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Pen Collector vs Pen User

Are you a vintage pen COLLECTOR or are you a vintage pen USER?

This discussion arises with some frequency amongst vintage pensters. The question, itself,  illustrates one of the real charms of vintage pens.  Can you imagine Numismatists (coin collectors) having such a discussion?  One can just picture Joe Coin Collector considering the subject... "Hmmm. User or Collector, you ask?  Well. I suppose i am a bit of both. I mean... i collect coins- i just bought a proof 1895 Silver Dollar for $15,000-  but also i am a User of those coins, so i spent that cartwheel for a half cup of Starbuck's Coffee. Yes, i am a User and a Collector, a well rounded hobbyist" . Indeed, an unlikely perspective.

But, in pendom, one truly can view vintage pens as something purely to collect or as something purely utilitarian, though most hobbyist do integrate elements of both perspectives.  Vintage pens can be accumulated (dare we say hoarded?), studied, and appreciated for history,  for aesthetics, for engineering and for rarity, but most vintage pens also can be written with on a regular basis without harm to value. Many other collectables hobbies do not allow for routine use of the hoarded item.  Still,  the division within Pendom between Collector and user bears examination.

The Collector

To tease apart Collector from User we might start with the dictionary. But the dictionary might be of little help.

To the degree that dictionaries address "collector" in the hobby sense at all, they tend to be a bit circular with definitions that boil down to, "Collector: one who collects thing". Yay. No help there.

Upping the ante, we can look further. 2 dictionary definitions, then, for "collect" include:

         1. To bring together in a group or mass; gather.
         2. To accumulate as a hobby or for study.

Most collectors see themselves as more than simple hoarders. Clearly, the hobby approach to collecting focuses on accumulation "as a hobby or for study". 

Let us call Pen Collecting, then, "The accumulation and study of  pens  in a goal-oriented fashion".

Pen Collectors desire to have an accumulation of pens, to have some sense of why they want those particular pens (not simple hoarding, though collecting can get close), and to know about the pens they accumulate. Directed hoarding and some degree of curiosity about the hoarded object itself seems to be present in the hobby-jargon interpretation of "collector".

In the hobby sense, a collector is not a simple hoarder, even though hoarding meets dictionary criteria. The goal might be very general- "i like blue pens"- or it might be academic, advanced and specific- " i hope to write a treatise on all the different fiiller mechanisms found amongst the big-4 companies from 1910-20". The key is to have a goal. Sometimes, the collector is not yet fully aware of his goals; certainly such goals can evolve, too.

The User

Pure "users" -if such things can even exist within vintage pendom- might better be described as scribes, calligraphers and the like.  For them, the whole thing isn't about the pens, it's about writing.  Still  why quibble?  If this cohort wishes to see itself as "users within vintage pendom" rather than as scribes, etc, well...  the tent of Pendom is large enough to accomodate them. This brings us back to our original theme regarding the breadth of involvement that pendom, unlike some other hobbies, offers its members.

The true and pure User does not care about the history, cachet, or aesthetics of the pens- he wants things that write a certain way. If the User overlaps vintage pendom at all- as opposed to being happy with modern calligraphy tools, quills and the like- it is because the perceives certain nib types being unavailable in the modern arena- high flex nibs coming to mind. He doesn't really care about the pen holder that surrounds the writing point.  He finds happiness if discovering an unusually smooth flexible nib, not in finding a rare variant of a particular pen model.

Mixed Recipe

As with most things, the vast majority of real live humans who opt to play with old pens have mixed motivations- a pinch of collector and a dash of user.  The recipe for each collector varies.  Let us allow a minor violation of pure User-hood (what's pure in this world, anyway) to let the User at least enjoy the aesthetics of pendom- meaning his goal is still just to write in a way which pleases him,  but we  will broaden the definition just enough to allow him to at least want an old and pretty tool with which do do so. We won't corrupt his pure User status or call him Collector   just because he wants a pretty old pen or two to hold his pen points.

Even so, many who view themselves as Users still want to have...oh... a pen by Parker and a pen by Sheaffer etc- thus manifesting at least a bit of the Collecting gene. I have doubts that anyone lurking in the world of vintage pendom is a pure User,  though clearly many in pendom have a strong tilt toward the User end of the spectrum.

Similarly, even hard core collectors who normally care little or nil about the nib found on the "rare Sheaffer OS with Solid Gold Trim just found at the antique mall", will often enjoy writing with their old pens or be charmed by finding one with an unusual point. Thus, few collectors of old pens are not users too, at least to a small degree.

Indeed, as the reader likely suspected all along-  shades-of-gray, gradiants of motivation, and spectra of interest can be found in vintage pendom.

Most hobbyists in pendom will lean toward one end of this spectrum.  Some pensters will pay for a great nib with less worry as to how it is housed. Others seek the rare and desirable pen wth little interest as to how it writes. It is this which is the key difference in whether the hobbyist sees himself primarily as User or as Collector, but in truth  most of us share both interests, at least to some degree.

There. Did that help?

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