BY DON FLUCKINGER • Years ago, when I first got into pen collecting, when the Fountain Pen Hospital catalog came, it was sort of a holiday in my house. I’d drop what I was doing for most of the rest of the day, flip through the pages, and start memorizing makes, models, page numbers, and of course, prices.
Then I’d start saving my pennies. And fantasizing about which ones I wanted but could never afford. At one point, I even ordered a Montblanc Proust on my credit card, fondled it for a couple months, and set it free on eBay after the novelty wore off.
|After several years of vintage militancy, I’ve warmed a little to modern pens again. Here are the best that caught my eye in this year’s FPH catalog.|
Now, when the annual catalog comes, it’s not like that. While it’s still an interesting read, it doesn’t quite inspire the awe and ritualistic behavior, at least any more so than a solid half hour of browsing the vintage pens on eBay.
Still, after several years of vintage militancy, I’ve warmed a little to modern pens again. For anyone who’s interested, here are the best that caught my eye in this year’s FPH catalog:
Omas Paragons. This design came straight out of the 1930s. The 12-sided piston filler remains a classic in fountain pen history.
|Omas Paragon. Photo courtesy of Fountain Pen Hospital. Used with permission.|
Montegrappa Privilege. These solid-silver and -gold pens retain the octagonal shape and Greek Key motif that Montegrappa has manufactured on and off since 1915 (take that, Duofold enthusiasts!), and although the company monkeys with the trim annually and replaced the original filling system with a cartridge (boo!), this pen is built to write. A little heavier than your garden variety Wahl metal pen from the 1920s, the Montegrappas of this ilk can only be described as classics.
|Montegrappa Privilege. Photo courtesy of Fountain Pen Hospital. Used with permission.|
Yard-O-Leds. The designs go back further than the Montegrappas, and these unapologetically plain silver pens serve as a reminder of a time when people didn’t need no stinking serial-numbering of their pens. Elegant, understated style meets reliable function. Plus, they can be used as darts at the local pub.
|Yard-O-Led Viceroy Grand. Photo courtesy of Fountain Pen Hospital. Used with permission.|
Waterman Charleston. Hey now, in scanning the pages something that looks like one of my favorite vintage pens — the Wearever Deluxe 100 ivory — jumps out at me. Turns out it’s the Waterman Charleston, which resembles the original 1930s Waterman pens that the Wearevers knocked off. Sweet looking pen! The 18K nib is a little departure from the vintage 14K, but compared to some of the other masterpieces of modern design in this catalog, that’s a tiny quibble.
|Waterman Charleston. Photo courtesy of Fountain Pen Hospital. Used with permission.|
The entire Pelikan Souverän line. These classics not only have the gold nibs and remarkably similar lines of their vintage brethren, but they’ve kept their piston-filling pedigree. You can’t go wrong.
|Pelikan M800 Souverän. Photo courtesy of Fountain Pen Hospital. Used with permission.|
Conklin Twain, Ohio, and Word Gauge. I grew up 50 miles west of Toledo, Conklin’s home. These pens show a strong attempt to recapture the legacy of the original, and I give them an “E” for “effort.”
|Conklin Twain Crescent. Photo courtesy of Fountain Pen Hospital. Used with permission.|
Conway Stewart 100s. I almost left these off the list, because of the wide gulf between the cost of the original, adjusted to 2004 dollars, and their modern reincarnations. But heck, they’ve got the beloved profile and the clip of the original down cold. And I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that the plating on the new ones will stand up to use better than the originals.
|Conway Stewart 100. Photo courtesy of Fountain Pen Hospital. Used with permission.|
I’ll get email, complaining that I left out some current Sheaffer pens or Parker pens that may even bear the same model names as their vintage counterparts. That’s a columnist’s decision as to which are the best and which are not.
One pen that didn’t make the FPH catalog, but can be found at several retailers, including this site, Penspiration, and Wood ’N Dreams among others: Filcao’s Columbia, The Gem of the Ocean. Call me a homer or a shill because Richard designed this pen, but he thinks like me and tipped his cap to vintage Parker and Wahl styling when Filcao approached him with a blank slate and said “You design the pen, we’ll figure out how to make it.” It’s got dignity, grace, functional style, and isn’t a flashy piece of costume jewelry that happens to hold ink. Like, uh, the pens that were made back when everyone wrote with one. And it’s a button filler, to boot, so just put away those newfangled cartridge/converter thingies.
Best of all, you can buy 15 Columbias for the price of many limited-edition pens — one for each of your grandchildren, or cousins, or aunts and uncles you want to suck into the pen hobby. Just a thought.
Further Reading: Pen & Ink Techniques, by Frank J. Lohan
Have an artist’s bent and tired of writing just your name and the grocery list with your great fountain pens? Try your hand at drawing — here’s the guide you need.
|Freelance writer Don Fluckinger lives in Nashua, New Hampshire, and is the son-in-law of Richard Binder. His articles have been published in Antiques Roadshow Insider, The Boston Globe, and on the Biddersedge.com collectibles Web site. Please note: Any opinions stated in this column are Don’s alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Richard Binder or this Web site.|