Vintage verses Modern

What sort of fountain pens do you own? What sort of pens do you choose to buy? Could any of them be classed as vintage? In this blog post I ponder the battleground that is vintage verses modern.

I suppose it might be an idea to try and fathom what a vintage pen actually is? This is a difficult one and I am not sure where to start, so in an attempt to answer this I will turn to classic cars first. Yes you did read correctly, classic cars.

Cars built before 1st January 1977 do not incur vehicle excise duty, however Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs view a classic car as any car worth £15,000 or more and aged 15 years or over. What does this mean for pens?

I have a Lamy 2000 bought when I was at university over 25 years ago. If I were to purchase a brand new one tomorrow morning, the filling mechanism, nib and material of the pen would be more or less identical. Does the fact that my Lamy 2000 is 25 years old mean it is a vintage pen? Probably not. So all that stuff about cars probably won’t transfer to what a vintage pen is.

For me vintage means:

  • Old. (I mean pens that are way older than 25 years in age)
  • Filling mechanisms such as sacs, bladders or squeeze convertors
  • Materials – different to modern pens such as ebonite
  • Size – smaller in general than the oversize pens we see today
  • Nibs – Some are a great deal more flexible than those you can buy today

So, which side of the fence do I come down on? If I look at the fountain pens I own, all are modern. If I think about the fountain pens I have ever bought, all but one is modern. The vintage pen I bought and later sold was a Parker 51. Up until I won an auction on eBay I had not owned anything but modern pens.

Anyone who gets into fountain pens sooner or later hears about the ‘Parker 51.’ I knew that I wanted to try one out and found that eBay was my best bet. There were hundreds of them for sale. Some were rare and expensive and others seemed very reasonably priced. I took the plunge.

The Parker 51 pen I bought looked as if it had never been used. There was not a mark on the silver cap or the pearl-like cap jewel and not even the faintest marks on the black barrel and section. The ink sac was clear and the hooded nib looked brand new. Inking it up, it was a good writer with a narrow, wet line. There were only two issues. It was a pain to clean and change ink colour and the amount of ink it held wasn’t as much as some of my more modern pens.

I liked my Parker 51 but found that after the initial novelty of owning this iconic pen, it remained in the pen case. It must have been left undisturbed for well over a year. When I almost rediscovered it after this time, inking it up just didn’t appeal to me. I put it back on eBay and bought another pen with the proceeds.

Last October was the first time I ever attended a pen show – London in my case. I really enjoyed seeing all the vintage pens but I came away wishing that there were more modern ones.

Fountain pens are in many respects an homage to the past. To the uninitiated even modern pens may feel old fashioned. I can appreciate vintage pens but for me at least I have no plans to buy one again. I like the nod to the past but I prefer the larger ink capacity, better filling mechanisms and size of modern pens. I cannot see a time when I would go down the vintage route but that’s just me. What are your thoughts?

3 thoughts on “Vintage verses Modern

  1. Until recently I would have fallen very much into the modern pen camp. At pen shows, the huge number of vintage pens was bewildering and I had no desire to spend hundreds of pounds on a pen which might have a worn down nib, a perished sack and be unusable. I preferred to go for say a brand new TWSBI. However I have since acquired some vintage pens, starting witb a Parker 51, then a Pelikan M400 tortoise from maybe the 50’s, an old Sailor, a Parker Junior Duofold and most recently a wonderful 1960’s Montblanc. They are still a tiny proportion of my accumulation but I enjoy them a lot and they need to be handled with care and respect befitting their advanced years!

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  2. Most of my fountain pens are ‘vintage’ but rather sadly I bought them new in the late 1950’s to the 1960’s. I still use them too and although I have tried some of the latest offerings I often find them rather disappointing although they often look nice. A few of my latest purchases have been new ‘vintage’ pens being old stock from the sixties.

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