wikiHow to Start a Fountain Pen Collection

Collecting fountain pens may be one of the more esoteric hobbies, but fine writing instruments are far more than your basic ballpoint. They can be of historical, technical, and aesthetic interest; they can be a pleasure to use, and some may even be described as works of art. Nor does pen collecting have to be an expensive hobby, for many older pens still may be found for very little money. On the other hand, the sky is the limit when it comes to high end modern pens, many of which are offered as limited editions. Most pen collectors like to use some if not all of their pens. In general, however, the rarer, older, more valuable pens are less likely to be treated as users, though pen collectors (like collectors of other mechanical antiques) prefer to have specimens in working condition. Modern limited edition pens sometimes leave collectors torn, since putting them to use leads to significant depreciation.


  1. 1
    Determine what your budget is. There are collectible pens that range from a few dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars, but most fall in the three to four figure range.
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    Determine if you are going to collect old pens or modern pens. Collecting modern pens is easier, but vintage pens offer much more variety, historical interest, and opportunity for the collector willing to put in study time.
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    Pen stores are good for modern pens, but there are few over the counter stores selling vintage pens. Older pens are available from online dealers, eBay, and other collectors, who may be reached through various online forums, collector clubs, and specialized pen shows. Pen shows are also a great place to acquire modern pens, including limited editions.
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    If you are looking for pens for their writing qualities, buying used models from nonspecialists on eBay may not be the best bet. On the other hand, there are a number of experts who offer restoration and nib adjustment services, so don't be afraid of buying a pen as is as long as the price is right.
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    Be aware that not all limited editions have a strong secondary market, especially those offered by newer, less prominent pen makers.
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    Many parts of the vintage pen market have been soft for the past several years due to the retirement of first generation collectors and the preoccupation of Internet-era new collectors with vintage pens as users. There are some excellent values in classic vintage pens such as Waterman pens with metal overlays and large colorful Deco-era pens by Wahl and Conklin, to name but a few.


  • There are a myriad of books, magazines, and websites on collecting writing instruments. It is well worth putting the effort into reading up before making purchases.
  • Beware of deals that look too good to be true, especially in online auctions where the seller does not have much of a history. If in doubt, ask questions at one of the online pen collecting forums.
  • As a rule of thumb, bigger pens are worth more than smaller. But note that most older pens do not approach the size of the larger modern pens. Older pens are also usually much lighter than modern pens, having been made primarily as writing instruments rather than status symbols.
  • Collecting is an intensely personal activity, so collect what you like. The old recommendation that you buy a few good things instead of many lesser things still has much validity, however, since most collectors tend to get more selective as they gain experience.
  • Have a strategy before you start. Diverse and eclectic pens or a concentrated on one or two manufacturers.


  • Store your pens away from heat and bright light.
  • Do some research before attempting any do-it-yourself repairs. Pen parts should not be arbitrarily soaked, for example, since some materials may fade or distort, while some parts may contain metal components that will rust. Attempting to lift the lever on an old pen with a hardened ink sac may break the lever or the barrel.
  • Limited edition pens lacking their original boxes and papers lose a significant portion of their value. Original boxes and papers do not always add significantly to the value of vintage pens. Oddly enough, though, this is at odds with pretty much every other area of collecting, and is sure to change eventually.
  • Avoid using intensely pigmented ink in plastic pens where the ink is held directly within the barrel (as opposed to within a cartridge, converter, or sac). Permanent staining is a real risk in such cases.

Things You'll Need

  • A magnifying glass

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