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January 2010: Carrying Valuable Pens: The Floor’s Yours

Extra Fine Points Index  ]

BY DON FLUCKINGER • Last month, I wrote about my once-in-a-collector-lifetime find of an unusual-capped Parker “51”, and wondered aloud where everyone else draws the line on what collection pens they’ll take with them out into the world.

You responded!

“I have carried both of my Sheaffer Masterpieces as neither one came to me in mint condition. When it comes right down to it, I’m not very likely to buy a pen that I won’t carry. I like to use my pens!” —Bill Sexauer Extra Fine Points

I’ll step aside and yield the floor. First up is Barry Miller, who doesn’t consider himself a collector per se, but a fountain pen user:

“I may have figured out where I draw the line. My current favorite writer is a Filcao Columbia…it arrived in the mail the day my grandson was born. I decided that the pen will be my grandson’s one day. No one else in my family shares my fondness for fountain pens. Maybe it just skipped a generation. My grandson is three now, so the day the pen becomes his isn’t particularly close. But I’ve already started thinking about retiring the pen to a place of safekeeping so it doesn’t get lost or damaged. It really has nothing to do with the pen’s money value.”

Fountain pen

Fellow Targamaniac (although he’s a lot higher up on the hobby food chain, ha ha) Bill Sexauer uses rarity as his personal yardstick:

“Value isn’t really a consideration because I have a pretty good track record of not losing or damaging my pens by carrying them around. I’ve been known to go to work with three or four thousand dollars worth of pens in my pocket and not give it a second thought, those just happen to be the pens that are inked and that I want to use that day.

“Only if the pen is in the category of ‘this pen is one that needs to be preserved for the good of the pen collecting community’ do I hesitate to carry a pen. Even then, if it is not mint I may still carry it…I have carried both of my Sheaffer Masterpieces as neither one came to me in mint condition. When it comes right down to it, I’m not very likely to buy a pen that I won’t carry. I like to use my pens!”

Fountain pen

Self-declared newbie Richard Beaty splits the difference between “carrying” and “set aside for posterity”: “I have some pens by the big four, but nothing that would impress a serious collector. I enjoy finding them at antique stores and flea markets and making them functional again… I have carried every pen I have restored and plan on carrying and using the dozens that are stored on my bench waiting for restoration. However, there are two exceptions: an A. A. Waterman that’s still in its box and appears to have not been inked and an Eagle [glass-cartridge] pen that was patented in the 1890s; the granddaddy to the modern fountain pen… I guess that’s where I would draw the line: If a pen is too rare or fragile to risk transporting, it would stay home.”

Fountain pen

Carl Hoetzl is truly a man after my own heart: “If you don’t use a pen daily, sell it…I think you should only have two pens: one to use and one to have as a spare while the other one is being repaired. George Carlin was right, we have too much stuff.”

I also agree with Jon Rosen, however, who writes, “I do have some pens that I don’t take out of the house, my blue PFM IV in mint condition, as an example. I use it at home and so far, I there aren’t any that I wouldn’t use, although there are some that won’t make it into rotation….When I run errands, I usually bring an inexpensive pen. After all, the only thing I’m probably going to need a pen for when I go shopping is to sign a credit card receipt, if anything. When I go to business meetings, I usually bring something conservative, like a black Aurora 88 with silver trim or a PFM.”

Fountain pen
Fountain pen

His point has merit. I for one, won’t take gold-plated or nickel-plated pens too far from the house, because I drop things or have been known to accidentally put them in harm’s way rolling around in the bottom of a bag or other vulnerable spot. And Jon, thanks; your email gave me an idea for next month’s column. Stay tuned and have a happy holiday, all!

cover Further Reading: The Concise Guide to Sounding Smart at Parties: An Irreverent Compendium of Must-Know Info from Sputnik to Smallpox and Marie Curie to Mao, by David Matalon and Chris Woolsey
You’ve been to all the holiday parties, and you’re taking stock. WIsh you’d come up with a couple zingers that came to mind the next day? Wanted to dominate the Trivial Pursuit table? Make it your New Year’s resolution to improve on that with this unusual tome.

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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