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Thread: Vintage Pens today - An Observation

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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

    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

    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.
    - Will
    Unique and restored vintage pens: Redeem Pens

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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

    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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    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.
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    Default Re: Vintage Pens today - An Observation

    Quote Originally Posted by FredRydr View Post
    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.
    You and I and a bunch of our fellow vintage pen fans will enjoy our collections to the end...

    We'll see in September, when I'd get a chance to introduce vintage pens to a group of people at the Dallas Pen Show whose attendees are also trending towards the younger ones (which is good!).
    - Will
    Unique and restored vintage pens: Redeem Pens

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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

    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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    Default Re: Vintage Pens today - An Observation

    A quick update on my earlier note: last week I had been tracking a batch of Legacys that had come up for sale. Immediately after those, the same vendor put six more up for auction. I tracked two particular pens, sterling silver barleycorn models. Two identical pens sold last week for $430. These identical pens both sold for $510 each, and the buyer has his bidding hidden (private). This is not normal consumption.
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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

    My observations go in a similar direction to Will's. Of course, I don't know the reasons for this either, but I have guesses.

    That the prices of quality antiques go up does not surprise me. But in my opinion, it concerns mainly the well-known brands. I have also noticed that there are new collectors in the hobby who are very strong buyers which buy a lot an expensive pens, to build in no time an impressive collection.

    But I think that the fact that less is written about old fountain pens in the well-known forums has to do with a certain tiredness and superficiality. Almost everything has been written before, and only a few people still take the time to write a careful review and take proper photos. Also, many long time collectors today prefer to post on FB or Instagram quick photos and short notes. Others remain silent altogether...

    This has more to do with the spirit of our fast-moving and transient time as I think.

    (Of course there are a few exceptions, like this enthusiastic Japanese collector an FPN for example: https://www.fountainpennetwork.com/f...-pen/#comments)
    Last edited by christof; August 26th, 2021 at 03:50 AM.

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    Default Re: Vintage Pens today - An Observation

    Even recent vintages like Watermans 1980s and 1990s pens seem to be appearing on ebay with high BINs. I suspect in the mass market there's a mindset which goes "look it's got a gold nib" (gold-plated), "it's old" (not as old as you are, mate), "it's got to be worth money".

    At the same time, both Pelikan and Platinum have put their prices up over the last decade quite substantially - really noticed it with the 3776 limited editions over the past 5 years and the Pelikan 600 SEs. Is that pulling the vintage prices with it?

    I do a fair bit of vintage repair and 'hunting' at car boots. But I don't like lever fillers much so a lot get passed on (though I love red mottled ebonite). My regular user pens out of vintage are Parker 51s, Pelikan 100s and 400s, and a few rather special Watermans and a Big Red Duofold.

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    Default Re: Vintage Pens today - An Observation

    From what I see, interest in vintage pens has declined in discussion boards but sales of restored pens remain good. Someone suggested that the prices of unrestored pens are rising because the finite supply of old pens is running out. I see no evidence of that in my area of interest. Yes, the prices are high but there are plenty available which doesn't make much sense. OTOH if you ignore BINs - many at utterly insane prices - and stick to auctions there are still plenty of old pens to be had at moderate prices.

    Some of this surprises me; I did expect that through time less and less unrestored pens would be coming to market but certainly in the British Mabie Todd area that absolutely isn't the case. There are as many untouched pens coming through eBay and auction houses as there were 15 years ago. As far as writing about vintage pens is concerned I think Christof hit the nail on the head. We've done it all before, here or elsewhere. Deb and I have both at different times photographed and written about interesting pens here but there's only so much one can do. We maintain a blog about old pens and try to post two or three times a week which tends to use up most of our creativity. I so admire Will who comes back day after day with different pens and wonderful drawings.
    Last edited by eachan; August 26th, 2021 at 07:47 AM.

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    Default Re: Vintage Pens today - An Observation

    I don't know anything about vintage pen sales, really. I certainly don't browse for them (I own one). But I have read this thread with interest, and it seems to me that any reflection on current sales listings ought also to include the fact that we have been dealing with COVID for 17 months now, and perhaps this has had some effect on buying and selling habits. I know that I have basically shut down all my buying habits for any non-essential items out of worry that my investment savings could be erased at any moment as I now near retirement. My anxiety over this has meant that I cannot justify pen purchases. However, when I received my stimulus checks, I spent it all and more on my house and property, dealing with three tiers of deferred maintenance.

    My point is only that my own spending habits have been altered drastically over the last 17 months, and perhaps this too has happened to other mid-level salaried workers like myself. And perhaps especially nearing retirement. And then if, as Jon suggested, that there has been an influx of monied buyers who do not have these worries during COVID, then all sorts of different things could be happening.

    What's happened to property values in my area of Maine (drastic rise) is in large part due to the fact that persons with money have been fleeing the cities and also parts of Europe and buying here for the cleaner air, quality lifestyle, reduced population, and wise response to COVID. COVID has effected so much.

    Heck if I know.

  37. The Following 5 Users Say Thank You to TSherbs For This Useful Post:

    AzJon (August 26th, 2021), Detman101 (August 26th, 2021), Jon Szanto (August 26th, 2021), penwash (August 26th, 2021), Yazeh (August 26th, 2021)

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