Thursday, May 26, 2011

Things on Thursday: Fountain Pens

The collectibles craze has never taken over my brain. Beanie Babies, Lladro or Precious Moments figurines, Tom Clark gnomes, Thomas Kinkade prints...I've watched friends and family enjoy the art of collecting for the simple pleasure of it, but never felt the urge myself.

My collections have been more practical in nature. I collected clothes when I worked outside the home. Clothes were more important to me then than they are now, as I sit typing in my jammies. These days, I practice the minimalist closet and actually dread shopping for clothes.

I still collect books, however, and have since my teens. My book collection, combined with George's, has taken over our house. But the vast majority of our books have been read. They are not for show. When Nick recently needed to do a report on Saturn, we had real print books for him to look at...not just Wikipedia.

I collect rubber stamps, too. These have all seen ink; I don't have them just to have them.

My mother gave me my first fountain pen: a broken, leaky Parker 51 that my grandfather used for decades. This pen gave me the itch to get my own, so in the early 1990s, I bought my first, a Waterman Laureat. I loved writing with it, how it felt in my hand, the character of the ink it laid down which was nothing like the ink you get from any throw-away pen. And so I started collecting fountain pens, like the Parker Sonnet pictured above.

I have Watermans, Parkers (including a reproduction of my grandfather's 51 that I carry in my purse and use to write checks), and Shaeffers. No Montblancs, though. The one I bought leaked so I sent it back. I also sent back a truly beautiful Argento that just didn't feel right in my hand. What matters to me isn't the impressive brand name or the indulgent cost...what matters is how a pen writes, how it feels in my hand, how it functions. It helps if it's pretty, too.

My friends at Micron gave me a gorgeously functional Parker Duofold before we moved to Rapid City in 2000, and it was my last acquisition. Once my storage case was full (it holds 12 pens), I stopped collecting. Now, at any given time, three spots in the storage case are empty. I found keeping ink in more than three pens simply wasn't practical and resulted in leaks and dried-out cartridges. I keep the reproduction Parker 51 in my purse, the Parker Sonnet by my computer, and the Waterman Executive on my craft desk. As one dries up, I'll clean it, put it back in the case, and choose another pen to fill with ink.

Using fountain pens is my one writerly affectation. I love them.

Do you have a favorite pen? Is there some other functional item that you collect with joy? Do you prefer collecting items that are simply beautiful or cute or funny? What about collecting as an investment? Please share your thoughts on collecting in the comments!


  1. Susan,

    I love fountain pens as well. Growing up in Germany, I've used them starting second grade. All kids have to practice their cursive in ink!
    I don't collect them, but I like writing letters and cards with them. When I was in high school, I used purple ink. Last year my older sister sent me a Lamy fountain pen. Before that I had a Parker, but it broke after many, many years of use.
    I'm not a big collector, but I love pottery, and I wish I had more. I have this salt glaze vase with a blue handpainted motif on it, that I bought in a little town in Wisconsin. If money wasn't an issue, I would definitely buy more pieces!


  2. I too love writing with a fountain pen! I only have one - a Waterman. I did buy a pair of glass pens with several bottles of different colored ink. A bit more work in writing with..but I like to think it harkens back to days of dipping the pen in an inkwell.
    I have done collections of tea cups,angels and music boxes. Lost interest in all of them when it became all I received at gift giving times. I have kept a few special pieces from each and given the rest away. And decided that if I were to begin a collection again....I will keep it to myself ;-)
    Lu C

  3. At high school I also loved using a fountain pen, but haven't for years now. I have a question though . . . Is the ink archival? I have the memory that my fountain pen ink faded with time.
    For some reason, google will not find me despite logging on! Janet

  4. My favorite pens are G2 Pilots. They come in so many colors and the ink flows so nice. Just like a fountain pen, the ink needs to dry before folding or stacking. I am way too practical for "collections". I tend to call them dust catchers. I will buy a variety of things that I use for a purpose though. Cookie cutters, rubber stamps, cute serving dishes, doilies, barrettes, embossing folders and books top that list.

  5. Janet, I'm not sure about archival ink for fountain pens. Surely some are, but my concern would be that true archival inks are waterproof, and waterproof inks can clog or ruin a fountain pen. You can use a dip pen with India ink, though.

    I found an interesting discussion of the topic here:

    Someone in that discussion says there are India inks formulated for fountain pens, but I'd be very careful using them.

    Based on that forum discussion, I must say some people take their ink VERY seriously.

  6. hi susuan,

    i'm totally dating myself here, but when i was in school, upper elementary probably, we had a school store in the office afterschool, or something. they sold schaeffer cartridge pens with blue ink. wow!! i loved those.

    then i discovered blue/black ink which was VERY neat. but the best discovery was that crazy peacock blue ink!!!!!!!!!!

    i also had some interesting cartridge pens when i was teaching calligrahpy. they had a bladder that i wd fill. they were excellent pens.

    i collected giraffes for awhile. but as Lu C said, it got too all-consuming (someone gave me giraffe underwear!!) i mostly lost interest.

    i do think it's rather fun to collect a COLOR. my dearest friend in the universe is a purple fan. i've been known to send her a care package of purple items at random times! makes us smile.

    thanks for the fun discussion.
    hope you are having sunshine for this weekend.


Thanks so much for taking time to comment!