Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

Columns

October 2, 2013

With pen in hand...

While shopping recently for a birthday gift for my grandson, it occurred to me that everything on his list was some form of electronic communication device or accessory.

Tired and slightly dazed, I left the computer/cell phone department and began to wander through the store where I discovered a display of ink pens. For a fleeting moment, I actually considered purchasing one for the boy. Then I was jolted back to reality when a young man in his teens ran headlong into me, distracted by his frantic texting.

People often ask me what I feel will be in the antique malls 50 years from now. What rare items from the past will our grandchildren collect? If I had to venture a guess, I suspect that as the fine art of communicating through the written word slips into obscurity, fountain pens will continue to grow in popularity as a collectible, securing themselves a place among the antiques of the future.

To many collectors E. L. Waterman pens are the “gold standard” of early fountain pens. Credited with patenting the first practical fountain pen in 1884, Waterman continued to perfect the instrument throughout his career. Among the most notable of his many innovations was the addition of a clip to hold the pen upright in a shirt pocket. Today, Waterman pens are collected for their beautiful gold and silver filigree designs. Highly valued by collectors is their definitive women’s pen, the Lady Patricia. Sales of this pen were minimal due to its high price and it was discontinued after only a few years. Its rarity makes it a valued find.

In 1889, George Parker patented his first pen and Waterman found himself with some serious competition. Parker’s “lucky curve” system reduced leakage from fountain pens making them more desirable to the public and soon Parker was the number one pen on the market. Some of the most collectible of the early Parker pens are the Duofold line (1911) which featured new concepts in color and size, the Vacumatics line (1932) which held twice as much ink as its predecessors, and the Parker 51 with a cap resembling the nosecone of a fighter plane.

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