Tag Archives: fountain pen


For all of our pen customers around the world who live south of what we, in the United States, call the Mason-Dixon Line, odds are you might not know the true joy of a “Snow Day.”

As of sunrise, 5 of the expected 12 inches of today’s snow storm have fallen here in Chicago. It is a “snow day” and time to frolic in the white stuff.

A snow day is a day where schools get closed because there is too much snow for the buses to drive the kids to class. When I was a kid in the 1980s, the entire kid world revolved around the random joy of a “day off” to now play in tons of snow. We could generally count on a good 3 or 4 snow days every year in Chicago. These days we can go two or three years between quality snow days like back then. In fact, earlier this week, one of my young fencing students was aware of snow days but was curious what triggered one, as he hadn’t seen more than an inch or two of snow at a time in quite some time.

As of 9 a.m. today, we have had 5 inches of snow, and we are expecting to 5 more inches before the sun sets. We expect a couple more inches before the sun rises and this storm ends. It is finally a winter wonderland!

Me, I’m an autumn-winter kind of guy. I hate summer’s high heat and humidity. I burn so quickly under the sun that I wear more layers in summer than winter. I love snow days! True snow days that pile up a foot of snow or more.

Why? It is a day for shoveling, building snow forts, having snowball fights and hot chocolate. The cold weather on a snow day really isn’t that cold, as you can’t get good snow below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, around -5 Celsius. It is bracing to be outside, and it is invigorating. To be out in the elements, even with a thankless task like shoveling, it grounds you in the moment and it makes you feel at one with the elements and nature.

Indoors it is a great time to write! I don’t say that cynically as a pen shop owner. I have been a writer as far back as I can remember. Letters, stories, books, journal entires…doesn’t matter. If you don’t have to go to work or school on a snow day, it is a free day for anyone who loves writing to catch up and focus on their wordsmithing. It is a day to take a soothing moment or two to fill some of your favorite pens with ink and see if you can write them dry.

My favorite snow day was back in the mid- to late 1980s. We had something like 18 inches of snow overnight and into the day. It was a blizzard with really high winds and wet heavy snow. Nobody was going anywhere that day. The power was knocked out, and somehow our furnace was affected by that and blew out, too. We bundled up and shuttered as much of the upstairs as we could to insulate against the elements. (Remember, there was no such thing as cellphone weather aps to let us know when the storm would end.) We had a battery operated radio for updates, but we didn’t run it often to prevent the batteries from dying.

My mom, sister and I “played” frontier family for most of the day. We lit candles and did some long-term homework projects as the storm ravaged its worst. We drank Ovaltine, ate Campbell’s Tomato Soup and I also had a peanut butter and mustard sandwich, I’m sure, as they have always been a staple of my diet. We imagined this was how Abraham Lincoln lived as a kid…except we had Ovaltine, Campbell’s Soup and peanut butter. Annnnd, nobody died as a result of the storm or got a fatal disease. But, damn it, we were doing schoolwork by candlelight. That had to count for something.

Unable to stay cooped up all day, we finally ventured into the weakening storm in the afternoon. We helped Mom shovel, then we played for a good hour or two with our neighbors, building the requisite snow forts, snow tunnels and a snowman, having an absolute blast. By the time we started getting really cold and our clothes had soaked through with melted snow from our playing, the power had come back on and life returned to normal.

It was one of my favorite days of childhood, and, if you live somewhere in today’s storm path, I hope you have a snow day that is just as good!

Alexandre Dumas: The Man & The Pen

Alexandre Dumas wrote some of the greatest novels in history. It is difficult not to love “The Three Musketeers,” “The Count of Monte Cristo” and “The Man in the Iron Mask.”

Alexandre Dumas is my favorite writer of the 19th century. Nobody comes close to his adventures, characters or ability to capture the human condition. If you spend any time with his most famous novels, all of his characters are easily recognizable as people you can identify with in modern times. That is the secret sauce that elevates his writing to a timeless status.

My love of his work started at the age of 13. I picked up “The Count of Monte Cristo” on a bit of a whim. Before I knew it, I was hooked. It was pure literary crack. In spite of its length, I could not put it down. The tragic tale of Edmond Dantes and his need for vengeance is still rivetting. I teach fencing classes to junior high and high school students. Every 4 years or so, as new batches of kids rotate into class, I give them an end-of-the-year gift of a copy, and those who read it…even the 12-year-old girls…all come back grateful for a read that rocks their world as much as any Harry Potter or “Hunger Games” novel. (The highest praise of youth today.)

And honestly, Dumas only gets better with age! If you only read his works as a youth, you NEED to revisit them. Since turning 30 more than a decade ago, I’ve made a concious effort to reread at least one of his novels every year. There is soooo much more depth and realism that I missed my first time through as a teenager.

Here’s a small selection of my books by Alexandre Dumas featuring early translations and modern reprintings.

“The Three Musketeers” take on an almost cartoonish quality in our modern pop culture, but to revisit them, you find a complicated story of love, sex, loyalty, honor, war and true friendship. The musketeers are ordinary men in extra-ordinary circumstances. Clever, hard working, mostly honest (you really can’t trust Aramis much), these are 4 fellows who know how to game the system and make the most of the life of warriors. Dumas first wrote the novel as a serial in newspapers in 1844. It took Paris, and then the world, by storm. He actually followed it up with 4 more books: “Twenty Years After,” “The Vicomte de Bragellone,” “Louise de la Valliere” and “The Man in the Iron Mask.” The last one is my absolute favorite, and its symbolic significance–no spoilers, I promise–completely held me in its grasp. Not only did it fully reveal the truths of all the main characters to me, it really helped me to make better sense of the world around me at the time I first read it. Pretty impressive for a novel that came out 170 years ago in 1847.

A new book of the Musketeer series called “The Red Sphinx” was just rediscovered. It was in serialization when Dumas died in 1870! Technically, it doesn’t have an end, but some of his notes divulge how it was to end. Although I have yet to read it, it is supposed to take place about 20 days after the original “The Three Musketeers” novel ended.

More than this, Dumas wrote 300 books! He also wrote many plays, newspaper, magazine and fictional short stories. Another of his most famous stories is “The Corsican Brothers.” Here nobel twins, who were separated at birth, can feel each other’s nervous systems and emotions from across great distances…eventually learning of their parents tragic murder and uniting to extract revenge.

I own and have read dozens of his lesser known works. Most of them are as good as his biggest hits. The real trick is finding good translations! For me, the tranlator helps to be from the late 19th century or early 20th century. They try to capture the English language of the time period in which Dumas was writing. This builds a rhythm and poetry that Dumas conveyed in the original French. Modern translations fail for me because they try too hard to make it sound like modern, American English language and times. It destroys the cadence of the language and the romance of the 1800s, as well as the eras in which Dumas was writing about.

These are 2 of three volumes that I own of the original source material of “The Three Musketeers.” These are “The Memoirs of D’Artagnan” in an early 20th century translation!

How big a junkie am I? I found an early 20th century translation of the 3-volume biography of the actual 4th musketeer D’Artagnan! I have yet to read it, but I can’t wait. It supposedly gave Dumas the inspiration for writing the adventures of the musketeers in his fictional masterpieces.

Dumas also was a fascinating man, even without his incredible skill as a writer. He was a biracial man born of a white mother and black father in 1802. His father was one of Napoleon’s top generals…until they had a falling out during the Egypt campaign. (Any number of historians thought that Napoleon’s not listening to Gen. Dumas was one of his greater blunders in Egypt.) Although his father died in exile, young Alex got to encounter Napoleon as Napoleon changed horses while beating a hasty retreat from Waterloo.

Alexandre started writing as a young man, primarily for the stage. His early plays were often political and controversial. (France was undergoing several revolutions during his lifetime.) He didn’t really find success until he wrote a play about Henri III. Historical fiction was practically his invention. (Shakespeare mastered it on the stage, but Dumas really developed it into an art form in novels.) With great success, came great loves and travel adventures of his own. Ultimately, no matter how much money he made, he spent far more. He died heavily in debt and fairly poor.

This is a 1996 Mont Blanc Writers Series Alexandre Dumas fountain pen with the wrong signature on the cap and box.

Mont Blanc wisely chose to honor him in 1996 with one of its early limited edition writers series pens. The pen was handsomely trimmed in classical French style accents, such as a fleur de lis on its nib. Collectors especially love this pen because it features a significant mistake on the part of Mont Blanc. The company’s early releases of the pen featured not Alexandre’s signature but the signature of his son, Alexandre Dumas fils, who famously wrote “Camille.” The company scrambled to recall these pens and replace them with the right signature. As such, the wrong signature pens are worth more than most of the other writers series pens.

Yard-O-Led Ink Review

It isn’t often we get to see Yard-O-Led inks on this side of the puddle. Luckily for all, ThePenMarket.com now carries these fine bottled inks.

Check out the new bottled ink we carry. Yard-O-Led inks come in four colors: Jet Black, Blue, Blue/Black and Claret. Look closely to see great shading in the Jet Black and Blue/Black. The Blue and Claret are radiant wonders that are treat with which to write.

Check out the new bottled ink we carry. Yard-O-Led inks come in four colors: Jet Black, Blue, Blue/Black and Claret. Look closely to see great shading in the Jet Black and Blue/Black. The Blue and Claret are radiant wonders that are treat with which to write.

What struck me first about these inks were the radiance of the Blue (Royal Blue) and Claret (Fuchsia) inks. The blue is a washable ink and very bright. As I have only had it for a short time, I’m not sure how much it will fade over time, as many washable blues do. Nevertheless, I am enjoying its fresh blueness.

The Claret ink seems to be lively combination of hot pink, purple and red. While I expected it to be more of a rich, red wine color, I think it be very popular among the teenage girls who want to explore fountain pens with a more feminine color ink.

Traditional ink lovers will get a charge out of the beautiful shading delivered by the Jet Black and Blue/Black inks by Yard-O-Led. The Jet Black is more of a charcoal grey, and the wider the nib you use, the more distinctive the shadows become. The same can be said for the Blue/Black ink. Fine-point nibs lose the shading and concentrate the colors more.

Proud to Present Rare Mabie Todd Pen

Here is a nearly mint condition Mabie Todd Eternal. Fully restored, it works beautifully.

Here is a nearly mint condition Mabie Todd Eternal. Fully restored, it works beautifully.

We hate bragging so much we started a blog. Just be forewarned.

Although we try not to get too crazy about any one pen on our site, we think this one is worth all of the hype. It is an original, museum quality Mabie Todd Eternal fountain pen. More than that, this is our senior size or oversized edition.

The hard rubber body is practically perfect, as its orange and black design is immaculate. The imprint is a little faded in one spot but is otherwise strong. The trim is great with only a little brassing on the ball of the clip.

Oh, and the nib. The nib is spectacular. It is a 14k gold dream that writes a smooth medium line. This vintage fountain pen has been refurbished with a new ink sac. So you can use this pen or brag about it on display.

How Do I Write a Love Letter?

The key to every good love letter is making it as personal as you can. Don't be indimidated by writing. Savor the joy it will bring.

The key to every good love letter is making it as personal as you can. Don’t be intimidated by writing. Savor the joy it will bring.

Okay, so now that you have a spiffy pen for writing love letters, how do you go about using it?

Writing a good love letter is an art form, but it is not one you need to be intimidated by. There is no one correct way to write one, as every relationship is different and in different stages.

As with any writing project, you must keep only two simple things in mind: 1.) Who is your audience & 2.) What is your objective.

The letter better not sound that cold, but it helps to take the edge off when you sit down to compose.

You are never too old or too young to write a good love letter. My first one was to a teacher’s aid in first grade. I was madly in love with Miss Mix. Perhaps, that’s where my flame for older women first got lit. I was 6. She was 21. She was pretty and kind and totally understood my inner soul way better than those immature girls my own age. It was ill fated, but I totally got a love letter back from her. She declined my proposal to marry, but she did encourage me to look her up after I grew up. Sadly, she moved away when her student teaching ended that semester and we lost track of one another. C’est la vie. That’s just the way love goes sometimes.

I digress.

First ask yourself what stage of the relationship you are in. What do you hope to achieve by writing this letter. Writing to someone you barely know will be much different than writing to someone you’ve been married to for 50 years.

Let’s say you are just getting to know someone or want to get to know someone. Be your quirky self, humorous and sincere. Don’t overdo it. A light touch is best. Include something about the connection you share.

“Every day it seems I spy you through the sneeze guard of our office cafeteria salad bar. Who is this amazingly hot woman with three and a half noses and 7 dancing arctic blue eyes peering back at me through the plexiglass refraction? I don’t know, but it seems we agree that croutons are the best part of any salad. Is this kismet or just a mutual fondness for crunchy salted carbs? I don’t know, but I’d like to find out. How about stepping out from behind the sneeze guard and joining me for a real lunch some time? Potentially yours, _____”

Nothing elaborate. It’s light hearted, flirty and fun without sounding stalkerish or dripping in innuendo. Yet, it leaves open many possibilities.

If you are already in a relationship, understand the difference between intimacy and lust. Both make for fantastic love letters, but it also is the point at which you really need to focus on shared experiences and end goals. Intimacy can lead to lust, but it is that special souls-laid-bare closeness that comes from shareing your lives. Use those close personal experiences to tell your lover why they are so important to you. Put your feelings and your self out there and make sure they know how incredible it is to have them in your life.

If a night of unbridled passion is what you are after, then tap into lust, and use your love letter as foreplay. Get it delivered midday at their home or office with flowers or a gift. Use your words to stir their desire.

THE BIGGEST MISTAKES GUYS MAKE: Unless you met your partner at a renaissance fair, lay off the knightly talk and overtly ardent courting of the 14th century. Methinks it goeth too far, and most fair maidens have second thoughts about a man who pretends he’s living in the realm of “Dungeons & Dragons.”

ALSO: Lay off the lust angle, unless your relationship has already crossed that line or is on the verge of crossing that line. Otherwise, most women will resent being objectified. Mostly, they’ll think you are creepy and/or scary. If it is meant to be, it’ll happen. Be patient.

THE BIGGEST MISTAKES GALS MAKE: Don’t put the proverbial cart before the horse. Guys love love letters, too, but you want to be careful about going too far ahead of where the relationship is really at. If your relationship is still pretty new, you might spook him if you start talking about marriage or seeing your yet unconcieved children in his eyes. It might be obvious that the two of you will be headed down the aisle one day, but don’t spring it on him out of the blue.

ALSO: If you want a more physical relationship, don’t be afraid to ask for it. We live in messed up times. If you’ve got a nice, caring guy who is a little reluctant to go too far at first, it doesn’t necessarily mean he doesn’t want you. He was likely raised to respect women and not treat them like sexual play toys who can be easily discarded. Mix that with a lifetime of news reports about rape and sex abuse against women, and he likely doesn’t want to be seen as a predator. A gentleman doesn’t take a lady; she gives herself to him. He likely desperately wants your permission to do all of the things you desperately want him to do. Don’t be afraid to write it out in black and white for him.

Join the Wearever Pen Bandwagon

Here is the Wearever Deluxe 100 in a grey and red pattern that looks surprisingly close to that of the Parker Parkerette below.

Here is the Wearever Deluxe 100 in a grey and red pattern that looks surprisingly close to that of the Parker Parkerette below.

To the astonishment of many long-time pen collectors, the Wearever brand has been gaining a lot of second looks in recent years.

Although Sheaffer and Parker routinely vied for the title of the biggest and best fountain pen manufacturer from the 1920s through the 1960s, another brand beat them out on sales volume: Wearever.

0639 ParkeretteHonestly. Although a second–and even third–tier pen company, Wearever sold huge quantities of pens, particularly in the 1940s and ’50s. How did they do it? Looks and price. Some of their highest quality pens, such as the Wearever Deluxe 100, only cost one greenback dollar. Their plastics proved very durable, and the company focused a lot of attention on making the pens very attractive…often stealing, I mean, being inspired by the designs of leading pen makers. Just look at the similarity between this Wearever Deluxe 100 and Parker Parkerette.

The cost cutting came on the quality control side of things. While some of their “special alloy” nibs wrote very smoothly, many were scratchy and troublesome.

Many collectors, tired of being priced out of the ultra popular brands, are turning to these handsome vintage pens to beautify their collection while these pens are still affordable.

Overlooked for so long, there appears to be very little information about this company from North Bergen, New Jersey. Reasonable rumors state its history extends back into the late 1800s. We are very curious about this company and would love it if other fans of the brand were able to contact us with more details.

Fountain Pen Ink 101

This is just an "inkling" of ThePenMarket.com's private collection of vintage and modern fountain pen ink. It includes Sanford ink, Sheaffer towers of ink, Carter's ink and Parker V-mail ink from WWII!

This is just an “inkling” of ThePenMarket.com’s private collection of vintage and modern fountain pen ink. It includes Sanford ink, Sheaffer towers of ink, Carter’s ink and Parker V-mail ink from WWII!

Many people ask me about ink and what they should use in their pens, and it is a great question.

The best rule of thumb is to never, ever use India ink. It has sediments that will clog your pen faster than a diet of Big Macs will clog your arteries. While these pens can be unclogged, it is often a time consuming mess that could potentially damage the pen.

Most of the major name brands make very reliable fountain pen inks that are specially designed to help clean your pen as you write. They might slowly clog your pen over time, especially if you routinely let the ink dry inside your pen. However, they are easier to unclog with a simple flush.

Brands such as Parker, Waterman, Sheaffer, Mont Blanc, Cross, Pelikan, Lamy, Aurora and other major pen makers are always safe bets.

Many modern pen lovers swear by a brand named Private Reserve. These specialty inks offer a zillion different colors that are truely vibrant and beautiful. My trouble with them is that they have always clogged my pens within one or two fills. Personally, I don’t feel they are worth the trouble. Other collectors I talk with insist they never have the trouble with clogging, but I am far from being alone with that issue.

Ink color should also play a role in your decision. Black, blue and blue-black are always safe choices. Red inks have a notorious past for more quickly rotting ink sacs. Even modern red ink shouldn’t be left to set in pens for very long. It is safe to use, but flush your pen when you are done with the ink. Other colors such as greens and purples have a checkered history of ruining ink sacs and pen seals if left in the pen for too long.

One of the many great myths about Mont Blanc pens is that they can only use Mont Blanc inks. The company line is that their inks are specially formulated to preserve and protect their fountain pens. That might very well be true, but most of the other major brand inks are just as safe. Mont Blanc just wants to cash in on their overpriced ink.

Can vintage pens use modern inks? Absolutely. That is virtually all I’ve ever used on my vintage pens.

Can you still use vintage inks on your modern and vintage pens? Certainly! Despite the fact it is a liquid, there are still huge reserves of fresh bottled ink from the 1920s up to present day. Most of the inks in the photo above are from the 1950s and ’60s, and they are still very nice. The #1 vintage ink you want to avoid is “Parker 51 Ink” or “Super Chrome” ink by Parker. It was designed for use in the Parker 51 pens that used latex/silicone ink sacs. The chemicals in the ink very quickly rot traditional rubber ink sacs, diaphragms and piston seals.

Vintage inks can go bad every now and again. When buying vintage ink, check it for “oil slicks,” stuff growing on or in the ink and color separation. Sometimes the old ink loses its pigmentations. Don’t use it if it has any of these issues.

One of my favorite hoaxes in history used vintage inks from the 1880s! In the 1990s, the supposed diary of Jack the Ripper was discovered in London. The diary was to have belonged to one James Maybrick who was never on the radar of “ripperologists.” The initial results on the paper and ink proved they were genuinely from the 1880s. Later tests realized that the diary had been written in the 1950s and cleverly tucked inside a wall of some old building or house, not to be discovered for another 40 years when new owners discovered it during a remodel. I think that makes the hoax all the better, as whoever perpetrated it was likely dead by the time it hit the book stands. That type of patience for a laugh deserves respect.

The Pens of Presidents Kennedy & Johnson

This collection of pens signed 50 iconic American laws into effect by President John F Kennedy and President Lyndon Baines Johnson from 1961 to 1967. It appears Esterbrooks and Parker 45 were the go-to pens of choice.

This collection of pens signed 50 iconic American laws into effect by President John F Kennedy and President Lyndon Baines Johnson from 1961 to 1967. It appears Esterbrooks and Parker 45 were the go-to pens of choice.

How’s this for the ultimate pen auction? 50 pens used by presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson to sign bills into law from 1961 to 1967!

Attentive reader Linda Greenstein sent me the link to this amazing pen collection.

The auction catalog descripes the pens thusly:
“A Golden Era in Legislative Achievement 1961-1967” (50) Pens that “were used to sign into law (50) landmark Bills enacted during the administrations of President John F. Kennedy and President Lyndon B. Johnson and were presented to Henry H. Wilson, Jr. in recognition of his efforts as their assistant for Congressional relations for the House of Representatives during these years.” Included are pens used to sign the 1961 Area Redevelopment Act, 1961 Expanded Space Program-Man on the Moon, 1961 Peace Corps, 1964 Civil Rights Act, 1965 Voting Rights Act, 1965 Establishment of Housing and Urban Development, 1965 Immigration Act, 1966 Establishment of the Department of Transportation etc.,etc.,etc. (1) 10 1/2 x 8 1/2 inch photograph of Henry H. Wilson, Jr., President of the Board of Trade with his collection of Presidential pens taken by Bob Kotalik on July 5, 1967 for the Chicago Sun Times which was printed on July 9, 1967. (Presented in toto within a framed shadow box annotating each pen)

Can you imagine owning one of the pens that signed the Civil Rights Act? Or NASA’s Moon Shot program? Or started the Peace Corps?

The starting bid is only $20,000.

What the catalog copy doesn’t mention are the fact Kennedy’s pens are Esterbrook dip writers, and that Johnson’s pens appear to be mostly Parker 45s with his signature imprinted on them. Both seem curiously economical choices.

The Esterbrook nib Kennedy used on the majority of these pens was the 2668. That is the firm-medium steel nib.

In the meantime, here’s the link to this auction.

Buy Museum-Quality Pens

Sleek black elegance is breath-taking in this seemingly new old stock Parker 17.

Sleek black elegance is breath-taking in this seemingly new old stock Parker 17.

In the past month or so, ThePenMarket.com has added many museum quality and/or new old stock pens to its vintage pens pages. These pens are not necessarily the go-to pens all collector’s feel as if they must have, but they are great pens at good prices that will round out any collection perfectly.

For example, there is an English-made Parker 17 that appears never to have been used. Its original aerometric filler is pristine.

Possibly used, you would be hard pressed to tell it with this near mint condition Esterbrook LJ series pen.

Possibly used, you would be hard pressed to tell it with this near mint condition Esterbrook LJ series pen.

We resaced a beautiful copper-colored Esterbrook LJ-1551, that was likely used, but it is in such good shape with so little wear, it will be a beautiful a display piece.

And then we come to our impecable Sheaffer Imperials. These cartridge-only fillers are beautiful pens, many in near mint condition. They will look great in a case, and they still work with modern Sheaffer ink cartridges. How do you not love those classic 14k gold inlaid nibs.

Often overlooked, what's wrong with the Sheaffer Imperial? It is a handsome modern design that is light weight and easy to use with that remarkable 14k inlaid gold nib.

Often overlooked, what’s wrong with the Sheaffer Imperial? It is a handsome modern design that is light weight and easy to use with that remarkable 14k inlaid gold nib.