In case you missed it, I’m selling some pens again.
A garage full of supercars — which Ferrari would you sell?
I’ve long since passed the point of selling the pens I’ve bought but don’t get on with (although there are always a few of those); I’m mostly selling pens I really enjoy, that write well, that I think are beautiful, and even some that are rare and may be impossible for me to get hold of again.
So I’ve understandably had quite a few confused people comment saying “why are you selling your Decapod?” or similar. They’re having trouble getting their head around it (particularly when I have only recently given these pens glowing reviews), so I thought it might be interesting to explain what’s going on.
Why sell pens that you love?
For me, selling pens is a pain. Not only do I lose money on each pen, there’s a time investment in making listings, dealing with enquiries, and trudging to the post office again and again.
But the alternative is having too many pens (or knives, or torches, or headphones, or multitools), and that is a real source of mental anguish.
Belongings tie up money, they take up space, they need periodic maintenance (charging, cleaning, whatever). With my pens in particular, I forget what I’ve got, what each one is inked with, I have trouble keeping it all organised to my satisfaction.
But most of all, those pens lying there guilt me for not using them enough.
And when you get to 50 pens, as I have, all inked, even a Nakaya Decapod struggles for hand time. And it’s struggling not just against my Montblancs and Pelikans and other brands, but against my Nakaya 17mm Cigar, which I simply have to admit is a better pen for my hand than the Decapod, and one that I would choose to use most of the time. So why keep three Nakayas when I prefer one over the other two?
How do you choose?
My decision to slim back down — in my case to a more reasonable 30 pens or so — is not just based on deciding which are my “best” pens (although I have gone through the exercise of painfully ranking them all from top to bottom).
Instead, part of my approach to collecting is to have a variety of interesting pens, different colours and materials, different nib sizes, different filling mechanisms and brands. I feel that if I keep three Nakayas — which are objectively quite similar — I’m taking up slots that could be used by a Pilot Murex or an ASC Arco, which may not be as ‘good’ as a Nakaya but bring something very different to the table.
I’ll give you an example or two.
I chose to keep my Franklin-Christoph Pocket 66 and sell the Model 02, because they’re quite similar but the 66 is to me a purer expression of the F-C “DNA”. I don’t dislike the 02 by any means, but looking at the overall picture of the collection, I found 30 other pens that I wanted to represent instead.
And I just decided, in the end, to sell the Sailor Pro Gear Shumibun, even though I write with it quite often and like it a lot. I decided that as an example of “a Japanese extra fine”, I would probably choose to keep the Pilot Murex.
Similarly I decided that, while I deeply enjoy the Graf Classic, what I really wanted as a representation of Graf’s wooden pens was an Intuition Platino with a fine nib, so I got one — and the Classic is up for sale.
Whereas I’m keeping both the Visconti London Fog and Visconti Medici, because they look and feel so different; similarly the Lamy Bauhaus and the Lamy Imporium, or the Pelikan Ocean Swirl and M1005 Stresemann.
Glutton for punishment
So if I have to go through this frankly exhausting process of complete collection evaluation every time I come to sell, why do I keep buying even more pens?
It’s true that this is a painful and expensive trial, and for various reasons I’m trying to slow down what I’m buying (after a binge in August and September).
But every pen that arrives deepens my experience, which I can pass on to others (hi, readers!). And for myself, maybe one pen in two or three really sticks, either expanding my collection in a new direction, or supplanting a pen I already own, improving on it. The Waterman Carene is a great example — it feels different to any other pen I own, even Sheaffers with their inlaid nibs, so it expanded my collection. And the 17mm Nakaya made my other Nakayas obsolete.
In other words, I’m always looking for new, but more than that I’m always looking for better, ideally for perfect.
Do I always get it right? No. I have missed several sold pens enough that I’ve bought replacements, often at higher cost. But I’ve taken the opportunity to buy with different nib sizes that I believe fit the character of the pen better.
Always moving forward, people… always moving forward.