As we all know here, “The reports of my (pen) death have been greatly exaggerated.” However, NPR decided to report on the demise of the pen market. The story featured Milwaukee’s Daly’s Pen Shop, in business since 1924. The story isn’t as gloom-and-doom as I thought it would be though it did startle some folks in the comments with the prices for a decent fountain pen (prices mentioned in the story included a $295 Visconti and talk of a Montblanc for $1000). Also mentioned is a $40 Cross pen and a $150 Pilot Vanishing Point.
I was not familiar with Daly’s Pen Shop prior to the story. The customers seem to make the trek to Daly’s because it has such a cool vintage vibe. I definitely have to take a trip up to Milwaukee to visit Daly’s Pen Shop. Sounds like my kind of place.
Have a listen to the story and then read all the comments that listeners have left. Would you rather have a great fountain pen or a new iPhone? I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive but right now, I’d rather have a new pen.
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I sometimes wonder where the statistics come from. When it’s stated that the sale of pens (fountain pens?) has dropped by half- from what time period or source (brick and mortar stores? exclusive limited edition luxury pens?). I have seen the membership of Google+’s community Fountain Pens double in the time since I joined, and there seems to be no shortage of competitive buyers on eBay for vintage and yes, new pens. I feel that there has been a resurgence with younger people in a strange backlash against “all technology all the time”. But what scares me the most is that there will be very soon generations of young people who won’t care about writing instruments in general because handwriting is viewed as an archaic act or worse yet, a foreign language.
Definitely a new pen. Heading off to Columbus, Ohio tomorrow for the 19th annual Ohio Pen Show. Fun!
Daly’s WAS a gem of downtown Milwaukee. A visit there was truly a step back in time. That location has closed, and I don’t know whether they moved the vintage fittings to their new location.
Daly’s WAS one of the gems of downtown Milwaukee. A visit there was truly a step back in time. But they have closed that location and moved out of the downtown area. I do not know whether they took their vintage fittings with them.
I would question the sales statistics as well, given that The Fountain Pen Network forum now has over 80,000 members world wide and there are pen sales websites and blogs popping up every day. Stationery and writing instruments have been niche businesses for many years now and while the brick-and-mortar pen business may be declining, pen usage is not. People are simply going online for their pen purchases. Daly’s moved to a smaller location, and I understand Art Brown’s in NYC was forced out of business by a landlord who wanted the space for a business that could generate higher rents. On a happy note, Anderson Pens just announced they are opening a brick-and-mortar shop in Appleton, WI. Georgayne is correct about handwriting being viewed as archaic, and that will continue as more and more schools drop handwriting courses and issue iPads to students.
Just an FYI, archive.org hosts the full audio from a really excellent 1992 radio documentary on fountain pens.. Title of the series is “Prospero’s Pens,” and it’s nearly two hours long in total. Covers both vintage and modern — highly recommended:
I have been a loyal customer at Daly’s for years. The majority of my business with them has been phone orders. Their service is excellent, and I would recomend them to anyone.