Most of the writing instruments we offer are between 50 and 100 years old. Pen collectors understand that one cannot always obtain every model in perfect condition, but which flaws are major, which minor, and what kinds of restoration are acceptable and which not? The following should help you decide what you can live with, and how.
Cap lip hairline cracks are among the most common defects, and have traditionally had a large impact on a pen's collector value. This is still the case among iconic pens such as bandless or Mandarin Yellow Duofolds , though less so with some others such as large Dorics, where nearly every specimen has some fine hairlines and the material tends to render hairlines less noticeable. Cap lip hairlines are of much less concern to users, since sealing and stabilizing cracks in celluloid is relatively straightforward, if time-consuming. Hard rubber is another matter, due to a lack of suitable adhesives -- though it should be noted that some hard rubber cap (or barrel) cracks are quite stable, having resulted from lateral impact or compression (such as being sat upon or caught in a desk drawer) rather than from too much force and too tight a fit between cap and barrel.
Cap lip replacement is another option, especially where there is a cap band to cover the seam. Again, this has much less impact on value when the pen is more common, and derives a substantial amount of its value as a functional writing instrument rather than an historical artifact. Complicating the issue is the fact that cap lip replacement has been practiced for a very long time indeed (and even as a factory repair on occasion, by all appearances -- as with large Sheaffer flat-tops and Balances ).
Cap lip trimming was yet another old-time remedy for minor lip damage. As a rule, if the amount removed is so small as not to be noticeable, the affect on value will not be significant. Too much, however, and value takes a big hit.
Nib restoration is now a highly developed art, though the cost of such work can be significant. For this reason, we do not automatically have every nib defect repaired on every pen we sell (though any such defects are always fully disclosed, of course). In some cases the defect is purely cosmetic, and of little concern to a user (e.g., a top surface that is no longer perfectly flat, from a nib having been sprung and then straightened ). In others, the nib may be cosmetically perfect but functionally defective -- of concern to a user, but much less so to a collector. Examples here would include nibs lacking iridium or with scant or porous iridium. Then there are nib cracks, which are often small enough to be easily overlooked, and which may cause problems but also might not. In general, longitudinal hairlines from the heel (the end opposite the tip) are the least likely to grow, while lateral cracks from the sides are the most likely. Hairlines from the vent hole are also cause for concern, though in most cases there won't be any problem as long as the nib isn't put to hard use. Welding up nib cracks is delicate work, but the number of jewelers and other craftsmen offering this service is steadily increasing. We expect to see the price of crack repair drop significantly in the near future as a result.
Note that a professionally repaired nib will generally be valued just the same as an intact, unrestored nib of the same type.
Nib replacement may be a more practical option than repair if utility is the aim. Good generic or other-brand replacement nibs are readily available in most sizes at relatively low cost. Sometimes we will list a pen with a replacement warranted (i.e., unbranded) nib as well as the damaged original nib, so that the buyer retains the option of having the original restored and reinstalled. Even if not so listed, pens in our catalog with original but functionally problematical nibs can usually be furnished with more writing-friendly substitutes at a very reasonable price -- just ask.
Cracks in the barrel mouth usually result from opening a pen up for sac replacement. This is a highly stressed area, so simply gluing the crack is insufficient. The standard repair method is to seal the crack and line the barrel mouth with fresh material, usually brass. Such a repair leaves the barrel mouth stronger than new. Effect on value depends in large part on the extent of the sealed crack, and how obtrusive it is after repair.
Heat distortion chiefly affects plastic pens (hard rubber softens when heated, but does not shrink, so any distortion can normally be corrected easily). We don't sell pens with severe distortion, but we will sometimes list a pen that is slightly bent or which displays some mild shrinkage . Often these flaws are not readily apparent upon casual examination; we are very picky, however, and assume that at least some of our customers are equally so. Effects upon value are difficult to assess, given that so many other sellers and buyers don't even notice low-level distortion of this sort. When we mention slight shrinkage , it usually means a very subtle narrowing, often more apparent to the touch than to the eye.
Discoloration and fading is typical on older pens and pencils. Pristine color and surface can command a substantial premium, while especially ugly staining can reduce value considerably. Black hard rubber that is light-faded can be reblackened , but collector opinion regarding reblackened pens is far from uniform. In general, much depends on the quality of the treatment, with only a handful of purists dead set against any reblackening whatsoever.
Names and personalized engravings are often found on pens and pencils. Often they add to the historical resonance of an item, and especially on metal, they can be beautiful examples of the engraver's art. Their effect on value thus depends not only on the specific pen or pencil (buyers of more recent pens are as a rule less keen on personal markings), but also on the specific collector.
Removal of an imprinted name is usually not a good idea. Regardless of what some jewelers or eBay sellers will tell you, engravings on metal cannot normally be buffed out without causing horrendous damage. Heat-impressed names on plastic are much the same. Few collectors are so picky that they will not put up with a desirable piece having an added name. Many, however, will reject out of hand anything bearing the scars of a removed name.