Tale of a Vandal Pen Collector: State of the Hoard

Over the years, I’ve gone from acquiring vintage American fountain pens, to German, to Italian, to Japanese, to some obscure pens, to some well-known classic pens, and finally to modern American and Japanese fountain pens. I’ve explored a large range of filling systems, from plungers to pistons to Japanese eyedroppers. I’ve used nibs across a variety of types, sizes, and materials of alloy, titanium, gold, steel, and glass.

That exploration has left me with an understanding of the pens that sing to me; the pens that urge me to write just one more paragraph by hand.

Sure, I love urushi, but also give me a great modern acrylic pen material. A celluloid sniffer, or raw ebonite handler, I’m not. (Lacquered ebonite, however, is great!)

It’s been a good three years since the last State of the Pen Hoard post. In that time, more pens have come and gone.

nine pen storage box
nine pen storage box

Three or four pens were mere frolics; temporary affairs, fun to have around, and to enjoy. Pen people often talk about how pens aren’t owned, but are rented for a time. That may be true of some pens more than others.

A couple of pens were irreparably broken. Salvageable pens were made whole again. A few pens were given away.

Some pens were greedy, demanding more than others. The beautiful Custom Edison in tortoise lucite, with its large inkwell, refused to let other pens into rotation. Should I have gotten rid of all others, and just kept that particular Edison pen? Maybe. The beautiful Custom was sold aka re-homed, and went to someone who truly appreciates Edison pens.

Edison Custom in tortoise lucite
Edison Custom in tortoise lucite

I’ve spent several years now curating a group of pens that satisfy my need for large ink capacities, and a great writing experience. If my goal had been merely utilitarian, I’d still have a TWSBI or a Pelikan. If my goal had been merely about beautiful pens, I’d still have the Bexley Submariner, or the vintage Omas celluloid brown-marble, or any number of gorgeous pens that have “rented” space in my pen box.

For me, pens can serve as tiny sources of inspiration; as reminders of ideas, and even of aspirations. Such qualities are difficult to define, but I know “it” when I see or hold the pen.

A urushi fountain pen may connect me with centuries of artisans. Turtle engravings may remind me about the wonder and durability of nature. An acrylic may call to mind a clear, flowing river. Another pen may invoke the indulgence of a caramel sundae.

How Important is the Number of Pens?

Not important at all.

What I know is that nine has proven to be a nice number of pens for my writer’s toolbox. It’s just enough pens to provide variety; just enough to keep pens moving through rotation fairly quickly. No pen sits unused for more than a handful of weeks. I like that. Pens want to be used, you know. Pens that are used seem to develop few, if any, problems. So it seems to me.

Getting to nine pens is be easy. Staying at nine is more difficult. Curiosity about a material, a design, or a nib must occasionally be explored.

fountain pens make great gifts
fountain pens make great gifts

I’ve had the good fortune to receive a few fountain pens as gifts. The gifts confused me for a time. These pens were not “curated.” They were given and received in love, gratitude, and joy.

I’ve realized “gift pens” are not meant to be counted. They’re meant to be enjoyed, used and appreciated for the welcome friendships and love they represent. Even though these pens don’t count towards the size of the pen hoard, some of them see frequent use. Such as, a Glenmont inked with Pilot Blue-Black sitting in the kitchen, or the MYU that’s nearly always inked and in my pocket. It’s harder to rotate some of these pens in regularly, but I no longer fret over them as competitors vying for attention.

At one moment in time in trying to get the hoard to the number nine, I threw all chosen and gift pens down, and shouted, “I will not be attached to any of you!” Metaphorically speaking, of course. Even a vandal pen collector doesn’t throw pens down.

If you find people who know me, they may tell you, “I can’t believe she talked to me about getting rid of x, y or z pen!” Because every pen was up for banishment for a short period of time. (And occasionally I did re-home x, y or z.) Sorry, but I love these kind of philosophical, nonsensical to most, exercises. They are clarifying. Plus, it’s kinda soothing to ponder pens in the midst of worldly chaos, murder and mayhem.

The number of pens in the hoard currently rests at eleven.

What Remains

Edison: The Yellowstone Huron which has most perfect pen barrel ever for my hand. The Hakumin Mina because this is the most custom of custom pens made for moi. The Sheaffer Amber Glow Glenmont because it’s classically brown-marbled; a vintage pen look while being so very modern. The Glenmont satisfies the appetite for a brown pen.

top tobottom: Edison Hakumin Mina, Edison Huron, Edison Glenmont
top to bottom: Edison Hakumin Mina, Edison Huron, Edison Glenmont

Bexley: The Cappuccino BX802 because it’s beautiful in an almost lick-able way. Over the years, Bexley has used some amazing pen materials. (The Yellowstone for the Huron was inspired by a Bexley Americana in the same material.) A Bexley pen was my first modern pen purchase, perhaps making the decision acquire and keep the BX802 a sentimental one.

Bexley BX802 cappucino
Bexley BX802 cappucino

Danitrio: The ki-dame Sho-Hakkaku (short octagon). I love faceted pens, and have had as many as three Sho-Hakkaku Danitrios. The ki-dame is my favorite urushi finish. As someone once told me, “It looks like flan.” Along with the Edison Huron, the Cumlaude has long been one of my top fountain pens to write with. The pen barrel reigns supreme in my hand. Yet, I tried to sell it because the Cumlaude is made in the same pen material as my Glenmont. I did sell the Cumlaude. And, the pen came back to me. I rewarded it with a new section and 14K nib. Some decisions are kinda made for you, and I’ve resolved not to re-home the Cumlaude again. Maybe the pen should be called the Cum Laude, but on the cap band the imprint is Cumlaude. So there you have why I call it that.

cap band
cap band
remaining Danitrios
Edison and Danitrio
Edison Glenmont, Danitrio Cumlaude
Newton Shinobi, Danitrio Sho-Hakkaku
Newton Shinobi, Danitrio Sho-Hakkaku

Newton: The Banana Slug aka The Gibby.  The Slug invokes a Redwood Forest trail in my imagination. I can’t live without the Slug. Well, I could, but I don’t have to, ay? The Transparent Cooper Shinobi because, hey, it’s the best pen ever! Inked up with Sailor Doyou, as it always is, the beauty of this pen and ink combination mesmerizes me.

Newton Banana Slug & Shinobi
Newton Banana Slug & Shinobi

Pilot: Blue/Rhodium Fermo. Yes, it’s heavy. But, you know what? It’s an anxiety free fountain pen! By twisting the knob at the end of the barrel, the nib is unsheathed in silence. The Fermo excels at note taking in a darkened theatre. (Yeah, I do that.) There’s no fear of losing a cap, and having it roll down an aisle. The Fermo is my serious “for meetings” pen, replacing the serious Pilot Decimo in Black. A brown-marbled Sesenta LE is the most recent addition to the pen hoard. Do I have to say more than it’s brown-marbled? Or that it takes a VP nib unit? And it’s the size of a Decimo?

Pilot Fermo and Sesenta LE
Pilot Fermo and Sesenta LE

Platinum: Kanazawa-Haku The Moon and Rabbit. This pen is an interloper. I’ve tried to re-home it, but I can’t seem to part with it. Must be the rabbit. Or the moon. Or the splash of purple flowers. Or the Kanazawa leaf technique. Or maybe it’s the joy in using it.

Platinum Kanazawa-Haku The Moon and a Rabbit
Platinum Kanazawa-Haku The Moon and a Rabbit

Eleven fountain pens for the core collection of writing tools. I wish the number was nine, but, hey, it’s not. Yet. Maybe someday. Maybe not. I’m pretty happy with this batch.

Of note, since I began reducing the number of my pens four years ago, two pens have remained constant: the Edison Huron, and the Danitrio Cumlaude (despite the aforementioned mis-selling of it).

Edison Huron, Danitrio Cumlaude
Edison Huron, Danitrio Cumlaude

Almost half the pens are made to order (Edison, and Newton). More than half are inked in ED (eyedropper) mode (Edison, Danitrio, Newton). Three pens are urushi or maki-e (Danitrio, Edison, Platinum). A few of them have Japanese nibs.

Nibs! Despite the fact these are a crucial component that can’t be separated from the experience of a fountain pen, the topic of nibs deserves a separate post.

Since acquiring my first Edison pen, I’ve come to prefer more customized pens over mainstream manufactured pens. This preference is born out of the question, “Why not?” Why not have a pen in a shape and weight I like, in material I crave, a satisfying filling system, a nib that suits me, and is fun to write with? The thought of chasing down some vintage or modern amazing pen that’s truthfully often not quite right, well, leaves me uninspired. Those chases always beget more chases because of the “not quite right” pen factor. At least that was true for moi.

My collection is about having a few, fun, comfortable, and reliable pens to write with for hours or moments at a time.

Where Do You Find ‘Em?

Just in case you want to know…

Edison: Direct from Edison Pen, of course, for a signature pen in a variety of materials. Production versions of pens are available through various pen retailers. However, you can also get a production pen in a special material by contacting Edison Pen.

Bexley: The BX802 is not in production. You might find one second hand via pen forums. Despite being out of production, I bought my BX802 (new) from a wonderful retailer in Arkansas: Van Ness Pens, family owned, and in business since the 1930’s. They have a lot of out-of-production Bexley pens on their website. Even though Van Ness didn’t have the BX802 on their website, I decided to ask them if they had one in cappuccino. They did! Imagine that. Later, they even supplied me with a stock Bexley stub for the BX802. They carry all kinds of cool pens, in and out of production, as well as inks, and other pen related stuff. Van Ness Pens, people!

Danitrio: I bought mine from Kevin, the former USA distributor. The current USA distributer is Classic Pens, more commonly known as Nibs.com. The Sho-Hakkaku is still in production. The Cumlaude is not. The small Cumlaude is very hard to find. The larger one turns up more often via pen forums, or the ‘Bay.

Newton:  Direct from Newton Pens.

Pilot: The Fermo is a current production fountain pen. It’s available from all kinds of places, ay? I bought mine from Japan via J-Subculture. Listen, don’t even talk to me about their search engine. Hint: use commas. i.e., Pilot, Fermo. If you don’t see the phrase “Our Recommend Result,” it’s probably not in stock or carried by J-Subculture. The Sesenta LE is out of production. The Sesenta, manufactured in 2007, came in unnumbered brown (400), blue (100), or red (100) marbled versions. Most likely, you’ll find the Sesenta on the second hand market. (Don’t confuse the Pilot Sesenta LE with the fatter Pilot Vanishing Point Charcoal Marble Grey LE, okay?)

Platinum: As of this post, the Kanazawa-Haku The Moon and a Rabbit fountain pen is in production, and available from a variety of places. At the time I bought mine,  the price from this Japanese dealer was unbeatable.

What I Know for Sure

  • Never say “never.”
  • Things can be a burden at times.
  • Small is beautiful. Less is more.
  • Without a doubt, your own pen desires are likely the exact opposite of mine.

A Bit of Reading