There was an interesting discussion in Fountain Pen Geeks on the subject of collection. One respondent suggested that there are less collectors now than there were a few years ago. Knowing him, I assume he meant collectors of vintage pens rather than modern ones.
There may well be something in what he says. One pen discussion board which dealt exclusively and knowledgeably with old pens closed some years ago. The Fountain Pen Board, also covering vintage pens, has become very quiet in recent months, though the reason for that is not entirely clear. Pentrace and Fountain Pen Geeks both do discuss old pens but on balance they seem more concerned with current pens. I don’t know about Fountain Pen Network. I haven’t been there since it became Mordor.
Against that, old pens continue to sell and prices continue to rise. Some of these pens undoubtedly do go to collectors but, in my experience, most sell to people who appreciate writing qualities they cannot find in modern pens.
There is another branch of collection, though, and that is collection of modern pens. It’s rather different, in that it doesn’t involve the search for that one elusive pen from a century ago that is needed to complete the set. In fact, I have no idea how collection of modern pens works. I know that people pursue limited editions at huge cost. To be frank, limited editions seem like a scam to me. The pretence of exclusivity is a fiction. A limited edition of 500 pens is probably as many or more than many ordinary, everyday models will sell these days. Also, it seems to me in my ever so humble opinion, that any pen selling over £300 has a huge margin of profit unless it is made of precious metal.
It’s not that I don’t like modern pens – I do. I’m writing this with an excellent Chinese piston filler with a superb fine nib. I can’t remember exactly what it cost but I’m sure it was less than £20. I have more expensive ones too, Platinums and Sailors. They too are splendid pens. They don’t have my heart, though, in the way that Swans and Onotos do. Pens like those bring out what little creativity there is in me, and with one of them in my hand I’ll write for the sake of writing.
I’m not a collector. I was for a while and I amassed a small collection of Conway Stewarts. In the end, I realised that I would never be able to afford the kind of complete, comprehensive collection that I was aiming for. I could do a better thing. I could buy and restore pens and sell them on. My collection now is the thousands of photos of the hundreds of pens that have passed through my hands.
I don’t have a collection of pens now. I have 30 or 40 pens that I have retained for various reasons, either because they are in some way unique, or because they were given to me by friends or because I love the way they write.
I’m afraid I’ve rambled on here without coming to any conclusion but that’s because I don’t know what conclusion to come to. Is vintage pen collection dying? I don’t think so but I don’t have much evidence either way. Perhaps you do.