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Vintage pens-Handmade books-Silly statements

Use it and lose it?

Posted by Dirck on 12 August, 2009

Recently over at the FPN, someone put forth the question– do you use your pen? This is not quite as mad a question as it seems, since some of the modern “Limited Edition” pens cost tens of thousands of dollars and are seen as an investment, following the line of reasoning that if it’s rare by definition (one of a run of 4000, lets say) and there’s likely to be slightly fewer of them as time goes by through accident and stupidity, they must necessarily appreciate. Since a low mileage car is worth more than a planet-circler, a pen that’s not been used should retain its value better, right?

My response was a somewhat mystical “If the pen does not write, is it merely a thing that looks like a pen,” and that’s my general stance on the matter. Pens are for writing. I recently read a contrary opinion by someone I whose opinion I somewhat value, though, and I invite you to have a look for yourself here. The gist of his opinion is that there are some pens that are so intrinsically rare that it’s folly to lash it to your chest and run about the uncaring world with it, and that only the most irrational animist will worry about the pen’s feelings on the matter.

And, being a philosophical sort, I can see the point. The writer of that article is, however, speaking of vintage pens which have somehow come down through the decades without use. I have one myself that I’ve yet to put into circulation, hesitant at the arrogance (or similar vice) that suggests that I have the force to overcome such inertia of non-use.

However, as I am a philosophical sort, I can happily take two contradictory stances without feeling the queasiness of internal paradox. An unused or even very slightly used vintage pen is pretty safe around me, and will lie quietly. An unused modern Limited Edition on the other hand, I shout, “Ink it!” and will do so myself if opportunity beckons.

Why? I despise the notion of artificial rarity. I will suggest a somewhat rare vintage pen– let us say a Parker Duofold “Geometric”. It is rare because it was made for a short time. Perhaps the plastic was difficult to make, or it was simply an unpopular look, but the point is that there was never a decision taken by Parker that they’d limit production to increase the value. It just happened that not a lot were made, and of those a quantity got used into tiny little flakes of celluloid, or made into cuff-links, or dropped in a river, and eventually someone not unlike me said, “Geez, it’s been forever since I saw one of those– I’ll pay a premium to have that one.”

Compare this to a Montblanc Marlene Dietrich, which is far from the most sinfully ugly LE pen made– they’re making 1,901 of them, and it’s apparently a close secret how much they want for one, but it’s a lot. No one will use them, and the only attrition will be through the most awesome catastrophe as they’re all likely to live in fireproof vaults. In my dark heart, what I hope happens to these things is what happens to most fountain pens– they’ll hold their value in the face of inflation, and nothing more. Of course (and you might say I’m crying sour grapes, since I’m unlikely to ever afford such a thing), one might review the wisdom of buying any pen that costs more than $300 brand new, as it beyond that price there’s no real functional difference, and you’re mainly paying for the right to say you can spend a huge sum on a pen.

So, kids, unless it’s more than forty years old, go ahead and use that virginal pen. To do otherwise is making yourself poor and the pen sad. Can’t you hear it weeping?

Today’s fulfilled pen: Eversharp Skyline
What it’s full-filled with: Herbin’s Vert Empire

5 Responses to “Use it and lose it?”

  1. […] as the Grand Dynamic Master of Mannenhistu-do, I’m an avowed animist in this regard, and dismiss the notion of the cabinet queen with an airy wave of my […]

  2. […] a good chat with my brother.  We discussed the notion of natural and artificial rarity, a notion I reflected upon some time ago, and which he is apparently going to be doing some screaming about in his upcoming podcast.  […]

  3. […] the relative wisdom of taking a pen out of the house.  While slightly related to the notion of not using a pen at all for fear of devaluing it, it’s not quite the same thing, since using it exclusively in the […]

  4. […] time ago, I was contemplating here upon the propriety of using a pen which had drifted through the ages in an unused state. […]

  5. […] editions.  As you know, I’m no fan of artificially-rare pens, an opinion I expanded on some time ago, but it’s a common enough practice to stamp “X of XXXX” on the side of a pen to […]

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