Scarcity, Demand And The Conway Stewart International 350

I made a remark in FPN this week about the difference between rarity and desirability. It sank without trace. I suspect that it may not have been what the original poster wanted to hear, but it’s a valid point all the same. Scarcity of a particular model doesn’t always influence value. In fact, the rarity of some models or makes of pen acts in the other way; they’re so uncommon that hardly anyone knows they exist, so no-one’s looking for them and they will barely sell.

There are, of course, serious collectors who will pay whatever they need to pay to acquire a scarce pen to complete a series. However, as the average buyer knows little and cares less about many of these uncommon pens, there’s little competition for the privilege of acquiring them and the price remains low.

Take, for example, the distinctly uncommon Conway Stewart International 350. It’s close to the range of numbers occupied by the common black hard rubber Scribes, the 330 and 333, which it closely resembles in size and appearance. Indeed, some 350s even have the threaded barrel end in common with the Scribes. The main difference between them is that the 350 had a short production run and is seldom seen now, whereas the Scribes are very common, having been the basic clerk’s pen of industry. At times you’ll hardly sell a Scribe 330 or 333 (the colourful 336s are in a different league) but surely the International 350 must be more valuable by virtue of it rarity? Nope. Not in my experience.

It is worth noting, though, should an International 350 ever come your way that it may well be a better pen than the Scribe. Though there are exceptions, most Scribes seem to be nails. The few 350s I’ve owned have all had some degree of flexibility.

This whole area of scarcity and demand illustrates a difference between the British and American markets of yesteryear and collection practices today. It wouldn’t be too hard to name a dozen rare and very expensive Watermans, Parkers and the like, pens that are hotly pursued by many collectors and change hands, when they appear, for more than the price of a nearly-new Honda VFR1200F. I just can’t make a similar list for British pens. Yes, there are some moderately highly-priced Swans and Onotos around, but there are very few – if any – British pens that will have collectors re-mortgaging their houses. It’s not rarity that sells pens here. It’s utility, I believe, and colour. Stick with the Tiger’s Eyes, the Cracked Ices, and the Floral No 22s and leave those grungy old rare pens to me.

8 thoughts on “Scarcity, Demand And The Conway Stewart International 350

  1. Too true. I have a few like that, uncommon but probably not able to command a kings ransom at auction. Take the Kaweco V4. There is no trace of this model anywhere. Kaweco experts know nothing of it, even Kaweco does not have any record of it. Yet it exists and is a nice pen. However, I doubt that it has any serious value despite it’s apparent rarity.

    1. Hi Malcy,

      Low supply but not much demand either!
      These pens have a greater importance than the purely monetary one, when one tries to put together the history of a company and the development of pens within their model range.


  2. Mention of a VFR 1200F reminds me that I passed through your town in 1998 on my B31 travelling to you know where. We had been to a club rally by Inverness and I wanted to see where my bike originally came from (Rogart in 1959), so it all fitted in quite well.
    Regards, Peter

    1. Hi Peter,
      A fine old thumper, the B31! I love big singles and had a Velocette Venom for a while, and its more modern counterpart, the Honda XBR500. Halcyon days! I sold my last motorbike five or six years ago. Just one of the regrets of getting old…

      1. Strangely enough, I asked at the garage if they had any records of the bike (no they didn’t) but they pointed us to a house up the road. They were bike enthusiasts and were holding a Velocette rally that weekend. I was tempted but Judy (having spent a wet week under canvas) wanted to go on and see the Orkney’s (probably the better choice!).
        Running a tatty Gold Star now!
        Regards, Peter

      2. I’ve never owned a Goldie but I’ve ridden one quite a bit. The thing that sticks in my mind is the vicious kick-back you earned if you got the kick-start wrong.

  3. You are so right! My ankle still isn’t right after an afternoon trying to start it in Sweden during August . My ankle/ foot was so sore I couldn’t try again for two weeks. Solved the problem by fitting a different type of carburettor. Starts (relatively) easily now.
    Regards, Peter

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