How to Buy Collectible Pens and Writing Instruments

How to Buy Collectible Pens and Writing Instruments

In today's world of emails and text messages, we're more used to typing out our communications than scribbling them out the old fashioned way. For that reason, perhaps, it's a real pleasure to pick up a gorgeous fountain pen. If it's a special, collectible pen, all the better. Collectible writing instruments can be both vintage and new design, with some collectors pledging their loyalty to one brand or another. Some collectors actually use their pens, others keep their caps safely on.

Explore: For new collectors, the good news is that pens are not nearly as complicated to learn to collect as some other collectible items. Most of what you need to look at is on the outside of the pen, in clear view. One of the best ways to start collecting pens is to attend a pen show. Pen shops may be able to refer you to a local show. Today, the internet is also a great source for vintage pen collectors.

Discover: Educate yourself about brands and about pen components-read about types of nibs, how various pens are filled, materials used, etc. Good places to start are the Pen Collectors of America website, which has a good reference section, and

Budget: Decide how much you would like to spend. While a coveted vintage pen may be on a serious collector's wish list, its price tag might be too high for a budding collector. Starting with a few good pens is the best way to start a collection.

Experiment: If you're buying the pen in person, ask the seller if you can try writing with the pen. Ask the seller to show you the various parts of the pen.

Ensure: When collecting vintage pens, there are some things you should look out for. The first is the description of the pen, including the following factors:

  • maker (if known)
  • all marks, on barrel side and end, cap, clip, and nib
  • size (measure length when closed)
  • color(s), including description of patterning
  • metal trim (gold or silver)
  • shape (cylindrical or tapered; round or flat-ended; etc)
  • filling system

(Thanks to for this list.)

It's important to check on the condition of all the components of the pen. Make sure you get a complete condition report from the seller. Look for quality design, good construction, and any potential historical importance. Try to choose pieces that are unusual, rather than ordinary, as these are most likely to be those you enjoy most and that will continue to retain their interest over the years. The most important advice of all is to buy a few quality pieces rather than a larger assortment of average pens.

Buy: Once you're sure you've found just the right collectible pen, make sure you're buying from a trustworthy seller. If it's an online seller, read about the company and their website. Most credible websites provide detailed information about themselves. Make sure the website provides you with verified and secure online purchases. Read what their customers and the press have to say about them. Find out if the company has a reasonable returns policy. When you have done your due-diligence, order the pen and get writing!