How did you get started in this hobby? I’ve written before about being given a Sheaffer Targa as my first fountain pen as an adult. I got into old pens through junk shops at first, then eBay as it took off. Repair and restoration followed gradually. My husband began earlier than I did, picking up old pens from family, then junk shops and car boot sales. At first it was hard to find sacs and he was unaware of anyone who could fix the more complicated pen like the Onoto. He used one of those as a dip pen for a time.
It all suddenly seemed to take off in the nineties, both interest in vintage pens and the availability of parts and people to repair them. I began restoring and selling pens myself. I bought unrestored pens locally, through eBay and the auction houses. There was so much to learn about popular pens; the big sellers like Parker, Sheaffer, Conway Stewart and Onoto. Then there were the rarities that turned up which I researched as best I could. I wrote about them here and that has been the greatest pleasure for me.
Though I have retired from the business vintage pens are still my hobby, still my obsession. I love to hear about your pens, especially when you have something uncommon. I still buy pens occasionally, of course. I am very interested in how you began and where you are in the hobby.
8 thoughts on “Beginnings”
What an insightful story. I’ve always had interest in history and nostalgia. I acquired my first pen while in Hong Kong (a MB knockoff), which lead to contempory Waterman pens. The real change happened when I came across my grandmother’s 1950s Esterbrooks. I was hooked. As I also like to engage in the Japanese art of Kintsugi (embracing imperfection) also know as repairing broken stuff… It wasn’t long before I started buying vintage inexpensive pens to practice on. My vintage pens are mostly America, British and French.
Many thanks, Danny.
I discovered fountain pens by accident.
A charity I worked for was running an auction as a fundraiser. There were several lovely things being sold, but one lot received no interest – not a single bid. Daftly, I felt bad for this poor, neglected lot and so I placed a bid and won the lot. I think I paid £50 or so.
The lot? A Parker 51 (black with gold cap and oblique nib), a Parker 61, and a 1920s Mabie Todd Swan. (I think this lot remains my best ‘score’….)
I went online to find out how to make these pens workable and discovered the Fountain Pen Network. Through FPN I attended my first pen show. Everyone there was so lovely and welcoming, and so eager to share their knowledge and enthusiasm! And I got to see in person just how wide and varied the world of fountain pens was. I was hooked.
I have mostly vintage American and British pens, though I also have a very health collection of John Twiss pens (darned man would make sure to have a pen that matched my current hair colour…..how can you resis that?!)
What a good start you got!
I started writing with a fountain pen in junior high, around 1965. We all had Sheaffer “school” pens, with steel nibs and cartridges. They were real tanks and put up with a lot of abuse. I was, and still am, left-handed, so I quickly taught myself to under-write, and after seeing (and envying) a classmate’s cool looking print, I wrote with cursive less and less.
In college, as a music major, I started using basic fps, and Speedball nibs, to do music copy work. I continued an occasional use of fps, through my next foray into software writing, and treated myself to a Waterman Phileas when I got my first job.
Then they fell away until about 12 or so years ago. I found a couple of them in my desk, still with a bit if ink but balky, and I thought I might find something about them on the web. First up came Fountain Pen Network, which not only opened a treasure-trove of information, but also opened the doors to a new community, and the beginnings of some deep and wonderful friendships (such as with the owner of this blog). I picked up a few vintage pens, I decided to put a sac in an Esterbrook myself, I gathered some tools and books and inks… and there was no stopping it. I find it my most delightful hobby and am grateful not just for the history that knowledge of pendom has brought to my life, but the remarkable people that share the same passion.
A beautiful response, Jon. I came to Sheaffer School pens late. I have a couple now and they are excellent writers, the equal of much more expensive pens.
Can’t recall just when I first got interested in using fountain pens, but I do know that it was, as for many in the States, a Sheaffer school pen, probably about 7th grade. Still have that pen — opaque barrel in blue with a medium nib. Still works, too.
They were very good pens.