26.0 Are fountain pens a good investment?
In short: no. Fountain pens are meant to be used, not to sit on a shelf somewhere,
bereft of ink. Although the value of certain brands or models of fountain pens
may increase over time, fountain pens generally don't become worth their weight
in gold. In fact, some fountain pens may decrease in value over time, although
this happens rarely.
Those pens which increase significantly in value do so for a few limited reasons:
- They have a value due to their "jewelry" content, e.g. gold, silver,
- They have "historical" value, e.g. they are examples of the earliest
pens made, such as "first edition" Watermans, etc.;
- They are the few remaining examples of a notable company model.
Some may think that a 30 year old Parker or Sheaffer might have some significant
value. In fact, some vintage pens that are 60 years old, but have been reconditioned,
write far better than new pens! For instance, examples of Sheaffer Snorkel or
Parker Vacumatic pens in very good condition sometimes sell for less than $100.
There are those that cost far more, but a standard plastic barrel snorkel in completely
usable condition can be had for as little as $15-$20.
Yes, that Snorkel sold for, say, $2 when it was new. But that was how many
years ago? And how much inflation has occurred since then? What is that $2 worth
in today's dollars?
26.1 What about limited edition pens?
Same thing goes for limited editions. For instance, the Montblanc Edgar Allen
Poe Limited Edition is "limited" to 17000 pens worldwide. This is a
definition of "limited" that, frankly, I'm not familiar with. On the
other hand, Omas issued the Israel 50 as a limited edition of 1948 pens (combined
ball, roller, and fountain) worldwide. And Michel Perchin issues limited editions
of 25 pens.
For that matter, I know someone who has the entire collection of Montblanc
special editions made in the last 20 years. They're in a safe, in their original
packaging, still mint. He never even dipped them - he just bought them. I hate
to tell him that finding someone to buy those pens as a single collection will
be harder than finding water on the moon (it exists, but is very hard to find).
Of course, the fewer pens available, the more they cost. For instance, the
Israel 50 lists at $1200 for a pen that is basically a sterling silver filigree
over their vegetal resin. The pen may eventually be worth more than $1200, but
the value of the pen will probably still be the same. Michel Perchin pens cost
far more. Some "collectible" pens cost multiple thousands of dollars.
Frankly, a pen that costs thousands of dollars is a piece of jewelry. A good,
serviceable pen can be had for "cheap money", and those are actually
more fun to use. After all, who wants to lose something worth thousands of dollars
simply because they put it down on a desk somewhere and forgot about it? Yes,
I was heartbroken when I misplaced my Parker 51, but there are plenty of ëem
out there, and I found a replacement relatively quickly.
If you want jewelry, buy jewelry. If you want a pen, buy a pen. A pen with
too much jewelry is a piece of jewelry that writes, but which may not appreciate
in value like that piece of jewelry over there. The one that doesn't write, but
has precious gems in it. The one that the salesman convinced you would be worth
a mint in a few years. Yeah... I should be so lucky!