Here in the U.S., we have a tradition of a State of the Union Address by the President, where he provides an overview of the current state of the country, along with his legislative agenda and priorities. Until Woodrow Wilson, in 1913, turned it into a political speech to rally support, it was usually just a written report to meet the constitutional requirement. While I don’t believe in New Years Resolutions, too late for them anyway, or firm goals, especially for what’s supposed to be a fun hobby, it is an excellent time to decide what I want from the hobby this year. The timing is right because the pen show season has just started. Since I don’t need to rally support, there won’t be a speech. I’ll return to the SOTU roots and do a written report. But really, the bottom line is that it’s taken me a while to write this post, and it happens to coincide with the SOTU.
2019 In Review
Last year was the year of less, as far as fountain pens were concerned. As with other areas of my life, I downsized and burnt some things to the ground (figuratively), so I could start fresh. I did buy one fountain pen last year. I replaced an Esterbrook Estie in Evergreen to replace a Tortoise model that annoyed me because I could see the machining through the translucence. The tortoise moved on rather quickly. While technically a new pen, it was more of a cosmetic upgrade.
Over 60 pens moved on to new homes during the year, bringing my formerly owned pens list to a total of 120 pens.
I didn’t do much writing on the blog. While there were 55 posts last year, most were Trail Logs or sale listings. My most read post last year was written back in 2014, a Pilot Model 823 review. The second most-read post was the long term review of my Sailor King of Pen, written in March 2019.
The Current State
As shown on my Pen Accumulation page, I’ve split my accumulation into four groups:
- My Core Pens: Fourteen pens that stood the test of time and have proven themselves worthy of a permanent place in my collection, and a fifteenth that jumped to the list soon after it arrived this year. Some are there even though I’m not too fond of the aesthetics, but they’re workhouse pens (looking at you Pilot Custom 823), while others are there because they’re the complete package (looking at you Sheaffers). The pen that joined the list recently, a vintage Sheaffer Balance Oversize is a pen model I love but have failed to maintain working versions of it. While I did say permanent, I have to admit that the non-custom pens on this list could move to Hanger-on status if their usage drops as more pens get added.
- Hangers-On: Seven pens I should enjoy more than I do. I frequently pass them over when picking pens to ink. The Lamy 2000 is a perfect example. I could see passing them on to better homes, but for now, they’re worth more to me than someone else. And, I’d miss them when they’re gone.
- Sheaffer Collection: I have an affection and bias for vintage and near vintage Sheaffer Pens. So unlike core pens, Sheaffers can stick around simply because they’re Sheaffers. I don’t have to use them. But Sheaffers can also be core pens, although, for bookkeeping purposes, they’re only listed under the core pens category.
- All the Rest: The name says it all. They’re ones I haven’t gotten around to selling or giving away, although some aren’t worth the effort to clean and sell and might be here forever. While there are 41 pens listed here, my bookkeeping is pretty bad, especially for my less liked pens, and a few pens may be missing, and some listed pens may have already moved on. I also have a couple of bags of inexpensive or downright cheap (in both price and quality) that aren’t listed.
By the numbers, it’s 15 core pens, 7 hangers-on, and 18 pens in the Sheaffer collection. Three of the Sheaffers do need a repair of some sort, ranging from a simple re-sacing to a replacement cap.
Agenda & Priorities – The Year Ahead
I want to get back into the hobby aspect of fountain pens. While fountain pens have been my everyday pens for years, and I still enjoy using them, last year lacked a fun with fountain pens aspect. That said, I don’t want to buy a lot of pens just to have a continuous supply of something new to use or write a blog post. I will undoubtedly add to my accumulation (and already have) but deliberately.
I considered making a rule that I could only buy pens that I’ve seen in real life, just not on the internet. But I decided this would be impractical to enforce. The two pens I’m currently considering are Sailor pens. I’m familiar enough with these Sailor pens to comfortably buy them from one of my usual internet retailers and be confident in exactly what I’m getting. On the other hand, I do want to be intentional and will avoid buying any pens I’m not familiar with, including new designs for pens models that I have seen. Plus, in all honesty, there’s not many I want. I do want some vintage Sheaffers, and those would either be in-person purchase or from sellers with which I have a history.
I did start a under consideration list for modern pens, but I suspect I’ll be looking over Vintage Sheaffers and Parkers as I walk the show isles. I’ll have a budget for the year, but no minimum or maximum number of pens. Still, I don’t want to add a lot of pens to my accumulation. There’s no one in, one out rule, but I don’t want so many pens that I don’t use them. I’m calling it an under consideration list because wish or want implies the decision is made, but it’s not.
New pens are always fun, but I want to expand into other areas.
Pen Shows & Meetups
Since I want to see and touch the pens I buy, it’s only logical that I’ll be attending pen shows. I’m hoping to attend three shows this year. The first will be the Long Island Pen show in March. I’m also hoping to get to the Commonwealth Pen Show (Boston) in September, although it’s a Sunday only show, which has been a scheduling problem in the past, but there’s a lot of lead time for planning. I’m hoping to get a third show in during the year, but which one is totally up in the air.
The folks who put on the Commonwealth Pen Show, Boston Pen People, have regular meetups. While many are on Sundays, which are tough for me to attend, a few are tentatively scheduled for a Saturday. I’m hoping to attend one or more. One reason I want that third show is that it will be a multi-day and overnight show for me so I’ll be able to attend any pen show events and spend time in the show’s hotel bar.
Pen Repair & More
While I have re-saced a few Esterbrooks, that was years ago. One of my Sheaffers simply needs a new sac, the old one is already removed, while another probably has a punctured sac and will need to be pulled apart. In the realm of pen repair, sac replacement is relatively easy, especially once the pen is opened up. I’ve also got other broken pens I can practice on to get back in the swing of pen repairs. Pen show visits may also turn up some parts pens.
I’ve never found any pens in local flea markets or antique stores, although my searches were haphazard at best. I may undertake a more systematic search this year, although I admit I may decide I want to spend the time doing other endeavors.
Finally, I always think about improving my handwriting. In the past, I didn’t have the motivation to follow through and work on it, and that hasn’t changed. So, it’s on the bottom of my list.