Fountain Pen Quest Trail Log – August 18, 2019

A trio of vintage vacumaticsOne of these links has an expiration date, and I had a few minutes, so unexpected Trail Logs on consecutive Sundays.

In another surprise (at least to me) I inked up three vintage pens, all Parker Vacumatics, and I’ve been using them the last few days. Once I verify how well they are working I’ll probably put them up for sale since they haven’t been used in years. I did pick another one to keep.

I’ll also mention here, to give readers advanced notice, that my broken Sheaffer Balance Oversize Lifetime (Marine Green) is for sale. The pen is broken as shown here. The celluloid is still gorgeous, but the nib isn’t suited for me so I’m ambivalent about finding a replacement cap or paying to get it fixed (if even possible) despite the beautiful celluloid. I won’t be able to grab new photos until late in the week, but it hasn’t changed since that post. It’s a custom stub nib, and I’m looking for $75 OBO plus $7.90 US shipping. It’s broken, so as-is.

I also added re-sacing two other Balance Oversize pens to my todo list. One is ready for the new sac, the other still needs to be opened up and I’m hoping a new sac will fix it. With my recent moving i’ve been unable to find some of my repair supplies, so I ordered the essentials (shellac, talc, sacs) from Anderson Pens and will hopefully get to it this week. Naturally, the supplies will re-appear when I’m looking for something else.

Links

Unbranded MHR Lever Filler – Goodwriterspens’s Blog

Are Fountain Pens Really Better? – Goodwriterspens’s Blog

My Personal Hall of Fame: Favorite Stationery Products in Every Category — The Gentleman Stationer

Traveler’s Notebook Stamp Caravan and TN Meet-Up – Wonder Pens – Life Behind a Stationery Shop

Fountain Pens & Inks – Universe (Airtable) // Via Pen Addict Member Newsletter (Refill) // It’s coincidental that this showed up in the newsletter the day after I played around with Airtable to create a inventory of my fountain pens. There was also a link to an ink inventory/community site, but you’ll need the membership to see that one.

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Fountain Pen Quest Trail Log – August 11, 2019

Sailor Pro Gear Regency Stripe posted on eagle pen standWell now, it’s been nearly a month since my last Trail Log post. You may have seen some (or all) these links since some date back a few weeks.

My own fountain pens got consistent, although low use. The Vanishing Point with a XXXF nib went dry and I immediately popped in a new Pilot Black cartridge. My Fisher of Pens Hermes went dry about two weeks ago and then sat waiting to be cleaned. I gave it a quick flush to remove any dried ink and loaded a Peliken Edelstein Aventurine cartridge. The remaining water makes the first bits of ink a little thin. Lastly, I added the Sailor Pro Gear Regency Stripe to my rotation (pictured above). I loaded it with a Sailor Blue-Black ink cartridge. It has an extra fine nib.

My Newton Eastman and Pelikan M805 Stresemann went dry and were put back in storage after cleaning.

Rounding out my currently inked pens are:
* A Kaweco Brass Sport (EF) with Montblanc Petite Prince Red Fox.
* A Montblanc Meisterstück Ultra Black LeGrand (Oblique Medium) with Montblanc Bordeaux.
* A Sailor Pro Gear KOP (M) with R & K Blau-Schwarz LE.

I’m continuing to thin my accumulation. I’m going through and trying to pick a small group of core pens. Of course, “small” should probably be “smaller”. I’m not sure how many people would consider 30 to be small. I hope to have more pens listed for sale soon.

Links

How to Buy Your First Vintage Fountain Pen – Writing at Large

Pens and Stationery for Traveling: My Travel Kit in 2019 — The Gentleman Stationer

Going equipped (inside my EDC bag) | UK fountain pens

My Italian fountain pen line-up. | Fountain pen blog

Francis THEO: Fountain Pen Ink & Wash

Life Stationery Factory and Warehouse – Wonder Pens – Life Behind a Stationery Shop

Traveler II // Muji x Traveler’s Notebook DIY – Weirdoforest Pens

2019 Travelers Notebook Review: Part 1. — The Finer Point

State of the collection: August 2019 | UK fountain pens

Visiting Pilot Pens Fountain Pen Factory in Hiratsuka – Wonder Pens – Life Behind a Stationery Shop

A personal journey with the Montblanc Agatha Christie Writer’s Edition | UK fountain pens

Crónicas Estilográficas: A Pen Is A Pen

DC Pen Show 2019 Recap | The Looped Square

Montblanc Inks, Part 1 — Mountain of Ink

Recapping the 2019 D.C. Pen Show: It’s Still The Big Show! — The Gentleman Stationer

Lamy eBay Confusion

I know there’s been some talk of counterfeit Lamy Safaris, but I never paid too much attention. I tend to buy new pens from authorized or at least well-known retailers, so I didn’t have any reason to look deeper. I figured there couldn’t be a big market for counterfeits of a low-cost pen. (Low-cost knock-offs are another story, I’m talking about pens that claim to be Lamy.) Two unrelated events happened one-day last week which triggered a two hour time sink into (what must be) counterfeit Lamy’s on eBay.

The first was a review of my remaining accumulation to see if there were any other pens I can sell-off. I came across my two remaining Lamy Salaries, a Petrol along with a Dark Lilac. I made a mental note that one of them could go. It would probably be the Petrol, but there wasn’t any rush. An hour or two later, I came across a Reddit post of someone wanting to buy a Lamy Petrol. So, as usual, I started by looking for recent eBay sales. The Petrol was a 2017 Special Edition. While not limited by numbers, it had a limited manufacturing timespan and the authorized retailers sold out long ago. So I didn’t expect to find many recent sales.

I was utterly wrong.

Lami Safari Petrol (EF) with Blue Ink Cartridge

Lamy Safari Petrol 2017 Special Edition

Let me digress a bit and define my two Lamy pens. The “Lamy Safari Petrol, released in 2017, is a distinctive teal color. The “Lamy Safari Dark Lilac” was released in 2016 and is a purple color. All the authorized retailers I’ve seen have called the pens by their quoted names. Ok, back on track.

A search for “Lamy Safari Petrol” on eBay resulted in a mess. There were 55 listings, 54 of which were for new pens. Many of the listings were for multiple pens. There were all variations on the name, such as “Lamy Safari Petrol Blue,” “Lamy Safari Petrol Purple,” and even one “Lamy Safari Petrol Black.” Most (maybe all, I didn’t check every listing) sellers of the new models were in Vietnam, Hong Kong, and China. Many were priced at one-third the price that the pen cost from an authorized Lamy dealer back in 2017.

Recently completed sales did include a couple used pens that seemed legitimate and sold for twice the cost of recent “new” sales.

I did find a couple “safari petrol” listings that avoided all mention of Lamy and didn’t say Lamy on the pen barrel. So those sellers probably met the letter of the eBay law by not misrepresenting anything in the listing. They even used a lower case “s” for Safari. They were called limited editions, but that’s not a lie since there’s a finite number made at any one time. So I’d consider these knock-off trying to pass as Lamy. But, the rest all clearly claimed to be real Lamy pens. I’m not an expert on Lamy, so while it’s possible they were all legit (and a couple did seem legitimate), I find it impossible to believe that many were not counterfeit.

Like I said, I was wrong. There’s a significant market in counterfeit Lamy Safari pens. While I only looked at eBay, there are claims that Amazon has a similar problem.

Some people may be happy buying a look-alike pen at a lower price and may know what their gettings. Plus, I’m sure it harder to sell legitimate models, either used or new old stock at a reasonable (i.e., profitable) price. If I do decide to sell either of my Lamy Safari pens, I doubt I would list them on eBay.

###Additional Reading

My Experience With a Counterfeit Lamy Safari – The Desk of Lori

How to Spot a Knock-Off Lamy Safari – Goldspot Pens

Fountain Pen Quest Trail Log -July 14, 2019

 

Much like the frequency to these Trail Logs, my fountain pen usage has dropped.

I did write my Pilot Vanishing Point dry but immediately reloaded it with another Pilot Black ink cartridge. But not much else tase changed.

There’s about a month’s worth of links below.

Links

Passing The Torch: 70 Years Of Service « The Pelikan’s Perch // Pelikan is a 181-year-old company. One man has worked there for 70 years, finally completely retired after his 90th birthday. His replacement has yet to break the 50 years mark a Pelikan.

Stationery Supplies and Set-Up for Travel, Part 2 – Wonder Pens – Life Behind a Stationery Shop // After reading about her setup, read about the trip in future posts.

The simple joy of mucking about with pens | UK fountain pens // Things to do with a parts bin or a finicky pen.

The “Active Service” Parker Challenger Set – Goodwriterspens’s Blog // A nice bit of history – and marketing.

How I do ink swatches | UK fountain pens // I no longer feel compelled to do ink swatches anymore, but this sounds like a good plan of I ever decide to do them.

Six long-gone pens I miss — and what I’ve done about it | UK fountain pens // I’ve yet to miss any pens that I’ve sold, at least not to the point of regret.

The Waterman Keyhole Nib – Goodwriterspens’s Blog // Another trip back in time.

1920s Black Hard Rubber Blackbird – Goodwriterspens’s Blog // A tire pen.

Bentley Will, In Fact, Sell You a $700 Pen // I like reading about fountain pens in mainstream publications which make fun of the price. I have no idea if this pen is worth $700, but I’ve spent that much on a pen.

Why (and how) I just sold 70 bottles of ink | UK fountain pens // I still have a lot of ink and may try the same thing.

PEN SHOW VISIT: DUTCH PEN SHOW (UTRECHT) | The Pencilcase Blog | Fountain pen, Pencil, Ink and Paper reviews // I always like pen show write-ups.

It’s the Little Things | From the Pen Cup // I can relate, I came very close to buying this pen.

State of the collection: July 2019 | UK fountain pens // Maybe I’ll eventually get down to 25 pens. I’m not sure I could move pens in and out on a regular basis for variety.

Let’s Talk About Sepia Ink – The Well-Appointed Desk // I’ve always been confused about the modern definition of sepia ink.

Thinning the Accumulation

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.

Pelikan M101N Lizard SE with a writing sample

The pen I couldn’t part with.

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.

Sheaffers, and one Esterbrooke

My working Sheaffers, and one Esterbrook dip pen.

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.

Your Website

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.

eBay (link)

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.

Conway Stewart FPH 60th Anniversary

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.

r/Pen_Swap Subreddit

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.

Forums

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.

Other Forums

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.

Social Media

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.

Pen Shows

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.

Pricing

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

Final Thoughts

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.