I did an epic pen cleaning a couple weeks ago. While pen cleaning can be cathartic its also a time consuming ritual. As I cleaned an embarrassing number of pens that were inked, dried out or in some state in between, I started noticing my tendency to have multiples of the same pen.
I asked fellow Desk-ers if they find themselves in the same situation. Jesi immediately showed me her full rainbow of TWSBI ECO pens and an assortment of Kaweco Sport and AL-Sport pens. Jaclyn also has what could only be described as a set of TWSBI ECOs and a good array of Sailor Pro Gears and Platinum 3776s. Laura is probably the most controlled in her “collecting” but even she has several of the same make and model though in different colors or finishes. Tina is most likely to own every budget fude fountain pen she can acquire. And I am embarrassed to admit how many of the pens in my collection are “more of the same” in a different color or finish. All of us have at least two Retro51s — the gateway drug for pen theme collecting. Bob has at least a half a dozen Retro51s with a space or plane design and he will tell you “I am not a pen collector.” Oh, really?
If you’ve been collecting pens for any length of time, you have likely discovered a similar habit of pen collecting — in yourself or others.
As I was cleaning my vast array of pens, I started to think about what possesses us, as pen collectors, to buy the same pen in a different color? The first hurdle is buying those initial few pens and discovering a shape, size or finish that you like.
Here are my theories:
- Nib variation: Once we as pen collectors find a barrel style we enjoy, we want to try multiple nib options with this barrel design. Even for pens like a Retro51, each version could contain a different refill — one with rollerball ink in black, one in blue, one with a ballpoint refill, etc. For inexpensive pens like Lamy Safari or TWSBI ECOs, the opportunity to have an array of colored barrels AND a full range of nib sizes is very appealing. I couldn’t be a rational human and decide to try various nib options with pens under $100. Nope. I fell in love with the nibs on Sailor Pro Gear Slim pens. I have a custom ground needlepoint fine (the Purple Cosmos on the far right in the photo below), a F in the multi-pink model (the actual name escapes me at the moment), a MF in the Graphite Lighthouse, and a Music nib in the Pink Love (the glittery pink). I love each of the pens and their nibs for their own unique qualities.
- Matching ink to pen: If you collect a lot of ink, the tendency to match your ink to your pen body may become a deciding factor in your pen purchasing. Love teal ink? Then you might need a teal pen to use with those inks. I specifically use pink ink in the Sailor Pink Love pictured above and have both purchased ink to match the pen and matched ink in my stash to this pen. I also tend to use purple ink in my Purple Cosmos (also pictured above). I don’t have a lot of purple ink but the needlepoint fine nib works well with the dark purple inks I have collected.
- Loss or damage: When we have found a pen model we love, the fear that we might misplace it or break it can often be all the motivation we need to purchase a “back-up”. Or two. I had acquired a Caran d’Ache 849 in hot pink which, to my surprise, became my “work pen”. With its ability to take a standard cartridge (and a back-up in the barrel) and a snap cap, it was the perfect pen to have at my desk to jot quick notes. I filled it with an array of random cartridges that made it easy to swap in new ink as needed without making a big production of changing out ink in cubicle-land. Then, after years of faithful service, the grip section cracked! I was able to work with the US Caran d’Ache distributor to acquire a new grip section but it would take a week or two to receive it. What do I do in the meantime? I bought a lime green model. And this is how it starts…
- FOMO: Like every other hobby, the scarcity factor lends itself to the desire to “grab that color before it’s gone!” and pen companies know this about us. From the Lamy Safari and Pelikan M100 Color of the Year trends to the “prototype trays” often put out at pens shows to entice buyers. Do these pens perform differently from any other color model offered by the company? No. Is the color currently on offer our favorite-est color ever? Maybe. And so, we purchase another pen in a different color.
- Pokemon: This is the “gotta catch ’em all!” phenomena. This is related to FOMO but is the more advanced collecting urge. Once you have the better part of a rainbow of a particular pen, well, you can’t just stop, can you? My best example of the Pokemon phenomena in my pen collection was when I discovered the Lady Sheaffer Skripserts. Once I found these vintage gems with the carved patterns in the bodies and the little upturned nibs, I knew I couldn’t stop at just one. Or ten.
What really got me thinking about this urge to collect the same pen in different colors came as I was cleaning my Opus 88 Fantasia in green and orange (I forget the official name for it but its the one in the photo above on the far right). I LOVE this pen. It holds a bucket of ink with the unique Opus 88 eyedropper filling system and I’ve been able to fit a custom ground Franklin-Christoph nib into the pen as well which makes it a joy to write with. I knew that Opus 88 had discontinued this petite model in favor of creating ever larger pens. As I was cleaning, I was overwhelmed with the urge to track down some of the other colors of this beloved pen before I could no longer find them. There were five colors originally and, of those, only four that I really want to own. So, I searched the internet until I was able to obtain two more of this candy-colored miniature pens. I am still seeking the last of the four I want, the black model. I have faith that it will find it’s way to me eventually but until then, I am happy to have a couple more to keep my original Fantasia company.
What pen do you collect over and over? What makes you want another one? Do you have different reasons for collecting multiples than I have listed above?