I did some serious procrastination before finally selling off my unused fountain pens. I finally made some progress in reducing my accumulation so I decided to post my thoughts and experiences.
Deciding What to Sell
Well, while a few pans make for an easy decision to sell, most of the time I have a hard time letting go. When I consider a pen for sale, I can always find reasons to keep it.
The hard part was selling that first pen. It became easier after that first pen was sold. So if there are obvious choices to be sold off, sell them as soon as you can. I spread my sales over a few weeks. Partially to keep the workload manageable, but mainly to avoid more procrastination and to get the ball rolling.
I needed to move my pen inventory to a new app which was a slap in the face that made me realize just how many long unused fountain pens that I had. So I made some rules.
If I hadn’t used the fountain pen in over two years, it automatically was put in a pile to sell or giveaway. If a pen was unused between one and two years, it was added to an “I should sell it” list for additional consideration.
Of course, the one problem was that since I made the rules I could break the rules. For example, three pens were unused over two years, well over two years for a couple of them. Yet I found an excuse to keep all three, at least at first. The Pelikan Piccadilly Circus was my last remaining Cities Series pen. It had silver trim (my preference), and it had a medium nib. I could use it as a daily writer. Plus, I liked the color. It was kept more for sentiment than anything else.
Then Waterman Liaison Cobra was another long-unused fountain pen with a quirky method of accessing the converter which appealed to me along with a look I liked.
Eventually, I realized the Pelikan Survived because of unearned sentiment, and the Waterman survived because of its quirkinesses. Neither would get much use, so I relented and sold them off.
I’ve always like the small Pelikan M101N pens so also held back the M101N lizard. I do like the pen but hadn’t used it. So I decided to offer it for what I considered the high side of reasonable. I immediately began to feel seller’s remorse and eventually withdrew the pen from sale. It did see consistent use the first few years I had it and only recently dropped off my radar.
Naturally, I need an exception to “prove the rule.” For me, that was my accumulation of Sheaffers. I have a fondness for the brand. Even though many don’t fit my requirements for daily use (mainly because many are too thin), they will remain in my pen case. I may take a hard look at them in the future.
The other exceptions were my vintage pens. I don’t have many non-Sheaffer vintage pens. I skipped these for now since I expect them to take longer to sell. I’ll have to use and scrutinize them before offering them. I also suspect I’ll keep most as examples from history.
Despite a few exceptions, the rules have served me well by avoiding the trap of evaluating pens one a time, and in a bubble that ignores the rest of my accumulation. After all, I paid money for the pen at one time, so chances are I’m going to find things I like about it.
Where to Sell
I put this step second, even before pricing, because some methods are low cost and low risk, while other methods have higher costs and risks. This will impact your pricing.
While I could claim it was a grand plan, I’ve had good luck selling pens on my website. It’s low cost since I only have to pay PayPal fees, which are usually required for other marketplaces. Transactions have been smooth and problem free.
While a pen blog is going to provide better results, it’s worth listing the pens on any website or blog that you have unless it’s entirely out of place. If nothing else, it will allow you to point people to a place that you control.
Pen Addict Slack Group
When any pens didn’t sell on my site, I listed them in the Pen Addict Slack group. I included a photo in the Slack post, but pointed people to my website for more pictures and details. Space for photos in Slack is limited, so they may be deleted as space is needed. I had good luck and smooth transactions selling pens here.
You do need to be a member of the Slack group, but other than that, there are only a few suggested rules. A picture and price are suggested as is using PayPal Goods & Services. PP G&S provides protection for both the buyer and seller and is recommended for any sales transaction.
I would prefer eBay be farther down the list, but it is the only other place I sold a fountain pen. I sold one pen, my Conway Stewart FPH Special Edition. I wasn’t able to find any recent sales, so finding a market value was tough. I did set a price, based on what I paid and its current value to me but wasn’t able to get that on Slack or my website. So I listed it as an eBay auction to let the market set the price. As it turned out, it auctioned for what I was asking, although eBay fees took 10% of that.
This will be the most expensive place to sell your pens. Fees may vary. When I sell on eBay, I factor in a 15% cost for fees (including PayPal) and hassles. Fees are also assessed against any money you collect for shipping. For me, the eBay fee is about 10%.
I can’t speak to selling pens, as I’ve only sold one, but I did sell off a sizeable n-scale train collection (a pre-fountain pen accumulation obsession), and I consider them similar. Both are a niche product, with buyers who generally know their stuff and what they will be getting. The model train stuff is less expensive and lends itself to discounts for quantity shipping, unlike pens. I figure fountain pens will be one-off sales, but if you’re selling a lot of them on eBay, you may want to allow buyers more time to pay, so they get combined shipping discounts if you’re selling pens over several weeks or days. I found the model train buyers to be reliable buyers, and I had very few problems. I would expect the same from pen buyers. I did have some who seemed to be running a scam (ship to non-PayPal address) for the more expensive stuff. They may have been legit, but I was firm in sticking to the requirements for seller protection and recommend you do too.
My eBay account was several years old when I started selling, and I had received some ratings from eBay purchases. You may have some trouble selling if you create a new account and start selling immediately. If this is the case, I’d strongly suggest looking for other markets. In a pinch, start with lower cost pens.
eBay will encourage you to start auctions with low bids. I’ve generally found this to be true. There seems to be some truth to the claim that a bidding war helps. I listed my Conway Stewart with a $19.99 starting bid and it sold for $325. I’ve also had some computer parts and N-Scale models that I listed for a fixed price. They didn’t sell for 30 days. I relisted them with a low starting bid and they sold for more than the previous fixed price.
So, while I consider eBay a last resort, it’s a viable option.
Now I'm getting into areas that I considered using for pen sales but never used to sell a pen.
The r/Pen_Swap subreddit seems quite active. There are a lot of rules, so review them carefully. The rules are designed to protect the buyer an seller and don’t seem excessive. The main barrier is you must be active on Reddit with at least 100 comment karma, and your account must be 3 months old.
Fountain Pen Network (FPN) Classifieds (link)
There are requirements to list pens for sale. If you’re a casual seller and meet the requirements, then listings are free. The requirements are 30 posts and an account age of at least 30 days.
I vaguely remember several dust-ups in the past, with complaints about the classifieds and the forum itself. I don’t see a lot of sales completions despite a lot of listings. Maybe people just don’t record the sale.
This used to be “the place” for fountain pen users. I’m not sure that’s true anymore (it’s not a place for me). Reddit seems to have the mind-share although FPN claims 113K members and Reddit claims 20K.
FPGeeks Forum (Fountain Pen Geeks) (link)
FPGeeks takes a hands-off approach to the forum, and I couldn’t find any requirements to sell. While only claiming 13K members, I scrolled through the For Sale listings a noticed more “Sold” flags than FPN.
If you’re active on other forums, you may benefit from listing there. This assumes it’s allowed and they have a section for selling things. This is really only suitable for forums you are already active in and have earned a reputation in the forum.
Instagram seems relatively popular for offering items for sale, and I do see pens offered from time to time. If your followers are pen users/collectors, then they may work.
If you happen to be near a pen show you can bring your pens and sell them there. I’d suggest pricing your pens before you go, so you’re ready to haggle. If you can get in during a trader day (usually before the public pen show days, at extra cost), you may get a better price since some buyers may be end users, and not dealers looking to resell the pen.
This can be the tricky part. Arguably, it’s also the most important.
First, decide your goals. I was looking for quicker sales and was willing to offer my blog readers a lower price. So they generally got a price at the low-end of what I considered fair. If I was willing to wait, I could have started at a higher price.
While I was willing to offer small discounts for multiple pens, my prices were firm. This was made easier since my prices were low, at least in my opinion. This meant I don’t spend a lot of time haggling. “No. Prices are firm” is easy and quick. This also meant I wouldn’t spend a lot of my time administering the sales process. (Time is money.)
I started off by taking 70% of what I spent for the pen to determine if it would be worth my time to sell. If it isn’t worth my time, then I put the pen aside, or at least move it down the list. This is just a quick and dirty analysis. I also used it to encourage me to sell a pen I may be hesitant to sell, despite it being unused for years. It’s also worth checking to see the current price for the pen if it’s still available for new. It’s possible there’s been a dramatic price change, either up or down, which will affect your selling price. If there was a significant change, then I’d take 70% of that as a starting point.
If I was uncertain about selling the pen, I would ask myself if I’d be willing to pay that 70% to buy the pen today. For long-unused pens, the answer was usually “no,” which helped pushed me into selling the pen. I should point out, the price I paid is the retail price, which is generally 80% off the manufacturer’s price.
If the fountain pen has any damage or problems, this will lower the value. Original packaging may increase the value, especially for special editions. Although, I did not have the original packaging for most of the pens I sold, although I did have it for a couple special editions.
I found the quickest way to determine the current selling price of a used fountain pen was to search eBay for recent sales. Do this by searching for the fountain pen and then enabling the filter to show only sold items (under the “show only” section on the left if using the eBay website). Listing prices can be a bit outrageous at times, but this filter will show what someone was willing to pay. If all I found were in-progress auctions, I’d wait for it to end and see what the winning bid was.
Alternately, you can search the other previously mentioned sales venues (forums, Reddit, Slack) for previous sales. A Google search for “Pen Name for sale”, although I found going through the results time consuming and used this as a last result.
Related to pricing – you’ll need to pay for shipping and either charge for it or fold it into your price. The small flat rate box offered the U.S. Postal Service is my preferred method. It offers good protection, fits most pens, has a predictable cost, and includes tracking and some insurance. Both eBay and PayPal offer USPS discounts if you buy the postage through them
I’m happy with the results of thinning my accumulation. I achieved my goal and feel that I got good prices for my pens. I didn’t squeeze every dollar out of them, but that wasn’t my goal.
I’d recommend starting slow and getting comfortable with the process by seeling one or two low-cost pens.
What has surprised me is that I haven’t rushed out to buy new pens to replace the ones that I sold. I appreciate the pens that I have even more.