Well, it has been one year since I started this hobby.
Actually, a little more than a year, but it is easier to count
from Jan 1, 2000.
First a little background. I have used modern pens off and
on for years, but decided around the end of 1999 to get serious
and buy a new pen. I decided to surf the web to find a deal,
when I typed "Fountain Pens" into YAHOO. To my great
astonishment, I found lists and lists of sites - some modern
and ... some vintage. Out of curiosity I clicked on a couple
of vintage sites. I can't recall what I might have hit first,
but I do recall that one of my first sites was the "Pens
101" site by Carla Frizzle . From there it was a
short set of clicks to the world of vintage pens.
I soon forgot the original purpose for my surfing and started
to look at vintage pens. It didn't take long before I realized
that this was a hobby that I would be interested in pursuing.
There was something beautiful about these instruments, and
I have come to a stage in my life
where I would like to have a collection of something of beauty
to pass on.
Given my impetuous nature, I immediately wanted to buy a
pen. Well, it happened that I was due to take a trip into
New York City. I decided on the basis of some of my web roamings,
that I would pay a pilgrimage to Berliner Pens, and then do
a stop over to Fountain Pen Hospital. I walked into Berliner's
and talked to Bernie Isaacowitz and told him I wanted some
advice and perhaps to buy a pen. To his great credit, he told
me he wouldn't sell me a pen but instead recommended that
I read as much as I could on the hobby. The same was told
to me at Fountain Pen Hospital. Soon I purchased "Fountain
Pens and Pencils" by George Fischler and Stuart Schneider
and began learning more about the hobby. I learned that some
pens could still be found in antique stores. Because there
were a couple of antique stores in my town, I stopped in.
My first purchase was a near mint Parker 51 from 1955. The
juices were starting to flow. Then, a few weeks later, I stopped
back in to the same antique store and came across an Onyx
Waterman Patrician!! I bought it for $100.00 and had Berliner
restore it. It is now quite valuable. I was completely hooked!
After that, I took the lessons learned and read as much as
I could, joined Pen Collectors of America, and went to the
2000 Philly Show. It was at that show that I finally became
a full time addict. I purchased a couple of pens (not all
were great purchases, but more on that later), and began to
meet wonderful people - particularly Sam Fiorella of Pendemonium
and Geoff Berliner. I then made a few more purchases over
the internet and made contacts with superb restorers - particularly
Hal Arnold, John Mottishaw, Joe Hamilton, Sherrell Tyre, and
Jerry Trafford. I have been to the 2000 DC Show and most recently
to the New Jersey Show.
It was at the most recent New Jersey Show that I learned
a valuable and transformative lesson. In my enthusiasm over
my "finds", I showed Berliner a couple of pens that
I almost walked out with and he pointed out terrible flaws.
For example, Geoff pointed out that I was about to leave with
a Mabie Todd Swan that had a hard rubber barrel and a plastic
cap!! (He showed me how to tell if the pen is hard rubber
v. plastic. Sometimes it's hard to tell). I also almost purchased
a Waterman # 7 with the wrong lever attached. Geoff also pointed
out, tactfully, who were the more reputable dealers. In a
rather long and personal
conversation while walking through the ballroom of pens, Geoff
basically told me that it was time to make a decision about
whether or not I wanted to get serious with this hobby. He
pointed out that I could spend my money on a lot of cheap,
or flawed vintage pens, or spend the same money on many fewer
but exceptional examples of vintage pens. To opt for the latter
would require approaching those I trust to obtain good advice
and to curb the overwhelming desire to buy without very careful
inspection and knowledge. Of course, I have opted for the
latter. A recent article in Pen World on Fred Gorstein and
his vintage Mont Blanc collection serves as an example of
what I would like to achieve. My interest is to collect the
best examples within my price range, of Vacumatics, Mabie
Todd Swan ETNs, Wahl-Eversharp Dorics and Equipoised, and
I'm still looking at some bad decisions in my pen case, but
they serve as a reminder of where I started. I hope to look
on my collection over time and see what I have learned by
heeding the wise advice friends.
So, what have I learned one year later?
First, I have learned that it is essential to read, read,
Second, I found it essential to locate dealers and restorers
whom I could trust.
Third, I will buy only those pens that I enjoy looking at
and would want to use.
Fourth, I will only buy the very best examples of what I like,
within my budget.
I will be heading to the Philly show next week. I hope to
very good purchase decisions. Wish me luck.
A peaceful and prosperous 2001.