By Linda Hamer Kennett
---- — 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.
The Sheaffer Pen Company was formed in 1912. Throughout his career, William Sheaffer worked tirelessly to improve the fountain pen, counting among his accomplishments the first lever-fill pen in 1913. Collectible pens from his factory include the cigar-shaped Sheaffer Balance, the Sheaffer Snorkel from 1950, which can be found in 12 different colors, and the Targa.
The Montblanc Company was the top German pen manufacturer of the 20th century. Their Meisterstuck pens from the early 1920s are recognizable by the incorporation of sterling silver bands and gold filled caps into the design.
The nibs on pens made from 1920 forward will be engraved with the number “4801,” which is the height of the tallest mountain in Europe for which the company is named. The Montblanc #444, a rare piston-filled pen with a brushed stainless steel cap and gold-filled details produced from 1952 to 1953, is the “crown jewel” of any collection and was used by President John F. Kennedy to sign many official documents during his presidency.
Pen collecting is not for the impatient. Research guides, old magazine ads and vintage catalogs from pen manufactures will start you on your way, but take your time and beware of high end purchases.
For those of you who are a novice to this field of collecting I would recommend starting at quality antique show and malls. Here you should find knowledgeable dealers who can help guide you in your purchases. Also check out area flea markets, second hand stores and estate sales.
Many of us enjoy the convenience of shopping for our collectibles on Ebay. While it is a great source for collectible fountain pens, you might want to limit your shopping to venues that allow “hands-on” inspection until you have gained some experience in this field of collecting.
Until next time,
Linda Hamer Kennett is a professional liquidator specializing in down-sizing for seniors and the valuation of estates and may be reached at 317-429-7887 or email@example.com.