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.