This photo was posted two years ago when we bought our first Retro 51 display case. Well, in two years, we acquired enough Retro 51s to fill a second tray… and then some. When I say we, I mean Bob and I both collect Retro 51s. It’s a pen collection that we can embark upon together. So, it’s with a heavy heart that I must consider the world without Retro 51 in it.
For Bob, the Retro 51 Tornado was really his gateway drug into fine pens. I think one of his first Retro51s was the Pinball, Kona or Vintage Surf.
For me, I bought a lacquer lime green Tornado very early on in my collecting since it was relatively inexpensive and a chance to experience a refillable pen with a refill known to be as good as the Japanese gel pens. While I am one of the few people who doesn’t love the Schmidt refill, I love that I can use other refills like Parker-style or hacked refills.
One of the aspects of the Retro 51 designs that I haven’t seen mentioned is the design on the packaging tubes. Early on, Retro 51 had appropriately retro-styled graphics. The yellow box on the far right of the photo is very old package that contains an aluminum tube. Later package design carried the graphics from the pen on to the paperboard tube.
Retro 51 always knew how to do packaging well.
Some of my favorite pens from Retro 51 are the Pen Addict special editions. I have all four of the special editions together in my display box. Next to them are the bright pink prototype that Lisa from Vanness Pens got for me. Then, my original kiwi lacquer Tornado. I bought a sterling silver prototype mini pen at the Dallas Pen Show a few years ago and then finally the first and most tiny Crossword pencil that Bob bought for me years ago. These are my extra special pens.
My all-time favorite is the Twinkle. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it for the photo shoot, even after tearing my house apart looking for it. I fear that I may have lost it since it was the pen I always carried in my bag. If anyone happens to come across it, it was #1000.
I’m tickled at the numbers I’ve accumulated. The 003s are all the Pen Addict models which Brad kindly saved the first few for himself, Myke and I. The very first Pen Addict model, I didn’t get the 003 originally. A lovely fan of the show brought the 003 to me at the DC Show and I was speechless.
Somewhere, Bob has his pen tubes. Bob’s Zodiac is numbered 007 which amuses us to no end.
The pens in this bamboo tray are Bob’s (plus my System pen because they look good together. I couldn’t find my System pencil for this photo either which hangs out with the pen twins.)
The focus of Bob’s collection is, of course, the space- and plane-themed. When Retro 51 unveiled the Launchpad pen stand, we couldn’t order one fast enough. He didn’t order the Gemini because he felt like it was “too much” but now he’s a bit bummed he missed his chance. If there’s another space or plane Retro 51 before they close up shop, we’ll order it in a New York minute.
Bob ordered the full set of spirit-related Retro 51s to give as gifts to friends and clients. We still have the beer Speakeasy. Bob thinks he may keep it for sentimental reasons.
There were a few pens we realized we could not share so we have two. I guess a family who Retros together, stays together?
I wonder what pen company will fill the gap that Retro 51 will leave? Maybe Caran d’Ache would consider stepping up and using the 849 form factor as a canvas for new designs and graphics. Caran d’Ache has already experimented with printed designs and various finishes, even the Nespresso recycled cup pens… so they are a strong candidate. Baron Fig and their Squire is another contender. They’ve already done several collaborations and experimented with etching on the aluminum barrels. Could they print on the barrels or add texture? The Squire is definitely a good option and uses the same Schmidt refill as the Tornado does.
I guess we must wait and see what the future of custom pens might bring. What are your thoughts? What were your favorite Retro 51 designs?