Bloggers Weigh In: Collecting Fountain Pens vs. Using Fountain Pens

Bloggers Weigh In:
Collecting Fountain Pens vs. Using Fountain Pens

This article has been on my mind for a long time now. It’s interesting to think about how people approach their collection. Most fountain pen users tend to fall into two camps: Collectors and Users. Of course there’s going to be some in between, so we’ll look at that too. I’ve spoken to some of the other pen bloggers out there to see how they weigh in on straight up collecting versus only keeping what they use. I thought most people would fall into one of two camps (seen below), but the results were pretty surprising. I think since we do write about pens, people assume we have these massive collections and in every case, it just isn’t true.

Collectors: “I need every pen ever. New color of the same pen I already have? Sign me up!”

Users: “These few pens work for me, and I only need what I can use.”

ED JELLEY FOUNTAIN PEN COLLECTION-1My Collection

Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle. My collection isn’t huge and if there’s pens in there that aren’t regularly getting used, I’m not afraid to sell them off. There are a few exceptions. I tend to hang onto Lamy Safaris. I’m not a completionist collector (meaning I don’t have every special edition ever made) but it’s the one of the few pens in my collection that’s a repeat. As far as higher end limited editions, I don’t have any. I’m not into expensive limited pens that don’t add much to the writing experience. My goal with my collection is to have a good representation of my tastes, and I think I’m there. There’s a few pens I could get rid of, but overall I’m happy with where it’s at. I think there are around 40 pens in my collection, and I know that I do want to slim that down. I think once I’ve found the perfect pen (or pens) for me, my buying, trying, and selling has gone down drastically. It’s hard to reach for something other than my trusty Lamy 2000, awesome Nakaya Neo Standard, architect-nibbed Pilot 823, or my Tactile Turn Gist w/ Ti nib.

ED JELLEY FOUNTAIN PEN COLLECTION-4I think the reason that sparked this is that I haven’t been finding fountain pens all that new and exciting. I know what I like, I’ve written about plenty, and it’s hard to see through the new colors being pushed as completely new products. I could be being a little selfish when I want a piece of 100+ year old technology (honestly, it’s a miracle that they’re still around) to do something groundbreaking. At the end of the day, it’s a pen and its purpose is to write. We use fountain pens because we want the best, most unique writing experience available (and the awesome community doesn’t hurt either).

ED JELLEY FOUNTAIN PEN COLLECTION-3I look forward to new brands, unique materials, and hopefully some innovation. Fancy limited editions really don’t do much for me, but I totally get why people collect them. As you can see above, I kind of have a thing for Lamy. (Until snapping these photos, maybe I didn’t realize that I might be more of a collector than I had thought) Maybe this is some sort of informal challenge to the pen makers out there to try new things! Anyway, enough about me. How does everyone else feel?

Twitter Poll

I put out a poll on my Twitter a few weeks back asking whether my followers were “Collectors”, “Users”, or “Somewhere in between”. The results were pretty much all in favor of being users. Out of the 91 people who voted, 57% said they were users, 42% were somewhere in the middle, and only 1% consider themselves collectors. I think it’s an interesting place to start when looking into how we collect and use fountain pens. Now let’s see what some of the other prominent pen bloggers out there have to say…


After thinking about the state of my own collection, I put together a little survey for each of them, and asked a few followup questions. Here’s how they answered:

Screen Shot 2017-08-06 at 10.17.50 AMAna Reinert of The Well Appointed Desk
Collection Size: ~75 Fountain Pens, ~40 Refillable Pens
In Use: Roughly half inked at any given time

1. Are you a “collector” or a “user”? Maybe somewhere in between? Can you give a little bit of insight on why?

I’m definitely a user of pens. Even my vintage pens are purchased with the emphasis on wanting to continue to use them for their intended purpose. While some of my vintage pens are not in daily rotation they do come out regularly for ink play.

2. What about a new pen excites you?

I can be excited by the littlest thing. It can be a pen with a different sort of nib, an unusual look, or just something I’ve never owned before. I bought a Waterman Safety Baby because I’d never seen a pen that opened and closed quite like that before. I now own two of them. I fell in love with Sheaffer Lady Skripserts because of the unusual nibs and finishes and now I have a dozen pens, some with matching mechanical pencils. With more modern pens, an interesting nib, color or finish will intrigue with equal measure.

3. Is there anything you’re looking forward to in the pen world? Does a new color scheme of an existing pen have to make it into your collection, or is one good enough?

I love going to pen shows to see new pens from craftsmen (and women) and what the larger manufacturers have in the works too. I love seeing the prototypes from Franklin-Christoph as well as the custom resins from Carolina Pen Company. From larger manufacturers, I don’t know that a new color will necessarily sway me to buy a new pen though I have been swayed by the latest Lamy Safari or AL-Star or TWSBI in the past.


Screen Shot 2017-08-06 at 10.14.51 AMBrad Dowdy of The Pen Addict
Collection Size: ~75 Fountain Pens
In Use: 5-10 inked at any given time

1. Are you a “collector” or a “user”? Maybe somewhere in between? Can you give a little bit of insight on why?

I’m somewhere in between a collector and a user, but definitely live by a user’s mantra. I’m fond of saying “I’m not running a museum here”, which is my way of saying that if I buy something my intent is to use it. I don’t own any products that are purely for show. I will collect things that I use, say a different color of a pen I like, but not because I am adding it to a collection of those pens, but rather I enjoy using this pen and here is another cool way I can do that.

2. What about a new pen excites you?

If I find a pen that I enjoy, sometimes a color change is all I need to get me interested in a product update. I don’t buy them blindly though – I don’t need to collect ALL the colors – but I will buy a simple color change because it speaks to me and I will get enjoyment from using it.

3. Is there anything you’re looking forward to in the pen world? Does a new color scheme of an existing pen have to make it into your collection, or is one good enough?

I like seeing new materials being experimented with. We are seeing a small maker renaissance, and I love seeing the craziness one-person shops can come up with when their only constraint is their imagination. And of course I’ll buy three of them!

Check out Brad’s blog here.


Screen Shot 2017-08-06 at 10.15.11 AMMike Matteson of Inkdependence!
Collection Size: “A couple hundred, I guess” Fountain Pens
In Use: ~30 inked at any given time

1. Are you a “collector” or a “user”? Maybe somewhere in between? Can you give a little bit of insight on why?

Somewhere in between. I’m what I call an “accumulator.” I’m not really collector because I don’t care much about getting the newest color of a pen. If there’s a really cool variation on a particular model, then I’ll be tempted. The new Diplomat Aero in orange really got my attention, for example. Just another Al-Star or something isn’t going to make me automatically buy it. I’m not just a “user”, though, because I have WAY too many pens to qualify in that category. That said, I do use almost every pen I have. There are a couple of them that I haven’t used, but they’re the exception to the rule.

The “why” is something like “Because I’d like to have examples of different sorts of pens.” Part of that is for the blogging, but that’s a handy excuse to accumulate lots of different pens.

I do have a couple of things that I collect, but they’re weirder things like the Rotring Core. It’s fun to have a collection of things that makes people say “you collect what, now?”

2. What about a new pen excites you?

I love a new material. An interesting nib. A new shape. A new filling mechanism. A pen that just feels good when you use it. There are lots of things to love about a new pen. A brand that I’ve never tried?

3. Is there anything you’re looking forward to in the pen world? Does a new color scheme of an existing pen have to make it into your collection, or is one good enough?

I’m usually good with one of a kind of pen. The exception is something like a cool limited edition. The upcoming Platinum 3776 Shungyo has me really interested, for instance. I’m also looking out for whatever Ryan Krusac has coming next. Anything new from Franklin-Christoph. I hear that Sailor has cool new stuff coming out soon. The new line from Caran d’Ache, the 849 fountain pen, looks really interesting, too.

Check out Mike’s blog here.


Screen Shot 2017-08-06 at 10.15.41 AM  Joe of The Gentleman Stationer
Collection Size: ~80 Fountain Pens
In Use: ~12 inked at any given time (varies by what’s being reviewed)

1. Are you a “collector” or a “user”? Maybe somewhere in between? Can you give a little bit of insight on why?

I’m definitely a bit of both.  I would say that I have a pen collection that I use. While I do “collect” in the sense that I’ll definitely purchase new releases/editions/colors of a pen that I really like (Sailor Pro Gear), the collection is driven by my personal taste, not completionism, and I don’t feel compelled to grab every single one. I don’t hang on to pens that I don’t use, and if I find something falling by the wayside I’ll sell it. I have pretty heavy turnover, and buy/sell a lot of pens throughout the year.

2. What about a new pen excites you?

Between my personal collection and the “archive” I maintain for the blog (i.e., those pens that I keep around for comparison purposes, like all the TWSBIs, etc.) I have a ton of pens, so I’ve become pretty picky about what I spend my money on these days.

3. Is there anything you’re looking forward to in the pen world? Does a new color scheme of an existing pen have to make it into your collection, or is one good enough?

To get me to purchase a “duplicate” of a model I already have, it either has to be a new color scheme that I find extremely attractive, or a limited edition inspired by something that has some meaning to me.

Check out Joe’s blog here. 


Screen Shot 2017-08-06 at 10.16.02 AM.pngAzizah of Gourmet Pens
Collection Size: ~75 Fountain Pens
In Use: 20 inked at any given time

1. Are you a “collector” or a “user”? Maybe somewhere in between? Can you give a little bit of insight on why?

I am a user, for sure. I started straying into collecting but realized a few things along the way. First is that my budget just could not afford the things I wanted to collect. Secondly, I went through a “get rid of everything” phase and I just couldn’t keep a bunch of pens I didn’t use. I don’t have the collecting gene. For ME, pens that are collected and not used hold no value (to me) and give me no enjoyment so there was no point in having them.

2. What about a new pen excites you?

What excites me about a new pen? Sometimes it’s the color that catches my eye and I start picturing all the inks that will look great in it. The second thing is the nib, of course, and what it’ll feel like and look like to use it! I have a few daily users, and the rest are unusual nibs that I enjoy using to practice hand lettering and calligraphy with.

3. Is there anything you’re looking forward to in the pen world? Does a new color scheme of an existing pen have to make it into your collection, or is one good enough?

More special nibs. I love how Sailor creates so many specialty nibs, even if I don’t use them for their intended purpose, and I miss the extra-broads Pelikan used to make. Not to mention a vintage flex re-creation!

Check out Azizah’s blog here.


Screen Shot 2017-08-06 at 10.16.20 AM Stephen “SBREBrown” Brown
Collection Size: ~15 Fountain Pens
In Use: 5 inked at any given time

1. Are you a “collector” or a “user”? Maybe somewhere in between? Can you give a little bit of insight on why?

I’m a user. I ended up reaching for the same pens month after month. For a collection to make sense to me, it has to have some focus, and my “collection” is an assortment of models I like, finishes that appeal to me, and nibs that do the job just the way I like it.

2. What about a new pen excites you?

Most often, the writing experience. Some pens look great but the writing experience is average, and some look average and the writing experience is great!

3. Is there anything you’re looking forward to in the pen world? Does a new color scheme of an existing pen have to make it into your collection, or is one good enough?

Same as Azizah’s response – more nib options, especially a vintage flex re-creation!

Check out Stephen’s YouTube channel here. 


Screen Shot 2017-08-06 at 10.16.34 AM Dries Bleus of The Pencilcase Blog
Collection Size: ~100 Fountain Pens
In Use: 5-15 inked at any given time

1. Are you a “collector” or a “user”? Maybe somewhere in between? Can you give a little bit of insight on why?

I’d consider myself somewhere in between collector and user. I collect pens, but I don’t have a single pen in my collection that hasn’t been used at least once. In the grand scheme of things, most people will definitely categorise me as a collector, and I can’t blame them. I have more pens than I could ever possibly use, let alone need. Guilty!

Nevertheless, I definitely do use my fountain pens, and have at least a dozen or so inked up at all times.

2. What about a new pen excites you?

I think a big part of the fun of buying pens is just the wait, having the anticipation build before it arrives.

3. Is there anything you’re looking forward to in the pen world? Does a new color scheme of an existing pen have to make it into your collection, or is one good enough?’

I always enjoy new brands, seeing them come up with something that has a unique style or character to it. I definitely have a bad case of allofeverythingitis. I get tempted by everything I see, but if it’s not 100% my thing I usually get over it rather quickly (only to get sucked in by the next shiny thing that crosses my path)

Check out Dries’ blog here.


Screen Shot 2017-08-06 at 10.16.48 AMMike Dudek of Clickypost.com

1. Are you a “collector” or a “user”? Maybe somewhere in between? Can you give a little bit of insight on why?

I’m definitely one of the in-betweeners (if that is a word). I have found that my daily use is a bit more utilitarian as of late, but there are certain pens like vintage Pilots, a few discontinued Lamy models, rOtring, and occasionally Retro 51 limited editions that strike a chord with an interest of mine that I’ll scoop up into my collection and may use only once or twice in a year’s time.

In all honesty, I wish I had a bit more of a user mentality as it would simplify my office quite a bit! Someday…

2. What about a new pen excites you?

New color schemes on their own of the same pen rarely excite me, but trying a new model or new brand (to me) is still enjoyable. Even if a “new” pen is somewhat similar in functionality to ones I already have, I enjoy seeing up close and using new designs and iterations on a similar style. When pens that I love come out in new unique materials, I usually tend to buy and try them. For example, I’ll be receiving one of the new Kaweco Steel Sport rollerball pens soon (even though I’ve owned 10-15 different Sport models).

3. Is there anything you’re looking forward to in the pen world? Does a new color scheme of an existing pen have to make it into your collection, or is one good enough?

My perception is a bit the inverse of this question, as in what I’m not looking for in new pens. I love innovation, but usually dislike gimmick. Silly things in new pens meant to incite publicity more annoys me than anything. And, when a new pen is promoted to be something new and great when it is really just mediocre (kudos to the marketing writers), it creates noise and often distracts from really great products that then go otherwise unnoticed, particularly from smaller makers/creators.

Simplicity and function blended with solid design (and high quality) is what gets me most.

Check out Mike’s blog here.


Conclusion:

First off, thank you all SO much for taking the time to answer the survey! If you, the readers, would like to weigh in please leave your own answers to the questions in the comments below!

It’s interesting to see the different approaches to collecting versus using within our hobby. While putting together this article (thanks for the patience too), it got me to take a look at my collection and perhaps refine it a bit. There’s a lot of Safaris (which I think are easy to buy because low price) that to me borders on excessive. Otherwise, I think I’m happy with the balance of different pens in my collection, from small makers to large brands, Western to Japanese, and a wide selection of different nibs. Thanks again for reading and happy collecting!

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12 thoughts on “Bloggers Weigh In: Collecting Fountain Pens vs. Using Fountain Pens

  1. Great post! Seeing these responses confirms a few things for me. 1) You can be a user while still having more pens than you reasonably need (this helps my sanity), and 2) it confirms just how great fountain pens are! I have over 40 fountain pens myself and love them all for different reasons. Whether that be a cool colour, unique material, or smooth as butter nib, they are all unique enough for me to want to get them all in my rotation, which is why I would struggle classifying myself as a collector, even though anyone outside of the hobby would.

    1. Cody, glad you liked it! I had to look at myself when writing the article, and realized that to any outsider I may be considered a collector. You make a great point!

  2. Interesting analysis of the pen community’s perceptions whether they’re users or collectors. Interesting, though, that your featured guests identify as in-between yet their ‘in-use’ pens account for ~30% of their total collection. Thought about collaborating with Jonathon Deans at Peneconomics.com about a fascinating qualitative study of this topic?

    1. Thank you!

      Do you think that 30% usage qualifies as collecting, or using? Interested to hear your point of view.

      I have not, we have not seen eye to eye in the past and I don’t plan on collaborating at this time.

  3. Thanks for an interesting and insightful read, Ed!

    As TLOBLAW, I also am astonished by the user vs. collector self-perceptions. To me, a ‘user’ would need to use his/her pens at least this and that many times in a given reasonably short (!) time period in order to qualify as a such. I doubt that with a person owning 50+(+) pens, many pens will see use a lot more than once a year – especially in an age where (and that now is a rather general assumption) most people do a lot of screen work and typing. This, then, to me would not be ‘using’ all the pens, and hence, being a ‘user of all these pens’. Similarly, we would also not seriously call a person a ‘fountain pen user’, if that person uses a fountain pen once or twice a year only, and otherwise chalk or whatever.

    Now we have to look at what ‘collecting’ would be. To me personally, ‘collecting’ or ‘having a collection’ does not imply that the pens would need not to be used in order for them to be a collection. Being a collection, to me, would rather imply that the pens are too many to be ‘used frequently enough’ for them to be real ‘usage tools’. As the person that uses a fountain pen only once a year would use a fountain pen too rarely for me to seriously consider this person a fountain pen user.

    The definition of a collection that has been applied here, to me, is rather something that I would define as or call a museum (i.e. a huge amount of things that get looked at only, but see no use).

    Put differently, owning 300 pens that all have been used five times the past 5 to 10 years to me definitely would be a collector, not a user, however the pens have been in ‘use’.

    I myself, as many others maybe, also frequently ponder on whether I give my pens reasonable use or if I just amass (collect) them. I have recently cut down my amount of pens from about 45-50 to 25-30. Working a lot on the computer myself, I could have never reasonably ‘used’ 45 pens – without having them see ink only like once a year, that is. Which to me then would have implied being a collector. Personally, I do prefer to not having stuff laying around that I don’t use – or that I use rarely only. Even the round about 30 pens that I still do own are way too many for reasonably calling myself a user (in my opinion). That is why I prefer to refer to my pens neither to a collection, nor to a daily-use-toolbox. I mostly think about them as being a ‘fleet’ or an ‘arsenal’. This to me implies that these tools do get more use than a collection, but not all at the same time.

    Many thanks again for a great read!

  4. Do I use pens from my collection ? Or do I collect to own pens with some use ?
    I think the answer to these questions is as varied as the choice of pens we buy, collect and use. I collect pen sets from the 1960 through to 1990, with a set being a fountain pen, ballpoint or rollerball and mechanical pencil. These pen sets are then used for a couple of weeks before being rotated for another set, collecting the pen sets can take time as all my pen purchases are on a budget but every set will get used with modern inks and refills. So I must be somewhere in between but with no modern pens,
    John.
    Yesterday’s Pens

  5. Joe’s comment about keeping some pens around for comparison purposes totally rings true for me too. I completely forgot about those! I keep a handful of pens specifically for comparison purposes for review. Ah, the life of a pen blogger.

  6. Great article and I understand where everyone is coming from. I’m a user by every definition with only 3 fountain pens (in addition to a handful of other rollerballs, ballpoints and pencils). The fountain pens are the ones that get used while I am at my desk but they stay home when I travel. On the road I use a Pelikan 800 ballpoint for the most part… to me, it’s hard to justify more pens than I have bottles of ink… but I suppose there is another survey to cover people’s thoughts around that! Three daily use colors and three pens.. (ink samples don’t count).

  7. Great post. I am a collector first with over 5000 pens and pencils. There are over 800 in BICs alone. I collect loose pens and pencils, carded pens and pencils, counter top displays and advertising. I use as many of them as I can but I don’t think I will ever get through them all. Many do not work because of age or refills are not made anymore. As far as collecting goes I try and collect one of each type. Some pens like the Papermate Ops N Pops from the late 60s I try and get as many as possible.

  8. I used to be a collector, but I eventually realized that I didn’t need 5 MB 149s, even if they were all from different eras and slightly different. I keep a couple pens inked at any given time, now, usually one that I don’t mind putting in a jacket pocket (and thus potentially losing, when I use it somewhere on the road), and another for my desk. I don’t think I have more than 10 fountain pens now (I do have a LOT of 19th century dip pen nibs, though).

  9. Very well done!

    Raises the question of where do the collectors of the old pens gather on the web? The people who collect the Parker Awanyu Aztecs, Waterman taper caps, Parker snake overlays, etc.

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