June 09, 2014

A Pen Collecting Timeline

, the first three decades of pen collecting.

[Posted on L&P on Aug 28, 2008.]

        In August 2008, after rereading my back issues of Pen Fancier’s Magazine, I drew up a parallel-bar graph, or timeline of the major pen-collecting activities of the previous 30 years.  [See below.]  The way I saw it, pen collecting had gone through three distinct phases, or generations, or decades, or waves of activity.  The first decade was 1977-87, the second 1987-97, the third 1997-2007, and the fourth started in 2007.  We are now past the end of the third, and there are signs of what’s to come in the fourth.
         The first wave started with Cliff Lawrence’s Pen Fancier’s Club, but there were a few disparate and disconnected early collectors around the world before that.  They just didn’t know about each other, yet.  There were people like Masa Sunami, Phillip Poole, Dick Johnson, Cliff & Judy Lawrence, and a few others.  But this generation consists of those few collectors who collected the pen information, and wrote the first pen books, and started the first pen shows.  In 1977, the first four unofficial PFC newsletters were sent out, but the first official Pen Fancier’s Newsletter wasn’t published until 1978.  It became the Pen Fancier’s Magazine in 1982, and it lasted until 1998, but its influence still continues to this day.  Cliff Lawrence was the first American to write a book on pen collecting, but there were also books in Japan by Umeda and Tamagawa.  More books by the Lawrences, and other books by Glen Bowen, Nakazono, and Andy Lambrou came along later in the 1980s.  This was also the era of the first pen shows sponsored by the PFC, and then later by the Chicago pen collectors, Michael Fultz, Don Lavin, and Daniel Zazove, and by Phillip Poole and the Writing Equipment Society in England.  The Southern California Pen Collectors Club was started up in 1985 by Bob Tefft, Peter Amis, Fred Krinke, Tony Davis, and Boris Rice, and in 1991 its name was changed to the Pen Collectors of America, and its newsletter became The Pennant.
        The second wave started late in 1987 with the publication of Pen World as a vintage pen magazine, but in the next wave this magazine ended up turning into a modern pen promotional vehicle to serve the Limited-Edition market.  There were also other magazines such as Pens Plus, Plumes, Penna, Canetas, and Le Stylographe from other countries.  This generation consists of all those collectors who came out of the woodwork, and attended all the proliferating pen shows, and networked, and started the first informational pen websites, and pen forums, and pen message boards.  It was a time when the pen repairing business had its resurgence, and people like Jack Price, Arthur Twydle, John Mottishaw, Terry Koch, and Lynn Sorgatz flourished, and Frank Dubiel published his seminal book.  Pen craftsmen and pen turners started to alter existing pens and making their own creations.  Michael Fultz, Brad Torelli, and Paul Rossi were some of the first.  If you didn’t like the pens that were out there, you made your own.  The AOL and Compuserve message boards came along first in the early 1990s, but they were soon replaced by alt.collecting.pens-pencils, The Zoss List, The Ink Spot, and Penlovers.  Kim Paludan, Vince Fatica, and Tony Fischier’s pen websites were the first ones in 1995, but David Nishimura’s came along soon after in 1997.  Some of this is outlined in this thread on FPN before L&P had started up, FPN topic 2009, “How long have you been online doing pen research?”.
        The third wave was heralded by Bill Riepl’s online magazine Stylophiles in 1998.  Its later, short-lived print incarnation came along in 2003-4.  Pen World, formerly a vintage pen magazine, turned exclusively into a modern pen magazine in competition with Stylus magazine at about the same time that the latter appeared.  It was a period that was dominated by the online auction sites such as Ebay, started in 1995, but it didn’t catch on with pen collectors till about 1997-8, and Penbid, in 1999.  Many pen-show attendees contracted the Ebayola virus and stopped going to pen shows, and disappeared into the black hole of the Internet.  The USPTO, EPO, and Google patent websites went online, and started a wave of scholarly research.  It is the period when the current pen message boards and informational websites were started, sites such as Pentrace, Fountain Pen Network, Lion & Pen, and many others.  This generation consists of all the hack amateur newbies on the scene, and every know-nothing Tom, Dick, and Mary who flooded the Chatter forums, but it was also the period when serious pen research and serious informational websites and forums blossomed.  Here’s a typical statement from one of those newbies.  “I dabbled with fountain pens more than once over the years until 1998, when I meandered too close to the maelstrom and was finally irretrievably sucked in.  My relatively small collection comprises 24 vintage pens and 3 modern models.”  They usually think they are the only ones out there collecting pens, until they discover one another online, and they know nothing of the previous two generations.  They build up a small collection, but when the first financial crisis comes along, they crash, and try to cash it all in.  The serious pen researchers, however, are usually holdovers from and participants in the previous two generations.  They have done all the reading of the books and magazines and have discovered their common heritage with other members of the previous two generations, and now they are going on to write their own serious articles, like those in The Pennant and the WES Journal, and on Penbid and Lion & Pen, and to publish their own books, like those by David Shepherd, Daniel Zazove, David Moak, Max Davis, Gary Lehrer, and oh yes, yours truly, and to create their own websites, and to retain and expand old ones.
        But what’s to come in the fourth wave?  Probably for a little while there will be a bit more of the same.  The new collectors will ask their same old questions, and the old timers will get tired of replying with their serious answers.  But the most popular message boards are falling victim of their own success.  It’s almost impossible to find the pertinent information in their bloated archives because every collector can weigh in on any and every subject with his or her own same old opinions, or ask the same old questions over and over again without first checking the archives.  Or else they inflate the archives with their pointless chatter, their casual, throwaway remarks.  All the substantive information gets lost in the chattering chaff because no one takes the time to blow the chaff away, or to try to stop the chaff from accumulating.  The other side of “a bit more of the same” would also be that some of those new collectors will look into the pen history they all have in common and find out where they have come from, and they will become the future historians and researchers and authors.  And if the rest continue to enjoy what they are doing at their own levels, doing what makes them happy, then that’s fine, too.
        Here’s the timeline, which makes all of this more visual, I hope.  The straw-colored lines show no activity, and the blue lines represent the blossoming of activity.  Did I leave anything or anyone out?  Please feel free to add to the list.  If you are offended by any of this, I will apologize, but only after you have done all the reading as well.  Get all the books, and all the back issues of the magazines, and do your homework first, then we will talk.  And try to read the books in chronological sequence, by publication date.  Follow the progression of information and disinformation, and see how some of them plagiarize and propagate earlier errors because they didn’t do their own independent, primary research.  It’s a real eye opener.  And if you’re still offended, then I’ll take it back...maybe.

Early Collectors, pre-1977
Pen Fanciers, 1977, 1978-1993, 1993-1998
Pen Shows, 1979-2010
Writing Equipment Society, 1981-2010
Pen Collectors Of America, 1985-2010
Pen World Magazine, 1987-2010
AOL Compuserve Boards, 1991-1995
alt.collecting.pens-pencils, 1993-2010
Bruce Harrison’s The Ink Spot, 1994-1999
The Zoss List, 1994-2010
Penlovers, 1995-2002
USPTO Patents, 1996-2010
Ebay, 1996-2010
Stylophiles, 1998-2010
Pentrace, 2000-2010
Stylus Magazine, 2003-2010
Fountain Pen Network, 2004-2010
Lion & Pen, 2005-2010
EPO Google Patents, 2006-2010

      George Kovalenko.