No, this isn’t a commercial for a pen that is listed in the For Sale page. Yes, I’m having some misgivings about selling the oversized Sheaffer Balance in Marine Green from the core of my collection, but I think this is a decision that will stay decided. I’ve owned this pen since the first year of my building a pen collection, most of which I have turned over in the intervening years as my tastes have evolved. Yes, there was a time when my collection boasted well over 75 pens (I don’t think it has ever reached 100 pens that I did not consider inventory), but for some years now that number has hovered around 50.
Frankly, this isn’t the first time I’ve pulled this pen out to sell, but it is the first time its database status changed from “TME” to “Next Listing” and then to “For Sale”. I for sure didn’t decide to let it go because the pen suddenly isn’t as good; it’s a landmark pen, from the 1930-31 first years of the Balance, their largest pen of the style. It’s in great condition for a 90 year old pen, with only a little bit of missing plate on the clip and cap ring. It writes wonderfully, fast, firm, fine. It always gets oohs and ahs when friends look through my collection. So why am I letting it go?
Every pen collector I know, really any collector, has a guiding reason for the collection, since gathering a collection involves discrete decisions to buy this object but not that one. Yes, pendom includes a few people who appear to simply buy it all, but even if their resources appear to be unlimited, they have motives that restrict their selections to brands or types or some broader collecting decision path. My smallish collection is guided by two rules: I love the pen and I use it. These rules were not set in advance; as every other standard I thought was in place fell away, these are the two that stayed. I generally favor vintage over modern, but not exclusively so since I now have a half dozen or so modern pens. I hate cartridge/converter fillers, but have one. For me, it’s not an objective thing: it’s all in the writing experience and my more general love of vintage. So, once a pen is loved enough to land in my collection, if it gets regular use, it stays. If a couple of years go by without use, I generally conclude that although I love the pen, it deserves to be loved by someone who will use it. And, to quickly analyze the converse of not using pens I love, life is too short to use pens I don’t love.
I keep asking myself why this Sheaffer has so regularly gotten passed over, and frankly I don’t have a good answer. Perhaps this is the key for many of our choices: if my choice is not in a predetermined order, how does the decision get made? I suspect the same is true for many reading this: it just happens. Most of the pens I’ve sold from my collection in recent years were sold because they weren’t getting enough use, and the responses from their new owners have described nothing but satisfaction and happiness, so I feel good about sending this one on to its next adventure, too!