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September 2012: Of Pacemakers and Moleskines

Extra Fine Points Index  ]

BY DON FLUCKINGER • Hey, there’s a couple of actual news stories (sort of) from the world of vintage fountain pens upon which to remark this month!

How painstaking is this artwork? $4,400 worth of pain, apparently, because that’s the retail price of this pen. Extra Fine Points

First off, there’s the new Pelikan Sunlight pen that will be on sale late this fall in the M1000 size. Forgive me if I didn’t notice the M800 versions of “Kyokko” and “Gekko” (Sunlight and Moonlight) that came out seven years ago; the production run of the M1000 Sunlight will be limited to 300 pens.

But check this beauty out:

Fountain pen

The stripes come through the painstaking Japanese craft of Raden, which involves flattening abalone shell into very thin sheets and arranging it into strips around the pen barrel. How painstaking is this artwork? $4,400 worth of pain, apparently, because that’s the retail price of this pen.

It’s a beautiful pen, no doubt, in part because of the handwork done to create it. It’s also smart on the part of Pelikan to arrange the stripes in a tried-and-true design that vintage pen collectors love. It’s remarkably reminiscent of the 1940s Parker striped Duofold, one of my all-time favorite vintage fountain pens.

Fountain pen

But those pens aren’t cheap, either, although you could buy a cigar box full of striped Duofolds for $4,400, that’s for sure. Another favorite pen of mine — which I’ve praised in this space many times over the years — is the Wearever Pacemaker, which could be acquired new in box for $30 before the price of gold went off to Pluto.

Fountain pen

It’s one of the few Wearevers equipped with a gold nib, and this button-filler, in my opinion, remains one of the true vintage pen bargains out there on the collector circuit. It’s also a great workhorse for the work briefcase, because it’s a tough pen, not too small, and if unforeseen trauma befalls it, well, you’re out a lot less cash money than if it happened to a mint striped Duofold. Or, heaven forfend, a Pelikan M1000 Sunlight.

Of Moleskines and iPads

Speaking of “everything old is new again,” check out the new marriage of Moleskine and Evernote to port handwriting to iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry devices. This is a new wrinkle on the Livescribe system, which requires the use of the proprietary Livescribe pen that employs a camera to record writing on specially dotted paper that enables digitizing of handwriting.

When I wrote about the Livescribe — a tool I use frequently in my journalism work, it’s an amazing efficiency tool for reporting on conference proceedings — several Extra Fine Points readers emailed me to express their displeasure about not being able use fountain pens on that Livescribe dot paper.

Well, vintage pen lovers, here’s your chance to digitize your fountain pen writing. Similar to the Livescribe, this Moleskine setup uses proprietary dot paper. It’s not cheap, like every product Moleskine issues. But unlike the Livescribe system, no on-pen camera’s needed; instead, the user takes photos of the page with his or her smartphone or tablet to digitize it into Evernote. Also, unlike the Livescribe — at least Evernote claims — the writing will appear as searchable text within Evernote. I challenge these technologists to make my chicken-scratching searchable.

I’m enamored of Livescribe, and I have issues with Moleskine: the quality of the paper, the price of the products, and the attitude of some non-fountain-pen-collectors I know who carry around their Moleskines. They almost wear it like hipster jewelry. A lot of pen collectors swear by Moleskines, and I’ve got no beef with them.

So go on and turn your handwritten journals into digital archives on your iPads and whatnot. This Evernote-Moleskine thing looks like a new advancement that allows vintage pen lovers to step into the 21st century and get more out of their favorite writing instruments. I think a lot of us have been waiting for something cool like this to come along.

Since the product was just announced a few days ago, they’re only taking pre-orders for October 1 shipments. If you jump on the early-adopter train and start using these things, drop me an email and let me know how it works, if it’s cool, pros and cons, etc.

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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