Tag Archives: used pens

How Do I Start Collecting Pens? Vintage vs. Modern

You can’t go wrong with vintage or modern pens. In either case, it is best to do a little research to know what to look for to get the best deal. It also helps to know if you intend to use or display them.

MODERN PENS

Most people who are new to collecting pens start with more modern pens, and this is a great place to start. When you buy new, you aren’t buying into any problems not covered by a warranty. Plus, you can frequently find less expensive pens that help you get acclimated to the hobby while satisfying your jones for awesome writing instruments. If you’re enjoying your TWSBIs, Kawecos, Heros and Lamys, just revel in the joy they bring and don’t let any pen snobs get you down.

Lamy calligraphy nibs range in size from 1.1mm to 1.9mm. Each provides a distinctive nuance to you handwriting. The Lamy Joy fountain pen set is a great way to try all three sizes for fewer than $70.

The aforementioned brands are all great places to build up a daily-use collection on a budget, and you typically get great steel nibs with the Lamy pens and TWSBIs. Experiment with nib sizes and inks. The more you write with them, the better you will understand characteristics of fountain pens such as smoothness, feedback, flex, flow and the size grips (In more technical fountain pen parlance, the part you grip is usually called the section.)  that feel best.

Once the collecting bug has bitten, you might be tempted to branch out into vintage users, luxury users or vintage or luxury collectible pens. We will get to vintage in a minute, but for now we’re sticking to modern.

Like any car you buy brand new, the second you buy a brand new luxury pen, its price drops the when you bring it home. If you buy new, you get all of the joy of being the first to use the pen and are guaranteed it will be displayed without any damage. Yet, there is a great deal of money to be saved by purchasing luxury pens from Cross to Montblanc on the second-hand market.

To safely buy second-hand, it is best to have two checklists of things to investigate before spending your hard-earned money: the dealer and the pen.

As far as dealers go, check to see if they are established and reputable. Ask around on social media forums. Investigate the website. Check out their social media accounts and reviews. Is there a return policy? Do the descriptions honestly address damage and wear on the pens? Some pens might be perfect and listed as new old stock. But if a pen was clearly a daily user and is still described as absolutely flawless, get suspicious. Ask questions of the dealer. Most should get back to you within a day, unless they are traveling to a pen show. Feel free to ask for more photos. If you are buying from an auction site, never pay “buy it now” prices, as they are usually hyperinflated. Check the seller’s rating. If they have a few hundred or more sales with a 98% or higher approval rating, you’re probably pretty safe. Some bad vendors just keep creating countless new accounts to shed their old bad ratings. Don’t be afraid to buy from a brand new auction vendor, but don’t go crazy-high bidding. Also, especially on auction sites, set a budget for a pen. Even some fairly rare pens come up pretty often. Don’t be afraid to let them go until the right one comes along for your budget.

Montblanc pens are often authenticated by their serial number, “Pix” written under the clip and by coming complete with their box and papers.

If you are buying a pen as a user, make certain that the pen is in good working order. Get a good description for how the nib writes. If you are buying for display, make sure the pen is complete with minimal or acceptable wear. If you are at a store or pen show, ask to dip the nib and give the pen a scribble. Research ways to authenticate that the pen is not a fake. Most modern Montblanc pens since the mid-1990s have a serial number on the clip band, the word “Pix” in high relief under the clip and various models have other telltale signs of authenticity. For example: The black “precious resin” of the caps and barrels is really a translucent merlot red when held to sunlight or another strong light source. Most fakes of any brand also don’t have the original box and papers. Pens with boxes and papers typically carry a premium compared to ones that don’t.

VINTAGE PENS

Do not be daunted by the world of vintage pens. It is a ton of fun. Start slow. Get a feel for what you are doing. Do lots of research, and grow as you feel more and more comfortable. Unless you are independently wealthy, don’t start by spending $1,200 on a mandarin yellow Parker Duofold Senior that needs a complete overhaul. Start safely with a few fully restored $50 Parkers, Sheaffers or even Esterbrooks.

Sheaffer’s early nibs of the 1920s featured heart-shaped breather holes. Who says fountain pens aren’t romantic.

There are tons of great books and websites dedicated to vintage pens that can help point you in the right direction. Whether you want to restore, write or display, it won’t take long to get into the swing of vintage. Plus, most of these pens were designed specifically for daily use. Hardcore vintage pen lovers are convinced their nibs are better than most modern nibs. Plus the pens are more lightweight and designed not to let you cramp up during the writing of a long letter or journal entry.

Unless you are collecting for display, it is vital to know if the pen has been restored before you purchase it. Restored pens will cost more than unrestored, but there is no worse surprise than thinking you’re buying something that works only to discover it doesn’t. Even vintage new-old-stock pens might have some wear from rattling around a desk or drawer, so be sure to know what type of damage it has. Also find out about the pen’s nib? Is it original and/or in great working order? What size line does it write? When buying online this can be tough to gauge. The dealer might honestly find it is perfectly smooth because of the angle she or he writes, and you might write from a different angle that has feedback with the same nib.

If buying a vintage pen in person, always ask to see the pen before you pick it up. It is a very nice courtesy that saves dealers many broken or misplaced pens. When examining it, look it over closely for wear, discoloration and stains. Gently place the cap on your thumbnail and pretend to screw the pen on to your thumb. If there is a crack, your thumbnail will likely snag on it long before you can see it. Run your thumbnail over the threads of the barrel, too. Some cracks hide there, too. Ask to gently work the filler without ink to make sure it works. Again, ask to dip the nib to see how it writes. Try to get as close to your usual writing position as possible. Also check to see the strength of the barrel and/or cap imprints. Is there brass shining through the gold plate on the clip, cap band or lever?

PRICING

Comparison shopping is easier than ever in the age of the internet. Every site has its own pricing strategy, some offer better deals on certain pens than others. Follow pens on auctions sites to see what they are going for, too. You can even look up pens and check their “sold price.”

Mandarin Parker Duofolds are very fragile and rare. They are among the most expensive vintage Parker Duofolds.

If you see what look like two similar pens of drastically different prices, feel free to contact the vendor to ask why. Sometimes, subtle differences between pens can have huge effects on the price. One orange hard rubber senior Parker Duofold with two cap bands might look almost identical to the same pen in an early orange hard plastic, but their prices are going to be vastly different. (The old orange hard rubber is a lot rarer and more expensive.)

 

BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS

Dealers are not usually hard, cruel keepers of pens. We like getting to know our customers. Don’t be afraid to e-mail or call with questions. If you build a good relationship with a dealer, they are likely to keep a lookout for pens you want at better bargains…giving you the first option to buy. Who doesn’t love dibs on great pens before the rest of the public can see them?!

Goodies from the Ohio Pen Show

November has been a crazy-busy month. First, I turned 40 near the start of the month. Friends flew in from Montana, and others locally joined in for much mirth and madness.

Here are three trays of new fountain pens for this website. Most of them are already fully restored!

Here are three trays of new fountain pens for this website. Most of them are already fully restored!

The following weekend saw me in Columbus, Ohio, enjoying their glorious pen show.

This weekend was Thanksgiving weekend.

I haven’t forgotten you, loyal readers. I’ve just been recovering and gearing up for a killer Cyber Monday and a spectacular holiday shopping season.

Ohio was wildly successful for all of the new connections, old friends and amazing pens. I finally got to meet the incredible nib specialist Richard Binder. I also met the legendary pen repairman Ron Zorn. Jonathan Veley gave me my first lesson in vintage pencil repair. A Mont Blanc specialist was able to assist in several specific repairs.

I picked up this mandarin orange Sheaffer Snorkel Statesman and Fiesta Red Clipper for my own collection, I love them

I picked up this mandarin orange Sheaffer Snorkel Statesman and Fiesta Red Clipper for my own collection, I love them




I scored more than 30 new pens for your perusal, and I picked up two rare color Sheaffer Snorkels. A mandarin orange Statesman and a fiesta red Clipper made my entire trip. Sorry, folks, I’m keeping those two for myself.

Yet of the 30+ new pens, there are ample rare colored 51 pencils to match up with any solitary pens in your collection. Pelikans, Parkers and Sheaffers make up the bulk of the collection. Yet, my favorite is a sky blue Conklin! It is difficult for me to resist it’s pull.

We’ve Struck the Motherlode!

Witness more than 300 vintage and modern fountain pens and writing instruments we have recently acquired for the website! If anything catches your eye, ask and we'll tell you all about it.

Witness more than 300 vintage and modern fountain pens and writing instruments we have recently acquired for the website! If anything catches your eye, ask and we’ll tell you all about it.

It has been a while since we updated these pages, but we’ve been extremely busy putting together 3 huge acquisitions of vintage and modern pens. We have tons of vintage Sheaffers, Parkers, Conklins and Waterman fountain pens as well as preowned pens by Mont Blanc, Parker, Caran d’Ache, Pelikan, Waterman and many others.

You will soon see more than 300 writing instruments available…once we restore them all to their former glory. We have great pens ranging from a Parker 20 1/2 Jack Knife Safety pen to red Wahl-Eversharp Dorics to early wide-bodied Sheaffer TouchDowns to half a set of oversized Sheaffer Balance Lifetimes with their original nib stickers including Extra Fine, Fine, Medium and STUB!

The Mont Blanc pens include a Writer’s Series Agatha Christie and many bargains on the standard Meisterstucks!

Keep checking in to see what is new every day on our vintage pens pages and pre-owned pens pages. Enjoy!

Meet Us at The Chicago Pen Show

This is our home pen show, and we are excited to host a table at The Chicago Pen Show

Come to Chicago for the 2015 Chicago Pen Show! We have the latest details about the show, which runs at the Sheraton O'Hare from April 30 through May 3.

Come to Chicago for the 2015 Chicago Pen Show! We have the latest details about the show, which runs at the Sheraton O’Hare from April 30 through May 3.

For your pen enjoyment, we will have more than two dozen fully restored vintage pens and preowned pens not currently for sale on the website. From old Waterman hard rubber to obscure Danish pen makers to gently used Mont Blanc pens, we will have a cornucopia of competitively priced pens.

We also will have ample bottled ink.

And, of course, we’ll have all of the pens you see on our website available to touch, test and love.

If nothing else, swing by the Sheraton O’Hare on Saturday or Sunday and say hello. We love meeting our online customers in the flesh!

Great Finds @ Atlanta Pen Show

It has taken us nearly a week to recover from the awesomeness that was the Atlanta Pen Show. It was that good. The show was packed with collectors on Saturday and Sunday. We got to meet hundreds of people, and we saw more awesome pens than we could afford.

I did come away with a handsome Sheaffer PFM in maroon with a factory italic nib. It is wonderful, but I otherwise restrained myself.

However, along the way we met some great folks at businesses who are tied to our inky world. They weren’t other pen dealers so much as writing enthusiasts.

Cursive Logic is a new way to help teach kids how to write in cursive, when it is no longer being taught in many schools!

Cursive Logic is a new way to help teach kids how to write in cursive, when it is no longer being taught in many schools!

You might recall my series of blog entries about the demise in cursive writing education in America. Well, we met a woman who is as concerned about it as you and I are. More so, in fact. She has started her own cursive-writing teaching system called Cursive Logic. It is for kids who want to learn to write cursive outside of the classroom. I highly recommend checking out her website! www.cursivelogic.com

The folks at Candy Spotting make really incredible laser-cut cards with witty slogans and puns!

The folks at Candy Spotting make really incredible laser-cut cards with witty slogans and puns!

Another cool business we encountered is a new greeting card company called Candy Spotting. They make specialty laser-cut designs in cards, such as this one with a fountain pen nib! Many of their other cards are similarly witty. I highly recommend checking out their website at www.candyspotting.com!

Of course, there were many wonderful collectors and dealers with whom we got to talk and swap stories. It was wonderful seeing everybody again from last year, and I cannot more highly recommend the wonderful Southern hospitality. Visit if you can next year.

In the meantime, we are only a week away from the oldest pen show in the country: the Chicago Pen Show! Please come and say hi to us there!

Celebrating 7 Years!

Has it been seven years since we first launched already? It hardly seems possible.

Birthday CakeOn our opening day we had about 20 pens for sale and dreams of fountain pen glory that were horribly naive at best.

Thanks to your support, we are finally starting to realize those dreams and make this one of the best pen stores online.

With nearly 100 fully restored vintage pens and another 100 pre-owned modern luxury pens in stock, we proudly offer a pen for every taste and budget.

Thank you for these wonderful past seven years, and we can’t wait to make the next 7 for you even better!

Visit Us at the Chicago Pen Show

It is almost time for the Chicago Pen Show, and we'll be there with 2 tables! Stop by and visit. We can't wait to see you there.

It is almost time for the Chicago Pen Show, and we’ll be there with 2 tables! Stop by and visit. We can’t wait to see you.

Believe it or not, I think this will be our 5th year at the Chicago Pen Show! We just got our confirmation in the mail that we will celebrate with not just one but two tables! The show runs May 2 – 4.

This is our home show, so we will be loaded down with the things you can’t buy from us online. Vintage ink towers that are still full. Pen cases. Pens we have restored but not yet had time to post. Parts! And then there are the perennial favorites: our $1 and $5 collections. Clunkers, ballpoints and god knows what else for extra cheap.

The Chicago Pen Show is the nation’s oldest and original vintage pen show. It now also features plenty of bargains on modern pens like our pre-owned pen collection, too. The giant pen auction is still a favorite for most people.

My favorite part is always meeting the customers and other dealers. As a 9-year-old who was totally geeked out by pens, I couldn’t find another soul who shared that interest…not even among adults. As I got older I collected in isolation, assuming I was the only person left who was into vintage pens. Although I had some success selling restored pens at an antique store, you can imagine my first Chicago Pen Show when I was suddenly surrounded by thousands of people who shared my passion for pens.

Every year I learn hundreds of new things and make countless wonderful connections. I can’t wait to attend in just another couple weeks. Who knows who I’ll meet and what I’ll learn. Please stop by the table and gab for a spell.