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    Default Vintage Pens today - An Observation

    This is just an observation, not looking through the crystal ball or making predictions.

    Observation #1:

    I notice that in forums and other online pen resources, the talks, discussion, and probably interest in vintage pens seems to be waning. I rarely even see any mention (except for a few threads we have here). Even at the pen show, active modern pen vendors seems to get more attention than reserved, "you ask me questions first" -type vintage pen tables.

    Whether it's really true or not, I can see why, with newcomers to the hobby joining in every day, most of them are fed with info about modern pens. Coupled with the fact that most people who have spent decades in this hobby are not active in those same venues, thus information about how cool vintage pens are, is really lacking.

    Observation #2:

    As a guy who spent too much time on ebay (and other auction sites), I noticed that the prices of vintage pens are rising to the point of incredulity. I've seen sets of -- really, junky -- pens, sold by the amount that is a lot higher than say, a few years ago. Not to mention the actually good ones.

    Point of Discussion:

    Given the two observations above, what do you think is happening?
    If the interest in vintage pens is waning, who is spending all those money on them?

    ** Again, this is just my observation, I'm not going into debate defending it. I am also not lamenting nor celebrating the situation, this is just to get some conversation going.
    - Will
    Unique and restored vintage pens: Redeem Pens

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    Default Re: Vintage Pens today - An Observation

    Observation 1

    I think there are only 3 proper forums (facebook groups possibly as well but I am unaware of their standing): FPN, FPGeeks, reddit they can't really be used to judge the general interest in a topic.

    I think reddit tends to focus on show and tell type posts and has a younger demographic, a modern pen could be perceived as a simpler interest to get into.

    With regards to forums they aren't the latest form of media. So the newest users might not gravitate towards them. A lot of forums have well established members who know what they need to know so don't post regularly. So they arenít the people asking the questions. Also the more popular forms of media e.g. video sites are less conducive to discussion requiring the poster to put a lot of effort into the content unaware if they will get any response.

    A lot of questions have already been asked many times so google will tell you everything from suggestions on your first vintage pen to how to service a PFM.

    In regard to observation 2:

    There is a finite supply of those items some get trashed; some get broken some get lost some get scrapped etc. So the supply of all items is slowly dwindling. A vintage pen to many is a pen made before a certain date that doesn't change as time passes. So the total supply is whatís out there now (some are there to be discovered but not created).

    Also the world has become a smaller place so items get more thinly spread across the world as people come into wealth, so prices go up as more people are able to buy those pens.

    Apologies about any typos however I think the gist of what I have said makes sense.

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    Default Re: Vintage Pens today - An Observation

    As a person fairly new to the hobby (~6 months), vintage is intimidating. Modern pens are much easier to deal with, and by the time I'm getting comfortable enough with the knowledge to where I might look at vintage I already have plenty of pens.

    My personal problem with most vintage pens is that they're tiny, and the large ones are expensive. I'm most comfortable with a section that's around 11mm, and that's hard to find on vintage pens. Anything under 10mm I don't want to bother with unless it's a pocket pen, and even those are just because I have a thing for pocket pens and not because it's more comfortable on them. I would guess that many people who get into the hobby now might find something similar, since pens now are just bigger. They're not mandatory to have like they used to be which makes size less important, so they become more like show pieces with the large forms and bright colors/designs. Small vintage pens don't have that presence for me.

    Again, this is just what I've found after 6 months so maybe my whole attitude will change in another 6.

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    Default Re: Vintage Pens today - An Observation

    Quote Originally Posted by scud80 View Post
    As a person fairly new to the hobby (~6 months), vintage is intimidating. Modern pens are much easier to deal with, and by the time I'm getting comfortable enough with the knowledge to where I might look at vintage I already have plenty of pens.

    My personal problem with most vintage pens is that they're tiny, and the large ones are expensive. I'm most comfortable with a section that's around 11mm, and that's hard to find on vintage pens. Anything under 10mm I don't want to bother with unless it's a pocket pen, and even those are just because I have a thing for pocket pens and not because it's more comfortable on them. I would guess that many people who get into the hobby now might find something similar, since pens now are just bigger. They're not mandatory to have like they used to be which makes size less important, so they become more like show pieces with the large forms and bright colors/designs. Small vintage pens don't have that presence for me.

    Again, this is just what I've found after 6 months so maybe my whole attitude will change in another 6.

    I stand in solidarity with Scud80.
    The whole "Vintage" arena left me unimpressed. I spent a bit of cash on a 1905 Mabie Todd Swan only to acquire a pen that was made for a smurf of a human and unusable for me.
    It is VERY beautiful to look at, writes beautifully and is indeed the center of my collection of older items...but I can't use it for more than 2 sentences before my hand cramps.
    Vintage pens are just way too small...

    That and the fact that my Opus-88 SODF Demo runs circles around any other pen I've tried has gotten me out of the game for a good while.
    I've found home, no need to search anymore.
    "I can only improve my self, not the world."

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    Default Re: Vintage Pens today - An Observation

    Quote Originally Posted by Detman101 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by scud80 View Post
    As a person fairly new to the hobby (~6 months), vintage is intimidating. Modern pens are much easier to deal with, and by the time I'm getting comfortable enough with the knowledge to where I might look at vintage I already have plenty of pens.

    My personal problem with most vintage pens is that they're tiny, and the large ones are expensive. I'm most comfortable with a section that's around 11mm, and that's hard to find on vintage pens. Anything under 10mm I don't want to bother with unless it's a pocket pen, and even those are just because I have a thing for pocket pens and not because it's more comfortable on them. I would guess that many people who get into the hobby now might find something similar, since pens now are just bigger. They're not mandatory to have like they used to be which makes size less important, so they become more like show pieces with the large forms and bright colors/designs. Small vintage pens don't have that presence for me.

    Again, this is just what I've found after 6 months so maybe my whole attitude will change in another 6.

    I stand in solidarity with Scud80.
    The whole "Vintage" arena left me unimpressed. I spent a bit of cash on a 1905 Mabie Todd Swan only to acquire a pen that was made for a smurf of a human and unusable for me.
    It is VERY beautiful to look at, writes beautifully and is indeed the center of my collection of older items...but I can't use it for more than 2 sentences before my hand cramps.
    Vintage pens are just way too small...

    That and the fact that my Opus-88 SODF Demo runs circles around any other pen I've tried has gotten me out of the game for a good while.
    I've found home, no need to search anymore.

    I only own vintage pens, (except two moderns which are gifts), I disagree that they are too small, none of mine are, they are either Senior or Oversize

    Another advantage I find with vintage pens, Is that I can do most repairs myself, including resacking .

    Many modern pens you cannot even take apart
    Last edited by Wahl; August 26th, 2021 at 12:00 PM.

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    Default Re: Vintage Pens today - An Observation

    Quote Originally Posted by Detman101 View Post
    I spent a bit of cash on a 1905 Mabie Todd Swan only to acquire a pen that was made for a smurf of a human and unusable for me.
    It is VERY beautiful to look at, writes beautifully and is indeed the center of my collection of older items...but I can't use it for more than 2 sentences before my hand cramps.
    Vintage pens are just way too small...
    This is a teaching moment.

    You didn't do your homework, as all it would have taken would have been to ask the dimensions of the pen - length, width, etc - and you wouldn't have had a surprise, and probably saved the money. That's not the pen's fault, you know.

    As for the rest, while there were plenty of smaller pens - much of this due to traditional (at the time) marketing to women vs. men - the concept that ALL the pens back then were small is... well, completely wrong. Almost all of my favorite writers from the 1920s are equal in size to your Opus. You just never made it a focus of your search to look for those kinds of pens, and you can't blame the entire vintage market for that.

    I'm really glad you ended up with something you liked. That is the main reason many of us stick around on the boards: to try to guide people to the right pen. And it is also a tremendous advantage of going to a pen show.

    Anyway, Det, I hope someday you get interested in finding nice vintage pens that you would like, taking your time to get just the right one. I always thought you were a candidate for one of those big Waterman ripple pens with a sexy flexy nib!
    Last edited by Jon Szanto; August 26th, 2021 at 04:36 PM. Reason: Fixed typo
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    Default Re: Vintage Pens today - An Observation

    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Szanto View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Detman101 View Post
    I spent a bit of cash on a 1905 Mabie Todd Swan only to acquire a pen that was made for a smurf of a human and unusable for me.
    It is VERY beautiful to look at, writes beautifully and is indeed the center of my collection of older items...but I can't use it for more than 2 sentences before my hand cramps.
    Vintage pens are just way too small...
    This is a teaching moment.

    You didn't do your homework, as all it would have taken would have been to ask the dimensions of the pen - length, width, etc - and you wouldn't have had a surprise, and probably saved the money. That's not the pen's fault, you know.

    As for the rest, while there were plenty of smaller pens - much of this due to traditional (at the time) marketing to women vs. men - the concept that ALL the pens back then were small is... well, completely wrong. Almost all of my favorite writers from the 1920s are equal in size to your Opus. You just never made it a focus of your search to look for those kinds of pens, and you can't blame the entire vintage market for that.

    I'm really glad you ended up with something you liked. That is the main reason many of us stick around on the boards: to try to guide people to the right pen. And it is also a tremendous advantage of going to a pen show.

    Anyway, Det, I hope someday you get interested in finding nice vintage pens that you would like, taking your time to get just the right one. I always thought you were a candidate for one of those big Waterman ripple pens with a sexy flexy nib!
    Hehe, you're on point...I didn't know what to look for when I was searching. Thankfully, Deb and Eachan at Goodwriters put up with me long enough to guide me closer to what I thought I needed. I sent them letters and samples of nib sizes I wanted to match and everything...but they had only what they had available. So from what they recommended, I made my decision and went with the beauty I selected. Though too small...it's definitely a collector piece.

    I thought I'd finally get to a pen show this summer, but family needed a vacation so...

    I'd also hooked up with one of the guys up in New Hampshire earlier this past spring...old time collector...friends with Nathan Tardiff from Noodlers...Pier Gustavson. Amazing guy and a hoot to chat with!
    Well, he and I started doing zoom calls with each other to look at his monumental collection of vintage pens and flex nibs. We traded addresses but there were sooooo many pens....It was overwhelming and I called it quits before we even traded pens so that I could sample enough to get a feel for which I'd buy from him.
    That's about when I settled in on my Opus-88 SODF Demo and everything in the world became right.

    Hmmm...Waterman Ripple you say?
    I'll just take a peek at what those run for, look like and perform like...heh.
    "I can only improve my self, not the world."

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    Default Re: Vintage Pens today - An Observation

    Quote Originally Posted by scud80 View Post
    As a person fairly new to the hobby (~6 months), vintage is intimidating. Modern pens are much easier to deal with, and by the time I'm getting comfortable enough with the knowledge to where I might look at vintage I already have plenty of pens.

    My personal problem with most vintage pens is that they're tiny, and the large ones are expensive. I'm most comfortable with a section that's around 11mm, and that's hard to find on vintage pens. Anything under 10mm I don't want to bother with unless it's a pocket pen, and even those are just because I have a thing for pocket pens and not because it's more comfortable on them. I would guess that many people who get into the hobby now might find something similar, since pens now are just bigger. They're not mandatory to have like they used to be which makes size less important, so they become more like show pieces with the large forms and bright colors/designs. Small vintage pens don't have that presence for me.

    Again, this is just what I've found after 6 months so maybe my whole attitude will change in another 6.
    Interesting angle.

    Try a Parker 51, the best fountain pen ever made, the "pen everyone waited for" because Parker (and Sheaffer ant Onoto, for three) shifted to making parts for the Allied war effort. The 51 is just big enough, at 5 3/8 inches capped, and they last forever. Millions were made and sold, meaning there are many 51s waiting for you and many parts waiting if needed.

    There are several people who check over pens before selling them. Some are on Ebay and some have websites. A few, of many: Parker51.com, Vacumania, and several on EBay. You can spot the EBay sellers who have cleaned out and checked and, if necessary, repaired their P-51s.

    A nifty thing about the aerometric 51s is that the sacs seem never to wear out. I accumulated about two dozen beginning about 15 years ago, and each was happy to write as soon as I flushed it. Of course a few had fine nibs that I replaced with a medium, and I've sent a few off to have nibs tuned, but that is no big deal.

    The earlier model, the Parker 51 Vacumatic, used a "sac" that usually wears out, but there are many, many fine repair people who will replace the "sac" inexpensively.

    By the way, people collect some of the rare colors in the Parker 51, so look first for an aerometric in black or "burgundy", and don't be stunned if you see a "buckskin beige" for $600. That's an unusual pen, very collectible.

    The downside of a Parker 51: it was designed to write, rather than be a piece of jewelry. Parker design-engineers thought through everything about it, figuring a way that a slip-off cap could keep a pen from dring out, creating two sort of ink reservoirs, one of which wraps around the nib so it is ready to write as soon as the nib touches paper. Sheaffer followed with a nib that stored some ink inside, and, later, all pens figured out ways to do the same, such as the "modern" pens that have "plastic" leaves under the nib. Parker was the first.

    Finally, the beauty of the 51 is in its streamlined shape. Previous pens usually looked like 1920s hotels, with decorations hanging every which way. Like comparing the shape of a Model-T Ford to nearly any car sold today. Yes, a streamlined pen, one shaped like a jet fighter or a rocket or a P-51 fighter, might look ho-hum today, it was part of the design revolution that made such shapes "ho-hum". And, meanwhile, "modern" pens are going for glitzy decorations, a design that rolls back to the 1920s hotels.

    Price? Last I looked, a 51 could be had for $80 - $120 on EBay. Total renovation might add another $40, if a pen needs it.

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    Default Re: Vintage Pens today - An Observation

    The reality is that those of thus that grew up using fountain pens, and being exposed to them, are dying off. Why would someone born in 2000 care about a PFM? It has no cultural significance for them (other than a potentially offensive name).

    The other factor is that much of the social media engagement around pens is really more about shopping that it is about pens per se. Scrolling through reddit and instagram is mostly like turning on the shopping channel on TV: it's just post after post of a variation on "Ooh, shiny!".

    As for the price of vintage. I completely agree. But scarcity drives price and there aren't all that many PFM IVs left. Sadly.
    Vintage. Cursive italic. Iron gall.

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    Default Re: Vintage Pens today - An Observation

    Quote Originally Posted by silverlifter View Post
    The reality is that those of thus that grew up using fountain pens, and being exposed to them, are dying off. Why would someone born in 2000 care about a PFM? It has no cultural significance for them (other than a potentially offensive name).

    The other factor is that much of the social media engagement around pens is really more about shopping that it is about pens per se. Scrolling through reddit and instagram is mostly like turning on the shopping channel on TV: it's just post after post of a variation on "Ooh, shiny!".

    As for the price of vintage. I completely agree. But scarcity drives price and there aren't all that many PFM IVs left. Sadly.
    As someone born in 1999 I care about a PFM. Although I am sure I'm the exception rather than the rule. Many younger pen enthusiasts seem to be all about collecting special editions of modern pens (at least in my experience) although I don't see the allure in a special color that I know would be difficult to replace in the case the pen disappears.

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    Default Re: Vintage Pens today - An Observation

    If one's view of where we are at the moment still focuses on old-school forums, you are missing the current flow. Even reddit is mostly young, new people but in lower niches, for the most part. Check out a place like the PenAddict slack, where people who listen to influencers and spend boatloads of money on modern pens are steering the hobby at the moment. Collect old Sheaffers? No. They see how many people can be in the "FC50" club, having purchase 50 Franklin-Christoph pens. A tiny group still enjoys old pens, but definitely a minority.

    I do think Will is correct on the sharp rise in online auction prices, and I don't know what it is, although I think it is a new group of buyers, and possibly foreign. I've watched two groups of Sheaffer Legacy pens for sale recently, look to be NOS. I watched about half from the first group and even had a snipe on one. These pens have been going for around 200-300 regularly, and ONE person bought six of these for sale, almost all of them going for their highest bid of $430. You could see it was the same buyer by the number of buys by the name, and it was less than 100 ebay purchases. Someone with a lot of money and buying in quantity in this instance. Very odd, but certainly forcing prices upward.
    Last edited by Jon Szanto; August 25th, 2021 at 03:01 PM.
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    Default Re: Vintage Pens today - An Observation

    Interesting thoughts, thanks friends.

    Regarding scarcity driving the price, I just don't see the indications. There are just as many junky pens (and just as few good ones) on ebay as it was a few years ago. In other words, the frequency of certain brands/models appearing for sale is not diminishing over the years, yet the prices have visibly gone up.

    I think Jon is on the right track, there seems to be a group of people doing the buying. Some can be attributed to curiosity, you see people literally asking the question: "I just got this pen from ebay, can anyone tell me what it is?", which, is probably unthinkable if we were to follow the "old-school collecting strategy" mindset.
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    Default Re: Vintage Pens today - An Observation

    I don't doubt that some have realized that specific models of vintage pens may become more valuable over time and so are collecting them for that reason (why else would you snap up 6 Legacies?). But isn't that just another way of acknowldeging scarcity?

    I know that the pens that I have saved searches for are a) going for more now than they were 2-3 years ago (some up to 100% more), and b) are appearing much less frequently.
    Vintage. Cursive italic. Iron gall.

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    Default Re: Vintage Pens today - An Observation

    1. I think you're right. The first time I went to the London Pens Show, there was a lot of vintage. NThere are many more new brands and new style pens available now. There's quite a wide range, and pen shows is the best place to find them. In the UK most B&M stores sell Parker, Cross, Waterman, Lamy and the posh ones MontBlanc. if you want anything Italian or Japanese you need to go online or to a pen show.

    2. Gold has gone up in price. A lot of folk are looking at new pens and then reckoning that the 14K/18K gold nibbed pens they found in their grandfather's drawer is worth nearly half as much. Vintage is a different type of rabbit hole (with sharp pointy teeth). You are not only getting pens you can write with, but also buying pens that may need to be repaired and maintained. Replacement parts can be more expensive and difficult to find. I bought a 1950 English Parker 51 on e-bay for £70 - it needed resacced and that cost another £40 - and had to be at the shop for a couple of weeks.

    So £110 for a working Parker 51 with a nice nib. There are a number of decent new pens that can be bought for this such as the Diplomat Excellence or the Platinum #3776.

    3/ Modern pens now come with a wider variety of nibs too. If someone was looking for flex 5 years ago - the advice tended to be "go vintage". Now, it's no longer the case - good stubs and flexible nibs can be found in new pens. New pens tend to feature more on review channels because they have got some marketing muscle behind them too. Folk are turning up wanting to buy/try a pen they saw reviewed on youtube. A vintage pen whose maker disappeared 60 years ago does not.

    I think it's great that pen shows have got new and old pens. If everyone bought vintage, then new pen makers such as Leonardo and pens BBS would not exist. If no-one bought vintage, then the parts and expertise to maintain them would disappear. a vintage pen is only as good as the ability to find and fit a replacement sac.

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    Default Re: Vintage Pens today - An Observation

    To point 1:

    I think that the real meat of the hobby for new users isn't in the pens, but the inks. When the discussion is that you should not use many modern inks in vintage pens, be it due to danger to the pen or sheer difficulty of cleaning a highly saturated ink out of a lever pen, I think it automatically turns off most new users.

    To point 2:

    I think there was a wave of folks that bought up good pens, got them working with varying degrees of skill, and sold them at top dollar (or as top as they could squeeze). Three years ago there were so many vintage pens that were well priced it was hard to decide what to bid on with limited funds. I could be picky. Now, I don't think I've seen what I would consider a well priced vintage pen in at least a year. More likely than an issue of supply, more people are taking more time to research what they have before selling and then asking way above top of market. That doesn't explain high bidding prices though, which is also perplexing since you really never see those pens pop up here or Reddit or otherwise.

    I believe that the interest in vintage dried up as soon as they were no longer classed as affordable or able to be resold at or above purchasing price.

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    Default Re: Vintage Pens today - An Observation

    Quote Originally Posted by AzJon View Post
    To point 1:

    I think that the real meat of the hobby for new users isn't in the pens, but the inks. When the discussion is that you should not use many modern inks in vintage pens, be it due to danger to the pen or sheer difficulty of cleaning a highly saturated ink out of a lever pen, I think it automatically turns off most new users.
    I think you're right.
    With the absence of information on truly interesting vintage pens (compared to modern ones, let alone ink samples and reviews), if I'm a new user, my views would also be skewed towards inks and modern pens. And FP inks *are* tons of fun

    This is why I mentioned that I am not surprised seeing the trend, but at the same time, I'd also expect the prices on vintage pens to drop to all time low because no one is giving a hoot. Instead, they stubbornly climbed up, for no apparent reason other than some deep-pocketed buyers just buy for the sake of buying (or so it seems, not having all the facts).

    Puzzling, at least to me.
    - Will
    Unique and restored vintage pens: Redeem Pens

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    Default Re: Vintage Pens today - An Observation

    Quote Originally Posted by penwash View Post
    Puzzling, at least to me.
    One thing you aren't taking into account is an aging but still active group of people interested in collecting (and maybe using) vintage pens, a group that also is pretty resolutely un-interested in social media and online forums, and especially the newer formats: workgroups (Slack), podcasts, video/streaming media, and discords. Look at Pentrace: a handful of old-timers, unable to change formats or get involved in new stuff. I don't say that to be mean - I'm a member, as are you - but that is the comfort zone: same old, same old.

    Contrast that with the new crowd that is all about swapping nibs, not wanting stickered pens but wanting stickers from every vendor and nibmeister to slap on the lappy, constantconstantconstant buying and selling of items, totally unable to make up their mind what suits them, but all they have to do is click on a fancy website from Vendor A and look at all the new Montegrappa/etc... There is a frisson, a "must-have it now and be like all the rest" that appeals to a younger audience. People, who constantly have to ask "what should I buy next?"

    And so, the interest in vintage is very small in this demographic but is kept going by a global number of people who are still into the older pens. Will, I know you didn't want to debate things, and I don't either, but I really do think prices are creeping up in noticeable ways:

    • the celluloid, striped Moores that I've found for years are almost non-existent now, and double the previous prices
    • ultra-common pens like Esterbrook J series are going for 25% more and higher, even though supply is still plentiful
    • virtuslly all of the vintage pens that I have specific search alerts on are going for higher prices and showing up less often on eBay

    So, anyway, change is happening. As it should, as it always does. The next change I predict is that the younger group will tire of fountain pens, roll their eyes at all the colorways that have popped up in the last five years, and the fountain pen mania will abate for a while.
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    and that when Truth and Error have fair Play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter."

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    Default Re: Vintage Pens today - An Observation

    Quote Originally Posted by AzJon View Post
    I think that the real meat of the hobby for new users isn't in the pens, but the inks. When the discussion is that you should not use many modern inks in vintage pens, be it due to danger to the pen or sheer difficulty of cleaning a highly saturated ink out of a lever pen, I think it automatically turns off most new users.
    That's definitely a thing. The first vintage pen I bought (I've only bought 3, and no longer have any of them) was a lever-filler. After cleaning that out I decided never to get another one. It took forever.

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    Default Re: Vintage Pens today - An Observation

    Complicated. I don't really get involved with auction sites these days as they often expose the ugly side of both buyers and sellers. There doesn't seem to be an obvious diminishing supply of vintage pens - clearly this is hard to assess given that offered supplies have waxed and waned over the years anyway - but if you take what could be seen as a standard candle for vintage pens, the Parker 51, it looks as though there are just as many offered now as ever. Prices for P51s also range quite widely, though it seems to me (unsupported by any actual data gathering, just a feeling) that there are more higher prices being asked than before, i.e. that the price range is getting skewed, despite no real change in supply. Of course there is likely a difference in price asked compared with price sold.

    That pertains to point 2.

    I cannot really comment on point 1 except to say that a check of threads such as the 'what's your latest acquisition' type should give a clue to what people are excited about. I dare say (without checking) that there is a fairly even mix of vintage and modern in there, and perhaps there is some back and forth drifting over time.

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    Default Re: Vintage Pens today - An Observation

    Quote Originally Posted by penwash View Post
    ...I notice that in forums and other online pen resources, the talks, discussion, and probably interest in vintage pens seems to be waning. I rarely even see any mention (except for a few threads we have here)...most people who have spent decades in this hobby are not active in those same venues, thus information about how cool vintage pens are, is really lacking....
    That's what I see, too. I suppose in some ways, it is inevitable. Still, I insist on continuing to enjoy vintage at my desk even if there is less online.

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