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My Pen Collection

from the fountain pen of Kurt Hammerbeck

My Pen collection started as most did with an Esterbrook. I remember picking it up silver and black, thinking five dollars is a lot for a pen but it sure is neat. Took home and put it nib down in a glass of water and found that it still worked, which was great. I then went on a search for ink in a bottle. The only place I found it was an art supply store and only Quink blue-black. So I bought that bottle for a little under three dollars with tax and began writing letters with that fountain pen. Occasionally I visited flea markets and saw some pens but never as nice or for such a good price. If I had only known that the Parker 51 sets in Cordovan, inner and outer box mint was a steal for thirty five dollars or that Doric was a pen to keep. I did find another nib for the Esterbrook and the address of the company in a box (didn't know they had stopped producing) thought I might write and see what other pens they made. My next pen pivotal point was when I got stuck in Washington for a week while my wife went to a conference. You can only see so many museums before burnout occurs so I looked in the phone book and found a pen store near the White House. After some walking around the mall there I found and actually entered my first pen store. It probably would have been my last. I must have not had the right pen buyer look since the sales people ignored me with such skill I left there not even buying ink. I later would seek out pen stores when traveling to be able to see and compare pens to make a purchase and pick up supplies.

Too much school and too much work pushed the pen to the back of the drawer and I didn't pick it up for years. Then my father in law passed, I was given a Parker 51 box full of old pens that were his. I asked if there were any letters that he wrote but was told they had been thrown away in a flurry of cleaning when the cellar flooded several years before. The box contained: two carmine Balance pencils, an Eversharp liquid lead pen but no Parker 51(it's still missing) and a fountain pen. This carmine Sheaffer Balance had an ambered inkview window and a fine nib but no apparent surface damage. Just a cracking noise when you moved the lever, which finally stuck straight out from the pen. Thought it might be repaired so I went to the net to find a repairer. After finding several e-tailers and several lists I got up the nerve to post for recommendations on vintage Sheaffer repair. Well I sent the pen to the man with the most positive reviews and within a month I had the pen back polished and working wonderfully. Seeing that vintage pens write wonderfully I started two lists, a vintage must have and modern must have. Both of these lists were colored heavily by what the different Internet pen lists were talking about. My third pen purchase (for those keeping count) was a black Canadian Parker Vacumatic with one of those mythic fine/medium 'flex' nibs. A green snorkel was purchased shortly after followed by a little black Osmia with an honest-to-God flexible nib it was wonderful to write with.

Looking around I found so much more, saw pens that were still being produced that became objects of desire, I wanted more pens. Going to a wedding in Miami I had to travel north to Del Ray Beach and stop at Levengers. Where I picked up an OMAS Jerusalem resin pen from their outlet, which when I tried writing with it the nib and feed came out. So once again to the Internet to find the manufacturer representative in the US and have it repaired.

I have been unlucky enough to live in places where fountain pens are not sold so the Internet has become my major source. This means I gather a lot of recommendations from other people ask a lot of questions to Internet sellers and finally make up my mind. I picked up a Pelikan M800 and an OMAS Paragon. These were my first ventures into international trade and that found me in a grocery store trying to figure out the proper forms for international money orders with a manager and two stock boys. But I did figure it out and got that OMAS. I started searching Penbid and eBay for pens on my list, trying to complete my 'set' within my budget. Which put me in my first pen-selling situation. This failed horribly, three pens on eBay with not a single reserve met. But I tried again, reduced some reserves and was able to get enough money together to buy an Italian pen, a Stipula I Castoni which I never used and sold soon after. One of the unfortunate pens that sounded good through all of my sources but did nothing for me in person.

A special pen I purchased when I found out my wife was pregnant was a Krone Metaphor in Pimento, I bought it to sign the birth certificate of my daughter. It turned out that I had to sign the paperwork with a Bic Stik. But all of the birth announcements were addressed and filled out with that pen and half a bottle of Delta Julius Caesar brown ink. I will give it to her on her 21st birthday with a bottle of brown ink and the story of the pen.

My collection swelled to almost two dozen pens, not many to some and far too many to others, I kept three pens filled most of the time usually; one with green ink, one with brown ink and one with blue or blue-black. The brands changed but those three colors are what I write mostly with. Parker seems to be my color blue but Lake Placid by Private Reserve and Montegrappa's blue have also shown up in the rotation. Herbin Olive green was my mainstay until Private Reserve's green arrived. Although right now I am using OMAS green with some Sepia mixed in to give a dark readable green. My brown has always been OMAS Trintiana with a hit of Delta brown. The sepia has its moments but I always seem to come back to my ink mix.

Along with the pen collection I have also collected wax seals and used them regularly when writing to my friends. I have about 30 in different sizes and shapes mostly with an 'H' but also several with symbols. My regular correspondence use of the seals stopped when I found out that at best a red or blue stain was all that made it through the postal system. Now I use the seals more for packages or on letters that are inside another envelope.

I have kept in touch with three friends from college through the mail. Sometimes the time between correspondence is long but it is still ongoing. And it is exceptionally nice to get a personal letter hand addressed in the pile of catalogs and offers that fill our mailbox. My paper preference has shifted from whatever will work with a fountain pen to three specific papers. The first paper I use is Crane Newport Blue half sheets. They stopped making this paper about 6 years ago but I bought the inventory of the stationary store nearby when they said they couldn't get anymore. Crane has come out with a new blue paper that just isn't as dark. So I ration this paper realizing when it is gone I might not find a replacement. My second paper is Amalfi, this is the paper I use for special occasions. It really is like no other paper I have tried, there was some zodiac paper from Il Paperio that came close but it still didn't have that feeling of writing on cloth or real vellum. The third type is G. Lalo Verge De France great paper and a good price, I use it for general correspondence. I am always looking for another paper to add to my list but as for right now those are the three.

At the beginning of October I lost my job victim of the cyclical nature of the industry and maybe some other September events. So I found myself without income, couldn't really sell the house but there were pens I had collected that I didn't use these I could sell. These were the pens that shined brightly when I purchased them and had then sat on a shelf never really getting into the rotation. I sold most of my pens with no profit to show and now my collection is devoid of any frill, There are six pens now; the three pens I can never sell (the Krone, the Sheaffer Balance and a Waterman) and three other users.

Now I work trying to find work but knowing that all the while there are two lists of pens that become longer day by day. I collect names of pens rather than the pens themselves, learning everything about a model so that when I can again justify spending money on pens I know which ones I'll buy.

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