These Just In: Filling Out The Retro 51 Accumulation (Part 1)

Photo of my four newest Retro 51

(Top->Bottom) Eiffel, Rosie, Lincoln, Dino

With Retro 51 announcing that they’re winding down operations (even the best outcome has the current team moving on), FOMO took hold, and I ordered four Retro 51s to fill out my accumulation. Little did I know that this would only be Part 1. Once the pens arrived, and I saw them, I decided that I wanted some others, and four more are now working their way towards me.

Although there’s one exception in this batch, I find that I really like both the look and feel of the etched metal models. I’m not too fond of the feel of the smooth metal or lacquer models, especially for longer writing sessions. It turns to active hatred in the summer when heat and humidity are likely to make my fingers wet with perspiration.

Lincoln: This is a returning model. I had a Lincoln and sold it as a pair with the fountain pen version. This is a smooth metal pen, but I love the look of the copper and the patina it will develop. So, with a relatively low price, I caved and bought it.

Eiffel Tower: An etched metal pen with an antiqued brass colored finish. I’m a sucker for the color and love the intricate detail. The color can vary with the lighting, sometimes looking like more of a dark green than brass.

Rosie: Another etched pen, but with less intricate detail. Lines of rivets form the design, and the pen has a grayish color. For you young folks and non-Americans, it’s based on Rosie the Riveter, a cultural icon from WWII. Rosie’s image (based on a poster from that time) is on the packaging tube. Rosie is still around today – a Jeep at the office complex I work at has a Rosie spare tire cover.

Smithsonian Dino Fossil: I have the Smithsonian Corona and love it, although its general look is much like the Eiffel and several other Retro 51s that I have. The Dino is entirely different. I almost didn’t get the Dino because I didn’t really like the look based on the photos. The photos don’t do justice to the copper & ivory design. The dinosaur printing is slightly raised above the copper, so it isn’t an entirely smooth pen, although not as raised as the etched pens. I’m not a Paleontologist, but this could become a favorite Retro 51.

I usually swap the stock refill for a .6mm Schmidt (same ink, thinner tip), but I’m running low on spares, so I’ve been leaving the stock refill in some pens. Yes, I could buy more, but it seems wasteful, so I’ve been keeping the stock refill in some pens. This time around, only the Dino got a .6mm refill, I guess that makes it the favorite of the bunch.

The State of the Accumulation

photo of my core pens

Fourteen of my core pens. Missing: Esterbrook Dip-Less

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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

Buying Pens

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.

Fountain Pen Quest Trail Log – February 2, 2020

Photo of my Fisher of Pens Hermes fountain pen

Fisher of Pens Hermes

My fountain pen usage ticked up a little bit these past week, thanks mainly to the drafts of two future articles for this sight. I’m about to write the Fisher of Pens Hermes dry. It did stop, but then I forced every last drop of that precious Montblanc Bordeaux ink into the feed. So, there’s less than a feed’s worth left. I’m considering a Bordeaux refill but will probably put it aside for another pen. Although, it serves as a good excuse to put off cleaning the pen. The four inked up Sheaffers are getting more use and I’m enjoying them.

Photo of my Sheaffer Balance Oversize

Sheaffer Balance Oversize Grey Marble c.1935

I’ve had my new to me Sheaffer Balance Oversize Grey Marble long enough to promote it to being a core pen. Hopefully this one will do better than its siblings. I love the vintage Balance Oversize, it’s a good size for me with a great nib. But, they’ve been prone to breaking, with my other three in the repair queue. Although the Marine Green is probably beyond repair and I’ll have to find a replacement cap which technically isn’t a repair.


Frequently Used. — The Finer Point

Crónicas Estilográficas: Curidas’s Name

REVIEW: PILOT CUSTOM NS FOUNTAIN PEN | The Pencilcase Blog | Fountain pen, Pencil, Ink and Paper reviews // I don’t read many pen reviews these days and rarely (if ever) link to reviews when the “pen was provided for review” if for no other reason than the usage period is probably short. But Dries’ review covers some good points on a pen I haven’t seen much about. For those of us in the US it looks like buying from Europe or Japan will be cheaper even after all the currency conversion and shipping. Or, just buy from an eBay or Amazon seller playing geographic arbitrage.

Travel Tips: Packing a Writing Kit for the Road — The Gentleman Stationer

A Russian Naval Travelling Inkwell – Goodwriterspens’s Blog

Crónicas Estilográficas: Premium Pen Show in Tokyo

Originals Of Their Time: Darlings Of The 1930s « The Pelikan’s Perch

Fountain Pen Quest Trail Log – January 26, 2020

Photo of my latest arrival

Sheaffer Balance Oversize Grey Marble c.1935

I’ve been using my newest fountain pen almost exclusively since it arrived last weekend. I inked it up with Rohrer & Klingner Blau-Schwarz LE that I like a lot. It’s well behaved and easy to clean, so I have no qualms about using it in a vintage vacuum filler that will be tedious to clean without a friendly ink. I wanted to go with a older (can’t really say vintage, although in ink years they are) Sheaffer ink, but my two favorites were already in pens. So far I’m loving the pen. I hope to get better photos soon.


Sometimes A Rollerball Beats A Fountain Pen | An Inkophile’s Blog

A letter from the Retro51 Team | The Retro 51 Blog // via The Well-Appointed Desk // Big news. This happens to be the first place I saw it. The official post is here

A Place to Buy Ink! – The Well-Appointed Desk

2020 Philadelphia Pen Show Recap — The Gentleman Stationer

From the Desk of Martin Luther King Jr. – The Well-Appointed Desk

Sunday Rambling – Goodwriterspens’s Blog


Fountain Pen Quest Trail Log – January 19, 2020

Photo of you currently inked pens.

Well now, things are changing again. I moved into a new apartment last weekend. Technically, I signed the lease and I now eat and sleep there. But “moved in” is a bit of a stretch. Furniture will be arriving tomorrow and next weekend so things are still hectic. The one piece of furniture that did arrive is the least needed but a welcome arrival, a new writing desk. It’s one I’ve seen on various furniture store websites, all called something different and sells for a wide range of prices. It’s nothing special, but I like the look. I’ll provide more info once I’ve used it a bit, and pictures once the clutter is cleaned up. Being the most convenient flat surface it’s become cluttered. The photo above shows my currently inked pens in the desk.

I inked up some more pens this week. The following pens join the Brass Sport (not shown), Regency Stripe (in the Fodderstack XL along with a Retro 51 rollerball), and Pilot Custom 823 (on the Seed case):

From left to right in the Dudek Pen stand:

  1. Sheaffer Balance II Jade Green with Sheaffer Emerald Green (Yellow box).
  2. Sheaffer Balance II Crimson Glow with Monteverde Napa Burgundy.
  3. Sheaffer Balance II Aspen with Montblanc Meisterstück 90 Years Permanent Grey.
    All three of the Balance II pens have Sheaffer’s lovely 18kt gold Feathertouch nib which writes closer to a fine than a western medium.
  4. Sailor Pro Gear King of Pen with a 21kt medium nib and Sheaffer Peacock Blue (Yellow box) ink.
  5. Fisher of Pens Hermes with a fine nib and my favorite ink, Montblanc Bordeaux.

Yes, the Kaweco Brass Sport missed another photo. Despite being in my jeans pocket I always forget to include it, and I’m too lazy to take another photo when I realize it’s missing.

A new pen arrived for me on Saturday, although I’ve yet to ink it up. This one is a new to me vintage Sheaffer which replaces nothing, just a welcome addition. I’m still deciding on the ink. It’s seems fitting that an old Sheaffer should get one of my older Sheaffer inks to inaugurate it. My top two ink choices are already in use, so I’m still debating. With this purchase I’ve already equaled last years new pen count, although last year it was swap to replace my Esterbrook Estie with a look I preferred but which wasn’t available at launch. More after I’ve inked and used the pen a bit.


Esterbrook Nib Numbers and Writing Samples – Fountain Pen Love // via The Pen Addict

Peoples Journal Project // I received this as a marketing email, while not for me it sounds interesting and I figured I’d share it.

Taking Advantage Of What’s On Hand | An Inkophile’s Blog

Happy New Year! // Travels 2019-2020 – Weirdoforest Pens

Stamps, Scientific Charts, and Hand-Drawn Maps Occupy Every Inch of Travel Notebooks by José Naranja | Colossal via The Cramped

Crónicas Estilográficas: War (I) // also check out his two more recent posts.

My 2019 Retrospective — The Gentleman Stationer

How this Japanese method of saving money changed my life—and made me richer – The Cramped // Another reason to use our pens. Check out both links if you’re interested.

The Downside of the Handwritten Novel — The Pen Addict // While not the same, I find my blog posts and other writings are better in the end if they start out of paper.

Does Platignum Deserve Its Bad Reputation? – Goodwriterspens’s Blog

Just Right: The Theme System Journal | From the Pen Cup // I decided the try this journal and it arrived this past week. It’s still in the shrink wrap.

2020 Planner Set-Up. — The Finer Point

Pen Show Prep 2020 and My One-Pen Challenge — The Gentleman Stationer

Scenes from the 2020 Philadelphia Pen Show — The Gentleman Stationer