O’Hare!

DM: Tell us a little about “Restless Natives.”

NS: It’s a cozy mystery, set in a small fictional town in southwestern Wisconsin.  Oddly enough, the main character used to be a marketing executive in Chicago.  Hmm…  Seriously, though it’s a lot of fun, lots of quirky characters and a rather odd murder.  A poor fellow gets tarred with pancake syrup and covered with chicken feathers.  Oh, and gets a great bloody knife in the chest, too.  Details…

DM: Where did you first get the idea for this book?

NS: I’ve always wanted to create a series set in a town that I’d want to live in, like Long Piddleton (from the Richard Jury novels by Martha Grimes) or the village of Finch (from Nancy Atherton’s Aunt Dimity series).  A place readers can escape to, filled with familiar faces and quirky problems.  And having spent a great deal of time in southwestern Wisconsin and meeting great people there, it just sort of fell into place.

DM: Every writer approaches their job differently. What is your process? What is your motivation?

NS: My motivation. [chuckles]  ‘I’m ready for my close-up now, Mr. DeMille.’  I’ll tackle process first.  I’m a life-long “panster” — meaning I do things by the seat of my pants.  I’m not one for long outlines — I find in creating those, I feel like I’ve “done” the book and I lose my enthusiasm.  So I start with a beginning, figure out my ending (although it can change during the actual writing process — it’s more of a direction to head in), and usually have a couple of juicy scenes in the middle that I’m anxious to write to keep me going.  Rewrites can be a bear as things are pretty loosey-goosey and the story I start out writing is often very different from the one I end up with.  It’s hard for me to see the whole of the tapestry until I’m finished with it.  So I’m not sure I’d recommend my process to others.  But it works for me.

My motivation?  Gosh.  Being a writer, telling stories, making up worlds and characters and languages and stuff…that’s just who I am.  I don’t know how to be any other way.  I cannot imagine living without doing those things.  It will be great to get paid for it, but I’d be doing it anyway, even if no one ever buys my work.  I love it.  But I’m also not one of those writers that thinks earning money will “cheapen my art”.  Please – go out and buy my book!  In fact, buy several copies and gift them to your friends and relatives at the holidays!  I have a child to put through college. [Laughs]

DM: How did you get into writing? Were you always a storyteller, or did you cultivate this interest over time?

NS: My mother said I told stories to my stuffed bear in my crib.  That is, perhaps, a slight exaggeration.  But I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t concocting stories in my head, trying on different personas and pretending to live other lives.  I believe clinical psychologists call that a “personality disorder”.  Or maybe delusional.  Either way, I guess I’m okay with that. [Laughs]

DM: Who were and are some of your biggest influences as a writer? Why?

NS: Oh, that is a long list.  I’ll try to just cover the biggies.  First and foremost was Roger Zelazny.  He was brilliant, innovative and knew the rules well enough to break them in clever, ingenious ways.  Carl Sagan and Asimov are up there too — they were both genius at taking complex subjects and making them both accessible and interesting to the ordinary person.  I cut my teeth on Dorothy L. Sayers and Agatha Christie — the grand dames of the cozy mystery.  I love [Sir Arthur] Conan Doyle, too.  I always have Holmes with me on my Kindle — a go-to for times when you just need the comfort of the familiar or a great character.

From a more contemporary perspective, I’m totally in love with Gini Koch — she has this wry humor, but knows how to keep the action flying as well.  Lois McMasters Bujold is also fab and taught me all about character arcs and unlikely heroes.  And I’ll read almost anything by Glenn Cook — more dry wit.  Gosh, most everyone I’ve mentioned is either fantasy or science fiction. I do read a lot in those genres.  James Rollins, action/adventure, is the master at interweaving story lines and pacing.

How much time do we have? [Chuckles]  I’ll stop there.  Suffice it to say I read widely.  But Roger… well, Roger was a god to me.  He taught me that my crazy ideas were okay.  He was simply amazing, and highly under-appreciated.

DM: Do you compose longhand or on the computer?

NS:   I compose on the keyboard.  I need to be able to type as fast as I think.  Revision is done long hand, and I make all my character notes and so forth in pen.  I do a lot of brainstorming and idea mapping by hand, as well.  And yes… all in green ink.  My fingers are always stained with green.

DM: What are your favorite pens? Why?

NS: I LOVE my Waterman [Phileas].  The barrel is wider, so my fingers don’t cramp, and it has a really smooth flow.  I hate scratchy pens.  My handwriting is atrocious. Only my best friend can read it, and I write very quickly.  The pen needs to be able to keep up and not skip or scratch along the page.  And of course, the barrel has that green marbling — the green thing again!  The one I have my eye on from your website it that gorgeous vintage 0655 Conklin Endura.  Wow.  Stunning. Love the coloration of the barrel.  But unless a whole bunch of your fans and friends buy my book, that’s a wee bit out of my league.

DM: How did you get into fountain pens?

NS: My pop used to take me to auctions and estate sales when I was little.  Back in those days, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, there were always three things you could always find in large quantities — old keys (you know, skeleton keys), raggedy stuffed animals and fountain pens.  You could buy them by the box!  I would always get to buy one of each (kept me pacified, I suppose).  I’d bring along a notepad and scribble (without ink of course) with the pens, pretending to be a famous author giving my autograph to the stuffed animals.  There’s something magical about fountain pens that make you think anything is possible — they’re elegant and old world and for some odd reason they give me a sense of confidence.  Of permanence.  I guess I’m a bit old fashioned — heck I still have an old Underwood typewriter that I bang on occasionally.

DM: What types of ink do you like best? Why?

NS: I’m not much of an ink snob.  But I don’t like a lot of smearing (it’s always getting on my hands) so a quick drying ink is good.  And it has to flow smoothly and not clog up my pen a lot.  But most importantly, it has to be green.  Emerald green.  I’m open to recommendations, O Great Pen Guru. *nudge nudge wink wink*

DM: Okay. So, I know the ink is barely dry on “Restless Natives,” but can you tell us a little about what to expect next?

NS: No rest for the wicked, you know.  The physical copy of “Restless Natives” is coming soon (probably a few weeks) and the second book in the current series is written and awaiting revision.  That one is slated for publication in January, gods willing and the river don’t rise, as my Gran would have said.  I’m also working on a fantasy novel, and have the bare bones of a second mystery series set in a haunted bed & breakfast.  Oh, and then there’s this idea I had for an adventure novel set in the ’20s (a la H. Rider Haggard and Indiana Jones) only with a woman heroine.  Like I said earlier, I’ve got more ideas than time!

DM: It has been a pleasure speaking with you, Nan. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and pen passions with us at Drippy Musings.

NS:  No, thank you!  It’s been a joy sharing with you, thanks for inviting me.  And as soon as I sell enough books, we’ll have to talk about that Conklin!

Be sure to check out Nan Sampson’s book “Restless Natives” at Amazon.com. It is a fun read, and a great summertime escape while you are lounging by the pool or chillin’ in the shade.

Sanford Ink: A Brief History

If you troll the antique stores of America searching for great deals on vintage pens, you cannot help but come upon those seemingly ubiquitous small pressed glass ink bottles by Sanford. They have myriad colored caps. Maybe you run into the Sanford Pen It inkwells and towers.

The Sanford Ink Company is one of the oldest ink companies in the world that is still in operation. They made many colors of fountain pen inks since 1857, and they invented the Sharpie in 1964! This Sanford Ink display is a metal carousel that is most likely from the late 1940s or early 1950s.

The Sanford Ink Company is one of the oldest ink companies in the world that is still in operation. They made many colors of fountain pen inks since 1857, and they invented the Sharpie in 1964! This Sanford Ink display is a metal carousel that is most likely from the late 1940s or early 1950s.

The more I found, the more I asked: Who and what was the Sanford Ink Company? Why aren’t they still around? Did their ink perform so terribly that they went out of business…just not before making billions of bottles of ink to litter our antique malls?

My ignorance got the better of me a few months ago when I was asked to sell a display carousel of those little cubed 1oz ink bottles. It had close to a dozen different colors on an aluminum spinner that appeared to be straight out of the late 1940s or early 1950s. I finally had to breakdown and research the company if I had any prayer of selling this thing. It was perhaps my happiest discovery about the ink world this year.

Sanford inks didn’t suck. They are so good that they are still the bestselling in America today. They just don’t sell fountain pen ink any more. You will better know their universally famous product: the Sharpie Marker. With its nearly indestructible permanent black ink markers and other colors, Sharpie is in nearly every home and office.

The Sanford story is actually a very interesting one. Sanford dates all the way back to 1857, before the Civil War. They made ink and glue in Massachusetts before moving to Chicago in 1866, just 5 years before the great fire burned the city to the ground. Sanford actually survived the tragic fire only to be burned down by another blaze a very short while later. The company rebuilt and became one of America’s largest ink manufacturers and suppliers by the end of the Great Depression. The only ink company we know that has been in the game longer is Pelikan, which got its start in Hanover, Germany, in 1838.

The Sharpie marker can write on most any surface with a permanent ink. This older Sharpie still shows the Sanford coporate logo.

The Sharpie marker can write on most any surface with a permanent ink. This older Sharpie still shows the Sanford coporate logo.

The invention of the ballpoint pen during the 1940s spelled doom for the fountain pen (and ink) industry. By the 1960s, the Sanford Ink Company was looking to emerging markets to find a new product to keep the company afloat. The Sharpie marker was born in 1964—50 years ago this year! It could write on glass, paper, rocks, just about any surface. It was quickly endorsed by late night talk show comedians Johnny Carson and Jack Paar.

These days it is the “pen” of choice by many star athletes and performers for signing autographs on everything from footballs to glossy photos. Roughly 200 million markers are made every year, according to the Sharpie website.

In a bizarre twist of pen fate, Sanford was bought by Newell Rubbermaid in 1992. Newell Rubbermaid also owns the brands: Parker, Waterman and PaperMate. So, in a sense, Sanford has never fully left the fountain pen ink business. It is now owned by the same people who own what would have been some of Sanford’s greatest competitors 60 years ago.

Treat Yourself as You Write Your Christmas Cards

With its striking greens and golden browns, this beautiful Parker Duofold fountain pen from 1941 would make an ideal pen for writing your Christmas cards. Not only does it look good, it is fully restored and has a very smooth fine-medium nib.

With its striking greens and golden browns, this beautiful Parker Duofold fountain pen from 1941 would make an ideal pen for writing your Christmas cards. Not only does it look good, it is fully restored and has a very smooth fine-medium nib.

I love writing Christmas cards. I don’t do group letters or holiday e-cards. I don’t care if you think it is hoaky. I love sitting down with some hot chocolate, my favorite holiday CDs and writing actual Christmas cards.

It is part of the holiday ritual that helps get me in the mood for the season’s festivities. It is a cathartic time to reflect on the past year and reconnect with my family and friends who are flung to the 4 corners of the map. For many of these people, this is the only time I hear from them…and they me.

The smell of vintage Sheaffer green ink for the cards and modern Parker red for the envelopes is heartwarming.

Plus, part of the ritual is selecting a new, or new-to-me, fountain pen to add to the collection and joyously write up each card and letter.

While it is way too early for me to buy the cards, let alone start writing them, this is the time I pick up my new or vintage pen. I’m already winnowing down my options…a restored Snorkel, a brand new Pelikan, or maybe that Cross Century II midnight pen with little pin-point stars that came out a couple years ago. The process of making that selection is half the fun.

Whether you are planning on sending out your first Christmas cards or 70th season’s worth of them, treat yourself to a new pen to make the most of your holiday writing experience with our more than 200 fully restored vintage pens and lightly used modern pens.