Vintage collectible pens such as fountain pens, elaborated pens with jewel casings, cigar-shaped pens, branded pens etc. are often considered much loved items of collectible value. Collectors like vintage pens for their history and technical interest, and vintage nibs are also smoother and more responsive than the modern ones as more skilled labour went into the finishing work back then. Vintage pens were also trusted more because of their materials, which were often superior to modern ones.
A Brief History of Collectible Antique Pens
There are 3 main types of vintage collectible pens – dip pens with a nib to dip into an inkwell, fountain pens with a self-contained ink reservoir, and ballpoint pens with a little ball that allows ink to flow out when the pen is put to paper.
The most collectible pens from a collector’s point of view, are those from the 1880s to the 1930s. In general, however, collectors prefer vintage pens made before 1965. According to VintagePens.com, streamlined pens became popular in the 1920s with the launch of the Sheaffer Balance, while the 1930s led to more affordable models for school children and teenagers.
Ballpoint pens were released in the 1940s, typified by the famous ‘Parker 51’ launched by Parker in 1950. In the 1960s, manufacturers like Parker, Sheaffer, Waterman and Mont Blanc began to on fancier material and designs, with more colours, lacquers and intricate carvings to differentiate their higher prices as pens became to be made into limited editions for the collectors’ market. Come the mid-1880s, manufacturers released the first reliable fountain pen.
Prices of Collectible Pens
Sometimes, two very similar vintage pens would have very different prices, and the main reason for this is because of supply and demand. Collectors will normally pay more for pens that are unusual, and not easily found. As such, those with uncommon sizes, colours and configurations will sell for higher prices. Antique pens with unusual nibs will also sell for much more than those with normal nibs.
Often, the condition of a pen will also determine its value. Older pens in excellent condition are much rarer than ordinary ones, and unused pens with original price stickers are much sought after too. But take note that if you are just purchasing a vintage pen for writing, then it is senseless to pay more for a mint-in-box pen when another one that is only lightly used sells for much less. Also, do not buy a pen that is very worn out or has lots of wear and tear and scratches unless it is so rare that you must have it.
And if you are using books as reference for prices, do take note that the values in most books only refer to pens in excellent condition, and values drop if there is significant plating loss, dents, scratches or other damages. In general, collectors will prefer professionally reconditioned pieces which are fully guaranteed, and will pay more for them.
Looking After Your Vintage Pens, and Selling Them Properly
Pens of all kinds, and especially vintage pens, are easily damaged by heat and bright light can cause fading and discolouration. Do not keep pens in glass cases outdoor, as the direct heat might damage them too. Keep them in cool, dark and dry places indoors to enjoy them for many more years to come.
How then do you sell your vintage pens if you want to? Actually, vintage pens, especially higher-end pens, could sell better privately or at a pen show as opposed to listing them online. This is because your target audience, mostly those from the higher net worth group with cash on hand, often do not follow online auctions such as eBay. If you have a rare piece that you want to sell for profits, chances are you will stand a higher chance if you try to sell them at private flea markets or pen shows around. Check out David Nishimura’s vintage pen site for some FAQs and some very detailed information on vintage pens.
Main Photo courtesy of PreciousWishes on Etsy.
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