Admiring small, but perfectly formed, collections: 10 pen addicts to follow on Instagram

Some folks have huge or ever-changing pen collections. It’s easy to be impressed by racks of Oldwins…

…endless lines of incredible Montblanc LEs…

or even perfect palettes of Sailor Pro Gears…

But I find myself drawn to those with small but diverse and perfectly formed collections — whether it’s five, ten or twenty pens, you can tell that each new acquisition has been carefully considered, the result of self-knowledge and discernment.

There’s no automatic buying of new releases here, or buying in bulk on impulse. They invest carefully, and the pens they own are special, distinctive, and they somehow work together to tell a coherent story, each adding a unique piece to the overall picture. They have focus, and want every pen to count.

It’s as much about trimming back as adding on; it’s almost like these are bonsai collections!

(in case you haven’t guessed, this is how I feel about my own library of pens…)

So when I’m scrolling my Instagram feed and I see a certain set of pens in the shot, I know exactly who it is immediately. That’s the kind of collection I’m talking about here. Unique combinations.

Katja Engelkamp is the perfect example. I have tried to sell her pens on numerous occasions, but she knows exactly what she wants, and she won’t be distracted. And her collection has grown, but her core rotation still seems to number around a dozen.

Among them are rare and distinctive gems, like the Visconti Crystal Swirl, two Hello Tello pens in Brooks resins, an unusual Stipula, a special edition Conid, and a Scribo Feel. Every one a different colour and shape, but somehow they feel like a family. And every one well off the beaten track.

Attila Sultis is another whose posts I invariably like and save. At a rough count I’d say his rotation numbers fewer than 20 pens, among them a Montblanc Agatha Christie, Visconti London Fog, Graf Platino, Rotring 600, and ASC Arco. But the two that get the most attention from me are his beautiful Nakaya Dorsal 2 in Heki-Tamenuri, and the unique Urushi Newton Prospector with M1000 nib. A real bonus: his photography is clean and crisp.

Phillip at Pensandgaming I seem to remember at one point only had two or three pens in rotation. That number has grown a bit, but it’s still a tight collection with every pen a gem. A Montblanc Hemingway, two Kasama Unas, ASC Arco, Vanishing Point and two Conid Kingsizes lead the field. But it’s his unique handwriting with huge flowing loops and rare inks (Montblanc Gandhi Saffron!) that get me.

Anthony at Watchmypens is a man of rarified tastes. He specialises in Italian pens: Montegrappa, Stipula, Leonardo, Delta, Aurora, Omas. I actually can’t tell how many pens he’s got (I see the same dozen or so in regular posts) but he always posts the three pens in his current rotation. I wish I had that kind of discipline.

John at London Fountain Pens has a large collection of Lamys and Ecos in rainbow colours, but his ‘proper’ pens number around 12 — including Nakayas, Montblancs, Conids, Onotos, and a Cross Darth Vader! Every one is a grail pen and they all get used.

I just wish he’d post more group shots of the good stuff…

I don’t know Micah, from the Philippines, who posts at Micahfinds. But I love her aesthetic. Her collection ranges from Montblancs and special maki-e Pelikans to Kasama, Franklin-Christoph and vintage Parkers… and a ton of Nakayas and even a Yard-o-Led. Oh, and she has a Martele, like me.

Her feed is just incredibly pretty, as befits a hobbyist photographer.

I confess I find the diversity of her collection a little overwhelming — she’s one of the ones with the rainbow of Sailors — and she a accumulates pens even faster than I do. But there’s discipline too. She culled two thirds of her collection in late 2019, down to 30 pens. Ouch.

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What I have learned from my recent #MarieKondofortheCondo ❶ When rehoming your pens, it’s great to rehome them to close friends first before strangers. It feels less painful. And the moment becomes meaningful. The pen transforms itself into a couch, a kitchen appliance, or funds to pay off the contractor. And you can send photo updates to your friends and thank them for giving your pen a new home, because it helped build your own. ❷ Help me God because the pen is not only mightier than the sword, it is also mightier than me. 🤣 from 90 pens, I was able to bring my collection down to just 30. But we have moved past the 45 mark again. 💀 ❸ Rehoming makes you more aware of which pens ACTUALLY spark joy. I used to collect almost every single pro gear that Sailor released. But now, I’ve learned to temper myself, and assess if it’s just FOMO. ❹ If you still love it, leave it for last. With every pen that I was able to rehome, it made it clearer which ones I couldn’t let go. Some pens that I thought I would hold onto forever ended up adopted. And some pens I had neglected for so long, I now have a greater appreciation for. ❺ Ah, cheesy but I am so lucky to have a partner like @artofpanpan, who insisted I didn’t have to sacrifice my entire Sailor collection just for our new life together, who reassured me that I don’t have to completely climb out of the Sailor swamp. She knew it was killing me to let go of my Sailors. 💔 So, when it got to the really tough ones, she sat me down and said, “Hey. Stop.” Now we are working on building better discipline, and ultimately get a better understanding of our priorities. Not every solution needs to be extreme. Compromise when you can, for it yields more long-term results. ❻ And finally: people were right. Eventually, the daunting future and the fog of financial uncertainty will clear. When you start seeing the horizon, and you can breathe again, every pen rehomed was worth it! Hey, if you made it this far, thanks for reading. 🥳 I know this is an update no one asked for. 🤣 But I hope it was a good and worthwhile read anyway. ☺️

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Scratchynib has been in my feed forever. His thing is Platinum 3776s: not loads of them, but enough. Different nibs, different colours. And all bought and used with absolute, conscious, intent. Not a diverse collection, but perhaps the best example of the focus I’m talking about in this list.

Michael at Scrively takes a restrained and thoughtful approach, leaning towards the German manufacturers, with pens from Lamy, Otto Hutt, Montblanc, Graf and Pelikan featuring. I always find Michael’s photography peaceful.

Oleg’s collection parallels my own in size and many of the brands covered. I spy Auroras, a Montegrappa Extra, some Montblancs and Viscontis, Pelikan and Sailor, a Pilot 823… and a total collection sized in the early 20s. His pens are always pictured at work in notebooks, in the warm light of a desk lamp. It’s a cozy world of writing.

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Spring…

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And last but not least… Jimmy at Hoppypens has been through a tough cull to get down to 30 pens (sounds familiar?) covering Sailor, Nakaya, Omas, Oldwin, Conid. I am really feeling his approach of trying to stick to just one pen per manufacturer to get maximum variety from the collection, and I love how he analyses the pens he uses, the inks he writes with… a lot of thought goes in.

And the natural, at-work photos are gently inspirational.

It was tough to pick out just ten people from the thousand+ I follow on Instagram, but these are the accounts that illustrate my ideal of a pen collection: small but varied, carefully assembled, and full of grails.

Who do you love to see posting on Instagram? Whose sub-30-pen collections do you wish you could steal wholesale? Let me know in the comments.

8 thoughts on “Admiring small, but perfectly formed, collections: 10 pen addicts to follow on Instagram

  1. Anthony, I’m proud to say your blog is on my “frequently visited” tab on my browser. Thank you for being such an incredible part of the fountain pen community. I so appreciate you including me on this list!

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  2. Great article! As soon as I saw Scratchynib, I realized what a perfect fit he is for this list. All Platinum, all the time. Thanks for introducing me to some new (to me) accounts.

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  3. Wow. I really admire the self-discipline required for this – still too far away from this myself. The Bonsai metaphor is very well chosen.
    Do you think the Instagram phenom risk elevating aesthetics above all things, though? Either by insisting that a collection make an aesthetically pleasing set, or by insisting that all members of the set be beautiful? Could you ever have an ugly pen in an Instagrammable collection, even if it writes like a dream?

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    • Ooh, you raise a very good point. I’m not sure how to answer it, though. An inseparable part of my enjoyment of my collection is how it looks to me when I pull out the drawer — I look at them all gleaming there in a neat ordered row and that gives me pleasure. So does holding them, and writing with them, and talking about them, and writing about them, and it’s all bound up. If I found an amazing writer and didn’t like the way it looks, I would probably feel conflicted. Or maybe I’d never pick it up in the first place, or maybe the associations of how well it wrote would make me think it beautiful? Hell, I’m confusing myself now.

      But if I look deep inside myself I am sure I’ve bought, kept and photographed pens at least in part because of how well I think they’d be received on Instagram, rather than on how much I’d enjoy writing with them. It’s a kind of vanity.

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  4. Pingback: Fountain Pen Quest Trail Log – June 14, 2020 | Fountain Pen Quest

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