Small, old things do catch the eye and are perfect for collection: fountain pens – of course – watches, pocket and pen knives, snuff boxes, treen, thimbles, the list goes on. I confess to a fondness for many of those things. I have more pocket knives than I can use and there’s a lot of satisfaction in making the best of a battered example. Years ago I took to repairing pocket watches; wrist watches were too small for my clumsy fingers though I might have managed some of today’s monsters. My eyesight put paid to watch work.
Most of these little things have a value that may increase with age, especially with a well known manufacturer and good good condition. High quality mechanical watches fetch astronomical prices. Where pens, fountain and dip, gain is in the mixture of affordability and plethora of different types and manufacturers. To the ballpoint user a fountain pen is a fountain pen but to you and I a Japanese eyedropper with a cut-off valve or one of Lang’s enhanced bulb fillers is a valued item of endless appreciation.
When I began this fascination with old pens you could pick up many fine examples, if not for pennies, for very few pounds. At first I was buying out of practicality, to have a pen that wrote the way I wanted. Then, of course, I wanted more of those fine pens that wrote the way I wanted and I began to realise that some pens excelled and that a top of the range Swan, Onoto or Macniven & Cameron was a thing to enjoy in its own right. The very best of craftsmanship keeps on giving pleasure. That comes with the best of Duofolds, the Swan SF range and the top Waverleys but admirable quality can also come further down the price range. I am drafting this with a tiny 1950s Geha. The piston filling system, completely unrestored, works as well as the day it was made and the steel nib, which has lost its original gold wash, is among the best two or three writers that I have.
I know I’ll never tire of “small objects of desire” and the fact that they are fully practical is such a bonus. Bonbonieres, for example, are pretty but don’t have the everyday application of fountain pens.