The state of the collection (or why it’s good to stop and appreciate what you have)

One thing I probably don’t say often enough is this: I am bloody chuffed with my pen collection.

Sure, it’s always waxing and waning. There’s a gradual shift in emphasis from manufacturer to manufacturer, big to small, fine to broad, bright to monochromatic, and back again. Life would be boring if we weren’t always pursuing change.

But I’ll say it again: I’m bloody chuffed with my collection. In fact, after playing with a few dozen beautiful and varied pens from fellow addicts at today’s London pen club meet up, I’m even more attached to my small horde.

Here’s how it stands today.

The Pelikan flock

I’ve bought and sold quite a few Pelikans: M205 Aquamarine, M805 blue stripe, M805 Stresemann, M1000 black. The two I’m stuck with at the moment are the M805 Ocean Swirl, and my newest pen, the M400 White Tortoiseshell.

The Ocean Swirl is just mesmerising to look at, and being an M8 series it’s a good size, solidly built, with a nice brass piston to add a bit of weight. By all accounts (and I showed it off to some fellow pen addicts today) mine is possibly the nicest pattern out there. This is a keeper. The current nib is an EF, home-tuned, and loaded with Montblanc Leo Tolstoy Sky Blue. The Sky in the Ocean.

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The White M400? It’s a small pen. That’s ultimately why I sold my M205. But I’ve had my eye on these beautiful green-gold stripes for years, and I saw it for an unbeatable price. The broad nib hasn’t yet broken in, but by standards of the Pelikan nibs I’ve used over the years, it’s a good one. And it’s showing off Montblanc Swan Illusion beautifully already.

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Graf von Faber Castell Intuition Platino Ebony — the pen world’s longest name

I tried hard to sell this pen. Admittedly, nobody really wanted to buy it, but that’s their loss — I’ve withdrawn it from sale and fallen back in love with it. Aside from being an engineering marvel of statuesque proportions, it’s eminently tactile and a great writer. And, at any pen meet you’re practically guaranteed to be the only one with a Platino wood there.

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The enchanted Montblanc 1912

I could make a good case for this being my favourite pen. It’s never uninked, and choosing a new ink for it causes more anguish than for any other pen. It’s like I want to make every minute writing with it as good as it can be, and I’m afraid of losing the magic by loading the wrong ink.

Right now it’s loaded with Unicef, but it has had long stints with Montblanc Red Fox and Herbin Poussiere de Lune. It makes any ink shine. The bouncy medium nib has some enchantment on it.

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My Lamy trio

The alien spaceship Dialog 3 is currently loaded with Iroshizuku Yama-Budo, which it lays down in great wet lines from its supposedly “fine” nib. Another engineering marvel, and one that writes better than you might expect. The gold Lamy Z55 nibs are rightly well respected.

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The Lamy 2000 is practically the grandfather of my pen collection, and certainly a stalwart. I’ll never sell it; it’s simply too graceful and too good a writer. The hooded medium nib is fluid and wet, although right now it’s struggling a little through a load of Diamine Oxblood, quite a dry ink. Since I greased the piston a few weeks back, the 2000 is in fighting form.

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Jasper Morrison’s Aion has stuck it out in my collection after the honeymoon period has worn off. Even though it doesn’t get as many outings as when it was fresh-faced, the smooth EF steel nib still impresses.

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The arty Kaweco duo

I sold my other Sports, but the Alabaster Art Sport is too good (and too rare) to part with. The glowing white material is easily the best of the Art Sport colours, both the original range and the new versions just announced. It’s currently rocking a fat B nib, Kaweco Midnight Blue cartridges, and living in a navy blue custom sleeve, often in my pocket.

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The Dia 2 also continues to impress, and in a sense I treat it as my experimental pen. I pulled out the spring from the barrel so I can fit a converter, and I’ve fitted it with my FPnibs B Architect nib and Pelikan Edelstein Olivine ink. No fuss, just low-maintenance fun.

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My lone Sheaffer

I have no vintage pens in active rotation — one old Parker of my mother’s lives in my pen box, but my Esterbrook, Vacumatic and others are long sold. I couldn’t bear the fears of leaking sacs and cracks. But I bought this Sheaffer almost as a gesture towards vintage pens. It’s a modern take on the classic “Pen For Men” PFM, but without the tough-to-flush snorkel-filler. So while inside the Legacy Heritage is a boring cartridge/converter, the ribbed palladium finish and glorious B inlaid nib really stand out in the collection. Incredibly classy.

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The primadonna Viscontis

Nobody can compete with Penultimate “Visconti” Dave, but in my own small way I have a Visconti addiction. These pens are expensive, high-maintenance, idiosyncratic, perhaps flawed, but exhilarating to hold and to write with.

The Wall Street Limited Edition is monolithic in stacked grey celluloid, an image of a skyscraper in the hand. Once the power filler tap is opened, the medium nib gushes like a hose, and it’s almost as bendy as one. This will never be an everyday notetaker, but it will always impress. And since they’re a long discontinued Limited Edition, I’ll be hanging on to this one.

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The Steel Age Homosapiens, by contrast, is much more practical. The smooth, fine nib is a great notetaker, and mine has been remarkably troublefree. This was my first “oh my God I can’t believe I spent that much money on a pen” purchase, and looking back I think I made a pretty good bet.

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Looking East

It’s fair to say that my tastes have swung more to Germany than Japan in recent times. I have nine German pens, and only three from Asia (with one Pilot incoming too).

I whittled my 3776s down to the superlative Ultra Extra Fine, which is somehow sharp as a needle yet a great fast jotter. The beautiful but ridiculously named Kumpoo may force me back up to two 3776s soon, though.

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The Pilot Fermo gained a last-minute reprieve from sale, and now I’m quite attached to the thing. Its fine nib is a delight and the navy blue finish over metal body gives it a reassuring solidity.

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Last but not least, the TWSBI Eco in broad brings out the kid in me. I’ve got it loaded with Graf Electric Pink ink right now, which sloshes jubilantly around the enormous tank, and flows smoothly on to the page at just the right rate. I have a fine nib for it too, which is just as wonderful but takes a lot longer to run the pen dry!

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Today, I’m happy

I’ve learned (eventually) that it would be pointless to promise never to sell any of these pens, or to say that I’m done with purchasing. I’m already craving getting another 149 back in my hands, and I still want a London Fog enough to contemplate selling a kidney. But it’s good to celebrate what you have, not only long for what you have not. And looking over now at these 15 pens all lined up, I think they’re all fabulous. I’m a lucky guy.

9 thoughts on “The state of the collection (or why it’s good to stop and appreciate what you have)

  1. It’s interesting to see your current pen line-up and to get your thoughts on them all. Reading this has made me think too, about the state of my own accumulation. The lesson, to be content with what we have, is commendable and you have largely achieved that!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great article. When I was new to the hobby I used to buy quite indiscriminately (within my budget), just like a magpie. But now I think do I need that pen just because its in a new colour? My purchasing has become more discerning and expensive, have somehow acquired 5 Montblanc and 3 Omas, Pelikan is sadly missing after I sold my M400 but a M800 is in my future!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I tried to dig in to some of the psychology of moving up the ladder to more expensive pens in this post a year ago: https://ukfountainpens.com/2017/07/30/moving-on-from-old-friends/ . I think the process you’ve been through (and me too!) is quite natural. And suddenly you end up with some amazing pens. I tried out a few Omas yesterday and they live up to the hype. When that becomes your benchmark for a prospective purchase to be measured against… well, it makes sense that fewer will make the cut and join your flock!

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  3. I admire your restraint in keeping your total collection to such a modest (but select) size. I find it too easy to acquire pens and way too hard to dispose of them.

    On the subject of the 3776 Kumpoo, it’s a beauty. The soft medium is not the best option for a lefty like me, but it was the only nib available via Cult Pens. The finish on the cap and barrel is quite something. Prices only seem to be going up!

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    • To put it in perspective, I have 15 active pens, one incoming. I have given away, sold or retired 45 pens. It’s partly financial necessity that has made me dispose of a lot of them; partly that I want my family, friends and daughter to enjoy pens too, and partly a grim realisation that a pen sat uninked in a drawer for 90% of the year is doing nobody any good.

      Of course, it should be easier just not to buy the pens in the first place, then I wouldn’t have the trauma of figuring out which ones to get rid of… but since I’ve bought two pens this month it seems I still have some way to go on that front!

      I tried the SM Kumpoo yesterday and I found the nib rather forgiving — compared to my memories of the SF 3776 I used to own. Part of me thinks it’s crazy to pay 3x the normal price of a 3776 just to get a green ribbed plastic barrel, with no changes to nib or internals, but that sensible voice is easily ignored…

      Liked by 2 people

  4. When I was new to fountain pens, I bought a wide variety of pens of mediocre quality. At that time I bought pens primarily for their looks. However, I soon became frustrated while trying to write with poorly tuned nibs of lesser quality. My primary focus now is on how a pen writes. While I still value beautiful colors and design, I have realized that a pen that doesn’t write well is just a pretty stick. My favorites in my collection are Pelikans, Pilots, and Sailors, all with solid gold nibs. I really enjoy writing with my pens, and writing with a wonderful nib is pure joy. I also have some very good quality pens with stainless steel nibs. I’ve learned that a nib doesn’t have to be solid gold to write well. Because of my frustration with poorly tuned nibs, I’ve learned how to tune them myself. I have come to appreciate that skill, because good tuning can turn a mediocre nib into an excellent one. I am very grateful that I was able to collect the nice pens I have. However, financial concerns have forced me to slow down my collecting activities. I concentrate now more on caring for, maintaining, and (happily) writing with my pens. While I’ll never entirely stop collecting, I agree that there comes a time to appreciate what we already have.

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    • I’m with you — the quality of the nib is so much more important than the looks. I’m a gold-nib snob, but I’ve had plenty of wonderful steel nibs too. I don’t believe the average pen owner should have to learn how to tune nibs (the manufacturers should do a better job) but I too have found that just a little time and effort can make all the difference.

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