Tale of a Vandal Pen Collector: The Pen Not Taken

Even without a decent local shop and not having attended a pen show, I’ve been lucky to try a wide range of fountain pens. There are a lot of great pens to be had among both modern and vintage varieties. I love seeing what other people form collections around. Especially vintage pen collections. Countless times on this blog I’ve written that there are many pens to admire. From my viewpoint, admiration and appreciation does not require acquisition. Or else why would any one ever go to a museum?

There are a lot of pens that I just won’t have. Even if I want them—like any number of Edisons, urushi Danitrio or Nakaya, or vintage Japanese pens of various kinds. If a new pen comes my way, it’s sweet agony to pick and choose which pen will stay and which pen must be re-homed. There’s the practical limit to the pen storage box which, if you’ve been reading the blog you may remember, houses only nine pens. My pen storage choice driven by the desire to consciously limit “things,” even useful things, in day to day living. Not in a crazy way, though, like (shhhh) one pen only. Lately I’m contemplating that nine may be a too stringent commitment. Twelve may be a better number. I’m not sure. When I began this process, though, I was at around 40 pens. At any rate, to paraphrase something written before, variety is not merely the spice of life, for some of us variety stimulates the creative mind. And for some, like me, too much clutter is distracting for the creative process.

While not the primary factor, economics play a key role in decision making, too. No credit card debt is allowed for pens.

At one time I was sure the older Visconti Ragtime was the perfect pen for moi. Yet if I miss anything about those pens today it is only their whimsical caps and colors. I don’t regret the decision to re-home any of pens yet there are a couple I truly miss:  the Bexley Submariner and the green-striated 1950’s Pelikan 400. Would I add them back in? Hmmm…*pondering*…”No” is a high probability as an answer. For moi, one cannot go home again. The experience is not quite the same. YMMV, of course.  (Hey, you don’t think I’m going to jinx myself and write the “never” word, do ya?) Instead I’d be more inclined to acquire a different vintage Pelikan or an Edison pen that suggested a Submariner.

To repeat myself, please forgive, there are those pens I haven’t acquired that appeal for a variety of reasons. For example, here are three very different pens I do not expect to own. Yet they scream at me, “let me in!”

  • Conway Stewart Dandy in Bracken Brown or Bronze. A discontinued modern pen that invokes a vintage pen from its clip right down to its lever filler design. The Dandy is a very classic looking flat-top and Conway Stewart has some of the handsomest modern brown pen material to my covetous eye. A dear person recently offered one of these up to me. Broke my heart to say there was no room at the inn.
  • Franklin-Christoph Model 40 in Emerald Green. I passed up on an opportunity to buy one of these pens used at a very low price. It’s a very lightweight pen with a subtle ergonomic design. I believe one can convert it into an eyedropper pen. The green pen I saw was made out of a translucent plastic. Hey, doesn’t everyone need a green pen? Based in North Carolina this is an intriguing company presenting designs that are a different yet user friendly. I first learned of F-C a couple of years ago when some pals raved about a Franklin-Christoph case known as the Penvelope. (No I don’t have one of those either.)
  • The Gate City Dunn Pen sold by Richard Binder. A high ink-capacity modern pen based on a 1920’s design. What appeals to me is the pump filling mechanism and the lack of an internal sac. The pen purports to hold 3.4ml of ink! The Dunn seems like fun to me. Only the kind of geeky fun that comes from no one knowing how cool your pen really is because to look at it doesn’t shout “hey, look at me!”

There are also pens I classify as “could easily add if I had room and greenbacks and didn’t care how big my pen collection would be.” The fact that none of these pens are in my hoard just means I want none of themmore than the pens I already have. The first three on the short list below are classic pens with great vintage nibs and all are piston filling. One is a modern pen and the last is from the Big Four of American pen makers of yore.

  • 1950’s Montblanc 146.
  • 1950’s Omas Ogivia 55x.
  • 1930’s Pelikan 100.  Or perhaps any one of the reissued “Originals of their Time.”  
  • Pilot Custom 74 in Blue. Just like everyone needs a green pen, a blue pen is required as well. This is the only “c/c” filler on the list and that’s because the Custom 74 uses the 1.4ml CON-70 converter.
  • 1930’s Sheaffer Balance in Golden Brown or Grey Marble  (vacuum filler). Come on. It’s Sheaffer. An American original. Wait a minute! I got one. In Ebonized Pearl. That’s a post of another kind.

Today’s inspiration (not a show tune) Robert Frost’s classic poem:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.