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January 2009: It’s a Buyer’s Market

Extra Fine Points Index  ]

BY DON FLUCKINGER • The Christmas gift-buying season was a throbbing retail hangover following a whole decade of overspending. As a pocket watch and wristwatch aficionado (I know, for a lot of us pen collectors, there’s a watch co-compulsion) I discovered The Watchery.

In times like these, the fountain pen hobby’s conviviality is a precious asset, too. While market forces can take away our investment income, they can’t take away our dignity and class. Extra Fine Points

Citizen Eco-Drive watchFrom that site, I acquired the Citizen Eco-Drive solar watch I had craved for years but couldn’t afford. The darn thing’s pretty inexpensive today at the site, compared to anywhere else I could buy it here in town — but the site had an even deeper discount during its version of the web-wide “Cyber Monday” sales that traditionally follow “Black Friday” brick-and-mortar Christmas blowouts. Free shipping, too.

Purchasing the watch at such a low price felt almost like stealing. Buying luxuries like fountain pens and watches right now is a bittersweet experience: While you can look around and find the some of the sickest bargains in memory, it’s also kind of distasteful knowing that that someone, somewhere’s going to eat those markdowns — and that many people have paid for them with their jobs.

That being said, now the excitement begins if you’re a pen collector and have a little disposable income earmarked for a modern or vintage pen splurge. Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who indeed got a holiday bonus. Maybe you’re one of the smart people who put their investment cash into gold like all the AM radio late-night hucksters have been barking on about for years. Maybe you’ve just been randomly socking twenties away under your mattress for a few years, waiting for a good pen bargain.

However you got your spending cash, it’s time to act. It’s January, and if the sales were incredible during the holidays, just you wait: The winter is going to be a difficult one for many of our friends and acquaintances in the pen business. For buyers, the time has arrived to smoke ‘em if you got ‘em and burn your pen fund.

Spend smart; don’t just click “OK” on the first e-tailer site in a mad rush of excitement. Stretch that hard-earned cash as far as you can. Here are some strategies for seeking pen bargains, some of them old favorites with new spins for the down economy:

And of course, the 2009 season for pen shows will be amazing for buyers. If you’ve got cash in hand, work the floor, get a grasp of what treats the entire room holds for you, and then get to making offers.

If you’re in a position to buy at a pen show, never forget: Be respectful and of good cheer to your fellow collector-dealers on the other side of the table. The economy’s rough on a lot of people in one way or another, whether the 401K’s been devalued or they’ve lost a job — or both. In times like these, the fountain pen hobby’s conviviality is a precious asset, too. While market forces can take away our investment income, they can’t take away our dignity and class.

cover Further Reading: Living Well in a Down Economy For Dummies, by Tracy Barr
The “Dummies” book series is long in the tooth, and those yellow covers have grown beyond trite, almost 20 years after they debuted at booksellers. But every once in a while, a new title features germane topic tackled by a down-to-earth author, especially those in the personal-finance arena. Last fall, they came out with this book boasting an unexciting title but packed with 125 tips the average person might not consider when trying to figure out how to make it through the latest financial setback the world throws at him.

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 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. Don Fluckinger
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