State of the collection: October 2021

Gosh, it was May when I last did a SotC post, and here we are nearly hitting November.

Naturally, there’s been a fair bit of change.

Two long-standing, much-loved pens from my main tray back in May have gone: London Fog and Sequoyah. I still feel very positively about these pens, but I wasn’t using them much. With the Visconti, maybe it was the chore of cleaning the power filler; with the Sequoyah maybe it was the long cap threads. There’s always an element of rationalising a decision you’ve already made.

Three pens from the second tray have gone too: Cross Peerless, Pilot 823, and one of the Schons. My original black 2000 is flushed and back in quiet retirement (but I’ll never sell it, have no fear).

The Peerless is an interesting one. It remains a 10/10 for comfort and writing experience. It’s practical, it never dries out, it’s built like a tank. Maybe I’m just superficial and couldn’t get over the giant bulbous cap?

The 823, like the Visconti, is a case of ditching the inconvenient filler knob. Perhaps too it just felt a little plasticky for me.

A few eye-opening catch and releases since May, too. Nakaya Dorsal, which I’ve not quite made sense of yet. Venvstas Magna CC. Otto Hutt design08 review loaner. Benu Talisman. Franklin-Christoph Model 03. Aurora 88 Nettuno re-buy. Esterbrook JR. Drillog. Gioia Alleria x2. GM Shamshir. It sounds like a lot, but I have to keep ‘Newmanising’ my collection (the FPUK group on Facebook have officially verbed me!). I feel a real pang of sadness packing up great pens, but I’d rather they go to a new home than sit in a drawer here.

And what else has arrived since May that has stuck around? Also quite a few, from the small to the big. Ensso Pocket Pen. Lamy 2000 Brown. Caran d’Ache Ecridor. Karas Ink Eggshell. Graf Classic. Otto Hutt designC. More on each of those below.

Oh, and my haul from the London Pen Show: Sailor King of Pen Urushi. Aurora Minerali Amethyst, and a couple of loaners from Onoto.

I’m not planning a separate pen show writeup: I have plenty of notes and things to say, but honestly half the show was spent in meetings and conversations, and the rest has been beautifully covered by Rupert and Gary. But I will say that I had a fantastic time. To the degree that I subjected the world to my smiling face:

Now, on to the pens.

I wanted to group my tray into trios, but a few of the recent acquisitions have put paid to that idea. But let’s run with the list and see where we get to.

The Montblancs

149, Agatha, Martele. No change in these stalwarts of my collection. The Martele has been through a few different inks, and today is loaded with my long-term love, Bungubox Ink of Witch. I’ve put Vinta Ulap in the Agatha (in for review from the nice folks at Cult Pens), and the 149 is perpetually inked with Montblanc Velvet Red. I am a very happy man.

There may soon be news on the Montblanc front. A new (or should I say old) writer’s edition: the Faulkner. Do I have a particular kinship to William Faulkner? Not yet. I’ve read a bit and liked it. But the pen has haunted me for a while, and I put some feelers out. So we’ll see.

If there’s any other gap, it’s for a Platinum-trim 149. I love lots of Montblancs, but the 149 is the one that fits me best, and I prefer silver-tone trims to gold. But I love my vintage 149 even if it has gold trims, and I don’t like duplicates, so not sure what the answer is yet…

The Lamys

Despite what I just said about duplicates, I now devote three precious slots to the Lamy 2000: Black Amber, Bauhaus Blue, and… Brown. F, EF, F. Attentive readers may note that I had the brown up for sale for a while, but I came to my senses. I’ve said it before, but the 2000 really is up there with my favourite pens of all time, and I can’t find fault with these beauties.

Which makes it all the more odd that other Lamys increasingly leave me cold. The new Ideos, the Dialog CC? Not interested. Anyone else feel the same?

Offbeat Germans

I have a distinct soft spot for ‘alternative’ German manufacturers. I wrote at length about why I added an Otto Hutt designC back into my collection, and I still don’t regret it. Today it’s inked with Dominant Industry Leaf Green, an ink in for review direct from Korea.

I haven’t yet explained why a Graf Classic is here in my pen tray. Actually, I bought it as a replacement for an old favourite of mine that I mistakenly sold some time ago. It’s currently waiting for a nib swap with Stone, the UK Graf distributor.

Third, and missing from the photos, is a Rotring 600 in lava with an EF nib. I was impressed enough with a beaten-up black 600 to look for something NOS in a more impressive finish, and it’s still sitting in the US waiting for me.

If I had to break my trio of offbeat Germans, I would be tempted to add a Cleo Skribent Natura in green to the tray. I reviewed this pen a long time ago thanks to John at Write Here, and I still think about it often.

The grand Italians

I buy and sell more Italian pens than any other, and I review lots too. Scribo, Visconti, Leonardo, Gioia… I love them, but they rarely stick around for the truly long-term. I have no idea why. Maybe it’s because they tend to be colourful, and I get bored of colour?

Today, three sit in my pen tray, and two have been there for a long time. They’re true survivors.

The Leonardo Cuspide is close to a perfect pen for me. Beautiful material, incredible comfort. Premium price, but for a gold nib, piston filler, ebonite feed it at least has the spec to back it up.

ASC’s Gladiatore Medio is technically an American pen, but I believe it’s made in Italy and hey, the materials are Italian. Inked with Montblanc Encre du Desert, it’s a very pleasurable writing experience.

The third? My new Aurora. I have so much respect for the 88 as a pen design. It manages to tick all the boxes: totally in house, including nib and feed. Easy change nib units. Practical clip. Piston filler with high capacity. Ink window. Never dries out. Quick-off cap. Long section. Non-sharp threads. Posts securely. Feels small when capped and large in the hand. It’s really marvellous. This particular version is a demonstrator, which doesn’t normally do it for me, but here I’m happy. And the F nib is firm, smooth, fine and sensational. A real bargain. I’ve owned several Auroras and I’m still hunting for the one that’s right for me long-term. This may be it.

There is so much innovation coming out of Italy, and I find myself hankering after new Maioras, Leonardos, Viscontis and Scribos practically every week. But the company that I’m seriously considering adding to my collection is Santini. New #8 in-house nib, ebonite, piston filler? That’s exciting stuff. I had problems with my first review sample from them, but water under the bridge and all that…

European variety

And now we come to the rest of Europe. Right now, I only have one representative: a Caran d’Ache Ecridor Retro with a B nib that I ground down to an architect/zoom. It’s exposing a bit of a tendency, along with the Rotring above and Ystudio below, for hexagonal, slim, metal pens with slip caps. Totally against my usual preference, but for some reason I love them. And I am indeed really enjoying this one. Steel nib, but it feels like quality.

What else from Europe? In the future, I have given serious thought to it and the day Conid opens back up, I will buy another Kingsize. I really regret selling my two, especially given what’s happened to prices since!

Onoto are also doing some really interesting things, and I have it in my head to scope out my perfect Magna. Blue swirl, perhaps, #8 Ti nib, plunger filler, two-turn cap threads… how good would that be?

Japanese elite

And now to Japan. I’ve somehow, at last got myself a flagship from each of the big three, although not the first pens that would leap into most people’s minds… especially since all three are urushi.

Sailor: thanks to John Twiss at the London Pen Show, at 9.01am I had a King of Pen Urushi. The M nib is. absolutely. SPECTACULAR. And yes, it’s the same colour scheme as the Namiki (although the red is darker). I really, really like it, and it brings me a writing sensation like nothing else in the tray.

Nakaya: representing Platinum, the 17mm Cigar. I listed this for sale but came to my senses. I still go googly-eyed over fancier finishes with raden and the like, but this Toki fits me. It’s a gorgeous caramel colour.

Namiki: representing Pilot, the Urushi 20 in Vermillion is (along with the Cuspide) my benchmark for pen comfort. Glorious. I’ve owned it more than two and a half years, which for me is a lifetime.

My only real itch right now is one I’ve had for years. I want to add a Hakase to the collection. Yes, it’s a Pilot nib — but it’s so much more. Flat top, rosewood or jade celluloid, #15 nib. I am a sucker for traditional craftsmanship. And I can put up with a year-long wait.

The weirdos

I group these three pens together — the Ystudio Copper Portable, Kasama Una Panahon, Karas Ink Eggshell — because they’re adventurous with materials and form, rather than writing experience. The Ystudio has a lanyard hole and is hewn from solid copper. The Kasama is stone-flecked PEEK and lightning-flamed Ti. The Karas is mecha-clipped Tiffany-sprayed Ti-nibbed incongruence in one pen.

These pens may have generic nibs and in some cases quite low price tags, but they have guts and personality. In some sense, while the rest of my tray is ‘fine writing’, these guys are survivors of the dozens of more mainstream steel-nibbed pens that cross my desk each year. The Esties, the Franklin-Christophs, etc. These three brought me something different and fun. The only change I have planned on the horizon is to swap the Ystudio for one of their foil artisan series with branded gold nib. Now that would be an upgrade.

Pocket

No surprises here. Schon, Schon, Ensso. These two Schons aren’t going anywhere, although I was seriously tempted to add a faceted alu in Shipwreck to my roster, but decided the price was too high. The Ensso I’ve written about over the summer, and I still find it an amazing chunk of full-size metal for a pocket pen. The only addition I have planned: I’m waiting for my Elbwood.

The last word

That’s 22 if you include the pocket pens and the Rotring on another continent, plus a couple of sentimental retirees (like my vintage Geha and first Lamy 2k) that live out of rotation. Really for my personal comfort I could do with cutting a few: there’s a reason I sized to a 15-pen Toyooka tray, and I’m currently at 19. The Ecridor and Rotring would be good candidates on a last in, first out basis. We’ll see.

I know I say it all the time, but I really feel a maturation of my tray. I have a wishlist, but now it feels less about exploring, more about laser-targeted filling of gaps. Conid, Hakase, Cleo, Onoto, Santini. Could 2022 be the year I finish my collection? Famous last words, perhaps.

3 thoughts on “State of the collection: October 2021

  1. Thanks for this updated tour of your collection. I loved the fact that there is now a term for this honing and fine-tuning process, that is called Newmanising one’s collection.
    I am totally with you about the features of the Aurora 88 and your latest Minerali Amethyst looks a beauty: a very upmarket demonstrator! Thanks too for the shout out.

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  2. i’m right with you on lamy feelings! the 2000 is something entirely different from the rest of their lineup. there is something about the designs that spawned from that post-war period late in the wirtschaftswunder, often in the vicinity of the wiesbaden and ulm colleges for design, exemplified most by the braun designs back then. it doesn’t happen in every instance, but when it all works out just right, the objects get this weird feel: they’re very refined, but are feet-on-the-ground kind of things. they want to be used, not looked at. they tell clearly when they’ve been designed, but they don’t age. they may be pedestrian, but they’re beautiful.

    and when i compare how i feel about the 2000 with the other lamy pens i’ve had in my life – the then-ubiquitous lamy abc in my early elementary school years, and a safari a couple years later – they still nailed the functionality aspects to a high degree, but lack much of the 2000’s aura. as does pretty much every other lamy pen i’ve seen.

    so it can’t be *just* about being very functionality-forward, it’s more about the way it is so. the strictness of every design decision must have something to do with it. it’s partly a question of aesthetics, but the magic also stops when it’s just that. (see apple)

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  3. 100% with you on the bulbous cap of the Cross Peerless. Aurora is a brand that’s beginning to intrigue me, though I’m not sure I’ll ever grow to love the demonstrator pens. It was interesting to read your rationalisations for your choices and to see that you have some regrets as well as many positives to report from the ebb and flow of your pen collection.

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