FOUNTAIN PENS ARE FUN AND FEEL GOOD IN YOUR HAND
Desk set; Parker Duofold Senior; box contains black glass and plastic stand; 1926; $287. Photo courtesy of David Rago
An insurance salesman finally persuades his client to sign on the dotted line. As he hands the prospect a fountain pen, ink gushes out all over the papers.
By the time the salesman gets a new policy ready, the prospect has signed with somebody else. It’s an age-old dilemma with one exception.
This dilemma inspired the bewildered salesman to invent a fountain pen that wouldn’t flood and birthed a brand new industry.
That’s how it all started for Louis Waterman. He developed the first practical fountain pen in the 1880s, a pen that carried its own ink supply.
Interestingly enough, pen collecting has grown dramatically in the last few years.
Pens have traveled a long road from the sharp sticks, goose quills and berry juice the scribes of Egyptian kings used over 4000-years ago.
With the coming of the computer age, handwriting is fast becoming an art form and fountain pens figure in.
Maybe it’s a walk down memory lane? Maybe it’s the history, or a particular design that stands the test of time? Whatever the reason, people love old fountain pens.
They’re fun and they feel good in your hand. The good thing is they can be found almost anywhere from yard sales to old purses.
Actor-comedian Bill Cosby, also a pen collector, calls writing by hand the “the best way to revolt against the anonymity of cyberspace.”
I suspect he’s right. There’s something cozy and true-to-life about holding a hand-written letter in your hand. Shades of inflection and personality are right there, something computer keys can’t quite grasp.
What about the ins-and outs of pen collecting?
Pens with Waterman’s name on them are obviously collectible. Also, his later competitors like The Parker Pen Co., The Conklin Pen Co., W. A. Sheaffer Pen Co., and Mont Blanc of Germany, etc., are also desirable.
Mark Twain preferred The Conklin pen, calling it a “profanity saver” because it resisted rolling off his desk.
Mont Blanc produced fountain pens made of gold, silver and platinum, which can radically impact value. But if I had to choose just two factors affecting value, it would be condition and rarity.
Here are a few points to use in judging condition. Does the pen have its original point? Clip missing? Ink feed intact? Cap cracked? Filler discolored by leaking ink?
Finding a fountain pen in its original box with the original price label on it can increase the value by 50 per cent or more.
Turn-of-the-century pens are hard to find. Some of the popular pens to collect today were made in the ‘20s and ‘30s. Working condition is important because many collectors like to use their pens.
On June 9, David Rago in Lambertville, N.J., offered a selection of vintage fountain pens in his estate auction. Here are some current values.
Pens, 2, Carter’s; red-and-black mottled plastic; lever-fill with gold-fill trim; and white Pearltex lever-fill with gold-fill trim; circa 1930s; $46.
Pens, 2, Sheaffer Lifetime standard fountain pens; black and cream pearl plastic with gold-filled trim and red-and-pearl striped plastic; circa 1935; $57.
Pens; Waterman’s, 2, one black and one green; monogram on top; mid-20th century; $57.
Pens, 2, Parker Vacumatics; Golden Web with gold-filled arrow clip and blue-black Maxima with blue diamond clip; circa 1930s; $230.
Desk set; Parker; box contains black glass and plastic stand and rare Parker Duofold Senior fountain pen; jade green; marked on clip; circa 1926; $287.
Pens, 3, Parker Lucky Curve Duofolds, red with gold-filled trim; circa 1926-28; $287.
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