Category Archives: Pen News

Time Out

Howdy, Gang!

We’re taking a bit of a holiday and will be mostly out of touch until around July 15. Nobody’s sick. Nothing bad is happening in our little pen world. We’re just gearing up for a new adventure, which we’ll share soon.

In the meantime, updates are on hold and orders won’t likely ship until around July 15. The site will remain operational, so feel free to order, we just won’t be able to process the shipments like normal for a couple weeks.

Hang tight! We can’t wait to see you again soon!

All the best,

Nathaniel

International Shipping Delays

International Shipping has seen significant delays due to the lack of international air travel.

Several of our international orders lately have gone noticeably late in arriving. I spent more than two hours on the phone today trying to track down a shipment that was 28 days late in arriving. What I learned from the United States Postal Service employees that I spoke with is as follows:

• COVID-19 is having a terrible impact on international mail
• Most of my international orders are stuck in U.S. customs at O’Hare Airport in Chicago
• There are so few flights abroad that the mail is getting seriously backed up
• U.S. Customs will hold outbound packages for up to 45 days trying to find a flight out of O’Hare (the world’s busiest airport) to the desired country.
• After 45 days, the U.S. customs will return the packages to the United States Postal Service to take back to the senders with a full refund of their shipping expenses.
• Mail service to and from 106 nations is temporarily suspended as of June 12, 2020.
• Most European countries, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand still have mail service to and from the United States. However, it will be severely delayed.
• Once a package arrives in another country, often those countries’ customs agents quarantine incoming packages for 21 days before sorting them for customs duties and delivery.

I am terribly sorry for the inconvenience of these delays.

For American customers, so far, we are not having any difficulties with intra-U.S. shipping. Most orders are arriving within the usual 3 to 5 days. Priority Mail has slowed a little, but, so far, seemingly not by more than a day.

These are extreme and unusual times. Many of our shipping woes will vanish when the pandemic is outlasted. When air traffic returns to normal, international shipping will get back on track and the suspensions will be lifted.

Arkansas Pen Show Cheats Covid-19

Have you ever lived through a hurricane? I was visiting my grandmother in Cocoa Beach, Florida, in 1995 when Hurricane Erin struck. It was a minor, catagory 1 hurricane, but it was impressive for this Midwestern boy to witness and experience.

Whereas hurricanes strike a much smaller location than a global pandemic, hurricanes were all I could think of as I drove from Wausau, Wis., to Little Rock, Ark., and back.

Keeping busy with friends at the Arkansas Pen Show in 2020. It was a great show in spite of the pending pandemic.

There was a nervous tension and anxiousness in the air. Everybody knew what was coming, but nobody knew exactly what, where or how. Panic buying. Cautious interactions between strangers bracing for the worst and some remarkably kind and gracious interactions between others. And, yet, a hollow sense of dread and waiting persisted in the quiet moments or as people listened to or watched broadcasts of the latest news.

The pending pandemic of coronavirus felt a lot like waiting for Hurricane Erin to strike that coastal community 25 years ago.

And like before, during and after that hurricane, the folks at the Arkansas Pen Show rallied for one heck of an experience. Tim Joiner and the other folks who helped at the Arkansas Pen Club kept a steady hand on the tiller for a smooth operating show that was a lot of fun. The vendors and attendees pushed past their concerns about the pending pandemic to enjoy the passion for pens that brings us together through thick and thin.

Lisa and Mike Vanness, of Vanness Pen Shop, hosted an incredible after-party Friday. Taking much stricter health precautions into account, they still delivered great food and drink for a genuinely joyous evening dedicated to pens and, especially, ink.

Good friends from as far as San Francisco, Houston and Memphis stopped by to say hello and/or share a drink.

Little Rock, itself, was greening up beautifully. The temperature upon arrival was 70-degrees Fahrenheit. The grass was green. Flowers were blooming, and trees were blossoming. After a cold winter with up to 5-feet of snow on the ground, Little Rock was enchanting.

As Covid-19 now sweeps the country, it looks as if the Arkansas Pen Show might very well be the final pen show of the season. While we hate to see the other shows go dark for the year, we appreciate the courage of the show owners for making the wise decision to keep their vendors and patrons safe, and we can’t wait to return when the disease has run its course. In the meantime, I want to thank every single person who made the Arkansas Pen Show such a fun show to slip in ahead of the pandemic.

Arkansas Pen Show or Bust!

Honestly, I haven’t even caught my breath from the Baltimore Pen Show, and now I’m heading out the door to attend the Arkansas Pen Show in Little Rock! Wowzers!

If you are anywhere within a few hundred miles of Little Rock this weekend (March 13 – 15), you have got to come out and see the Arkansas Pen Show. It is the biggest little pen show in the world! It is

A.) Hyperfriendly
B.) Very Well Organized
C.) Loaded with Amazing Vintage & Modern Writing Instruments & Ephemera
D.) Chocolate Bacon! Vanness Pens, who is the most famous ink seller online, hosts an after-hours party in its shop every year, and they always have a healthy supply of chocolate-dipped bacon. If you have never had such a delicacy, I can understand if you are skeptical. But, once you’ve had one bite, you will be addicted and a choco-bacon believer.
E.) Springtime! Every year I attend, flowers are blooming in Little Rock. Greenery is coming back to life. If you’re tired of winter, get your frozen butt down here to enjoy a little of what us northerners won’t see for another month or two.

As for pens, we’ve reloaded with dozens of new pens not yet available online. From vintage third-tier pens to Sheaffer TouchDowns and Snorkels to Parker Vacumatics to preowned luxury Waterman and Yard O Led, we’ve got tons to please pen lovers in the western portion of the American South.

I told you. I haven’t had a chance to catch my breath since the Baltimore Show. And Baltimore put on a fine pen show, indeed. This was my first year in attendance, and I was amazed by the organization, friendliness and crowds. Bert Oser and his crew put on a delightful event that was great for shaking off the winter rust as pen show season springs back to life.

Customers I’ve known for years but have never met in person came to say hi. We met a lot of new-to-us pen lovers. And it was great seeing so many younger, newer-to-collecting pen enthusiasts at the show. It was a blast introducing people to vintage pens, while learning about the tastes of more seasoned veterans in the world of pens.

Thanks to all those who made Baltimore so special, and I can’t wait to see y’all in Little Rock!

Baltimore Pen Show, Here We Come!

For the last several years, we have heard about the splendor of the Baltimore Pen Show. This is what we’ve heard: It is well organized by our buddy Bert Oser. It is a premier place to buy and sell premier luxury pens. It is well advertised to the public, and it is becoming the premier pen show in the country.

This year, we are going to experience it for ourselves to see if it is all true. We have spent the past month restoring dozens of vintage pens and prepping never-before-seen-on-our-site luxury pens.

PLUS, for showgoers, we have dropped some of our prices to clear out some of our luxury inventory.

On a personal level, this is my first trip to Baltimore. I bemoan the fact the Orioles aren’t yet playing, as I’d love to see a game at Camden Yards, but I hope to have some fun exploring the waterfront and old Fort McHenry, home of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” if there’s time.

And, of course, the very best part will be getting to hang out with old friends at a new location, while also making new friends at a show I’ve never seen before. Please be sure to come check it out and say, “Hi.”

Search by Nib Size

You can now search for our pens by nib size. Although this box is just an illustration, the one near the top left column of the vintage pens or pre-owned pens pages is live and will show you the way.

Size matters…at least when you’re writing and want to use a specific nib point.

Following the advice of my brilliant and beautiful fiancée, we’ve added a new way to search for pens on our site by virtue of the nib size and writing qualities.

Clicking on a blue letter is all you need to do to pull up all of our pens with the nib you want. You’ll still need to read the description to find out how wet, dry, smooth or scratchy a nib might be, but this new nib-search box will help you winnow down your options much more quickly. The only other detail to look for is whether the pen is a tweener pen—a fine-medium or a medium-broad, that sort of thing.

All of our vintage pens and preowned pens will get pulled up by nib together! Who knows what treasures you might find that you weren’t initially looking for! You can find the nib search box on the top of the left column on our home page, vintage pens pages and preowned pens pages.

In case you need help translating the letters into nib sizes, here’s our guide:

XF = Extra Fine
F = Fine
M = Medium
B = Broad
BB = Double Broad
Stub = Awesomeness
O = Oblique
SF = Semi-Flex
FLEXI = Flexible, somewhere in the vicinity of wet noodle

Priority Postage Hike

As many of you have probably noticed over the past couple years, the United States Postal Service has raised its rates three or four times. Our payment processor, PayPal, has also raised its rates. We have resisted raising our shipping & handling rates for as long as we could, but, we finally had to give in for our U.S.-based insured, Priority Mail.

The good news is that we have not raised our rates for standard, uninsured U.S. shipping, and we have not raised our international shipping rates. To our friends in Canada and Mexico, please remember that we refund the shipping amount not used from our international shipping rates. Our programing only recognizes foreign and domestic, and we cannot, yet, identify which country gets which rate.

In spite of the rate increases, we have found that the United States Postal Service remains the most affordable and secure shipping option that we have. UPS and FedEx cost nearly double the amount for us to ship with them, and our company is still too small to qualify for their bulk discounts to be competitive. Furthermore, almost every time we have shipped a pen using UPS for a customer special request, UPS has either lost or damaged the pen. Out of the hundreds of packages we ship every year, the United States Postal Service has been nearly perfect now that they’ve added tracking to all of its parcels shipped.

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.

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.