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Thread: Perceptions - tools versus safe queens.

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    Default Re: Perceptions - tools versus safe queens.

    Quote Originally Posted by Empty_of_Clouds View Post
    Were pens ever viewed as a collectible in that era?
    I don't know, it was (just ) before my time, but human nature being what it is (people collect all sorts of weird stuff, paperclips?), I would assume some did.
    Vintage. Cursive italic. Iron gall.

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    Senior Member Jon Szanto's Avatar
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    Default Re: Perceptions - tools versus safe queens.

    I apologize for my comments just a couple of posts back, as I completely missed the fact that OP was wondering about how this question played out in the distant past, not how we feel currently about our pens. I would just propose that unless someone can come up with first-hand accounts from the time or other hard data, the answer(s) iwill be a complete guessing game, nothing more.
    "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."

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    Default Re: Perceptions - tools versus safe queens.

    Yes, how this question played out in the past, and was that different to today. If so, then what reasons are there for the difference.
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    Default Re: Perceptions - tools versus safe queens.

    Quote Originally Posted by Empty_of_Clouds View Post
    Using the "what the dollar was worth" tool, $40 in 1920 is equivalent in buying power to $550 today....
    Further to this, how likely would a person in the 20s be to buy multiple pens at that price or above? Were pens ever viewed as a collectible in that era?
    ...
    I'd also add , how likely were the 'everyday' pens of the 20s likely to have survived nearly 100 years later? Seems more likely that the more expensive, less used, or often 'stored away' models are more likely to have survived to this day without needing a major restore.

    Far as how they treated them in the past, I once saw a rather popular restorer and nib seller, retort that their restored vintage pen they sold was leaky/etc because "all vintage pens leak", I'd have a very hard time believing that because even back then they wouldn't tolerate such a defect in common practice, so not sure why we would accept less now days (though we do in a variety of markets where the products aren't intended to last that long)

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    Default Re: Perceptions - tools versus safe queens.

    It’s only a movie, but in the Flavour of Green Tea over Rice, an Ozu film from 1952, there are shots of the husband working at his desk at home and at work. He uses a variety of instruments at home, but one of them is a fountain pen. At work he is shown using a pencil only. The company president has a glass jar on desk with a variety of writing instruments in it, but none clearly recognisable. There’s also a bottle of Superchrome on the president’s desk, so presumably whatever fountain pen or pens he used were destroyed — unless the boss was carrying a 51.

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    Senior Member Jon Szanto's Avatar
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    Default Re: Perceptions - tools versus safe queens.

    It just dawned on me that this would have been the perfect question to ask Fred Krinke, who passed away just about a month ago. His family business (The Fountain Pen Shop), which he inherited from his father, has been in business for over 90 years in Los Angeles (later Monrovia). I'm certain that he would have known what the customers were buying and using and needing maintenance on well back into the 1920s.

    Sadly, too late.
    "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."

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    Default Re: Perceptions - tools versus safe queens.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Szanto View Post
    It just dawned on me that this would have been the perfect question to ask Fred Krinke, who passed away just about a month ago. His family business (The Fountain Pen Shop), which he inherited from his father, has been in business for over 90 years in Los Angeles (later Monrovia). I'm certain that he would have known what the customers were buying and using and needing maintenance on well back into the 1920s.

    Sadly, too late.
    I read his personal favorite was a 1950's Esterbrook.

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    Default Re: Perceptions - tools versus safe queens.

    I'll have to echo some of what was said here. But before that a bit of background:

    1. I'm also a member of the straight razor/wetshaving hobby community and the history of it is a big interest for me.
    It's interesting to look at it from that perspective. For SR's, especially if you go as far back as the industrial revolution and before that - they were VERY expensive items. And it's a bit hard to make a direct comparison sometimes, because class division was a lot more back then. Rich lords could afford things like a 7 day set made from ivory and silver in a decorated gold box, but regular folks, it seems, would barely be able to afford one. HOWEVER, this was used. I doubt people who could barely afford a straight razor would BUY one just to keep it in a showcase and stare at it...buying things to not use them, I feel, is more of a thing you do if you're rich enough to be easily affording what you buy. They were EXTREMELY prized, ofc, and they were rare even at their height (thus barber shaves), but they were def. used even by those folks who would buy them only once in a lifetime. Especially because pre and near the start of the industrial revolution these were handmade, specifically designed to last a LIFETIME. Rather than factory made by the billions as throw away items. If something went wrong, you took it to someone to fix it. I think Fountain pens may share some of that, especially the expensive pens, regardless of the era. A montblanc is a montblanc - you bought one ONCE in your life and used the crap out of it everyday and took care of it like a samurai would his sword. There was a shop around the corner that you took your pen to if something was wrong (I've def. had that growing up for my FPs).

    In contrast, these days, unless you go for some specially custom made thing, some of the best NEW straights I've used don't cost more than $200, relatively affordable for most folks. I'm not sure if that's a function of people in general being richer and hobbies being more affordable, OR more likely, that the middle class has come a long way in the last 300+ years.

    2. Unlike a lot of people in my generation, I actually GREW up with fountain pens. A lot of what the older folks describe on this thread as what they remember, or their parents/grandparents told them about it was like back in the day is very much what I experienced 20+ years ago growing up in India. (India never DID come out of the fountain pen era. Even today, ballpoints etc are more common but I have no doubt that all my Indian Colleagues know how to use a fountain pens and wouldn't bat an eye at one if I brought it to work).
    We had 'cheap' pens, you know the <$10 stuff that would be use in and around the house. Or we kids would get when we were old enough to stop using pencils only. (I remember this as a BIG point in my life, when i would FINALLY start using a pen, and got my Red Parker Vector!). THEN there was what I always viewed as the "adult pens", the more expensive stuff the adults always carried with them. My dad still has his collection of Watermans and Cross pens. MAYBE I would get to use it once, but generally it was what the adults had in their pocket and locked in their drawer to be taken out to sign stuff or write things that were important. And these were pens that were carried everyday, but never SHARED, or taken out lightly, but well taken care of. I'm fairly certain they were expensive, but 100% used everyday. IDK about "beater", that has a different sort of connotation, but "everyday use" at the very least. (carrying something or using something everyday doesn't mean you expect it to get beaten up more. I carry my phone with me literally 24/7 but it's basically the most expensive thing I own, I'd literally break down into tears if that thing broke in some way).
    Last edited by Tjphysicist; December 9th, 2019 at 07:52 AM.

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    Default Re: Perceptions - tools versus safe queens.

    From a purely modern perspective, we also have to look at what survived to the modern day and what that meant to get it here.

    As an example, I see a number of higher tier pens that survive to the modern day in NOS condition (or dang near). However, I almost never find low tier pens (Wearever, American, etc.) surviving in pristine condition. I reckon that's largely for the same reason we don't see Bic Cristals from the 50s (when they sold for $0.29 a pen): they were cheap, heavily used, and were thrown away or destroyed in the process. Wearevers were sold for $1, a steal and well within the means of most Americans that needed a pen and wanted something a bit flashy looking. Most people did not have Multiple pens. Or if they did, it was because it was a gift and never used. This was the case with my most recent Pelikan purchase: the woman was gifted a 400NN when she graduated college, used it a few times and then never used it again. As a consequence, it is in great shape.

    In modern terms, a stunning amount of time on Reddit is dedicated to posting how someone's pen broke via dropping it (or other means). Will we see TWSBI Ecos in 50 years? I reckon not. Not beyond the level we see Sheaffer School Pens now. They'll be out there, but probably not in great shape by and large.

    Onto usage: My mom told me that she remembered my grandfather coming home from work every day and putting his pocket things: keys, change, watch, etc. onto his coat wrack, then his pen, and finally his coat. He did this in reverse order every day. She has seen many of my pens and thinks it was the Parker 51, but knowing my Grandpa's penchant for...uh...lets call it frugality, it was probably a 21. In her memory it was used and worn and eventually replaced by a gifted ballpoint when he got a promotion. His former pen then ceased to be used and was, in all likelihood, thrown out.

    We could also look at relative value (beyond inflation). In 1930, the average cost of a house was $6,000. A $10 pen was a sizeable purchase relative to other costs. If we plug that ratio in (1/600) to the average house cost now of $315,000, we get a pen worth $525. So, a better question is: if you bought a $500 pen, how would you use it? It would be a similar "value" in terms of spending ability (that $1 Wearever would be about $50, which is dead in line with most modern steel nib pens on the market today).

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    Default Re: Perceptions - tools versus safe queens.

    Wow, some really interesting perspectives offered. Thank you so much for your insights.
    I use a fountain pen and a paper planner - paperinkplan.wordpress.com

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    Default Re: Perceptions - tools versus safe queens.

    Quote Originally Posted by AzJon View Post
    From a purely modern perspective, we also have to look at what survived to the modern day and what that meant to get it here.

    As an example, I see a number of higher tier pens that survive to the modern day in NOS condition (or dang near). However, I almost never find low tier pens (Wearever, American, etc.) surviving in pristine condition. I reckon that's largely for the same reason we don't see Bic Cristals from the 50s (when they sold for $0.29 a pen): they were cheap, heavily used, and were thrown away or destroyed in the process. Wearevers were sold for $1, a steal and well within the means of most Americans that needed a pen and wanted something a bit flashy looking. Most people did not have Multiple pens. Or if they did, it was because it was a gift and never used. This was the case with my most recent Pelikan purchase: the woman was gifted a 400NN when she graduated college, used it a few times and then never used it again. As a consequence, it is in great shape.

    In modern terms, a stunning amount of time on Reddit is dedicated to posting how someone's pen broke via dropping it (or other means). Will we see TWSBI Ecos in 50 years? I reckon not. Not beyond the level we see Sheaffer School Pens now. They'll be out there, but probably not in great shape by and large.

    Onto usage: My mom told me that she remembered my grandfather coming home from work every day and putting his pocket things: keys, change, watch, etc. onto his coat wrack, then his pen, and finally his coat. He did this in reverse order every day. She has seen many of my pens and thinks it was the Parker 51, but knowing my Grandpa's penchant for...uh...lets call it frugality, it was probably a 21. In her memory it was used and worn and eventually replaced by a gifted ballpoint when he got a promotion. His former pen then ceased to be used and was, in all likelihood, thrown out.

    We could also look at relative value (beyond inflation). In 1930, the average cost of a house was $6,000. A $10 pen was a sizeable purchase relative to other costs. If we plug that ratio in (1/600) to the average house cost now of $315,000, we get a pen worth $525. So, a better question is: if you bought a $500 pen, how would you use it? It would be a similar "value" in terms of spending ability (that $1 Wearever would be about $50, which is dead in line with most modern steel nib pens on the market today).
    It depends on how far you go back, but my point was that, that isn't necessarily a good fit. A $500 pen is insanity by most peoples standards today, OTOH, a PHONE that I literally carry with me 24/7 being $500, pretty normal. I think of a pen in 1920 more like the latter than the former as a comparison. that is to say, less of a "show piece" and more of an expensive but daily use item.

    Although, I may be thinking of this from the perspective of razors and shaving which goes back far enough for cheap mass produced items to not at all be a thing. That may be a good point upto an extent, most would prbly use the $1 pen rather than the $10 one everyday?

    Also, $6000 house? WOW, that price has shot up like crazy.

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    Default Re: Perceptions - tools versus safe queens.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tjphysicist View Post
    Also, $6000 house? WOW, that price has shot up like crazy.
    You have to keep in mind that in 1930 the average $0.45 per hour. Cents per hour.

    And yes, you could make the phone/computer argument for today. More specifically if its for your work or business. I hate that I need to constantly be updating tech for it to keep working and the demand is ever higher to have a functional website. Having a good pen may have been a necessity in certain circumstances in the same way a Blackberry was for businessmen a decade ago.

    Of course, there were also people that simply used dip pens. USPS used dip pens up to the 1950s at some locations.

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    Default Re: Perceptions - tools versus safe queens.

    Quote Originally Posted by AzJon View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Tjphysicist View Post
    Also, $6000 house? WOW, that price has shot up like crazy.
    You have to keep in mind that in 1930 the average $0.45 per hour. Cents per hour.

    And yes, you could make the phone/computer argument for today. More specifically if its for your work or business. I hate that I need to constantly be updating tech for it to keep working and the demand is ever higher to have a functional website. Having a good pen may have been a necessity in certain circumstances in the same way a Blackberry was for businessmen a decade ago.

    Of course, there were also people that simply used dip pens. USPS used dip pens up to the 1950s at some locations.
    In 1930, $6,000 had the equivalent buying power as 87,639.42 in today's dollars. That's actually relatively low to today's standards since it doesn't seem to be as easy (depending on area obviously) to find more than a 1 bedroom house for sale for under $100k without something going on with it.

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    Default Re: Perceptions - tools versus safe queens.

    With musical instruments, a lot of surviving old instruments from the 17/18c are 'display' instruments. For instance many lutes in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London have ivory, engravings on the ribs, inlays, and so on. They are all in good condition. Maybe they weren't played very much; they probably belonged to rich people who played occasionally, not to musicians who needed to play every day for their living. (There's also some bias in that the V&A is an art museum, not a music museum, so it acquired those instruments which were evidence of decorative tastes of their time.)

    Not that musicians all want a 'beater' and indeed with the Limousin chabrette (bagpipe) in France, the ornamentation is part of the tradition - often the 'boitier' that holds the tenor drone and chanter is decorated with mirrors, sometimes with parts of watches or other artefacts, and there are ornamental turnings and ivory work. But a pretty instrument that doesn't play well is an abomination.

    I have had fun looking for instruments abroad. Recently, I started trying out ocarinas in a shop in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. I tried out octaves and fifths, looking for instruments that were well in tune. As soon as the shop owner realised what I was doing, out came a tray of quite different instruments, plainer and more compact - and all precisely tuned. The pretty ones with Kyrgyz nomad designs on them are "only for tourists not for playing".

    Sorry if this digresses rather a long way from fountain pens, but I think many of the issues are the same.

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    Default Re: Perceptions - tools versus safe queens.

    Some museums and other establishments that care for high-end examples of the violin family have musicians come in on a regular basis and play them all to keep them in proper fettle. Bob Taylor says people who trade in their guitars for new ones before they have played them for a couple of years never find out how good they will sound later.

    This works for fountain pens too, I have found. If you clean and dry a pen and let it stand unused for a long time, it won't write properly for a while, possibly until the feed gets really wet again. An unused pen can be cranky for a number of days or weeks after it is put back in service. This goes for new pens as well as old ones you find in a junk store.
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    Default Re: Perceptions - tools versus safe queens.

    Not all fountain pens were meant to be carried. Desk sets used to be very popular, both in the business world and at home. Those sets were an evolution of dip pen desk sets, and particularly in the professional and business world were often prestige items, as were many of their dip pen desk set predecessors. I don't know what the actual figures are, so I suppose I'm just "guessing," but it seems likely to me that as fountain pens that could be carried became more reliable and more widely available, they would have early on been eagerly adopted especially by people in sales who knocked on doors, including corporate ones. Also, many fountain pens (of the carrying sort) seem to have been manufactured for the secretarial market, and there were even special nibs intended for shorthand. High powered executives who had large desks and receptionists and the like, on the other hand, probably were less likely to sacrifice their showy and expensive desk sets for more convenient, portable pens (such as their secretary or sales team might use), particularly at first.
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    Default Re: Perceptions - tools versus safe queens.

    Desk pens tend to need sac replacement more often than pens kept either nib-up or horizontal. The hanging load of ink tends to create a partial vacuum inside the sac, which, in time, will flatten it. The flat sac takes a set and will not suck up a load of ink when a refill is wanted. I have a Touchdown desk pen like that now. Luckily, Touchdown pens are the easiest pens on the planet to re-sac.
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    Default Re: Perceptions - tools versus safe queens.

    I think the short answer would be a mix of "hell yes" and "hell no". For a majority of the time that fountain pens were "in the wild" it was the only method of getting ink on paper, unless you were to use a pencil. For most people a single fountain pen would be sufficient for use ( and possibly for life) and there were even people who repaired them easily available. As the world moved towards a more disposable society the need to keep one pen went by the wayside. So the shift has gone from being the only game in town to being something that is one of many choices and picking a pen to use is more of a personal choice.

    Maybe the change from watches being a method of telling time to an extension of your personality is a good analogy

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    Default Re: Perceptions - tools versus safe queens.

    I was thinking the same thing about the psychological contradiction of daily wearing a tool watch costing waay more than a Pilot Custom Urushi. Leaving the latter as a safe queen is personal preference but others would not hesitate to consider a Conid their one and only beater. Same thing for an expensive smartphone someone mentioned a few posts back.

    When does the luxury item become a mere tool? What was the process of normalization? Probably a great time for social scientists with the big data.

    I can't help thinking of those vintage hang on the neck sterling silver Waterman chatelaines as "beaters" of their time but perhaps the mindset of luxury is a function of class/income/social group.

    This interesting finding may be relevant: Luxury consumption can fuel 'impostor syndrome' among some buyers

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    Default Re: Perceptions - tools versus safe queens.

    Interesting article, indeed. I wonder if feeling undeserving of a luxury purchase, despite being readily able to afford it, is a question of what one is used to or what one grew up with.

    Do each of us develop a sense of what constitutes cheap, normal, or exorbitant for various items like watches, pens, cars, jewelry, kitchen knives, laptops, etc.?

    Probably as kids we develop that sense from what our parents say and then it changes as we enter the workforce and become responsible for our own budget and as our income changes up or down.

    Too, our perception of utility of a thing, it's necessity in daily life, informs how much we take care of its appearance versus its functionality. My pocket knife was expensive but I view it is purely utilitarian.

    I take care to keep its blade sharp and undamaged but I don't mind that it looks beat to hell after a decade and have little to nothing to prevent that. By comparison I take much better care of my nice watches and pens.

    How well one takes care of their things differs from person to person and probably we each have a sense of how much we can trust ourselves with nice stuff. And that informs our comfort with the cost of non-disposable items like watches, laptops, pens, phones, or jewelry.

    So, even if you can easily raise the funds to buy a $5,000 luxury watch after saving up for several months, it may still seem exorbitant if you grew up in a household with a meager income and if your tolerance for watch price hasn't significantly increased after you entered your career (via buying ever more expensive watches).

    Spending that much, especially if you perceive the item to be more than just a utilitarian item, and if you don't trust yourself to keep it nice, you would worry about minimizing wear and tear and be unable to just enjoy such an expensive watch. (Someone on watchuseek recently asked about preventing scratches on a planned Rolex purchase while working a desk job, for example.)

    If, instead, a $500 watch requires little or no saving to buy, it may still seem expensive but palatable as a one time gift to yourself—your one good watch as a reward for a milestone or something. Either way, you won't abuse it but you won't worry about it much either. Unless you consider it to have little utility, then you may baby it much more.

    You may not be quite as careful with that $50 watch, wearing it when you would take off a more expensive watch to protect it from harm.

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