Pens in the Wild

Pens in the Wild

I’m 44 years old, and an admitted pen addict. Unless I’m in a “pen-likely” location – that is a pen shop, a pen show, or perhaps some place that just happens to carry things that pen lovers tend to like (i.e. Journals, inks, office supplies, etc…), I almost never see them in the wild.

When you do spot another fountain pen user (in the wild, mind you), something interesting often happens. You actually carry on a conversation.

What?? Talk to a stranger? In this day and age?

You bet. I was recently at an insurance enrollment for a large local university. My company does their enrollment for all of the employees’ benefit program once a year. Typically, these employees just want to get in and get out as quick as they can. Enrollment is a pain that they have little time for. Worse, many of them are antagonistic towards us as enrollers (…read insurance agents), as we might sell them something they need.

Anyway, there was a gentleman sitting with another agent adjacent to me yesterday. During a lull in their conversation, I noticed that he had a Sheaffer Triumph Deluxe in his hand. I complemented him on the pen and mentioned that I collected antique fountain pens. That was all it took. I made a friend. Super nice guy. (I should note that he wasn’t being antagonistic or impatient with his agent.). His pen exemplified all the qualities I love in a vintage pen. It had obviously seen a lot of use; the cap had a few dings, but the gold filled top still had all it’s luster. The body was black with some very minor wear, but overall, was still shiny. The nib on his pen was nothing short of awesome. A two-tone gold triumph conical nib with a very broad (perhaps a stub) nib. Super smooth. And this is a pen that is 65+ years old. That is just very cool to me. I can assure you my Mont Blanc 149 won’t make it near that long. In fact, considering I’ve already had that pen fixed once where the plastic body split in half, I guess it hasn’t lasted.

It’s interesting how similar pen aficionados often are. We both talked about the cool factor of using a writing instrument that had been around for decades, often, for far longer than we’ve been alive. And how that same pen may have penned countless letters to loved ones, songs, notes, poetry, college papers, so on and so on and so on. In his case, he had some pens of great sentimental value as well.

I fear that fountain pens are coming to an end. That may seem obvious, yet fountain pen collecting is huge! But (at least in my part of the country) you just so rarely see them “in the wild” anymore. If you do, invariably it’s someone in my generation or older. These young pups just don’t carry them. Even local office supply stores such as Staples, used to carry a few models, such as Cross and Waterman. No more.

There’s really no moral to the story here. It’s just so rare for me to run across someone else who actually know what a nib is or looks like, that I get excited about it and want to update this blog (…that I haven’t touched in months…..)! I’ll do better for all 4 of you subscribers out there. You know who you are.


Author: Will Isaac

Pen addict.

12 thoughts on “Pens in the Wild”

  1. I love it that fountain pens are a common ground that draws people together who otherwise might never speak to each other or even notice each other. I refuse to let the love die. I work with kids of all ages and they are so excited to see me use a fountain pen. I keep ones at work that they can handle and even have bought inexpensive ones to give as rewards for meeting goals they set. One boy who refused to come to school turned it around and began attending just so he could earn a pen. I have a challenge now with one child who will earn a pen if grades improve and then earn cartridges for ongoing good grades. Yes, they are rare in the wild, but if we are subversive enough, we can turn that around.

    1. I love that! You’re in a unique position to ignite a curiosity for something as elegant as fountain pens, in their minds. Hopefully for a few of them, that curiosity will elvolve into a passion. Keep it up!

  2. Pen people are some of the friendliest I know. I’m not sure if it’s that pens attract nice folks or nice folks are the only ones who like pens. OK, that’s a bit of a generalization since I’ve heard of some abrasive or dishonest people in the hobby. Still, not that many.

  3. I love both stories; that you struck up a conversation with someone about f.p’s and the teacher who uses them as a reward.

    I can’t remember when I last saw anyone using a fountain pen “in the wild”. I guess that’s why going to a pen show is so exciting; you can talk to your heart’s content with all kinds of people about the interest you share.

    Thanks for sharing this story.

  4. I’m inclined to think that the Dark Ages of the fountain pen have ended, and the Renaissance has started. The real grim time, looking back, was the late 1980s and early ’90s, when the manufacturers (in North America, at least) started withering and there wasn’t such a support system for the fountain fancier. The internet has made us a real community, sources of expendibles and repair are now easily found, and there seems to be a very slight growth of interest in the under-40s. Heck, there’s even some new makers appearing to attend to the user rather than collector market, the most notable being TWSBI in Taiwan. I’m not an optimist in many things, but I’m definitely hopeful for the future of real pens.

    Even if I almost never see someone else using one.

    1. I would agree with with you! I’m kind of amazed that the “green” factor of fountain pen useage hasn’t gotten them more press & visability with mainstream users….

    2. I agree. From following pen-specific blogs, I can tell that the fountain pen is experiencing a new age. New inks. New pen manufacturers. And I see college students are entering the arena. All hopeful signs.

  5. I found this post, and thought you might be heartened to know that I had a pen sighting in the wild just a few days ago … in one of the classes I’m taking. I’m 20, he is 18 and we sat and chatted about pens for like an hour. He had a Waterman that was thrice both our ages — I was very jealous.

    Us youngins are rare, but we exist!

  6. I think the reason you see fewer fountain pens is because we write less. With the proliferation of computers, the opportunities to write are becoming fewer and fewer. Fountain pens must be uncapped, must be maintained, are fussy on different kinds of paper, can leak and in the grand scheme of things, are relatively expensive.

    Pens on the other hand, like ball points are getting better and better. The new generation of thixotropic gel ballpoints write as smooth if not smoother than rollerball pens with a nice dark precise line and a long write-out. Gel rollerballs offer the convenience of a ballpoint with the writing feel of a felt-tip.

    I enjoy fountain pens but the occasions to use them, especially in a modern environment are becoming fewer and fewer. The pen most often in my pocket? A Montblanc ballpoint, either a boheme in my jeans or a Starwalker in my shirt.

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