Tim's Thoughts

Rethinking My Collection…Again

Longer term readers are probably thinking “what, he’s rethinking his collection again?” My collection started almost twenty years ago with a few pens and the desire to only own vintage pens I like and use, without thought to growing volume, scope, or resale value. I had planned to use every pen every year to keep the numbers low and because I didn’t collect things. However, as soon as I started on that path, a few pens got most of the use and creating playing time for the always-growing remainder became an insurmountable operational challenge. Over time, the group also included presents from friends and pens that matched my historical interests as well as pens that had no special qualification other than that I enjoyed writing with them. Then, a few modern pens arrived and stayed, notwithstanding the extent to which they compromised the use of “vintage” to describe Timsvintagepens’ collection. After completing my professional career two years ago, I stopped wearing suit jackets on a daily basis and the larger pens lost their use time. This, plus the fact that my slotted cigar boxes were full, sparked the need for a fresh look at the collection. 

The current evaluation is from a positive attitude, focusing on what I really want to keep. The Montblanc 149, the two Parker 51s, the Pelikan 120 were automatic “stays” because of their personal connections and frequent use. (As it happened, this compelled me to repair the Pelikan’s cracked gripping section and get the pen back into daily service.) Next, the personal favorites, all outstanding writers: my four from the vintage Aurora 88 family; the Parker 75 and half dozen Parker Duofolds in various sizes; the three special Sheaffer Balances; and the new Pilot Justus 95 (which is put away after each fill to forcibly prevent nonstop use). These 20 pens account for probably three-fourths of my fountain pen use. It was at this point that, not without some emotion, I listed and released my 2d Generation Vacumatic, Sheaffer Premier and Sheaffer Lifetime Jade pen and pencil set, all big pens and old friends that were not going to be used, and they went to good homes. Very recently, four of my personal Esterbrooks were tentatively committed to a buyer, making me consider keeping only the ebonite, wartime bandless, copper and short red Dollars, and a brown SJ. 

This left a variety of subgroups, each containing treasures: a) foreign pens that are both too good and too rare to let go, among them the Omas Italia 90, Miller 662, Matador Express, and Waterman New Look; b) the postwar English and European “working” pens, including (again, among others) the Parker Victory, Gold Starry, and Wyvern Perfect; and the few modern pens — the Pilot Legance, Delta Fusion, Waterman Laureat, the Hero 616 and 606 — that have found their way into the collection. These leave a dozen or so that don’t fit a significant category but are great pens that I’m fond of. 

So, what’s next? I don’t know! Some will surely move on, most likely not from the specific groups listed above. Inevitably, when one is actively thinning a collection, using any pen becomes something like an audition. It’s a friendly audition, not an NFL Pro Day, because while not being a perfect writer and a perfect fit in my hand don’t indicate failure, the question is inevitably open if a pen doesn’t make me sigh with quiet pleasure and give it a second fill. 

I’ve noted before that a collection is not a passive result of accumulation. Yes, accumulation certainly happens, but a collection is an intentional result of a broad or narrow set of buying objectives. Mine has certainly evolved, from learning about vintage pens to pursuing historical interests, to keeping a number of specific pens because I loved using them. Part of writing these thoughts is to help my readers approach a similar personal evaluation of their collections — I’d love to hear your thoughts about how your collection has evolved!