As we all know, there are two sides to the pen hobby: those who want a good pen to write with, and those who collect. I’m part of the former. I have a drawer-full of great writers as evidence that this is so. They come from every decade and from all over the globe. If there is a preponderance of Swans that’s because they are the best writers of all, not because I’m collecting them.
In truth I don’t really understand collecting. That’s not said in any way to disparage those who do collect. They are the founts of all knowledge of vintage pens. Even in this blog alone I wouldn’t be able to count the number of times collectors have come up with the information and evidence that has clarified puzzling situations.
When I was a child the collector mindset applied to books. If I got a book I really liked I had to get hold of everything by that author. Is that collecting? The same thing happened with music. That’s a completist mindset, isn’t it?
When it came to fountain pens I knew that people collected them and it seemed the thing to do. I was still in America then and amassing a never-ending collection of Conway Stewarts (the original ones, not the later counterfeits) seemed like a worthy challenge. I pulled together quite a good representation of what the company had done over the years. It was very expensive, though, and I didn’t have a lot of money to throw at it.
We married and I – and my Conway Stewarts – moved to Scotland. My husband and I gradually fell into a pen restoration and sales business. It dawned on me that my real pleasure lay in seeing, handling and writing about every pen I could lay my hands on. Ownership of a collection didn’t satisfy me in the same way. I sold the Conway Stewarts.
This leaves me with another question. Is this blog with all its articles on the pens I found a collection in itself? With no glass cases of gleaming celluloid, am I still a collector?
Though it isn’t for me, I can see the pleasure and satisfaction that must come from having a historic collection of all the pens turned out by a manufacturer. Of course that’s more possible with some brands than others! Then there’s all the research which, for me, is a joy in itself. Each pen is a document which tells us much about the development of the brand. Changes between one pen and another may indicate that there was another pen in between, in the development of that model. Then the search is on again.
There are some very wealthy people who collect cars and motorbikes, something well outside my financial capability! But there are so many “small objects of desire” that catch the eye and attention. Writing accounts for many of those: pens, pencils, inkwells, even the more unusual things like quill cutters. And on the subject of cutting, old penknives and pocket knives with their varying mechanisms, blade shapes, different scales – a perfect area for the collector. Then there’s treen, Black Forest carved figurines, vintage thimbles (not those made to be collected modern ones), tools and a host of other things.
I confess that though I understand the area of collection I still don’t understand collection. Enlighten me!