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Reflections of a Newbie: One year later
A review of a year of pen collecting!
from the fountain pen of David Kaplan

Well, it has been one year since I started this hobby. Actually, a little more than a year, but it is easier to count from Jan 1, 2000.

First a little background. I have used modern pens off and on for years, but decided around the end of 1999 to get serious and buy a new pen. I decided to surf the web to find a deal, when I typed "Fountain Pens" into YAHOO. To my great astonishment, I found lists and lists of sites - some modern and ... some vintage. Out of curiosity I clicked on a couple of vintage sites. I can't recall what I might have hit first, but I do recall that one of my first sites was the "Pens 101" site by Carla Frizzle . From there it was a short set of clicks to the world of vintage pens.

I soon forgot the original purpose for my surfing and started to look at vintage pens. It didn't take long before I realized that this was a hobby that I would be interested in pursuing. There was something beautiful about these instruments, and I have come to a stage in my life
where I would like to have a collection of something of beauty to pass on.

Given my impetuous nature, I immediately wanted to buy a pen. Well, it happened that I was due to take a trip into New York City. I decided on the basis of some of my web roamings, that I would pay a pilgrimage to Berliner Pens, and then do a stop over to Fountain Pen Hospital. I walked into Berliner's and talked to Bernie Isaacowitz and told him I wanted some advice and perhaps to buy a pen. To his great credit, he told me he wouldn't sell me a pen but instead recommended that I read as much as I could on the hobby. The same was told to me at Fountain Pen Hospital. Soon I purchased "Fountain Pens and Pencils" by George Fischler and Stuart Schneider and began learning more about the hobby. I learned that some pens could still be found in antique stores. Because there were a couple of antique stores in my town, I stopped in.

My first purchase was a near mint Parker 51 from 1955. The juices were starting to flow. Then, a few weeks later, I stopped back in to the same antique store and came across an Onyx Waterman Patrician!! I bought it for $100.00 and had Berliner restore it. It is now quite valuable. I was completely hooked!

After that, I took the lessons learned and read as much as I could, joined Pen Collectors of America, and went to the 2000 Philly Show. It was at that show that I finally became a full time addict. I purchased a couple of pens (not all were great purchases, but more on that later), and began to meet wonderful people - particularly Sam Fiorella of Pendemonium and Geoff Berliner. I then made a few more purchases over the internet and made contacts with superb restorers - particularly Hal Arnold, John Mottishaw, Joe Hamilton, Sherrell Tyre, and Jerry Trafford. I have been to the 2000 DC Show and most recently to the New Jersey Show.

It was at the most recent New Jersey Show that I learned a valuable and transformative lesson. In my enthusiasm over my "finds", I showed Berliner a couple of pens that I almost walked out with and he pointed out terrible flaws. For example, Geoff pointed out that I was about to leave with a Mabie Todd Swan that had a hard rubber barrel and a plastic
cap!! (He showed me how to tell if the pen is hard rubber v. plastic. Sometimes it's hard to tell). I also almost purchased a Waterman # 7 with the wrong lever attached. Geoff also pointed out, tactfully, who were the more reputable dealers. In a rather long and personal
conversation while walking through the ballroom of pens, Geoff basically told me that it was time to make a decision about whether or not I wanted to get serious with this hobby. He pointed out that I could spend my money on a lot of cheap, or flawed vintage pens, or spend the same money on many fewer but exceptional examples of vintage pens. To opt for the latter would require approaching those I trust to obtain good advice and to curb the overwhelming desire to buy without very careful inspection and knowledge. Of course, I have opted for the
latter. A recent article in Pen World on Fred Gorstein and his vintage Mont Blanc collection serves as an example of what I would like to achieve. My interest is to collect the best examples within my price range, of Vacumatics, Mabie Todd Swan ETNs, Wahl-Eversharp Dorics and Equipoised, and Waterman Ripples.

I'm still looking at some bad decisions in my pen case, but they serve as a reminder of where I started. I hope to look on my collection over time and see what I have learned by heeding the wise advice friends.

So, what have I learned one year later?

First, I have learned that it is essential to read, read, read!
Second, I found it essential to locate dealers and restorers whom I could trust.
Third, I will buy only those pens that I enjoy looking at and would want to use.
Fourth, I will only buy the very best examples of what I like, within my budget.

I will be heading to the Philly show next week. I hope to make some
very good purchase decisions. Wish me luck.

A peaceful and prosperous 2001.


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