Tag Archives: Waterman

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?!

Inkwell Pages Fully Updated

Some inkwells are too beautiful for words. How can they do a better job detailing the beauty of this art nouveau masterpiece.

Some inkwells are too beautiful for words. How can they do a better job detailing the beauty of this art nouveau masterpiece.

For too long we neglected our commitment to finding really nice inkwells and blotters for our customers. It was trickier than we thought it would be to find good ones when we first started this website.

Luckily, we found a delightful cache of them in Atlanta this past spring. From a really old bottle of Waterman’s ink to a luxurious brass art nouveau inkwell, you will find something remarkable to complete the look of your desk on our inkwells and plotters page.

Now we just need to start finding good blotters.

UPDATE: ‘Out of Africa’ Pen

Several months ago I wrote about the pen used in the Academy Award-winning film “Out of Africa.” A reader had asked what pen it was that Robert Redford’s character had given to Meryl Streep’s character.

I wasn’t sure, and I couldn’t get a good image of the pen to identify it. Well, that was until another great reader named Mark wrote in with a much improved screen shot.

A trusty reader named Mark was able to do a better screen capture of the gold pen in "Out of Africa." Is it a Waterman 52? Can anybody possitively i.d. this pen?

A trusty reader named Mark was able to do a better screen capture of the gold pen in “Out of Africa.” Is it a Waterman 52? Can anybody possitively i.d. this pen?

Both characters in the film are rich, and this would have been a very nice gold or gold-fill pen. It looks to me to be a Waterman 52 with a gold sleeve. However, I’m still not 100% certain. If more knowledgeable pen collectors than I can confirm what it is, please write in to tell us.

Thanks again to Mark and his video editing technology!

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.

‘Out of Africa’ into the Pen Blog

This still from the 1985 movie "Out of Africa" shows Meryl Streep holding a gold pen given to her by a character played by Robert Redford. Is it a Waterman 52? A Wahl?

This still from the 1985 movie “Out of Africa” shows Meryl Streep holding a gold pen given to her by a character played by Robert Redford. Is it a Waterman 52? A Wahl?

Last week we had a request from loyal reader Karen P. to find a picture of the pen used by Meryl Streep in her Oscar-winning movie “Out of Africa.”

Finding a picture of the pen was relatively easy. Identifying the pen is a different story.

For those of you who are not familiar with the film, it is based on the true story with the same title by Danish baroness Karen Blixen, who initially wrote under the pen name Isak Dinesen. Autobiographical, it is the saga of Blixen, played by Streep, marrying for convience and title, moving to Danish colonial Kenya, establishing a successful coffee plantation and ultimately having an affair with a big game hunter played by Robert Redford. (As her husband has slept with half of Africa, she’s owed Robert Redford.)

The film was directed by Sydney Pollack and earned 7 Academy Awards including Best Picture. Most remarkable are the sweeping shots of Africa. Few movies will make you want to book a flight to Africa faster.

Anyhow, after their second encounter, Redford’s character gives Streep’s character a beautiful gold or gold-filled fountain pen. It looks like a clipless lever-filler that looks to be about 13 to 15cm when capped. Sadly, there are no close ups on the pen, as Blixen writes in the film. Therefore, I cannot fully I.D. the pen.  It might even be an eyedropper pen, as it is given in 1914, and this movie has paid close attention to the details on vintage everything.

This is the closest vintage pen we currently stock that looks like Streep's pen. It is a lever-filler by Hutcheon.

This is the closest vintage pen we currently stock that looks like Streep’s pen. It is a lever-filler by Hutcheon.

Taking the easy way out, I could recommend that it might be a Waterman or Wahl, as they made plenty of slender gold-fill pens. The closest pen I have for sale is a faux gold Hutcheon lever filler that looks to be from the 1920s.

If anybody has a better idea of what the movie pen is, please write in and help Karen. Thanks.

Parker 21, Parker 45 & Esterbrook Fountain Pens

If you have been visiting our vintage pens pages lately, you might find yourself asking, “Self, what’s with all of the cheap Parkers and Esterbrooks?”

We sell more vintage Esterbrook pens than any other brand. These copper-colored Esterbrooks are my personal favorite of the options available, but our most popular colors are blue, grey and black.

We sell more vintage Esterbrook pens than any other brand. These copper-colored Esterbrooks are my personal favorite of the options available, but our most popular colors are blue, grey and black.

It is simple enough my friends. Esterbrooks are the most popular pens we sell at ThePenMarket.com. We generally can’t keep them in stock. As for the inexpensive Parkers, we had so many expensive pens on the vintage pens pages, we thought it would be nice to offer a high-quality entry pen to the site for people just looking to get into writing with fountain pens.

But then there is one more reason.

ThePenMarket.com recently acquired an amazing collection of rarer, harder to find vintage pens dating back to the turn of the last century. We’re talking hard rubber and silver filigree fountain pens. Think Waterman 12, Waterman 52, Waterman 54 and a beautiful sterling silver Waterman 452. We’ve got Parker Duofolds and Vacs. Sheaffer Lifetimes and Balances. Maybe some Mabie Todd. Perhaps some sterling and gold no names. You’ll quiver with delight at the senior Conklin Enduras with remarkable color clarity.

We’ve got 120 classic vintage pens to catalog, restore and post for sale.

Are you salivating yet? When they arrive online would you rather they be the first things you see or have them buried under 2 dozen steel nib beauties. That’s what we thought. In the coming weeks and months, e-fist fights might breakout over the first daily opportunity to buy these glorious fountain pen wonders of yesteryear.