Sunday, June 24, 2012

Too Nice to Use

I think most of us have heard of a collector who purchases items for the mere sake of having them. This happens with fountain pens, as with many other items; I’ve seen articles about these people, some of them famous (for other reasons), who have rooms full of glass cabinets in which lie “collectible” pens as if lying in state.  Of course the pens are never used; they’re collectible after all.

I’m going to be snarky here – Joe and I have always treated the thought of such pens with a fair amount of derision, referring to them as “beanie babies,” and marveling in a horrified fashion at the amount of money that can end up invested in these collections.

I’m not talking about preserving the one example left of a rare, antique pen, rather more about things like the Sylvester Stallone pens, which to me have reached a new height of the ridiculous, and at a price that equals it. 

I have always prided myself in thinking that, if I buy a pen, I am buying it to use as a pen and not to put on a shelf and admire. 

Well, pride goeth before a fall, as we all know and I am about to be reminded. 

I have a few items that I have only semi-consciously labeled “too nice to use.” They’re not tucked away in display cases, but I still have never used them, for varying reasons.  

Three come to mind in my fountain pen hobby: 

1.      The Conway Stewart Peacock – I purchased this pen off of eBay, pounced on it actually, as it’s a rather rare color and only the fact that it’s the “Dinkie” size made it affordable for me. The pen has a crack in the barrel, extending from the forward end of the lever perpendicularly out about an eighth of an inch. I sent the pen out to one of the foremost restorers in the US, and despite all of his efforts he was unable to weld the crack together to stabilize it. Thus, the pen is a tad bit fragile; that, combined with the rarity of the color, has prompted me to leave it in the pen case since it came back from the shop.  

2.      The yellow Duofold. I even posted photos of this pen just after I acquired it, then sent it off to be cleaned up and resacked. And then put it in the pen case and left it there. The old yellow Duofolds are known to be fragile, because something about the components in the material used for the yellows has not aged well and makes the material brittle. Once again, it might be fragile, and it's a bit of a rare color, so I let it sit and sulk in the pen box. 

3.      The TMLee journal. TMLee, of Singapore, makes lovely handmade journals, and sells them on the Fountain Pen Network. The saga of his self-taught skills journey can be found in what is probably one of the longest threads on FPN, here. This journal is beautiful, precise, and pristine; I can’t bring myself to write in it. It feels as if something momentous should be written in it, but I lead a perfectly ordinary life and doubt I will ever have occasion to write “Today I won a Nobel Prize” or even “Today I won the lottery.”  

My goal over the next few weeks is to consciously use these items, and get over my reluctance. What is the worst thing that can happen? A pen breaks. Well, no one will die or go bankrupt if that happens, and I doubt any wars will result. I write something less than worthy of preserving for all posterity, something not so awe-inspiring as to create a sensation or even become a meme. Oh well.

I will then dedicate a blog post to each of these three items, so you can see them for yourselves and hold me to my word. 

Target acquired; stand by.

(Azizah, this one's for you; your comments about Rhodia Dot Pads got me to thinking!)


  1. AWESOME!! This is a great post. Now you've got ME thinking about the pens I have that haven't been used yet... for various reasons (none of them good ones)... I can't wait to see how you use yours AND for pics!!!

  2. I'm a great fan of rhodia dot pads. I wish I bought 100 of them when in France instead of just two. Now I'm getting my Jr's mum to buy and bring them over when she visits us in Singapore lol. And I'm glad u like the Singaporean journal! :) as for pens... I am often too curious about them to not try them out. Lol.

  3. My usual response to pens that I can't bring myself to use is to sell them; there's usually a period of miserly gloating, but eventually the feeling of not doing my bit for the pen overwhelms me and I decide I'll let someone of a different sort of fibre be the one to not use it (or use and possibly destroy it, as the case may be).