Describing vintage pens

Most experienced collectors are happy to help newcomers identify old pens. A good description, however, is essential, so make sure you provide the following information:

  • maker (if known)
  • all marks, on barrel side and end, cap, clip, and nib (use a magnifier)
  • size (measure length when closed)
  • color(s), including description of patterning
  • metal trim (gold or silver)
  • shape (cylindrical or tapered; round or flat-ended; etc)
  • filling system (see Filling Instructions for illustrations of various types)

Note that there is no standard grading scale for vintage pens. Terms such as "good", "very good", and "excellent" will mean very different things depending on who is using them. Every catalog and price guide should include some explanation of the condition standards being used, which should be studied carefully. Experience will teach you which dealers are most apt to grade high and which to grade low.

Pictures can be a great help in identifying old pens, but before you start sending them, consider that email messages with large unsolicited attachments will often be filtered out or discarded unread. The best procedure is to crop your pictures to cut out blank background space, and to use a resizing app to reduce their file size. Most of our catalog photos are under 50K, but photos sent straight from cameras or phones are typically 30 to 40 times as large! Do NOT send photos in compressed form, such as a .zip file – We will delete such files without opening them, along with Word or Excel files sent as attachments.