I have two new pens, although neither was purchased to be kept. The first, bought by a friend for me in an antique shop in upstate New York, is a Wearever Bullet from 1946-48. He got it after I said “nope, don’t want it”; he thought this grungy little piece was “cool” while I thought I had reached my lifetime maximum with Wearevers. He was right, I was wrong. I cleaned it with a soft rag but did not use an abrasive polish for fear that the gold-colored plate would rub right off. Suddenly I had a shiny, almost perfect, elongated bullet in my hand, with an unbelievably smooth semi-hooded medium steel nib stuck with its cheap plastic feed into a cheap plastic hood. With a fresh sac under the cheap squeeze bar it’s a treasure. Third tier? Fourth, if such existed! But third tier pens can be beauties, too, and this one is a clear timepiece from a period when our country was in reset mode after the long world war, but still celebrating war and its symbols.
The second is a Conway Stewart 15. As is my custom when I shop on eBay, which isn’t often these days, I go for the reputable brands that are poorly photographed, put in a low snipe bid, and either I win or I don’t. This one had no other bidder and a very low opening price; the shipping from Scotland to New York was more costly than the pen. 15’s are budget-level 1950’s pens, without cap bands, and usually made from casein, a milk byproduct used widely in England during the war and postwar shortage years. Casein pens are usually very shiny, and their patterns are often uncommonly beautiful. This example is a deep red with brown veining and marbling. What is curious, and why I’ll keep it, is that the barrel and cap have been ruined but retain their own beauty. At some point, the pen must have been soaked or exposed to bright sunlight or excess heat, all of which ruins casein (don’t forget, it is milk…). It is covered head to toe with thousands of barely visible cracks, which from even inches away give it a subtle bark-like, almost intentional, beautiful appearance. In contrast to the damage, the CS imprint is deep and complete and the gold clip and lever are shiny and tarnish free. As a whole pen, it carries its imperfection with dignity and its probably original gold nib writes a rich, soft, wet, medium line. I’ll keep this one, too, thank you. When my photography operation is up again, I’ll photograph both.