A Crash Course in Luxury Pen Collecting

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At the scale of the human hand, a pen's value is all in its details.

This October Sotheby’s is offering more than 150 writing instruments in Luxury Pens Online: A Capsule Collection (21–30 October). With many lots at no reserve and accessible price points, this category is great for new collectors, as well as those who have long collected pens. Not to mention that as The New York TimesWashington Post and Telegraphwrote, despite constant advancements and buzz in the digital world, handwriting is back and surging thanks to millennials. Ahead, view fundamental points for collecting, discover the top brands and don’t forget to brush up on your penmanship!

1.There are three kinds of pens: fountain, rollerball and ballpoint, with fountain typically being most valuable, followed by rollerball. A reason for this hierarchy is that fountain pens tend to be made with gold nibs with ink rather than the metal-plated tips and cartridges the latter two categories contain.

2.Like watches, pens’ value can also be attributed to completeness in terms of coming with presentation boxes and certificates of authenticity. Sometimes pens also are accompanied by their original ink bottles.

3.In terms of craftsmanship, technology and desirability, Montblanc is the Patek Philippe or Rolex of pens.

4.Beginning in 1992, Montblanc debuted a limited-edition series of writing instruments, called the Writers Edition, inspired by great authors. Examples in Sotheby’s auction include F. Scott Fitzgerald,Thomas Mann,Carlo Collodi,Agatha Christie and George Bernard Shaw.

5.Another limited-edition Montblanc series that began in 1992 is its Patron of Art, a tribute to the most important patrons of art and culture in the past centuries. Some figures who have inspired writing instruments in this collection are Gaius MaecenasOctavian Augustus and Alexander the Great, all of which Sotheby's has on offer.

6.Namiki is a well-established Japanese pen company that is known for its maki-e lacquered designs. These pens are specially hand painted by a single artisan and typically feature designs from nature (cherry blossoms, for example) or animals (goldfishpandadragon and bald eagle). The process can take several months to complete, making each individual pen a unique work of art.

7.Like Montblanc, Montegrappa is also known for its homages to cultural icons. Sotheby’s sale features an example from the Icons series (Frank Sinatra), as well as the Genio Creativo collection (Amedeo Modigliani).

8.Many fine jewelry and watch companies also produce pens meant to complement their accessories. Cartier is a wonderful example – its pens feature the same luxurious materials, iconic motifs (think Panthère spots) and bejeweled touches collectors of the house will know and love.

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