A pen is a device used to apply ink to a surface for the purpose of writing or drawing.
Modern pens use a self-contained ink supply, as opposed to early forms of pen which used an external supply such as an inkwell from which they needed to be refilled.
Collecting pens is a growing hobby across the globe with numerous organisations, publications and specialist dealers devoted to the area.
Many collectors specialise in a specific area such as pens used by American presidents, pens once owned by celebrities, technically innovative pens or those produced by one of the main manufacturers from the 20th century such as Parker or Sheaffer.
As early as 3000 BC the ancient Egyptians are recorded as having used reed pens.
These early pens were made from hollow reeds, with a slit cut into a narrow tip to allow the ink to run through.
This design was then improved by the Romans who used hollow tubular stems of marsh grass, and later bamboo.
The reed pen design was used until the 6th century AD, when they were superseded by the quill pen.
Quill pens were the primary flight feathers of large birds. The hollow shaft of the feather, known as the calamus, would act as an ink reservoir while the ink flowed through the tip due to capillary action.
Although there are records of the quill being used before this time, such as in the creation of the Dead Sea Scrolls dated between 150 BC and AD 70, the fall of the Roman empire led to a difficulty in obtaining imported reeds and quill pens fell into common use as an alternative.
Quill pens were used up until the 19th century when the first steel-nib pens were introduced. Up until this point there had been various attempts to create pens with self-contained ink reservoirs.
In 1636, a German inventor named Daniel Schwenter described a pen he had made from two quills. One quill served as the ink reservoir and was slotted inside the outer quill. A cork sealed the inner quill from which ink was squeezed through a small hole.
In 1809, English inventor Bartholomew Folsch sought a patent for a pen that could hold ink within it, John Scheffer received a British patent in 1819 for his half quill, half metal pen that he attempted to mass manufacture, and in 1822 John Mitchell started to produce pens with metal nibs.
In May 1827 the French Government patented something called the 'Fountain Pen' with a replaceable ink cartridge invented by a Romanian student studying in Paris, Petrache Poenaru.
These pens could hold and store ink within inbuilt reservoirs.
However none of these designs were particularly reliable, with many suffering from leaking reservoirs and an unsteady ink flow.
In 1883 a New York insurance salesman named L. E. Waterman patented a pen design which applied the principle of capillary action as seen in quills through a feed with a groove for air intake and three narrow slits in the bottom of the groove.
This development gave the first truly steady and smooth ink flow and the Waterman company went on to dominate the market until the 1920s.
The early 20th century saw a number of developments and different types of pen as companies sought to reduce ink leakage and improve the design and filling mechanisms.
Some of these systems included the the Conklin crescent filler, the Sheaffer Lever filler, the Pelikan screw-mechanism piston-filler, the Sheaffer Touchdown filler and the Parker capillary filling system.
Today most fountain pens use either a piston-filler system or a removable ink cartridge.
In 1938 the ballpoint pen was patented by Hungarian journalist Lazlo Bíró. Along with his brother Georg they then applied for a fresh patent in Argentina on June 10, 1943, having fled from the Nazis in 1940.
The British government bought the licensing rights to this patent for the war effort, as the British Royal Air Force needed a new type of pen that would not leak at higher altitudes in fighter planes.
Thereafter two companies began to battle for the ballpoint market in America. The Bíró brothers’ Argentinean Eterpen Company was bought out by the American company Eversharp, which rebranded the pen and began to sell it in the United States.
Within a matter of weeks businessman Milton Reynolds, who has seen the pen while in Buenos Aires, began to market his own version.
Both were expensive, unreliable and unpopular with consumers, but when the Parker company introduced its own ballpoint pen (the Jotter) in 1954 the market picked up once more.
This success was matched in Europe by the BIC pen company, who went on to buy out Waterman Pens and dominate the ballpoint pen market.
A division sprung up between cheap disposable ballpoints and reusable fountain pens.
Fountain pens, by nature far more expensive, began to be seen as high-end items and manufacturers began to create decorative and stylish designs from expensive materials such as silver and gold.
Now early model fountain pens and rare models from the 20th century are sought-after collectors’ items, ornate fountain pens made for the luxury market can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and 14m BIC ballpoint pens are sold every day worldwide.
Types and manufacturers
Main article: List of types of pen
Main article: List of pen manufacturers
There are a great number of different pen types, as manufacturers used different systems and mechanisms over the years as they developed their products.
There have also been a number of manufacturers across the globe, and many collectors will focus their collection on pens made by a specific company.
Main article: List of pen collecting terms
The world’s most expensive pen
The world’s most expensive pen ever sold is the La Modernista Diamonds fountain pen, created by Caran d’Ache in 1999.
The pen is made from rhodium coated solid silver components, with an 18-carat gold nib and covered with 5072 full cut top Wesselton VS diamonds.
The cap features 96 half cut rubies which form the monogram. It was sold in 2001 by the London department store Harrods for a record price of $265,000.
Other notable pens
Main article: List of notable pens
Notable pen collections and collectors
Main article: List of notable pen collections
Main article: List of notable pen collectors
Main article: List of rare pen dealers
Clubs and societies
Main article: List of pen collectors' clubs and societies
Related Wikicollecting articles
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