I knew a guy who was really into pen collecting, and I thought he was out of his damn mind. I was young, immature, and clueless about anything having to do with the value of a great pen. After years of using terrible, cheap pens and completely denying the existence of a great writing tool, I’ve come full circle.
Pen collectors understand a simple fact most of us don’t consider; high-quality writing instruments have been treasured items for thousands of years. Since the ancient Egyptians began writing on papyrus scrolls with reed pens, the history of the world has been diligently recorded by pen and ink.
“The pen is mightier than the sword,” English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton famously penned for his 1839 play titled “Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy.” The phrase is traced back thousands of years before that, with variations sourced from biblical texts. Even Napoleon Bonaparte, known for his military conquests, was often quoted saying, “Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.”
You could make an argument for the pen as one of the most important tools of all-time. In the book ‘A History of Writing,’ author Steven Fischer suggests the reed pen may have been used as early as 3000 B.C. The daily use of pens over time has shaped world history; there is no doubt. Collecting these very utensils has become an art form and a fun hobby for millions of people.
Most Expensive Pens In The World
Some of the most expensive pens in the world have sold at auction recently. To give you an idea of how valuable a single pen can be, here’s a shortlist of recent record-breaking sales.
- Mystery Masterpiece, Mont Blanc & Van Cleef & Arpels $730,000
- Heaven Gold Pen, Anita Tan $1 million
- La Modernista Diamonds, Caran d’Ache $1.2 million
- Aurora Diamante Fountain Pen $1.5 million
- Fulgor Nocturnus, Tibaldi $8 million
Best Luxury Pens
Mont Blanc pens are possibly the most well-known luxury writing utensils, but there are dozens more prolific pen companies to be aware of. A few pen manufacturers are hundreds of years old, with a rich history of creating incredible works of art in pen form. Many collectors search for particular brands from the top manufacturers, with certain preferences toward luxury names.
A recent report by Technavio on the global luxury pen market shows worldwide sales of $2.8 billion in the current year. The huge interest in modern pens, along with an abundance of vintage pens creates an enormous collector pen marketplace.
The A.T. Cross Company was founded in 1946 and remained one of the world’s oldest pens manufacturers. Richard Cross originally founded the company from his family’s history as jewelers. They began by creating gold and silver casings for pencils before developing innovative writing tools such as the mechanical pencil.
Since the 1970s, Cross has been the official supplier of pens to the White House. Lawmakers use Cross pens to sign legislation and then give the pens as souvenirs to attendees of the signings. Since Gerald Ford, presidents have been signing with Cross pens.
Established in 1884 by Lewis Waterman in New York City, the Waterman Pen Company was one of the original fountain pen makers. This fact makes fountain pen collecting of Waterman brand pens extremely popular. Later, Waterman would create the first pen clip to allow owners to attach the pen directly in a pocket.
Lewis Waterman began his career as an insurance salesman. After losing a deal because a pen leaked all over a contract that he was proposing to a customer, it was an ordeal he would not forget. He simplified a design by creating the “spoon-feed” system, which prevented ink from overflowing and later received a gold medal of excellence at the Exposition Universelle in 1900.
Founded in Hamburg, Germany, Montblanc is known mostly for its pen manufacturing, but it also produces watches, leather handbags, jewelry, and paper products.
The Mont Blanc trademark is a six-pointed snowcap representing the highest mountain in the Swiss Alps. Another recurring theme from the pen maker is the number “4810,” which is Mont Blanc’s height in meters.
Italian luxury goods manufacture Montegrappa is widely-known for its exquisite fountain pens. Elmo & Montegrappa, which is the company’s full name, began in 1912 and still manufactures products in its original factory in Bassano del Grappa, Italy.
During World War I, volunteer ambulance driver Ernest Hemingway used Elmo & Montegrappa pens for his correspondence. The Aquila family owns most of the company, but other notable partners in the business are Ferrari F-1 driver Jean Alesi and actor Sylvester Stallone.
The Parker Pen Company was founded by George Safford Parker in 1888. Shortly after founding the company, George Parker applied to patent the “Lucky Curve” fountain pen feeding system.
The company rose to the number one or two spot in worldwide sales from the 1920s to the 1060s. Much of the sales were due to the development of the Parker 51, which was the most popular fountain pen at the time, with over $400 million in sales.
President John F. Kennedy was partial to Parker pens and signed legislation with the brand. President Lyndon Johnson ordered 60,000 pens for his law signing rituals and preseed to give each pen as gifts.
Pen Collecting Resources
The wide world of pen collecting is packed full of incredible resources. There are thousands of Podcasts, forums, YouTube channels, and social networks dedicated to the craft of pen collecting. Shopping for great vintage pens doesn’t end with antique stores and flea markets. There are dozens of great online resources to grow your personal collection, no matter what your personal taste may be.
Some collectors are looking for great pens for everyday use; others want fine pens to keep safe in desk drawers. With the popularity of pen collecting growing in recent years, many people have flocked to YouTube channel instruction videos to learn more about the vast ocean of vintage pens. With a little research and a few instructional videos, every new pen collector’s horizons can be expanded.
The Pen Addict Podcast
The folks at The Pen Addict created a very informative podcast discussing the inside world of pens. Over 400 episodes and counting, the podcast breaks down virtually every aspect you can imagine regarding pen collecting. This is a must-listen for anyone getting started with their first pen purchase.
The Fountain Pen Network
Just when you thought you couldn’t find another great resource for your pen collecting addiction, there’s The Fountain Pen Network. And what I mean by “network” is millions of pen enthusiasts congregating in one spot, sharing all they know about pens.
One of the website’s main features is the Forum, which is broken up into many different categories. There’s a community introduction section, where users can find out about the latest events and meetings and get to know other members.
The forum also features a full-blown marketplace where you can share information on shops, deals, discounts, tricks & tips for pen buying, selling, and browsing. There are hundreds of thousands of posts inside these forums; it’s got to be one of the largest forums of its kind. The amount of information found at The Fountain Pen Network (FPN) is truly staggering.
The Pen Company
Another amazing resource for pen collectors is The Pen Company. They are an independently, family-owned business striving to provide knowledge to the writing instrument community.
The company sells luxury pens and pencils by the world’s best manufactures, including Bentley, Conklin, Ferrari, Montegrappa, Visconti, and many others. They also have a huge selection of refills and ink in every different color available. From the most expensive vintage fountain pen, high quality solid gold, and sterling silver or stainless steel rare pen to the extra-fine nib french pen, there’s something for every collector at The Pen Company.
The Pen Market
Another giant depot for all things pen is The Pen Market. Buy, sell and trade new and vintage pens with thousands of listings for virtually any type of pen ever made. Not only does The Pen Market offer sales, but they also feature service and repair. Find your favorite vintage pen, or shop for new items; this site has a huge assortment of pens in almost every price range.
The Largest Pen Collections
Angelika Unverhau from Germany has collected a world-record setting 220,000 ballpoint pens from over 146 countries. She’s been a long time pen collector for over three decades. As for the most prominent fountain pen collector, they could probably be spotted at the D.C. Collectible Fountain Pen Supershow, the world’s largest pen show. This is a great event for anyone working on a pen collection of their own, new collector, or seasoned veteran.
In June of 1943, the patent for the ballpoint pen was filed. The Smithsonian holds one of the largest and most impressive collections of historical pens and pencils globally. It’s a great place to start on your quest for pen collecting ideas.
One of my favorite items in the collection is the pen Astronaut Michael Collins used on the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. It was donated to the National Air and Space Museum by Michael Collins in 1985.