It’s actually ironic that in 1971, the year I became a novice pen collector, the world witnessed the invention of the microprocessor marking the beginning of the digital age. While Steve Jobs dreamed of creating the first personal computer leading the way to desktop publishing, I would be tripping back in time searching for old fountain pens.
Over the next 16 years my increased knowledge about fountain pens combined with the introduction of the MAC made it the perfect time to launch Pen World magazine in the fall of 1987. Incredibly the Apple Macintosh 512K desktop computer had only a half-megabyte of memory.
My Best Advice for New Pen Collectors
The best possible advice I can give to any new pen collector is to start slow and read, read, and read—there is so much available. I also recommend establishing a direction of interest—a sort of road map—that will bring you the most pleasure over the long haul. Also, newbies should take all advice about pen collecting with a grain of salt!
It is only natural that other collectors will want you to like what he or she likes, and if dealers, will want you to buy whatever they have to sell at the moment. In the distant past, I assisted a wealthy Hollywood-type who decided he wanted to instantly become a premier pen collector—against my best advice. Because of his haste, he overpaid for everything and when he had the collection he dreamed of, he had no emotional attachment to it. Because he didn't experience the chase, hadn't developed any pen collector relationships, and hadn't taken the time to read and learn about the hobby, he was left only with an emotional emptiness. He eventually sold the entire collection taking a significant loss. This is one reason I advocate taking it slowly, making friends, and enjoying the journey.
Novice collectors can find a wealth of information at pen shows held regularly throughout the U.S. and Europe and to lesser extent in Asia. Pen shows are an excellent source for both new and vintage pens, pen parts, repair and restoration specialists, inks, papers and also offer seminars on a variety of topics. Some shows hold auctions for vintage pens, as well.
First time pen show goers can be easily overwhelmed by these events due the shear number of pens and paraphernalia on display. So again, collectors new to the hobby should pace themselves by setting realistic limits about spending and making plans to focus on specific areas of interest, and above all to enjoy meeting so many likeminded people.
Check to see if there is a pen club in your area. These clubs are welcoming to new pen users and collectors and offer an excellent opportunity to broaden your knowledge about writing instruments. More importantly you may develop long-term friendships with others who share your passion.
I’m an active buyer and seller on eBay’s web site. Mostly have had good luck, unfortunately, some bad luck along the way, too.
One such incident involves a seller that goes by the name, thisol*house. I’ve purchased several pens from him that appear to be authentic, however several of his listings seemed too good to be true and I had to know for certain.
I intentionally won the bid for what appeared to be a stunningly beautiful vintage pen described as John Holland. Sure enough it had an authentic John Holland nib. Unfortunately, the rest of the pen was cobbled together from many different parts. The holder was described as a corrugated mother of pearl, which turned out to be modern white plastic. The cap wobbled on the barrel because they were sourced separately. In addition, glue residue was not cleaned off the top of the cap where he had recently added the cap crown, which to my knowledge has never appeared on any vintage pen. Most likely from a walking cane, or the handle of a magnifier.
During the same week, the seller had several other similar pens listed as either John Holland, Edward Todd, or other important brands. These pens had also been cobbled together and had branded nibs installed by the seller to lend authenticity to his auctions.
I left a negative feedback for the seller mentioning that he sells fake pens and I reported him to eBay. The seller delisted his auctions and didn’t relist any pens for a couple of months, but now he’s back with new listings.
Ebay never answered my report and apparently did nothing about thisol*house because he's back at it.
Beware that there are eBay sellers that intentionally defraud buyers, but there are also others who claim their pens as being major brands such as Parker, Waterman, etc., when in fact they are cheap lookalikes. Whether this is intentional or not, there are plenty of listings that are incorrectly identified, or they are just pure fraud.
So, buyers beware.
Below is a current listing by thisol*house in which he claims the pen is Edward Todd. It's possible, but unlikely and most likely another of his fake pens. Just be aware that once a defrauder, potentially a future defrauder.
From My Personal Collection at NO RESERVE is this excellent vintage Gold & Pearl Overlay eyedropper fountain pen from EDWARD TODD & CO, circa 1890. An outstanding example of an early pen! Wonderful Art Nouveau engraved designs in the gold filled barrel bands. Wonderful color flashes in the white pearl panels. There are no loose panels; all are tight, smooth and very glossy, with no chips or cracks. The excellent, smooth writing nib is signed: B - EDWARD TODD & CO - NEW YORK - 4.