Black Pens

As you might imagine, getting the stock I want is never easy. The ideal pen for me is one that has been plucked from a drawer by a house clearer and never interfered with in any way before it arrives on my bench. Some people, though they don’t intend to repair the pen take it apart and remove the sac. Some do it well, others don’t…

If the price is low enough I will consider a restored pen. They’re sometimes “restored” pens. One that came in this week had a No 20 sac crammed into the barrel – far too big, should have been an 18 – and just placed on the peg without shellac. I understand the WES offers training courses. It might be an idea for some of those would-be restorers to subscribe.

We’re going through a spell at the moment where there are very few coloured Mabie Todd pens on offer. Plenty of good black pens but many customers prefer a bit of colour. I hope the supply will improve soon so that I can provide them with what they want.

When I began, I was a writer and a collector. Repairing and selling came quite a lot later. I collected Conway Stewart pens and I almost always bought black ones despite the huge range of patterns for which that company is famous. There were two reasons: black pens were cheaper and secondly the black pen was the best example of that model, showing the design clearly without the distraction of colour and pattern. I know it seems a little mad now but I was not alone; many other collectors subscribed to the same idea back then. Even twenty years ago there were still collections of gleaming ebony pens.

The drawers containing my own pens have many black examples. That’s mostly because the decision to keep a pen come from the writing quality, not the colour of the pen body. I’m writing this with a black pen, a 1950s Swan with the most gorgeous fine flex nib. I actually rather like black pens: they take a wonderful shine!

I’ve been selling pens for many years now and one thing that stands out for me is the fluidity of the market, both for buying and selling. It doesn’t encourage complacency, I assure you! My clients have become ever more knowledgeable and they demand good quality at all price levels – and rightly so! It is this sophisticated clientele that has enabled me to concentrate on Mabie Todd pens. Whether buying pens to write with, to add to a collection or both, the outstanding quality of Mabie Todd pens has a large niche of well-educated followers.


4 thoughts on “Black Pens

  1. I grew up in the sixties and until a few years ago never saw a fountain pen that was not made of plastic, and all pens had one even color (mostly black, some red, blue or gold).

    I later discovered (in large part thanks to this blog) pre-1960 pens, in mottled red or woodgrain ebonite, Duofold “big red”, the spectacular Vacumatic designs, or the casein, marbled or “cracked ice” Conway Stewarts. It took my barbarian mind a while to appreciate those seemingly bohème stylings of an instrument that I had always associated with sobriety and seriousness. I am now the admiring guardian of a cohort of vintage pens, many of them in beautiful colours, but I still find black the most impressive of them all. You might believe that I have been unconsciously brainwashed by Montblanc advertising, but put a Swan 1060 next to a Montblanc 146 and I will always pick up the former. That because I know how these pens write.


    1. That’s quite a recommendation for the 1060, Hans, but it’s true. The quality of these pens is very high indeed. That goes for a number of other vintage pens too, the equal of anything being produced today for a fraction of the cost.

  2. I agree on the black pens – there is something about being able to use the pen without calling attention to it, but then letting the pen’scharacter come through in the writing; I exclusively have black or dark pens – with the exception of a green Pelikan from the mid-60s.

    The Pelikan is the only one that causes people to comment on it, and there is something I like about a fountain pen being able “hide in plain site” until someone notices your handwriting has character.

    Thank you for the blog

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