Pen Prices

At the end of December and into the beginning of January I took a break from buying in ebay.  When I returned to it, I found that prices for unrestored pens were generally higher than they had been.  I took it that it was a temporary blip and didn’t think much more about it.

Now it’s March and prices haven’t leveled out again.  If anything, they seem to have taken another price hike.  Mid-range Swans and Conway Stewarts that I would have bought for under thirty pounds last year now regularly get bid up to the high thirties and even into the forties.  Considering that there has been no commensurate rise in the prices reached by restored pens, it’s kind of insane.

I don’t know why this has happened.  I could speculate, but that’s all it would be – speculation.  One guess is that with the troubled times we’re in and the rise in unemployment, more people are trying to make a living from ebay, and in this specific area, from pen restoration.  I do see more and different sellers of restored pens in ebay.

Unfortunately for them, it’s not going to work.  If you’re paying £40.00 for a Conway Stewart 27 and selling it for £45 (or less) you’re not making a fiver, you’re losing money.  The cost of delivering the pen to you – usually around £3.00 – is part of the buying price.  You don’t recover it.  Then there may be a sac, use of cleaning materials and polishes and at least some notional figure for your time.  It’s a kind of bubble that must burst sooner or later.

It’s inconveniencing me but it isn’t any kind of a disaster, at least in the short term.  I always have a quite large stock of pens by me, and ebay’s not the only place to buy pens if it comes to it.  I won’t pay those prices, though.  Yes, if the general restored pens/vintage retail market is forced into an upward lurch in price I would have to accept that this is where prices are and will be.  We’re not there yet, though.  I prefer to believe that this inflation in unrestored pen prices will pass and we can go back to something like business as usual.  I see no advantage to anyone in a rise in price for restored vintage pens.  They’re dear enough already.

6 thoughts on “Pen Prices

  1. Deb, selfishly I think your stand against a price hike is right. There are too many people in many different spheres that think they can up the price of things, just because they are old or believed to be rare. Often these people know very little about what they are dealing in.
    Let’s hope that all pen collectors/restorers, new or long standing will boycott unreasonably high pricing.

    1. It isn’t individual sellers of unrestored pens who are raising the prices. These are ebay auctions; it’s the buyers, not the sellers, that set the prices. It’s a complex thing and it can’t be resisted. If the prices stay high, they stay high and there’s not a thing anyone can do about that. At the moment, the end buyers, the collectors and fountain pen users are unaffected because people like me are gritting our teeth and bearing the loss but that can’t continue indefinitely. The best we can hope for is that it is a pricing bubble that will burst.

  2. I think we did discuss that the time spent on pens by the likes of yourself, equates to an hourly rate of less than £2 ph. Pen repair/restoration is an expensive craft to learn, unless you have the passion for pens and the commensurate studying required, it will then prove to be VERY expensive.

  3. I have long been curious about pen refurbishing as, like many folks, I have a couple I would really like to get working again. A few weeks ago I came across this site along with a couple of others, and began to take an interest.

    I can’t recall what set off my search but I bet it was and ad. or an article on some web site somewhere, probably advertising a ‘How to get rich fixing pens’ system. If this is so then many others will have been lured in just as I was! Where do folks go to research the money to be made? Ebay of course. Given that the pens they find there are not particularly expensive some people are bound to have dipped their toe in the water, hence the rise in prices.

    Presumably prices have not increased in your other less obvious sources? Probably, once the new folks have wrecked a few pens or discovered how much it costs to tool up properly they will disappear and go bother some other market!

    In the meantime, who’s been advertising cheap training courses?

    1. Interesting, isn’t it? Whether they were cheap or not – I rather think they were not – our own Writing Equipment Society has been holding training courses. In truth, this is a good thing. There’s room for more commercial restorers and it’s nice for people to be able to fix their own pens. However, going into full-time pen restoration as an occupation requires a wider skill set than just the bare ability to get a pen working again, admirable as that skill is. That’s what some of these people who are pushing up prices for unrestored pens are going to come up against.

      My other sources of pens are less reliable and prolific than ebay but more open to negotiation.

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