Doom, Gloom And Suchlike

I’ve mentioned here before that prices of old pens in eBay are rising steeply.  By my calculations, over the last year ‘n’ a bit, the unrestored everyday workhorse type of old pen like the Swan 3260 or the Conway Stewart 286 has had an average price-hike of around 35%.  That’s during the day and in the early evening.  After about 7.30 pm things go a little insane.  I saw an unrestored Blackbird BB2/60 – no clip, no trim – go for in excess of forty quid last week.

I don’t see a similar rise for restored pens.  That suggests to me that some of the increase we’re seeing now is because of more repairers coming into the market.  That’ll settle itself out in time and the market will establish a new, slightly higher equilibrium and there may be a few more competent repairers around.  That’s good for the hobby.  Higher prices for pens mean fewer of them will be thrown away or scrapped for their nibs.

That’s not all of it, though.  Because I do a lot of my buying there, I’ve watched eBay closely for years and I see changes.  As a proportion of all pens that come through, there are less that were made before World War II and more that were made after.  The pens that I concentrate on (and enjoy most) the BHR pens and the thirties celluloid pens are getting thinner on the ground than they were.  Is the cornucopia of old pens finite after all?  Are we coming to the end of those pens that lay untouched in desks and drawers until now?  The short answer, I fear, is yes.  We’re not there yet, but as these items get scarcer the price is sure to rise even more.  It will be a sad day when we’re reduced to selling each other fifties Platignums, and an even sadder one when we come down to passing the same reducing bunch of worked-over old pens around.

Among the common personal possessions, pens, like watches, were as near universal as we can get.  There was a price to suit (almost) every pocket.  For everyone who had a fountain pen, it was a significant purchase.  It cost enough that you took good care of it.  When they were superseded by the ballpoint, the thought remained that these were precious items, too good to throw away.  No doubt many were actually discarded, but many went into drawers.  It’s those pens we’ve been buying as they became available, often through house clearance and charity shops after their owners, or even owner’s descendants had passed away.  To put it bluntly, many of those queuing up to pop their clogs today won’t be leaving any fountain pens.  A Parker Flighter ballpoint or two, perhaps, but for the most part they lived through the time of the disposable pen, and their Bics hit the waste-paper bucket long ago.

Hang onto that old Queensway.  It may be worth fixing yet!

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