How Do You Collect Pens?

If you're reading this, you're most likely a pen collector. Some of you may deny this, but I would argue that even if you have a few pens that you use on a regular basis, you are on the shallow end of the term. Unless you're using disposable bank pens and tossing them regularly, you collect.

With our years of experience in talking with fine-writing aficionados, enthusiasts and hobbyists, we've worked with a broad spectrum that fit our "collector" definition. There are those who collect every color of Parker Jotter that ever existed. Some may only want to collect pens of a certain color (that perfect 'blue,' you know who you are). Some only want to use piston-fill fountain pens while others need a click-top ballpoint. And there are the hard-core, affluent enthusiasts that are mostly interested in matching number sets of limited editions in the hundreds (or thousands) of dollars. Most of us are familiar with the term "collector" in the affluent context, but I say that definition is stuffy and outdated.

So, what is your collection like? Even if you don't have a criteria set, take a look at the pens you have and search for the common ground between them. If you haven't gotten rid of, traded or sold them, then they must be of some value to you. Are they all the same brand? Color? Size? Material? Weight? Mode? Point size? Even if they don't share physical characteristics, they may tell a story in that they were all pens received as gifts or pens purchased to commemorate different events in your life.

How do you collect? Jump in and comment!


An iPad 2 or a Fountain Pen?

No doubt that Apple has already sold well over a million of their new iPad 2 since its debut last Friday. The latest and greatest from Steve Jobs has many consumers reaching for a cool $500-$800 to get their fingers on the touchscreen of this gadget. As a purveyor of fountain pens and other luxury writing instruments, one can't help but feel that traditional pen and paper is fading away, along with Presidential portrait paper. But we've talked about that on this blog already. But lets assume we haven't already been brainwashed by Apple's slick advertising and the ubiquitous need for electronic gizmos. Lets imagine, if you will, that you are considering a $600 purchase in either a fountain pen or an iPad.

This could be either for yourself or for a gift, but you are buying this for pleasure, not business. In terms of usefulness, it's like comparing Apples to...um.. you know. The iPad allows you to play movies, listen to music, check e-mail, surf the web, play games, take photos, shoot video, shop, get directions so on and so forth.

The fountain pen writes.

Sure, on paper (pun intended) the iPad looks to be a dominant choice, an unequivocal multi-tasker capable of miracles. But how much of that is actually useful to you? Would you be more distracted by the bells and whistles: stalking on facebook while in the bath, playing Angry Birds instead of baseball with your friends, listening to iTunes instead of having a genuine dinner conversation? The fountain pen is the exact opposite - it eliminates distraction instead of inviting it.

First, you have to fill your pen, which either requires a pop-in cartridge or using a bottle of ink to fill. The time and concentration invested in getting your pen inked already forces you to focus in on the experience. Then, comes the writing. A buttery nib lays down a beautifully-shading ink on smooth, crisp, ruled paper. What to write? Does it really matter at this point? You would practice writing the letter "A" over and over again if you ran out of things to think of and put on paper. The world sometimes shuts off, the phone stops ringing, Twitter stops tweeting and you can actually focus on the thoughts and feelings going on in that beleaguered head of yours.

Lets consider the long run, which may not be far ahead if you're willing to spend $900 for just a spot at the front of the line to buy the iPad 2. Having owned consumer electronics since childhood, I can tell you that the life expectancy of computers and gadgets have certainly increased, but are still rapidly eclipsed by newer, better technology within a few short years of introduction. From pager to CD Walkman to Mini Disc player to cellphone to iPod, tech is in constant revolution. Fountain pens are actually more desirable when they are vintage and, in many cases, the design of contemporary fountain pens haven't changed much at all in the last 50 years. They are built to last, to be passed down and enjoyed, not just for years, but decades.

The scheduled obsolescence of current technology is also indicative of the device's future market value. Try selling a Nintendo or Atari game system for the original price tag you bought it for years ago. With the rapid increase in precious material costs, fountain pens are a safe bet to increase in value over time. Since fountain pen technology won't drastically change in the foreseeable future, you can imagine that people 20 years from now will be using the fountain the same way as they do now. Who knows when touch screen is replaced by gesture or brainwave interfacing a la Minority Report.

One final consideration would be maintenance. The iPad requires electricity. That so-called 10-hour battery needs to be recharged before taking it on a weekend trip. The warranty lasts for a year on hardware. The extended warranty, which is additional in cost, only extends out for another year. After two years, when the headphone jack is worn out from constant use and the screen is scratched, you're on your own, looking at a costly repair upward of $200. Some fine pen brands offer a 3-year, 5-year or  lifetime mechanical warranty. Even if you've destroyed your nib by dropping it uncapped on the floor, you can contact a variety of specialists who specifically work on fountain pens (a.k.a. nibmeisters) to repair or replace your nib for a fraction of an iPad repair cost.

Instead of summarizing the argument with a conclusion favoring one side versus the other, I will leave it up to you - the people of the internet who also enjoy writing with nice pens. Like the Starburst commercials declare, you are a delicious contradiction. I won't make a statement saying that pens are the right way to go, that would be too much like all the tech hype that we've had crammed down our throats. I'm merely putting all of the flashy claims in perspective. Take it for what it's worth. I'll keep on writing ;-)


Happy St. Pattys Day Update

Dearest Pen Enthusiasts,

First-off, lets wish everyone a Happy St. Patrick's Day 2011. Whether your attending a parade or tending to the stool in your local pub, stay safe and celebrate responsibly.

I haven't had much time recently to write posts since catalog production is in full-swing. In the spirit of the holiday, I'm taking a short break to write you about some news in the Goldspot pen universe.

Tons of new product are slated to hit the shelves in the ensuing weeks. One particular advantage about working on the catalog is that we get to see images of new products before they're even available for sale. We know there have been many people eagerly awaiting the Beatles limited editions from ACME and we'll be working on getting those items available for pre-sale shortly. Delivery of the very first shipments should be coming in mid-to-late-May. When we have them up on the site to reserve, I will let everyone know.

White is going to be a huge color trend this year for pens. With the black on black style being a popular hit last year, white pens are going to be hitting the market from Waterman, Parker, and Montegrappa, to name a few.

Some of the more well-established and renown brands are getting in touch with their roots by offering "new vintage" pens. Pelikan, for example, will be launching a reproduction of the historic M100N in tortoise shell with a traditional 14kt nib. OMAS is producing a couple limited production pens, including a Arte Italiana Paragon that will be fitted with an "extra-flexible" nib. We already signed on for a few of the OMAS 360 Vintage that are made from transparent blue cotton resin. The 360 can suck up some mean amounts of ink with its internal piston-filling system.

Speaking of piston-fillers - Almost all of our color TWSBI pens are sold out and will be backordered until new shipment arrives from Taiwan. Fear not, we will still have ample stock of the clear demonstrators for the time being. If you have an order pending, we have contacted you by e-mail to check if there is another point-size or color you would be interested in having. Otherwise, your order will be on reserve for when the new shipments arrive.

That's all for now. I will be in touch soon to drop a few new pen topics, along with a review or two in the coming weeks. Keep on writing!


4 in 1 Review - Pen, Leather, Paper and Ink

We here at Goldspot pride ourselves as a full-service store for writers and those inspired by fine-writing. And as such, instead of reviewing each of these products separately, I decided to review them together, because their qualities compliment each other in ways that our pens and accessories often do.

Story of the Libelle Brass Chromatic
One day a week or so ago, our esteemed manufacturers of Libelle pens sent us a shipment with an unmarked box. It was a Libelle Chromatic ballpoint pen that we had never seen before. We placed an order for one with a silver brushed barrel and brass trim, which have been discontinued. Instead, we got this odd, C3PO-looking fella completely in brass color. After looking through our price lists and inventory, we figured that this must have been a one-off that they never sold to retailers.

A phone call later to Kenro Industries would confirm my suspicion that it was indeed a prototype of a color finish they never put into full production. I already liked the color of the pen and the fact that it is a rare style only made me want to have it more! Gracious as they were for making the shipping error, they let me have it. Couldn't be happier to add to my collection!

The pen has a very interesting texture, weight and feel. The high metal content gives it a nice, sturdy weight. The matte and polished contrast, along with the wire mesh areas build into the barrel really gives this pen a unique identity and tactile feel.  The first thing I had to do was change the refill. As an avid fountain pen user, pasty ballpoint ink just doesn't do it for me. So I opted for the next item on this review : a Monteverde Parker-Style Capless Gel ink refill...in BROWN.

Brown, you say? Yes, I chose brown because #1 I can #2 it seemed to be the ideal match for a brass-colored pen. The gel ink writes smooth and evenly, writing like a fine tending toward a medium point (in fountain pen speak). As for the color brown, it is not very saturated as a dark brown, I would even call it a lighter tan-ish brown. I wrote that line, along with the other samples, on a Moleskine large lined journal.

That particular journal has been around with me for the last year or so, even before we started carrying Moleskine (yup, I paid full price for it). I had to see what all the hub-bub was about and needed a journal to replace my previous one that filled up the year before. I already heard about Moleskine's lack of fountain pen friendliness, so it wasn't a surprise to me when some pen and ink permutations permeated through the page and feathered a bit. However, I've found the general rule of thumb to find a good Moleskine-friendly combo is to go with a finer nib and with a lighter colored ink. The expandable pocket in the back is nice for depositing movie ticket stubs, candid photos and cocktail napkins with the phone number from that girl at the bar last night. However, I'm eagerly awaiting the finish of this notebook, as I want to upgrade to a Rhodia Webbie as my next journal of choice for the smoother, higher quality paper.

Putting away the Moleskine, I realized that there has to be a better home for my traveling pens. I have four fountain pens inked at the moment, which is a bit more than usual for me, but some (like the Aurora Optima or the Pelikan m215) never seem to run out soon enough for me to want to try new colors or pens. I usually keep them all in my messenger back, clipped to what used to be a cellphone pouch, but I turned into a perch for my inked pens.

One good turn deserved another, I thought, and purchased my own Libelle Black Leather Zip 10-pen case. In my case (shown below, left to right), I now have the Aurora Optima Auroloide Blue Marble in extra-fine, the Libelle Chromatic Brass ballpen, an ST Dupont Orpheo Palladium fountain pen in fine, Pelikan M215 in blue/black in fine point, a Lamy Safari Blue in extra-fine, a Black Parker Sonnet ballpen and a Parker Executive multi-function. And these are just the pens I have inked at the moment. Each pen is secured by two elastic loops, which are tight, yet stretchy enough to even fit the generously sized Orpheo.


As you can see from the second picture, the felt flap that covers one side of the case protects the pens from clanging into one another when you close the case and zip it shut. The quality of the leather is very good considering the price. The covers are plush, finely grained and supple to the touch. The soft inside material, the flap that goes over the right inside cover and the quality of the sewn elastic bands really makes me feel confident that my pens will be safely transported and kept in great condition. 

So, that's the whole story, touching every base while coming back home to the point of fine writing taking over my organizing style, messenger bag and (unfortunately) wallet. Hope you enjoyed and feel free to share your daily arsenal (#dailyarsenal topic on Twitter), including any pen-related accessories that help with your writing or maintenance of your writing instruments.


Now Introducing the New Waterman Hemisphere

In 2011, the Waterman Hemisphere gets a new facelift. Well, maybe not exactly a facelift but more like a tummy tuck or a nose job. Similarly to how Parker refreshed their Sonnet line in 2008, Waterman is updating the style of their popular, entry model, slimline pen
Can you pick the old Hemisphere?
The big change is in the center band, literally. The barrel band is thicker with the engraving of "Waterman, Paris" proudly inscribed on the chrome or gold plating. Also, the clip does not seem to flare as much toward the bottom. Each pen is still offered in ballpoint, rollerball or fountain pen. The fountain is fitted with a stainless steel nib in either fine or medium point size and fills by Waterman cartridge or converter, which is included for use with bottled ink.

The Hemisphere line has grown to accommodate a Deluxe and Special Edition line. The Deluxe models, much similar to the Expert Deluxe, feature a metal cap and lacquered barrel. The Silky black has a plain chrome-plated cap and a black lacquered body with a tone-on-tone effect to create silky wave effect. The Deluxe White has a plain white lacquer barrel, exactly like the standard white pen, only with a cap that is guillioche engraved with waves in gleaming chrome.

Then, there's the Hemisphere Agnes B. Special Edition. Originally an exclusive to Levenger, this finish was created by the European designer Agnes B., which would be more relevant to Americans if we were in Europe. Alas, the dark blue polka dots and the smooth thunderbolt of white going down the barrel looks more odd than inspiring to us Yanks. If only we were cultured to be more worldly... Personally, I don't care for it. It reminds me of a plain-looking Acme Pen and that is not the typical Waterman aesthetic.

The price points have stayed true to the thrifty quality of the Hemisphere. All the new Hemispheres (excluding the Agnes B) can be purchased for under a C Note and exude the grace and style of the Waterman brand that is known to be expensive. We have all styles available for shipping this week.