Building Your Antique Pen Collection
One avenue for pen collectors to try is to seek out lesser known names. Quality brands such as Wirt, Aikin Lambert, and John Holland have hardly been collected. Foreign brands, with the exception of Pelikan and Montblanc, have mostly been over looked. Begin building your collection by looking for quality construction, fine design, historical significance, and technical interest. It's an investment that will pay off financially and in personal enjoyment of your collection.
Most vintage pens and pencils are sold in as-is condition, so it is imperative, to closely inspect any potential pen purchase. Damage and defects seriously affect the value. A magnifier and a light are necessary equipment. Also, there is no standard grading system for vintage pens. Terms such as "good", "very good", and "excellent" can mean very different things to each seller. But as you gain experience you will see how each dealer grades and develop relationships with dealers whose grading you trust.
There are some common overall condition problems seen in antique pens including heat damage, cracks, iridium damage on the nib or point of the pen, improper restoration, poor construction, and crystallizing or crazing. Heat damage can be seen and felt. Use your magnifier to look for shrinkage of caps in celluloid pens and gaps in barrels around the lever. Pens can also bend. Hairline cracks can be seen especially along the rim edge and in the nib extending from the vent hole.
A scratchy writing pen is a sign that a flat spot has worn into the iridium on the nib which can be smoothed if enough iridium remains. To spot improper restoration look for parts that don't belong, for example, a gold plated item on a solid gold pen or nickel silver on a sterling silver pen. Signs of poor construction include gold wash plating instead of gold filled trim, sharp levers, clips stamped out of thin metal, and plated nibs. Some low quality pen makers are: Ambassador, Arnold, Avon, Champion, EPENCO, Fineline, Ingersoll, Iridium, Jefferson, Wearever, Waltham, and Stratford. Some high value brands are: Waterman, Montblanc, Pelikan, Parker, and Duofold. Crystallizing or crazing in celluloid pens can cause serious deterioration. A sign of crystallizing is a patch of transparency developing anyplace on the pen. Crystallizing is affecting some of the colorful marbleized pens produced by Eversharp and Waterman in the 1930s.
Fakes are not a huge problem, however, Parker 51's in wild colored plastics and Montblanc/Pelikan pens with a metal overlay have been seen. Also, watch out for prices that are higher than they should be. Pen shows are the preferred venue for collectors making purchases and there are some good online dealers - but be careful about buying vintage pens on websites. It 's hard to see defects in a specimen without handling it personally.
Online resources such as The Vintage Pen Website and Lion & Pen are invaluable. Both websites offer collectors a chance to research and learn by reading articles regarding buying and selling, valuing, displaying, and repairing their pens. Relevant periodicals such as "The PENnant", and books on collecting such as "Fountain Pens & Pencils: The Golden Age of Writing Instruments" are also helpful.
Create your antique pen collection, with confidence, by making careful selections and by learning about a pursuit that is both interesting and fulfilling.
This post was contributed via Seed.com, AOL's new platform for freelance writers.