July 17, 2015

The Fourth Decade

, the blog decade.

[Posted by John Chapman on L&P on Aug 29, 2008.]
        “I think there needs to be another set of circumstances mentioned in the timeline—perhaps as a subset of period 3, but I think marking it’s own point of departure, and that is the online research tools that have become available in the last 2-5 years.
        “There has been a critical change in the information on the web.  It started out in the early 90s as the “land of 100,000 brochures”, without a lot of content behind pages.  As you mention, there was a period where the pen-collector boards and websites were born and a wealth of information could be had from serious collectors and historians.
        “But there is a more recent phenomenon as more and more primary source materials are made available on the web, which opens up new avenues for research.  Sites like the New York Times online archives,,; government archives such as the Federal Record online (to 1934 I believe), the FTC annual reports; and online resources where public libraries are digitizing local business directories and historical archive material all provide access to primary sources that was not available a couple of years ago.  So when a question is raised about an obscure vintage brand, we can find ads from a dozen newspapers from 1928, or business directories from Rochester in the 1850s, or the 1918 draft cards of obscure nib-makers, etc.  As you have said in another post, we are approaching a golden age of online genealogical research, and I would ad, pen research.
        “I would also add that there is another trend in pen collecting and pen research which needs to be mentioned either in the 3rd or 4th era of pen collecting.  As the mainstream and “highly collectable” brands increase in value (and therefore cost) there is a growing interest among newer collectors in the 2nd and 3rd tier brands and sub-brands.  Companies like Ingersoll, Wearever, Ajax, Thompson, etc. as well as sub-brands like the depression-era Thrift-time Parkers and WASPs that were often considered unworthy of interest to the collecting community are getting a lot more attention.  Newer collectors who can’t afford a complete collection of early Waterman, are finding our own obscure niches in the collecting world and, I think, making us all the richer for it.
        “Unfortunately the transition that you mention in the 3rd period is more representative of the information overload scenario that faces the internet.  As more and more information becomes available, and more communication happens on the web, the signal to noise ratio increases and the difficulty in finding information among the noise is harder.  It is a problem in wider areas than pen collecting.”

        And I wrote, “Yes, and along with the USPTO, EPO, Google patents websites I should have listed such sites as “Making Of America”, the great newspaper archives, government archives, online business directories, historical archives, and genealogical sites.  Thanks for reminding me about what I said about the golden age of online research, and I agree, it is having a great impact on pen research as well.  But there has to be some way of managing the information overload without adding more load to the overage.  There has to be some way to get down to the basics.
        “I remember when the depression-era Parkers were considered worthless, and then suddenly everybody caught on to them, and the prices skyrocketed.  Obscure pens are where it’s at these days.  I remember at one pen show Dick Johnson decided to put together a complete selection of Sheaffer “Lady Skripserts”, and it suddenly created a mini boom for some sellers.”

        Then Pavlo Shevelo posted a pen-collecting-timeline riddle.  “What’s the difference between pen collectors in the 20th century and those in the 21st?  The pen collectors back then chewed their pen caps, while today they chew their flash drives.”
        Blogs are the vanity-press publications of the digital age.  In fact, this decade could be called the blog decade.  Everyone and his dog had a
blog in this decade.

George Kovalenko.