The Pens that Ended WWII: Italy

Did you know that toys paid for the pen that ended WWII with Italy?

For several years, with the help of many readers, I have written about the pens that ended World War II. After solving several mysteries about the pens that ended the war with Germany, I thought this fun and fact-filled segment had come to an end.

Fabulous readers Francis Turner, Tom C., Gary C. and Mike C convinced me otherwise. All four of these men are unrelated and each reached out to me independently of one another and very close to the same time.

Yes, I had discussed the surrenders of Japan and Germany, but I had left out the critical surrender of Italy and its new-forged partnership with the Allies.

After all of the other mysteries were solved, I never would have guessed that toys would be at the center of the story about the pen that ended the war in Italy.

Toys?! Yes, toys.

Louis Marx’s family sits with several of the generals who won WWII. Many of the young boys in the photo were named for after a general. Photo courtesy of Francis Turner.

Enter Louis Marx. To the best of my research, he had nothing to do with the comical Marx Brothers. Instead, Louis Marx and his brother David were toy makers in New York City, when they opened their own company in 1919. Their particular talent in the early days was taking the ideas of current childrens’ toys and making them better, more durable and cheaply than their competitors. They also were better marketers. Although they did not invent the yo-yo, they were the ones initially behind making it world famous in the 1920s. They and their company would go on to invent thousands of other toys, famously including Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots and my absolute favorite toy as a little boy: the Big Wheel.

Marx Toys was one of the few companies to thrive during the Great Depression, and along the way Louis happened to become very close friends with the men who would go on to save the world from fascism. Yes, his close friends included Dwight D. Eisenhower, Walter Bedell “Beetle” Smith, Omar Bradley, George Marshall and Curtis Lemay. Talk about having powerful friends in high places.

Were they really that close as friends? Absolutely. Smith gladly took on the role of godfather to Louis’ first son, and Eisenhower served as godfather to his second son. In fact, eight of the leading Allied generals of the war would volunteer to be the godfathers to 5 of the Marx children.

Much the way Kenneth Parker gave his old buddy Eisenhower Parker 51s to sign the surrender with Germany, Marx gave his buddy Beetle a pen to use for a surrender ceremony. Use it he did, but before we get to that, let’s take a quick look into the life of Gen. Walter Bedell Smith. He remains a fascinating character.

Gen. Walter Bedell Smith signed the armistice with Italy and also the German unconditional surrender. He later became head of the C.I.A.

Best known as Eisenhower’s “hatchet man,” Smith is remembered as Ike’s Chief of Staff at several crucial points during WWII. Although he was often tough as nails, he was far more politically savvy than people gave him credit, and he really embodied much of the American dream rising out of nowhere to become an important figure.

Smith was born in Indianapolis in 1895. He didn’t graduate high school, but he did attend a little college before eventually joining the Indiana National Guard in 1911. He remained in the Guard helping during floods and even as part of the Pancho Villa Campaign on the southern border. He spent 6 long years in the military as a private and then non-commissioned officer until World War I. Given his incomplete education by today’s military standards, he’d have never gotten very far in the ranks, but the Army needed young men with any military experience, and he was promoted to second lieutenant in Europe in 1917. Wounded at the front, Smith recuperated and earned a promotion to first lieutenant, a rank at which he’d remain for another 10 years, as he also furthered his education. After achieving his rank as captain, he’d stick it out 10 more years to make the rank of major in 1939. Then World War II began.

Experience and a swelling Army made his quick promotions to Lieutenant Colonel and “full-bird” Colonel inevitable, but it was his tenacious hard work and talent for organizing and co-ordinating between Allied army units that rocketed him up the ranks to become a 1, then 2 and 3 star general serving as the chief of staff first for Gen. George Marshall and then Eisenhower.

This is the Wahl-Eversharp Skyline pen given to Gen. Smith by his friend Louis Marx that was used to sign the Allied armistice with Italy on Sept. 3, 1943. Like so many other Skylines, its cap sleeve has come loose and is sliding down the cap a little.

In August of 1943, Ike entrusted Smith on a secret mission to negotiate an armistice with Italy, which would then join the Allies against the Nazis. By Sept. 3, they had signed a deal with this Wahl-Eversharp Skyline fountain pen given to him by Louis Marx. Pay close attention to the engraved gold cap sleeve and the engraved plate on the pen box! Tom C., a former accountant to Louis Marx Jr.,  was the first to tell me about this pen, and he would go on to sell it and another important pen to Francis Turner.

Turner is the gentleman who first explained the Marx connection to me. You see, he is the owner of the Marx Toy Museum in West Virginia, near the site of one of the original Marx toy factories. Although the toy museum is no longer in daily operation, you can take a virtual tour online, while many of the physical exhibits are on tour at other museums around the country.

A close-up of the specially engraved cap of the Italian armistice pen.

Turner’s passion for Marx Toys is on par with the most devoted passions for pens that I have ever seen, and it was pens that brought our paths to cross. I cannot thank him enough for many of the photos in this post and the stories that go behind it.

As we learned in previous posts, Kenneth Parker gave Eisenhower Parker 51s to use in the ceremony that brought the unconditional surrender of Germany. Gen. Walter Bedell Smith signed the 4th copy of the German surrender with one of those 51s, and he and Ike chose to give that pen to their close friend Marx! It, too, has a very unusual gold sleeve around the normal cap with its history engraved on it. The pen, itself, is an age-appropriate Vac-filler in Cedar Blue. Its Saks Fifth Avenue presentation box also has an engraved plate with the pen’s history. This is the other pen Turner acquired and shared with me for this story.

This Parker 51 was used in the signing of Germany’s unconditional surrender. It, too, was given to Louis Marx by Gen. Smith.

 

Smith’s own history continued to get more fascinating. After the war, he was promoted to the status of 4-star general. He also remained an Army general while serving as ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1946 into 1948. Smith continued on as a 4-star general while then also serving as head of the C.I.A. from 1950 into 1953! When Ike was elected president, Smith was chosen to be Under Secretary of State. He didn’t keep that posting for very long, but he continued to help the Eisenhower administration.

Smith passed away from a major heart attack in 1961. His buddy Louis Marx, whose upstart toy company had grown into the biggest in the world by the 1950s, would live until 1982. 

An engraved plate on the box of the Parker 51 used to help end WWII, describes the pen’s special place in history.

I certainly hope you find all of this history as interesting as I do. If anything, my jump down the rabbit hole of WWII pens has taught me is that I am far from finished uncovering the pens of WWII. 

What pens did Neville Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler use to sign their ill-fated agreement? What pens did Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin use to sign their agreements at Yalta? What pens were used to ink the deal tying the U.S. to China’s Chiang Kai-shek? What did Roosevelt sign the Lend Lease Act with? Clearly there are more famous pens in this war. I look forward to uncovering them with you in 2020 and beyond.

How Do I Replace a Lamy Nib?

(There is risk in doing any repair. We will not be held liable for what happens to your pen if you break it while trying the following advice.)

Changing a nib on a Lamy Safari or AL-Star is easy. All you need is the pen, tape and a replacement nib.

Changing a nib on a Lamy Safari or AL-Star is easy. All you need is the pen, tape and a replacement nib.

Lamy Safari and AL-Star pens are among the most popular pens on the market today. Bright, modern, affordable and made to work well under the most trying conditions, what is not to love? Many people’s favorite feature is that the nib is easily changed.

The genius German engineers and designers behind this pen put the nib on a pressure-fit track system for easy assembly and repair.

How easy is it? The only tool you need is a piece of tape. Go ahead. Get your tape, and I’ll teach you how it is done.

Place your index finger on the inkfeed to stabilize and support the fragile feed when you change a nib.

Place your index finger on the inkfeed to stabilize and support the fragile feed when you change a nib.

First, it helps if your pen is empty and dry.

Next, gently grip the section (writing grip) of your pen and place your index finger gently on the plastic inkfeed under the nib to brace it.

With the top of the nib facing you, place a piece of tape on the entire nib. Be careful as the plastic inkfeed under the nib is easily broken if you are not careful, and those are much more difficult to replace, as Lamy doesn’t give out those parts.

Put your other index finger on top of the tape and nib. Using your thumb, grip the ball of the nib from underneath it.

 

 

 

 

Tape helps your fingers gain added traction to slip off the nib.

Tape helps your fingers gain added traction to slip off the nib.

Pull, gently and straight out, on the tape and nib tipping. The nib should slide right off the inkfeed.

Turn the pen over, with the bottom of the inkfeed facing you. Turn your replacement nib upside down and align the little runners with the tracks of the inkfeed.

Slide it into place until it stops. Turn it over again to see the top of the nib. There should only be about a millimeter or so of inkfeed visible.

Voila! You have successfully changed the nib. Congratulations!

 

Turn the inkfeed upside down where you can see the tracks for the runners of the nib to slide into place. Gently pinch the side of the Lamy replacement nib and slowly slide or wiggle the nib into place.

Turn the inkfeed upside down where you can see the tracks for the runners of the nib to slide into place. Gently pinch the side of the Lamy replacement nib and slowly slide or wiggle the nib into place.

We’ve Move, Once Again: Distracted Blogging

Season’s Greeting from Wausau, Wis. We hope your holidays are joyous and bright.

Wasn’t it John Lennon who said that “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans”?

I had a lot of plans for ThePenMarket.com in 2019. SQUIRREL! There are still so many blog posts I’ve started and haven’t yet finished. Oh, look at this shiny new thing. I got about 500 new pens posted to the site over the year, but, did you hear that? What was that sound? Then I began my quest to learn how to restore mechanical clock movements. Are you hungry? And, of course, I got engaged to the most brilliant woman I’ve ever met.

Now, we’re in beautiful Wausau, Wisconsin. It’s snowing! How long will we stay in Wausau? Not sure. It has been that type of year.

In the meantime, the business is unpacked and fully operational. We’ll begin posting new pens soon, and, hopefully, I will get on pace again with more interesting blog posts––including a new chapter to the popular Pens that Ended World War II series.

May all of the holidays celebrated by our many readers be happy ones, and may all of our 2020 be more focused and prosperous.

Another Crazy Summer

Dawn and I take a coffee break during our busy summer of 2019.

I’m engaged! Certain friends have accused me of “burying the lead” in my news of late, so I’m just gonna put this out there at the top.

Pen shows lead to true love, it turns out. Dawn and I met at the Ohio Pen Show, and it has been the most amazing relationship I’ve ever had. (She seems to agree on her side, too.) This past June, I had a custom ring made from the gold of old fountain pen nibs too destroyed to be of future service to the pen community, and I gave it to Dawn (who also loves pens) in July. She said, yes, and all we have left to do is decide on where we’ll live, tie the knot and live happily ever after. Piece of cake, right?

Of course, the world of pens has been exciting with lots of travel this summer, too! The only downside was that Dawn was unable to join me for these shows.

The St. Louis Pen Show was bigger than last year, and a huge draw for crowds. Anne and her husband continue organizing and advertising the daylights out of that show. We were fortunate this year not to have the blistering heat nor any tornadoes.

Here’s the gateway to the west, the St. Louis Arch, as seen from a roof top.

The camaraderie of this show is something else. All the first-year vendors and attendees seemed to have this bond over having been firsts to attend. It was almost like we had a secret club handshake. It was a blast to catch up, and there were some “sick,” as the kids say today to mean “awesome,” pens at that show. Vintage pen collectors found scads of old treasures, and modern pen fans were dazzled by the tons of high and low-end writing instruments.

Always popular is the free-to-the-vendors lunch, and we had a dessert party this year before the auction. AMAZING deals were to be had at the auction. If you ever want to get into vintage on the cheap, try their auction. Many of the pens were fully restored going into the auction and sold well below what they would normally get at a show or online.

Outside of the pen show circuit, I’ve continued my training on clock repair. I can fix most standard cuckoo clocks in my sleep, and I’m getting much better at sequencing spring-wound clocks.

Before you know it, I was off to the D.C. Pen Show! The traffic and customers are always amazing at DC, but my favorite parts are outside of the show.

This is the Confederate’s view of the battle of Fredricksburg at the top of Marye’s Heights. This is all that is left of the original stone wall that shielded the Confederates. The ground now comes up to the top of the wall on the Yankee side of the wall, but during the battle no Union soldier made it past where you see that line of trees in this photo. Yet, nearly 10,000 dead and wounded would lay along the hillside heading down into town from this position.

I consider this to be my vacation show. Every year I try to see new sights and sounds. This year I went to the Battle of Fredricksburg National Park before arriving at the show. This has to be the smallest national park. Only a couple acres of the devastating battlefield have been preserved. What most people remember from their Civil War history is the assault on Marye’s Heights. Union troops cross the Rappahannock River and sack the town of Fredricksburg. Confederate General Robert E. Lee beat the slow-moving Union General Ambrose Burnside to the battle site and claimed the high ground. Burnside would throw battalion after battalion up against the Confederate forces atop Marye’s Heights. Hiding behind a stone wall, a mere 7,000 rebels held off at least triple their number, killing or wounding about a quarter of the Union Army.

This statue pays tribute to Confederate soldier Richard Kirkland for his bravery in delivering water to the dying Union soldiers.

Yet, what really amazes me is the story of this battle that is less well know. After the battle, thousands of dead and dying men lay below this wall. The wounded made terrible groans and calls for help as they lay dying. The fighting had only barely ceased for the day. No one was rushing forward, yet, to collect the wounded for fear of being shot from above. However, the cries of the wounded were far too much for one Confederate soldier named Richard Kirkland to bear. So he scrambled out of his safe place behind the wall with a full canteen of water to offer comfort to the men he had potentially just shot…and who might still try shooting him out of resentment. As he’d go back to his wall for more water, more of his fellow soldiers handed him canteens filled with water to ease the suffering of the dying. Nobody on either side stopped his act of extreme bravery and kindness. Kirkland would eventually be immortalized as The Angel of Marye’s Heights.

The dramatic sky behind the Washington Monument is almost as stunning as the tribute to our first president.

Having visited dozens of Civil War battlefields, it is really strange to see the entire town having grown up the side of a hill that was once drenched in blood. I wondered how many of the people knew their homes were on the site of human slaughter. I wondered if any of the homes were haunted. I kinda hoped they were–not out of malice, just because I like haunted houses.

The D.C. Pen Show was fairly well organized this year, which was surprising given the show’s owner had suffered a heart attack only 2 and a half weeks before the show! Yet, Bob was up and running around much the same as in previous years. It was good to see him up and about. His sister really stepped in to keep the show happening this year.

Traffic at the show seemed a little down but not much. What surprised me were all of the new vendors! Many of the regulars of the circuit were not in attendance, and a new generation of vendors took their places. I never knew there were that many young people eager to get into the circuit with a host of new wares meant for pen collectors but not frequently seen at these events. There was a huge emphasis on paper, pen and paper carrying devices and a several new repairpeople I’ve never met or heard of before.

Here’s the U.S. Capitol Building on a very humid day.

However, some things never change, and nights down in the bar discussing pens until closing time, along with the joy of smoking cigars and drinking with the Black Pen Society never go out of style.

After the show, my vacation resumed with another trip to the National Mall. This year I walked the park space between the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building. It was warm and very humid, but not uncomfortable. I’ve seen so many photos of each of these landmarks, but it is quite something special to see them in real life…no matter dysfunctional the Capitol Building might be.

Gene Krupa’s bass drum while he was with the Benny Goodman big band making a huge hit out of the anthem “Sing, Sing, Sing.”

As a decidedly unusual child, one of the first things to go on my bucket list at age 10 was the Smithsonian Museum of American history. It took me 33 years to get there, but get there I did this summer. Some people refer to it as America’s attic, and I LOVED it. Only the gift shop sucked. I was hoping to pick up photos of the many incredible objects by way of postcards, but, those weren’t in either of the on-site gift shops I visited. So, I don’t have photos of Abraham Lincoln’s stovepipe hat, Judy Garland’s ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz” or the battle flag that gave us “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

It was amazing to see the first steam engine train ever used in America, the first Colt revolver, a cotton gin, the first electric lights, the first record players, Ted Williams’ jersey and cap, George Washington’s uniform and sword, the table and chairs used to sign the surrender documents of the Civil War, tons of relics from all of our wars and a 1948 Tucker automobile in silver.

The 1948 Tucker has been one of my favorite cars for my entire life. Only 51 were made, and this is the 5th I’ve seen.

You can blame the Jeff Bridges’ movie “Tucker: A Man and His Dream” for getting me addicted to the story of the Tucker automobile, sometimes called the Tucker Torpedo. The real life Preston Tucker was an innovator and automotive junkie who worked in the auto industry and decided to buck the odds and start his own car company after WWII. His first car would use all the latest innovations of the era and put them in a 4-door sedan. Seatbelts, disc brakes, pop-out safety glass, fuel-injection, a high-power 6-cylinder rear engine and a signature third headlight that turned with the wheels that lit the way to where you were going in a turn. These were among the many other innovations in his car. He pushed his luck for as long as he could, but he ultimately couldn’t get enough financing to keep the company afloat. Only 51 of these cars were made. This silver one is the fifth I’ve seen. I’ve also seen a copper one in San Diego, a red one in Las Vegas, a black one in Dearborn, Mich., and Tucker’s wife’s personal vehicle in waltz blue in Murdo, South Dakota. It was an absolute thrill to see this silver one.

Here’s what appears to be the fifth Colt revolver ever made and the one sent to the U.S. Patent Office by Samuel Colt. Notice there is no trigger guard. The trigger flips down when the hammer was cocked.

This is a uniform and cap that was game-worn by the legendary baseball player Ted Williams, who was the last person to bat over .400 in a complete season.

Given the lack of hand protection and the beautiful jade green handle, I suspect George Washington’s sword was more ceremonial than battle tested. Nevertheless, it is a stout weapon good for attack.

Vintage Pen Straight from 1905

Susie Thomas was given this Conklin M31 in 1905 for her high school graduation. She looks way more sophisticated than most high school kids today.

It is the romantic in me that makes up the story behind an individual pen when I pick it up and look it over. Who owned it? What did it write about? What transpired in the years it chronicled?

We don’t have to wonder about that with our Conklin M31. We know it was given as a gift in 1905 to Susan Thomas. She had just graduated high school and was going to attend business college! We know this because her granddaughter Jane asked us to sell it.

These long-taper capped Conklin pens are extremely difficult to find today, as they usually lose their caps over time…or they break. The black hard rubber can be brittle. This pen is nearly mint…except for the chocolate hazing and #2 14k gold Conklin replacement nib. However, it is a FLEXI nib, which ought to make up for the few flaws.

Susie’s past is a little hazy. She went to business college, which was all but unheard of for a woman in 1905. She got married and had kids at some point, and Jane thinks she died in the 1940s.

Conklin M31 pens with their tapered caps are very rare and a real treasure with a flexi nib. It is even rarer to know its personal history.

Preliminary research shows (so far) that this pen was first issued in 1903. We restored it with a new ink sac. The gold-filled ring is monogramed with a script “T.” A great pen for a museum collection and use.

More Ink Tests with Donn

Ink-fast testing image

Donn D. shared this new set of ink fast tests he made in 2018. Look how well Cross inks hold up!

Ink Guru Donn D. and I ran into each other again at the Chicago Pen Show a week ago, and I was pleased to see he had some new ink-fast tests to share. This batch is concerned with more fountain pen inks, and I was surprised to find great results with the Cross inks. Who knew? So often happens that Cross gets written off as a boring legacy brand. They make a lot of good ink and surprisingly good pens, in spite of their ubiquity on the scene here in the States.

Much of my conversation with Donn revolved around the fact that ballpoint inks are more susceptible to U.V. light than previously thought. He has found some fade out just as poorly as fountain pen inks. Given ballpoint inks are formulated with oil as a base, this surprised me. As thicker inks, I thought they’d last longer. With any luck, Donn will share those ballpoint ink results with us one day.

In the meantime, enjoy these great tests with fountain pen inks. Click the image to see a bigger version.

Arkansas, Atlanta and Chicago, Oh My!

It has been far too long since last writing in November. To say I’ve been a little busy is a bit of an understatement. In addition to running this business, I’ve taken a job learning…and hopefully mastering…the art of clock repair! It has been a passion for some time, and an opportunity arose in December that I just couldn’t say no to.

The trick is remembering not to stick nibs in clocks and gears in fountain pens.

I’ve also met a special someone you’ll meet in just a moment.

A rare quiet moment at the Arkansas Pen Show in Little Rock.

Annnd, there are the pen shows. Dawn and I met at the Ohio Pen Show in November, and we just had to escape the cold of March in the upper Midwest with a trip down to Little Rock for the Arkansas Pen Show. Springtime in the South never fails to impress. And the hospitality in the South is second to none.

The Arkansas Pen Show was a stunner, again, this year. Soooo many friendly faces. Plus, this year added free lunches for the vendors! The Vaness family hosted another great party at their shop…of course with crispy bacon coated in chocolate. Our hottest item at the show was “Frau Tinte’s Medieval Inks: Toxic Walnut.” I know an ink historian who recreates ancient ink recipes, and we thought we’d try a few samples out on the public to see what the reaction was. The sepia-colored walnut ink is far too harsh (and unfiltered) for regular pens; it can only be used in glass and gold dip pens. Hence the name Toxic Walnut.

Clock repair has become a new interest of mine. Here is a Junghans movement I recently repaired.

Afterward we spent a day in Memphis exploring Beale Street and the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. It is a somber but breath-taking museum experience.

Just a couple short weeks later, and I was off to the Atlanta Pen Show. Jimmy and Suzanne keep doing a great job with that show, and it remains a real highlight of my year. The afterhours pen parties have really taken on a whole new life of their own in Atlanta. Tons of fun with people geeking out over their pen and ink treasures.

I also caught my first baseball game of the year in Atlanta. The Cubs took on the Braves on a rainy Thursday night. The highlight for me was getting to join a parade of fans walking around the warning track before the game! I have always wanted to set foot on the field at a pro park. Sadly, the Braves romped the Cubs, but I was still pretty high from walking on the field.

Ebenezer Baptist Church is where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led a great deal of the civil rights movement.

Completing my trip to Atlanta was a visit to Ebenezer Baptist Church, which was where MLK was pastor. (Sensing a theme this year?) It was impressive to see in all of its humble glory. Hard to believe a large segment of the civil rights movement was led from such an unassuming church.

And now, I’m bracing for the Chicago Pen Show. Lots of great new pens to fix for the show. Then, hopefully, I’ll be able to start settling back into the normal blog posting routine again.

An ink historian recreated a medieval walnut ink recipe for glass and gold-only dip pens. It is far too corrosive for modern fountain pens, but it is cool to write like a king or queen of the 14th century.

How Do I Start Collecting Pens? Investing

“How do I collect pens for investment?” is probably one of the most difficult questions I have to answer. Like all the investment prospectuses out there state, “Investing requires a degree of risk with no guarantee of success.”

There are several strategies that can help an investor looking to profit on pens, but it is important to understand several key facts before investing.

• The market for pens is constantly changing.
• Cashing out for a profit can be difficult.
• Even the most reputable retailers on earth don’t pay full retail for pens they are going to resell.
• Like every good drug dealer knows: “Don’t get addicted to your own product.”

RULE #1: Buy low, sell high. Sounds easy enough, but it doesn’t always work that way.

MINIMIZE SELLING COSTS: Most people love the collecting side of this wonderful hobby. They love the hunt, or they love using the pens. Yet, the first thing any investor-collector should think about is how they are going to offload their pens while getting their money out of them.

All of the major retailers online, such as myself, are looking for deals like any investor. If you have a rare pen that sells for $2,000, retailers like me aren’t going to pay you $2,000 for it, just so we can turn around and sell it for $2,000. Clearly, that is all risk and no reward for the retailer. And unless you found this pen for $50, you might be really upset if the retailer only offers you $1,500 or less for a $2,000 pen.

Auction sites and payment-receiving companies such as PayPal and Square charge any number of fees and commissions. These can quickly add up and dig into a substantial part of your profits.

Your best bet might be to sell your pens one-on-one at pen shows, in free social media listing pages or some place such as our Trading Post. We charge a one-time $5 fee for a single posting. You keep your pen and handle the transaction as you see fit. There are no other fees or commissions when you sell the pen. Just tell us it is sold, and we’ll delist it.

RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH: If you are serious about investing in pens, knowledge is power. There are huge differences between why one pen might get an astronomical amount of money and why another pen that looks nearly identical wouldn’t. There are so many nuances that affect values. Plus, if you like modern pens…and even some vintage ones…you need to learn how to spot the fakes. Furthermore, it is critical to also research the trends in what is selling and at what prices it is selling.

Flexible vintage Waterman nibs such as these from the 1920s are in exceptionally high demand in 2018.

DAY TRADING: Okay. The market for pens doesn’t move nearly as fast as it does for “day traders” on Wall Street. However, if you know what is really hot on the market right now and know you can quickly find a customer who will pay full price for it, you can make a lot of money. The trick is to know the market really well and not hold on to the pen for too long.

For example: As of this writing in November 2018, really flexible Waterman nibs from the 1920s are in peak demand. Everybody wants a flexi nib! So if you can find a Waterman 52 with a “wet noodle nib” in an antique store or flea market for $25, fix it up and sell it in a few days for $150 to $200, you’ll have made a great investment.

The trouble is that what is popular can seemingly shift overnight. About 10 years ago, everybody had to have an impossibly extra-fine nib on their vintage pens. If the line was so fine that you couldn’t even see it, that was perfect. Modern Japanese nibs can get that fine, but most vintage nibs were made for fine to medium writing. Thus those vintage extra-fine nibs were hard to find. Then one day I showed up at a pen show loaded with extra fines and nobody wanted them. The fad was over.

THE LONG GAME: Most people want a blue-chip stock they can buy at age 30, hold for 30 years and cash out at 60 for a tidy profit. They exist, of course, but they are less obvious than most people might assume. Take a Montblanc 149 fountain pen. They retail brand new for around $1,000. People who aren’t into pens might assume it will only hold that price and appreciate with time…but it won’t. Gently used 149s from the 1970s through ’90s are retailing for around $400 to $450. However, if you bought it in 1979 for $150…you’re doing okay. Yet, given how little has changed about them during the past 40 years, it isn’t likely you’ll make a profit on a new one sold from an MB boutique today. Nevertheless, an early 1950s’ 149 is resurgent on the market and attracting serious money that isn’t likely to subside for some time.

Hand-painted Montblanc Mythical Creatures series pens are genuinely rare pens that might appreciate in value, as they only made 1,500 of each…unlike the Writers’ Series pens which are made by the 10s of thousands.

A lot of people invest heavily in “limited edition” pens, but I am beginning to question how long those prices will last. With the exception of the Montblanc Writers’ Series Hemingway, Poe and Agatha Christie, most of those pens aren’t holding their original retail value. The trouble is that they aren’t really limited. MB makes tens of thousands of them every year. Everybody who wants one gets one. Most people treat them gently or don’t use them at all. There will come a time in the next 10 to 20 years when everybody either starts selling them off to cash in or passing them down to their children who don’t want them and sell them. When that happens, there will be a glut on the market. Frankly, I’m already seeing signs of that now.

Yet, maybe genuinely limited pens of say 1,500 or fewer, like the hand-painted Montblanc Mythical Creatures series, will appreciate more because so few were made…and they were more handmade than the more common pens. (Although even these pens are a little down in price at the moment.)

LeBoeuf #8 fountain pens are among the rarest grail pens for vintage pen collectors. These were among the first celluloid pens ever made…and are stunningly beautiful.

Vintage pens are a different matter. Blue chips might include an oversized #8 LeBoeuf, senior-sized mandarin yellow Parker Duofolds, Nassau green Parker 51s with double jewels and vermillion Sheaffer Snorkels. Each is a rare color variant on a popular pen. Prices might fluctuate over time, but their values ought to hold.

Playing Devil’s advocate to myself, nearly impossible to find grail pens spanning 1900 to 1925ish are once again becoming much more available as the original collectors are beginning to pass on. Younger, newer collectors are not as familiar with those pens and likely haven’t the money at this stage in their careers to purchase them…and so those prices are actually crashing a bit. It is unclear at the moment if new generation collectors will ever have much interest in the earliest fountain pens. Speculators might be wise to let the prices keep coming down and snatch a few up at “bargain” prices to hold for another 20 years or so. BUT, there’s no guarantee it will pay off.

Younger collectors were laughing at me the 2018 Ohio Pen Show when I said they should hold on to their TWSBI Ecos. These are $15 pens that are a scorching hot fad in affordable fountain pens. But who is to say that these new pen users and collectors in their early 20s and early 30s won’t get nostalgic for them in another 30 years, when they start looking back on how they got into pen collecting. Who knew those 1970s and ’80s Star Wars action figures and spaceships I played with all the time would now be worth a fortune? If only I hadn’t sold them all in a garage sale at age 12.

In closing, you can make a lot of money by investing in pens if you carefully research what it is you are investing in, know well the market and trends in collecting, buy low and sell high and have an inexpensive way to sell your investments. Good luck!

Ohio Pen Show Bound!

Wow! What a whirlwind year! I can’t believe it is already time to go to Columbus for what will likely be our last pen show for the year. The Ohio Pen Show is always a great one.

These are just the repairs we’re delivering to customers at this year’s Ohio Pen Show. Just imagine the goodies you haven’t yet seen on this site that will be coming!

Look how busy we’ve been. These pens are just the repairs we’ve done to deliver to customers at the show!

Terry and his sons always put on a helluva good show, and I cannot wait to see them and all of my many other friends in Columbus. If you are going this year, please keep a look out for me. My table is in the main hallway, just outside the main entrance to the big room at the show. Be sure to stop by and say “Howdy.”

Well, I best get to fixin’ some more pens for you at this year’s show. See ya in a week!

Meet the Ink Test Guru

Several years ago I met Donn D. at the Chicago Pen Show. We got to talking outside of the main room afterhours, and he was the one who introduced me to Ink-Fast Tests. He had a binder of very organized ink swatches that showed what an ink looked like when protected from the light, what it looked like after it had been left in the sun for 3 months and after it had been left in the sun for 6 months.

As I was on a quest for the perfect replacement blue for my beloved Waterman Florida Blue, I began making ink tests for this site. I figured you would be as curious as I am about how ink holds up to UV light.

Donn and I got together at this year’s Washington DC Pen Show and resumed our inky discussions. I asked if he would be so kind as to share some of his tests on the blog, and he said, “Yes.”

Included in this post are 4 pages of his tests of Pilot ink, Diamine ink, Noodler’s ink, Waterman ink, Parker ink and Pelikan ink…among others.

Donn described his methodology as such: “I exposed fountain pen ink samples to ultraviolet light from the sun for 3 months and 6 months.  The exposure method involved simply taping them to the inside of a patio door, which does not block UV very well.  I exposed all samples in the same manner, but not at the same time, and have no record of the number of cloudy vs. sunny days for each test.  The paper was standard office copy bond.

The inks in this test happen to be colors I like, rather than a general test of a manufacturer’s entire product line.

What surprised me most was how well green inks held up, and a chemist friend speculates a copper compound may be involved.

Note: Test sheet #1 shows 6-month results only.”

Thank you, Donn, for sharing so many of these ink tests. Everybody else, I hope these help you in your quest for the perfect inks.

Click on any of the images to see a larger, clearer representation of the inks tested. Please also note that these are not performance tests of the ink inside a fountain pen. Some of these inks are not as well suited to vintage pens as others. This is strictly to showcase how an ink will hold up to time and light. (For example, Noodler’s Ink often clogs the hell out of vintage pens. Beautiful inks but a pain to deal with unless you love spending hours cleaning pens.)