Updated: Mar 27, 2020
One of the collectibles I find “shocks” most people when I bring it up is…..PENS ! Seriously, and when it comes to selling real vintage and luxury pens online or at auction, it can become quite enlightening to this crazy subculture…
People will pay top dollar for a writing instrument covered with 18-karat gold, diamonds, rubies and other rare gems. And by top dollar, I’m talking $40,000 plus, for some these most luxurious pens in the world. IN FACT The Aurora Diamante Fountain Pen (considered to be the most expensive pen in the world at over $1.4M is covered with 30,000 diamonds…. there is only one in the world, and yes, I’d love to have sold it….that would have been a very nice commission.
Well…. back to reality and some history….The Pen will always have an important place in writing history. Lewis Edson Waterman gets credit for taking the fountain pen to a new level. In 1888, he created very thin grooves in the nib (that’s the “tippy thing on a pen) His nib allowed air to circulate to the ink reservoir, creating a steady flow of ink. Prior to this, it was really the classic dip pen. (ya know…. pre mac book pro)
In the 1920s, pen manufacturers started to develop plastic pens and by the 1940s, ballpoint pens were all the rage. Recently I’ve seeing more high-end pens coming through local auction houses, most likely because Baby Boomers and older collectors are downsizing or liquidating their estates. Certain brands always seem to do well, such as Waterman, Parkers, Wahl-Ever sharp and Mont Blanc.
At a recent sale, we sold a Parker Fountain pen for $700 before buyer’s premium. I think we got a fair price for our sellers but not the best part of the story….it was just one of about 20 pens I pulled out of their garbage can. The executors of the estate were “cleaning up” preparing for my arrival and getting rid of the “crap” ….the pens all brought about $5000….and that much more than the beautiful desk they were in.
My old firm auctioned a three-piece Waterman Hundred Year pen and pencil set for about $1000 including buyer’s premium a few years back….I remember thinking the bidder won a very desirable set that would most likely increase in value, particularly since the Hundred Year pen was the world’s first Lucite pen.
As for Me? I am not a collector of anything really but appreciate the craftsmanship behind a fine pen. I don’t need the case to be jewel-encrusted but I do want the ink to flow easily on paper…. when you write with one of these mechanical marvels….it’s a strong statement and gives you a sense of power.
Must be the whole “mightier than the sword thing”. And I guess whether you are closing a big deal or just signing checks, having a quality, vintage pen somehow elevates the experience.
Sure, you could pay retail prices for a new pen. But with so many antique and vintage pens hitting the secondary market right now – if you’ve done your homework about provenance and examined a pen’s condition -- you really can’t go wrong with buying a pen at an estate sale or auction.