Part I. Advice to Pen Collectors: Modern

Top: Jean Pierre Lepine Casanova, Bottom: Dore

If you are on the Zoss list, you'll know that Bill Weakley (1-800-786-3272) has designed a new way to purchase a good fountain pen--monthly installments. No, installment plans are not new, but buying a fountain pen this way is rather novel.

This concept reminded me of how many of us buy and collect pens, often fountain pens we don't use, or don't really find in use after a short time.

Although I can't pinpoint the year I started amassing fountain pens, sometime in the 1980s I began the ritual of treating myself to a fountain pen for my birthday. As a result, I have several beautiful looking but totally abandoned pens--a Jean Pierre Lepine Casanova, for example, that jumped out of the case at me in 2002, but remains locked up in silence in 2009 and probably has very little resale value. And on another birthday I bought a translucent purple fountain pen made in France by Dore who cried out for adoption.

Both of these were bought at Papers (114 Amherst Dr. SE Albuquerque, New Mexico) when I was in transit, had a few hours to spare before catching an aeroplane, and simply, in retrospect, were impulse acquisitions.

Now at the tail end of my collecting days, I wish I had a mentor who would have guided my purchases and restrained me from such impulses.

One good pen is worth more than three or four inexpensive pens, and one good pen will give you more pleasure in its fine handling than dozens of less well crafted pens.

Mind you, I love my Lamy Safaris and actually don't consider them a poor choice, but I do have regrets about other pen purchasing choices, pens I consider compromises.

For example, I prefer pistons so I bought two Senators. Neither was expensive, but as it turns out both have their problems and were used.

I also think that while we may think we are getting a bargain by purchasing a gently used modern fountain pen, in the long run, a new out of the box fountain pen, is worth its price. If you purchase your pen from a reputable dealer, the pen has some warranty; if the pen didn't come out of the factory in the best of health, it can often be returned, replaced or repaired at no additional cost.

But something I failed to understand and now consider important is that pens, like shoes take on a personal contour, and a new fountain pen becomes ours as we use it.

If I could start a new collection, I'd ask myself some more serious questions and probably limit the number and style of pen I'd buy. I'm going to do that later, and see what that list looks like.

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