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What to Watch Out for When Starting a Pen Collecti

What to Watch Out for When Starting a Pen Collecti

What to Watch Out for When Starting a Pen Collection

Condition of the Body
Is the body straight? You can easily determine the shape of the body by rolling it on a flat surface. Check the threads, sometimes they are filled with glue or other materials to hide cracks or damage. Also check for threads that may have been filed down at the “edges”.

To produce the illusion of a mint pen, monograms or other engravings may have been polished away. Check carefully for any flat spots on the pen body.

Condition of the Cap
Cracks often develop at the edge where the clip is attached. To check for cracks in the cap, gently rub your fingernail inside the cap under the edge. You should also use a magnifying glass to check visually for cracks.

Check the condition of the clip. Gently wiggle the clip to check if it is still securely fixed. Does the pen have its original clip? With riveted clips you can relatively easily see if the clip has been replaced, in this case usually the rivets are a bit misshaped.

Replacement clips on silver or gold pens are often nickel or gold-filled; these are not authentic.
Check thoroughly if any cap band rings are missing. Check the inside of the cap with a pocket lamp to see if the threads are still in good order. “Repairs” include glue, scotch tape or other materials.  Always check that the cap screws on correctly and doesn’t “slip”. Also check if the inner cap is still in place (except for eyedropper pens).

Sometimes caps are filed down to remove slight cracks or chips. This can be difficult to detect, however, there are sometimes file marks visible or the cap wall at the edge seems too thick. Another indication can be that the wear marks on the pen body don’t coincide with the position of the cap.

Section Condition
This is the part that holds the nib and feed in the pen body. A hairline crack in the section is easily overlooked and may be relatively difficult to detect. You will unfortunately usually notice it when the pen is filled…on your fingers. Check the pen with a loupe this will also allow you to detect plier marks. The section is usually removed from the pen’s body to replace the rubber ink sac. The condition of the section can be an indication if this has been done properly.

Condition of the Nib
If you have no ink available, you can write “dry” to check out the smoothness of the nib. Check both the condition of the iridium and the alignment of the nib with a loupe. The iridium is the tiny bit of hard metal which has been fused to the end of the nib. A nib may have lost its iridium when it was polished to smooth it down, check for any marks.

It is relatively easy to recognize a bent nib. However it is more difficult to see if a bent nib has been straightened. Again, check with a loupe for scratches, dings, etc, especially at or close to the point of the nib. If there are ink spots on the nib, rub them away to be able to see the condition of the nib.

Check the base and the section of the nib for cracks. If the nib seems to be inserted deep into the section, chances are that somebody tried to hide cracks. Beware or negotiate the price.

Determine if the nib is original. Check the size of the nib for the make and model. Most makers of quality pens stamped their names on the nibs. If the name on the nib is different from the one on the pen, then the nib has been replaced.

Condition of the Lever
Especially with Waterman pens, check if the lever box has been glued on, this may be a sign that the “tangs” that hold the box in the body were broken.

Lift the lever to the open position and check with a pocket lamp if the pressure bar is original or has been replaced by an L shaped spring bar, which is not original.

If the lever doesn’t lift, the ink sac usually has hardened or the mechanism has been clogged by dried ink. This is a positive sign that the pen has not been repaired for some time.

When the lever is forced open against a hardened ink sac, the lever box itself can crack where the pin holds it in place. If the whole box is cracked then it needs to be replaced. Check for any signs of cracks with a pocket lamp.

Manufacturer’s Imprint
Is the manufacturer’s imprint identical to the name on the nib? Is the imprint sharp and clear, this may be an indication as to how much the pen was used. The size of the imprint also can help date a pen.

Many flaws can be concealed under the overlay. Check if the clip is original and if the lever works. Silver overlays must have silver levers and clips and the clip is marked “sterling” above the top rivet or under the “Ideal Globe” if it is a Waterman pen. Solid gold overlays must have solid gold clips and levers. Gold-filled overlays have gold-filled levers and clips.

In Waterman pens make certain that the body under the overlay has not been replaced. Normally at least three numbers should be stamped on the bottom of the pen body. Depending on the material of the overlay these would be as follows: A silver pen would have the numbers “452.” The 4 indicates that the pen is silver, the 5 that it is self-filling and has a lever and the 2 indicates the nib size, which can vary from 4 to 8.  A solid gold pen would also have three numbers: the first number would be a 5 indicating that the pen is 14 karat. Gold-filled pens have four numbers, the first two being 05 indicating that the pen is 18 karat gold filled.

On Waterman pens: if the thin piece of metal under the Ideal Globe of the lever is missing, then it is highly probable that the lever has been modified or replaced.

In general for all overlay pens: check if the plating has thinned or worn away.

Piston Fillers and Vacumatics
If you don’t have water available, blow gently into the pen from the nib to determine if it holds air (make sure the pen doesn’t contain ink). The blow test gives you a good indication if the filing mechanism is functioning. If air escapes through the other end of the pens body, then it needs repair. This kind of repair is complicated.

Does the Cap Match the Body?
Check carefully if the color and patterns of the cap and body match. Check also if the edge of the cap coincides with wear marks on the pens body. If both are not at the same level, then the cap or the pen body has been replaced. Also, if the edge of the cap has been filed down, it will not align with the wear marks at the pen body.

Parker Duofold
Often Vacumatic replacement parts were used to repair Duofold nibs and feeds. The Vacumatic nib has an arrow engraved on it and the feed has comb-like teeth. The pen will work fine but it will not be as desirable to collectors.

Check if the button filler mechanism works. If it doesn’t then either the sac has hardened or the spring bar is damaged or missing. This is easy to repair.

Factors that Determine the Value of the Pen:

  1. A pen in working condition is more valuable than a similar non-working pen.
  2. Larger pens are preferred over smaller pens and they are usually rarer.
  3. Decorated pens, hand engravings, filigree, gems, etc. add to the value of a pen. Originally most pens were made of black or red hard rubber. Special designs were more expensive to make and are therefore rarer.
  4. A clear, deep imprint adds to the value of a pen.
  5. Rarity of the color but also the condition of the color and the glossy shine of a pen add considerably to its value. Hard rubber can discolor from an exposure to heat and light and turn grey, brown or dull black.
  6. Metal overlays should not be dented, scratched or worn down.

Discounts for defects:

     -    Any missing parts, damage, discoloration, or unusual wear
          to any segment of the pen reduces its value.

     -    A working pen in mint or near mint condition – 100%
     -    Cap missing – less 33%
     -    Cap damaged or discolored – less 5 to 33%
     -    Clip missing – less 15 to 20%
     -    Cab band(s) missing – less 15 to 20%
     -    Filler lever missing – less 15 to 20%
     -    Inner cap missing – less 5 to 20%
     -    Pen body badly discolored – less 25 to 33%
     -    Nib missing – less 10 to 25%
     -    Nib missing iridium – less 10 to 25%
     -    Broken or missing feed – less 5 to 15%
     -    Section damaged – less 5 to 15%

You Should Not Buy:

     I.   Pens that have a lot of problems or need difficult repairs.
     II.  Piston-rod filler pens (Sheaffer and Whal-Eversharp) from
         the 40s and 50s that are not in perfect shape, because
         they are very difficult and expensive to repair.

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Added by:  Penlover

Date:  24th Feb 09

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Category:   Fountain Pens

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