Its here, its mine, and I can do as I like with it!
And some of those images, incredible! By the way did everyone know that Bill got another new camera? This one is a real camera, pro-quality, makes me drool just touching it and thinking back to my earlier days with at real SLR. This new one of Bills is a real SLR, yet digital and really sweet. But he can fill you in on all of that stuff, this is my column.
Yes, I've decided to give this writing thing a try, putting my thoughts to digital paper so to speak. I'm going to try to give you something of everything or at the least, whatever I can think of at the time in this column. I will let Bill decide if he wants to include any of those images in here though.
So here we are on the eve of yet another new year in life and pendemonium (yes, Sam, that was intended, but we've been through a lot this last couple weeks!). I think it might be best to start with a look back over the previous year. 2002: a good year in the hobby of pen collecting? What can I rave about, what can I rant about?
For me being a collector of both vintage and modern pens, 2002 was not as good as previous years on the vintage side. I managed to get to four pen shows during the year, missing Columbus for the first time in several years, and the %!&?>$# airport security causing me to miss the NY show. Still, in the four that I got to I only came home with maybe a dozen vintage pens while in the past I might have brought home a dozen from each show.
Maybe that is my fault though for being so busy throughout the shows so that I don't have as much time to browse the tables full of pens. The highlights from the vintage are a mint Parker 51 Flighter. Yes mint! No wear what so ever. The wedding band is so perfect it is sharp on the edges.
I bought or traded for several other 51s including a couple mint ones from Argentina, a first year one with aluminum jewels, a Mark III, and a cartridge converter filling 51.
One unique 51 that I guess shouldn't be considered vintage is a bright yellow vac filler that was crafted by Torelli. Torelli left out no detail, the jewels are custom made in yellow, as is the feed. He even put a solid 14kt clip on the 14kt gold-filled cap. This pen will be one of my treasures for quite some time. There were a few others but those were my highlights on the vintage side of the hobby.
I'll get to the new pens in a bit but first I'm going to digress into pen shows. Digression will be a big part of this column, so be ready! Pen Shows are without a doubt tons of fun to attend, whether you go to buy, sell, or trade, you should plan on having a good time. I always leave a show with pen information overload and a feeling that it wasn't long enough to see everything, and talk to everyone that I wanted to. Mealtimes at shows are some of the best times you'll have, getting to meet folks and share experiences on a more personal level.
Of the shows I went to last year overall attendance was down a bit from previous years but not by a significant amount. Personally I hear lots of folks blaming this on the Internet or eBay, but I think my assessment is probably more true to the reason. We are experiencing a soft economy. Okay, that's putting it too mildly, our economy is basically crap right now and this in my opinion is what more effects show attendance.
Take a look at it another way. If you are flying to a show it's going to cost you around a grand for the weekend. If driving, lets say maybe half of that. That doesn't include your budgeted amount for spending and keep in mind that all this we're talking about is your discretionary income, your play money. Now as the economy goes into the toilet the first thing to go is the discretionary income. That money is now being used for your essentials, and being that in reality you only "need" one or two pens to write with, getting to a show can and does take a back seat. That's my simplistic approach to pen economics, but I'll give you one more twist. If attendance is down a bit, then when you do get to a show, you'll have much higher odds of going home with a real find, for you'll have less competition in terms of other buyers at the show.
And still each and every show is a new and exciting experience that is well worth whatever the price may be.
Digression over, on to the modern pens, the pens that are being made today. The biggest buzzword in modern pens is "DISCOUNT" and boy did we see that screwed up big time this year. 10% off list, 20% off, 25% off, 30% off list, and God forbid 40% or 50% off. Yes, discounting of new modern pens is prevalent and has been for many years. Well, at least as long as I can remember, and no this is not just the Internet only dealers, it's all of them, even the "old fashioned brick and mortar" stores.
So do modern pens have to be discounted in order to sell? I don't have a "textbook" answer to that, but if the dealers have accustomed the consumer to receive a discount, I'd say you can count on it. And, how many time have we seen this scenario? Joe Pen company makes a pen with say a $300 list price. At 30% off, the "street price" becomes $210. So those that "have to have it" buy one right away. Simple enough so far.
But overall, the pen doesn't sell very well in the manufacturer's or distributor's view, and in two months those that waited can now buy it at closeout prices for say around $150. This happens every year on various pens and it'll happen again this coming year. I guess that what I'm trying to say here is that it's us the consumer that set the price of modern pens. We do that by voting with our pocket books, either spending or not.
I strayed a bit (again!) so lets take up where we left off: "DISCOUNT and boy did we see that screwed up big time this year". We fooled you with it in April, gave you a sneak preview in August, and broke it down piece-by-piece for a full review in October. But somewhere in between Parker Pen Company or Sanford or Sara Lee or some marketing genius really screwed it up. Yes, I'm talking about the new Parker 51 LE's, the remake of the classic and much sought after 51.
After it became reality that Parker was indeed going to remake the 51, the hot topic of discussion became whether they could pull it off. Would it be the same? How will it compare to the vintage ones? What will the price be? Both the vintage collectors as well as modern ones hashed out all these questions. The hot topic was the internal workings of the pen, would they use the same collector, nib, and feed? How will it fill, etc. etc. I mean after all, the vintage Parker 51 was and probably still is the most written with and reliable fountain pen of all time. How will the new one live up to that?
Suddenly all of these questions were covered by a big dark shadow. It was called Parker's "Brand Image Protection Program". I'd call it illegal price fixing, but you can form your own opinion. This program was to fix the price of the new 51 and the upcoming Red Mosaic release at full list price.
These pens were called the "Subject products" and in Parker's letter to retailers both Brick and Mortar and Internet, a letter that they were supposed to sign and return to Parker before they were shipped any of the pens, they were threatened that Parker would terminate any dealer who engaged in "retail practices that could injure the reputation of the Parker brand". This of course included discounting the "Subject Products".
I could go on and on with the details of this ploy but you'd be reading into next week. I'll just say "shame on you, Parker". This was really a screwed up marketing "plan". Whom ever was at the helm when this plan was laid out had about the same steering skills as the helmsman of the Titanic!
To show you how well it worked though, I didn't pay anything near list for my pair of Parker 51's and Parker abandoned the price fixing when the Red Mosaic came to market. That my friends, is my biggest Rant of last year.
I'll talk more about discounting next month, but time is running short and I've got to get this to press, so I'm going to mention a couple pens that I can Rave about from last year.
First up is the pair of CP6s from Classic Pens. These pens designed on the outside by Classic Pens, and made by Pelikan on the chassis of their M800 and M1000 are simply wonderful writing instruments. They perform like a Pelikan, which if you don't know, sets the high mark for modern pens. And in appearance they can easily stand up against any modern LE and shine.
I carried one of them with me to a black tie event I attended just before Christmas, and when I pulled it out to jot a note on a business card, every head at the table was turned in my (okay, the pen's) direction. It had to get the proverbial pass around the table (no dropping), and these were not pen nuts! They were CEOs and their spouses. The CP6 series are great pens, if you don't have one and might want one, your time could be running out.
Okay, I'm out of time and my fingers hurt, so I'll finish the other company that I'd like to Rave about next month. I will give you a little tease though: the company has a nautical theme and is ruled by a "Cross Emperor".
Please email me if you feel there is something to Rant
or Rave about in the hobby or business of pen collecting.