Tag Archives: #vintagepens

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.)

Dallas Pen Show Here We Come…I Hope

We’ve got four boxes and a whole lot more filled with vintage and preowned modern luxury pens to tempt you with at this weekend’s Dallas Pen Show!

Do you think I have enough pens for the Dallas Pen Show? We’ve got a tower of swag to bring to our southernmost pen show. A new cache of Omas, Parker, Namiki/Pilot, vintage pens and factory-fresh Lamy pens.

There’s only one snag. The car won’t start! We are headed to the shop the first thing in the A.M. to hopefully get this show on the road. The hotels and the tables are already paid for. We just gotta get the ol’ jalopy firing on all 4 cylinders. Last week she required $1,200 in repairs. We hope this week is easier going.

In the meantime, if you live anywhere near Dallas, be sure to check out this huge show on Friday and Saturday. There will be two rooms filled to the rafters with pens and some of the friendliest folks you’ve ever met.

We’re keeping our shoelaces crossed (it’s too difficult to type with crossed fingers) that we’ll see you in a couple days!

2018 DC Pen Show Proves a Success

To be honest, a lot of us had our doubts about the 2018 DC Pen Show. Last year’s show was a near train wreck at the start. So, we waited with baited breath to see if it was a harbinger for a disaster for this year’s show. It was NOT.

Here’s ThePenMarket.com table in action at the 2018 DC Pen Show. Check out our killer location on the wall by the side doors to the ballroom!

The 2018 DC Pen Show was a fun, well-oiled machine! Well organized and well advertised, this year’s show dazzled. Members of the pen community, old and new, hobnobbed and shared in 4 full days of inky geek love.

But, I’m getting head of myself.

The drive was actually uneventful for a change. No blowouts, thunderstorms or tornados. It was really challenging driving in dry, sunny conditions.

As no show would be complete without a battlefield visit, I returned to Manassas/Bull Run for the first time in more than 30 years. It seemed much bigger when I was a kid. While the first land battle of the Civil War did range over several miles, the park focused on the epicenter of the battle. The gently hilly terrain really played a significant part of the battle…as did inconsistently colored uniforms. I remember marveling up at the big bronze statue of Gen. Stonewall Jackson as a kid. It really commands the view of the battlefield, but as an adult the statue looked comical, as Jackson’s biceps are seemingly 3 times larger than his head. Not even Superman is that out of proportion.

Overlooked is the battle of 2nd Manassas, which took place a little more than a year after the first. Just down the road from the original battle site, the second battle was another victory for Jackson and the South, setting up the battle of Antietam a short while later. A little more isolated that first Manassas, the battlefield seems better preserved and very soothing to visit on a sunny afternoon with all of the cicadas and grasshoppers warming up for the evening, as tall grasses and wildflowers sway in the breeze. Hallowed ground for certain.

I love these chandeliers hanging in the ballrooms of the hotel at the DC Pen Show. It has a certain jellyfish quality to it.

The pen show was great. My friends and I arrived to be among the first to set up Thursday morning on the free-for-all no table assignments day. As the day sped by, more vendors set up temporary shop and weekend pass holders got first crack at some phenomenal pens. This is the day to be there for vintage pen fans. About 2 hours before tear down, it was like a huge family reunion, as I met with and talked to friends from all over the U.S., Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic and Russia. It is quite possible I left out a few countries, but it is unintentional.

Friday got an early jump. My fellow vendors started arriving around 8:30 in the morning, AND we already had table assignments waiting for us. It was great to set up before the crowds rushed us. But, rush us, they did. I got so busy setting up and helping early customers that I totally forgot to move my car from under the portico to a real parking space! Thank goodness the hotel didn’t have my car towed! My roommates and friends gave me well-deserved hell for it for the rest of the weekend.

Saturday was a blur, but, at one point, I got to host my first repair seminar with pen tool genius Dale Bebe. We had an hour to explain the fundamentals of restoring a lever-filler pen and what tools to achieve our goals.

How busy does the DC show get? This is how full it was before it officially opened for the day!

As I did that my friend Neal S. watched my table with stunning success, really helping me while I was away. That night, I made my annual pilgrimage to the Black Pen Society meeting. Yay, scotch and cigars.

Sunday was a busy morning, and then–just like that–it was all over. It was time to say farewell and pack up all my troubles in my old kit bag.

Monday, I finally got to play tourist in our nation’s capitol. I took my first Metro ride downtown to the National Mall. (The Metro is way cleaner than the El in Chicago…smoother riding, too.) My destination was a 30-year bucket-list museum: The Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.

Howard Hughes broke both speed and distance records with this graceful, slick art deco wonder with wings.

FIRST, it looks nothing like “A Night at the Museum” with Ben Stiller and Amy Adams. I was very disappointed about that…and no Amy Adams-portrayed Amelia Earhart flirting with me. Once I got over that, I enjoyed the surprisingly small museum. Impressive were the original Wright Flyer, Glamorous Glennis (the first plane to break the sound barrier), authentic V-1 and V-2 rockets and missiles from WWII and myriad other aircraft. Yet, what really spun my prop was Howard Hughes’ HB-1 plane circa 1935 that broke all of the then-known speed records. A precursor of the Bee-Gee, this plane was as fast and sleek looking as any plane on display! I loved it and a 1930s plane that was the first to fly across all of Antarctica.

To my greater surprise, my favorite exhibit looked at the history of navigation! I actually learned how to use a sextant and a chronometer to find my global position using stars at night! Now I kinda wanna roam around the country with a sextant and calculating my position on earth. The display moved through the years, also discussing how early pilots had to use the sun and a modernized sextant to navigate before radio beams could be used and then, ultimately, satellites.

Another great trip in the books.

Ink Fast Test #5: Diamine & ColorVerse

I went a little ink crazy at Vanness Pens during the Little Rock Pen Show, back in April. Afterall, they only have the world’s largest selection of ink…and they were kind enough to ply just about all of the vendors and weekend pass holders with free food (including chocolate-covered bacon) and beer. As such, I dove further down the Diamine rabbit hole…and then I won a free bottle of ColorVerse Kepler’s Laws ink in a raffle!

These are before and after samples of Diamine and ColorVerse inks left in the sun for 3 months.

Now it is time to share my experiences with the inks. My all-time favorite blue ink is the old Waterman’s Florida Blue, so I had to try some of Diamine’s Florida Blue. Diamine Florida Blue is a very pale blue that is just a little too deep to be turquoise. I still prefer the much darker Waterman version. I put a test sample in a sunny window, and the UV rays completely erased the Diamine Florida Blue test sample! Definitely not archival quality ink, although it is attractive for artistic writing uses.

Diamine Mediterranean Blue ink is gorgeous when used in a really wet pen. The photo proof sample isn’t as generous of its deeper hues of blue. It could be my replacement for Waterman’s discontinued ink…except it too was completely erased by the sun!

My favorite ink find of the past year or two was Diamine’s Ancient Copper. When I saw the Diamine Autumn Oak at the shop, it looks about a shade lighter in a rich orangy brown. It is a beautiful ink when fresh. Annnnd, luckily it holds up a little better than Diamine blues in 3 months of sunlight.

Of the four inks, ColorVerse’s Kepler’s Laws held up best to the sun. It is a rich red color with purple hues and a little shimmer when fresh. (I don’t see the shimmer, but all of my pen pals insist that they see it.) It writes better than I thought it would. I was really worried it would clog up my pen, but I didn’t have that experience in a Delta Fusion A2 I have with a stub nib. After 3 months in the sun, the more vibrant red aspects vanished, but a slightly watery merlot color remained strong.

And for those who are curious about the black header ink, it is the already tested and proven Aurora black. A bad-ass ink that never quits.

One Crazy Summer!

Since last writing, I’ve been to the inaugural St. Louis Pen Show, moved secret underground workshop lairs and hosted visits by many members of my college fencing team!

The first St. Louis Pen Show was a monster success and a ton of fun.

First to the exciting and wonderful new St. Louis Pen Show. More organized than several already established pen shows, Anne and her crew have spent 2 years advertising and promoting this incredible show. Many of us vendors were worried no one would attend, aside from vendors. But no! A city’s worth of people who had never previously attended a pen show filled the venue for 3 days!

The trip down was uneventful…until we almost got run off the road by a tornado! About 2 miles from the venue, a huge cell of storm clouds began blowing across the interstate. Wind was howling debris across the highway, even bowing flag poles. A native-born Midwesterner, I didn’t worry until the clouds turned green and sirens started going off. Talk about bad times to be stuck in rush hour traffic.

Luckily, I only got rained on. No funnel cloud formed near me to whisk me away to Oz.

Many of the vendors were regulars on the show circuit, and we were all excited to catch up and discuss the past month or two since we’d last met. During the days of the show, nearly everyone who came to my table gushed about attending their first show. And most of the folks were 40 and younger! Heck. We even had a lot of kids collecting their first fountain pens. It was super encouraging to see.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t all fun and games. After a very nice auction on Friday, one of our longtime friends passed away. John F. and his wife were among the first to welcome me into the pen show scene after a particularly bruising first or second Chicago Pen Show for me about a decade ago. John was a retired newspaper editor, and I was freshly out of newspaper work in an era that has seen the decimation of newspapers across the country. We commiserated and bonded over our journalistic past. We’ve talked at nearly every pen show since. This night was no different, as he recounted his recovery from a rather severe stroke a few months earlier. Little did either of us realize our conversation just before the auction would be our last. All of the vendors were upset to hear of his passing just as the show opened for Saturday.

Among the things this show got so right was the ceaseless promotion that included heavy media promotion to reach out to new showgoers. Plus, they had cell phone aps to help people navigate the show! AND, they had a break room for the vendors that was loaded with soda, sandwiches and snacks! Like other shows they had table watchers, a great bar scene for after-hours meetings and catching up, loads of free parking and a very nice hotel.

If you didn’t go this year, be sure to attend in 2019.

Here’s a quick peek at our new workshop as it comes together for many more great vintage pen repairs.

Soooo, in other news, we’ve moved! Well, we still have the same P.O. Box and Website, but the secret underground workshop is now much larger and better suited to fix all of your favorite vintage pens. We’re not 100% unpacked but close, as you can see from this top secret photo.

This will be a temporary home, hopefully, for only a year or two. Because after this, we want to buy our forever, permanent home.

Good Lord. I hate moving! I hate it! I hate it! I hate it! It is stressful as all get out, moving a small business and home at once. Luckily, the new place is much nicer and all of the business items have been unpacked and accounted for. Sorry for the lack of updates for so long.

And while all that transpired, I had three lovely visits from Blue-Hair Cathy, Chewbacca and The Chihuahua. All teammates from my college fencing team…an unspecified number of years ago. All arrived separately on different days. Two from Montana and one from Antarctica! It was great to catch up on all of our current lives, while reminiscing about all of the people we impaled together.

And now we resume your regularly scheduled vintage pen and pre-owned luxury pen mania.

Atlanta Bound w/ 100s of New Pens

We’ve been busy since our first pen show of 2018. We now have more than 100 pens not presently available online that we will be debuting at the 2018 Atlanta Pen Show.

Here is just one box of goodies that we’ll be bringing to the 2018 Atlanta Pen Show. It is full of fun items you can’t find on our site!

It will be an exciting trip, with many friends that we hope to meet, again, and side trips to the battle of Chickamauga and the Georgia Aquarium.

Yet, in the meantime we’ll tease you with just some of the brands on our table you will only be able to see at the show: S.T. Dupont, Conklin, Faber Castell, Elysee, Jaguar, Delta and Conway Stewart!

We also will have the new Lamy AL-Star vibrant pink pens and ink!

Meanwhile, you can keep ordering pens from our site. Orders will ship out as soon we return from the show. Hope to see you there, though!

Ink Blotters for a Hat Collector

Vintage ink blotter advertising is awesome when you include guys in hats and a 1920s roadster.

The perfect ad for a vintage addict like me. Hats, blotter and a great red roadster! Who wouldn’t want to hitch a ride inside that ad?

The brick-and-mortar closing of my favorite hat shop (Hats Plus) in Chicago saddens me, as I cannot count the number of hours I’ve spent there trying on hats and envisioning my latest vintage looks. I probably started obsessing over hats at about the same time I began obsessing over fountain pens. Baseball caps, flat caps and Civil War souvenir hats are staples in photos of my childhood. I finally found some fedoras to wear around the time I was 13. It was all downhill from there.

While they will carry on in the webosphere, I shall miss my friends at Hats Plus in the flesh.

Thanks to my friend Len P. here in Chicago, I’ve been able to crossover my love of pens with hats. While divesting his blotter collection this past summer, he gave me some of his great hat advertising blotters.

In honor of Hats Plus, I’m sharing some of my favorites from the hat blotter collection. I hope you enjoy them as well as Len and I do.

 

 

 

 

Even a World War couldn’t stop the progress of hatters. I’d kinda kill get get my hands on the blue or “mallard” fedoras. Good ol’ Victory Felts by Swann Hats.

Women look just as good as men in this alluringly fashionable advertising ink blotters from what looks like the 1910s and ’20s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stetson was known both for its cowboy and western hats as well as its urban fedoras. Gotta love those silent film star cowboy fashions.

Here’s a snazzy look at Stetson’s mens’ hats from the 1930s! The times back then sucked, but people sure looked good…if they could afford it.

 

 

 

How Do I Start Collecting Pens? Vintage vs. Modern

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

MODERN PENS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VINTAGE PENS

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

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

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

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

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

PRICING

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

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

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

 

BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS

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