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Thread: Condition, description

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    Senior Member Empty_of_Clouds's Avatar
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    Default Condition, description

    Does anyone else think that it is high time that vintage pens had a proper lexicon of condition descriptions?

    In an advert I read recently a pen was described as "excellent condition", and in further details it was revealed that the cap band was half-brassed, the cap had a few nicks, the barrel had a depression due to posting of the cap, and the clip was partially brassed.

    How is this "excellent condition"?


    Perhaps there should be a guide to condition similar to version that is now standard in describing the condition of vintage books.

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    Senior Member Jon Szanto's Avatar
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    Default Re: Condition, description

    Are you talking globally? or only on the sales here at FPG? Who will determine the terms and their use? How will this be enforced?

    I'd probably look to established areas of much higher sales volume and penetration, such as traditional antiques or vintage cars, etc; your suggestion of the vintage books looks like a promising model, too. Nonetheless, you are still faced with a completely unenforcable bundle of rules and terms, and it seems like a fool's errand (I believe that is the phrase). I combine asking for photographic documentation and a strong degree of caveat emptor.
    "When Men differ in Opinion, both Sides ought equally to have the Advantage of being heard by the Publick;
    and that when Truth and Error have fair Play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter."

    ~ Benjamin Franklin

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    Senior Member Empty_of_Clouds's Avatar
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    Default Re: Condition, description

    Globally.

    I understand that this might seem like a fool's errand, but then how did the vintage book condition descriptions come to be accepted as a standard tool? It has to start somehow because, as you point out, it's unenforceable. The book example was only one such example, as you have also noted. However, that does not undermine the idea of applying something similar to vintage pens.


    Perhaps in the first instance this should be driven by the more established vintage sellers?


    Look, it's just a suggestion, and I believe one based on reasonable expectation of transparency. Please don't bite my head off for suggesting it. I believe a discussion may be helpful.

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    Senior Member Voiren's Avatar
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    Default Re: Condition, description

    I have a friend who complains a great deal about Amazon sellers' notions of near mint, very good condition, etc on their secondhand books.

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    Default Re: Condition, description

    I've no doubt that in any area where there aren't enforceable guidelines there will be some who will, either willfully or not, fail to describe their wares adequately. That does not mean that having a framework is a bad idea.

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    Senior Member Deb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Condition, description

    A globally-accepted set of description terms would probably make my life easier. As it is I do my best with ad hoc descriptions but I accept that these leave room for disagreement. Have at it!
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    Default Re: Condition, description

    I like this idea very much. And I actually do think some form of enforcement could be possible if a body were formed and announced to develop the system. Experienced collectors+restorers+sellers could get together, work it out comprehensively, give it a name, and then disseminate/'sell' it. Every time a sale would reference it by name, it would gain more power. The system could give sellers who consistently follow their guidelines a badge of approval or something. Chances of this happening? Unlikely.
    Last edited by fountainpenkid; March 23rd, 2019 at 05:13 PM.
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    Default Re: Condition, description

    Let's not talk about enforcement before we see how practical this is. I remember the various discussions about measuring flexibility of nibs that were pie in the sky and went nowhere. I think there are some measures that could be agreed but I'm not at all sure it should be dumped on restorers/sellers to do it. We're self-employed and most of us work very long hours and don't have that kind of time to spare. If this discussion doesn't just fade away as most do, and actually shows some practical development, I'll be happy to commit what time I can to it.
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    Default Re: Condition, description

    Someone could bring the idea up to Pen Colectors of America, and let that group make some guidelines, if they haven't already. Then the Pen Collectors could advocate acceptance of definitions.

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    Senior Member Jon Szanto's Avatar
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    Default Re: Condition, description

    Quote Originally Posted by Empty_of_Clouds View Post
    Look, it's just a suggestion, and I believe one based on reasonable expectation of transparency. Please don't bite my head off for suggesting it. I believe a discussion may be helpful.
    Please - I only offered a counterpoint, there was no head-biting either written or intended. I am looking at it simply from my perspective, which is: even IF one (many ones, actually) somehow agreed on a grid of terms (something that I've never seen the pen community do on *any* topic) how on Earth would you propose to spread this out? From the discussion forum of one of the smallest sites on the net you are going to reach people and convince them... how?

    I am more than happy to support any effort that has a viable, realistic concept for bringing something like this to fruition. If it is another exercise in typing, though, I have to pass. My comment was only a reality check, in intention and (hopefully) execution, based on past similar activities.
    "When Men differ in Opinion, both Sides ought equally to have the Advantage of being heard by the Publick;
    and that when Truth and Error have fair Play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter."

    ~ Benjamin Franklin

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    Default Re: Condition, description

    Quote Originally Posted by Voiren View Post
    I have a friend who complains a great deal about Amazon sellers' notions of near mint, very good condition, etc on their secondhand books.
    That is the crux of the matter, right there.

    Professionals, such as auction houses and specialist dealers, are going to be knowledgeable about conditions
    and hew closely to accepted standards; while amateurs will use standard terms however they personally feel they should be applied.

    Changing the lexicon doesn’t affect the root problem.

    At best, a trade organization might offer to grade a pen based on their standards and offer their particular assessment and a certification, but that service would need to be widely available, affordable and recognized by buyers as something desirable.

    HTH!

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    Default Re: Condition, description

    Sometimes one has to push a lot of small pebbles before the avalanche begins.

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    Default Re: Condition, description

    How about something like this.


    Museum: Perfect example. No flaws, or damage, or wear.

    Near mint: Handling / storage wear only.

    Excellent: Handling / storage wear, and /or minor wear from usage, micro scratches.

    Fine: Good overall condition but does show considerable wear from usage. Micro scratches present. Some brassing to furniture.

    User: Clear signs of hard use. Scratches present, possibly toothmarks, posting wear and considerable loss of plating.



    To add to this, an extra category of restored / unrestored.


    And to address the question of who might best drive such a framework, I would suggest the collectors. To my thinking serious collectors (and the sellers that sell to them) are more likely to be critical of condition.

    Open to other ideas of course.

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    Default Re: Condition, description

    This topic was strongly debated probably some 12 years ago, back when there was even more vintage collectors. Vintage might still have been a heavy presence on the Boards yet then. I think we'd like grading pens to be like coins, easy. Apparently, there is a 6 point grading system for cars - that probably gets closer to it. Still, grading is always subjective. Sellers are always going to have better pens that what the buyer thinks. Could go to a third party to be graded like coins but, I doubt the expense would be as supportable. Many dealers sell using their own grading system which is fairly generic in approach but, generally gets to what they mean. Fair for 1915 will be different for 2015 but, that's understandable as well. Some will say that pens are minted (and they are not) but, we all know what you mean. It became clear then that a generally detailed description of the pen would get the point across without trying to call it "Fine" or "Excellent". There isn't anybody out there going to police this either. If there was a consensus possible on grading I think it would already be in place, as it is not I think you have your answer.

    Roger W.

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    Default Re: Condition, description

    More often than not, I've been surprised — in good and bad ways — by aspects of a pen that weren't described at all.

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    Default Re: Condition, description

    Quote Originally Posted by Empty_of_Clouds View Post
    How about something like this.


    Museum: Perfect example. No flaws, or damage, or wear. Absolutely not! "Museum quality" means something that looks OK seen from a forward angle in a case. Might not be working. In a capped pen, it might have no nib or a very poor section. Inner cap could be missing major parts. Pen might have been filled with India ink and left for 25 years. What can't be seen doesn't matter in a museum.

    Near mint: Handling / storage wear only. After "Brand new and never used," comes "mint". Not "near mint" or "almost mint." I believe everybody already knows what "mint" means. "Mint" is as close as you get to brand new without it being new. Just "mint." Saying "near mint" or "like mint" is like saying "very unique."

    Excellent: Handling / storage wear, and /or minor wear from usage, micro scratches. Excellent comes after mint. Might have micro scratches.

    Fine: Good overall condition but does show considerable wear from usage. Micro scratches present. Some brassing to furniture. After excellent comes "very good." To many people "fine" might suggest better than very good or excellent or even mint and is an unnecessary "fluffing" step. e.g. there is "fine jewellery" - it usually means precious metals or stones. The only "fine" in pens regularly describes a nib tip width. Best to not use any words that could cause potential confusion.

    User: Clear signs of hard use. Scratches present, possibly toothmarks, posting wear and considerable loss of plating. User grade is the lowest.



    To add to this, an extra category of restored / unrestored.


    And to address the question of who might best drive such a framework, I would suggest the collectors. To my thinking serious collectors (and the sellers that sell to them) are more likely to be critical of condition.

    Open to other ideas of course.
    Other ideas. Everyone who is a member of FPG will have their own ideas. Not that I'm going to use anything other than my own descriptions when I sell any pens of mine.
    Last edited by Chrissy; March 24th, 2019 at 10:50 AM.
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    Default Re: Condition, description

    Quote Originally Posted by Chrissy View Post
    [
    Other ideas. Everyone who is a member of FPG will have their own ideas. Not that I'm going to use anything other than my own descriptions when I sell any pens of mine.
    That's right, Chrissy. The more I think about this, the more I am reminded that there is so much more to any pen than some simplistic code for condition. Then there are several types of restorer. I restore conservatively, meaning that my pens are clean and working well, but I have not re-blacked, re-plated or made any attempt to make an old pen look as if it was made yesterday. Is the condition of a pen to which those thing have been done better than my conservatively restored example? I don't think so. In fact I think the reverse is true. I think I'll be sticking to my descriptions which include a report on any flaws and signs of wear. People know what they're getting from me.
    Last edited by Deb; March 24th, 2019 at 10:25 AM.
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    Default Re: Condition, description

    Without an organization behind the grading system a grassroots approach may take a long time. It is interesting that record albums enjoy a relatively established grading system but I am not sure how that came to be.

    The underlying issue is sellers overstating the condition of their wares. Caveat emptor is rather a big ask. It takes a lot of work and learning and discernment to tilt the odds in one's favor.

    Pictures do help. I spend way too much time on ebay looking at watches, pens, pocket knives, and myriad other things.

    I have the impression that good quality pen pictures are uncommon vs other collectibles. I am being too polite.

    Some of the blurriest, darkest, lowest resolution, least revealing, craptastic pictures I see are of pens. Makes me think it is intentional sometimes. I mean with modern cellphones it isn't that damn hard. And of course almost no one posts good macro shots of the nib. I've gotten more than a few (some expensive) with pitted or worn out nibs.

    Wristwatches are a nightmare. Many good pics but of those too many are trying to conceal severe brassing or major internal issues with the watch. I try to avoid purchasing if there's no demonstration of a working balance. And hardly anyone provides one, let alone six, position timing and amplitude information. I once sold a movement and provided all that but it bore no reward for the extra work. Buyers aren't savvy enough to demand it so we all suffer I guess.

    Pocket knives? Ugh. 90% are tarnished, worn down crap. Takes forever to find a knife that isn't junk. And even if it looks promising the spring mechanism is worn out or the blade wobbles. Ugh. But at least sellers often detail those issues.

    Takes time and mistakes to hone my pen buying skills, learn what to look for, focus on specific models and their potential issues. Even so I have been burned more often than I'd like to think about. But I've also gotten some amazing "sumgai" deals on a few. You win some you lose some?

    When I sell I try to be as thorough and honest as I can. I believe in focusing first on doing right by the customer. The problem is people calibrated to overestimaters will think my idea of "minor signs of wear" translates to "tossed onto asphalt out of moving car repeatedly".

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    Default Re: Condition, description

    More than half of the pens sold on ebay don't even have any pictures of the pen with it's cap off. I always wonder how anyone can even think it's possible to sell a fountain pen without removing it's cap to take at least one picture of the business end.

    It's like trying to sell a car without adding a picture showing that it has any wheels on it.
    Regards, Chrissy | My Blog: inkyfountainpens

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    Senior Member Deb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Condition, description

    It's always a bit of a risk buying in eBay even when the item has what appear to be good photos. The main problems with old pens are cracked nibs and cracks in the cap lip. It's quite easy to conceal those. I tend to pay a lot of attention to the description and I ignore that statement about "the photos form part of the description" because it's so easy to hide faults in photos. I look for the words, "no cracks, bite-marks or deep scratches." Actually, bite-marks can usually be easily dealt with. The other two can be a bit pesky and they may make a low-value pen not worth the effort.

    In the end, if the pen you get is seriously damaged, eBay's return policy has improved a lot in recent times. I expect to return about a quarter of all the pens I buy in eBay.

    While it might be possible to work up a code of condition for sellers of restored pens, there can never be any kind of enforceable code for eBay sellers of unrestored pens. They're mostly house clearance people with no real interest in pens. Making selling those pens more difficult for them will result in them salvaging the nibs and throwing the pens away.
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