In the late 1990’s I started writing almost exclusively with fountain pens. At some point you could say it became an obsession. It began when I bought my wife a fountain pen. (it was on the list of ‘gift’ items she wanted) I then located my father’s old pens given to me by mom after he died. Something about the feel of the nib on paper and the ease at which the ink flowed was…comforting. As someone who enjoys flea-markets and antiques shops, the opportunity for buying older used pens presented itself and my collection grew into the dozens. One model in particular, the Parker ’51’, became my favorite and I was able to locate a handful of usable versions. Originally designed and introduced in 1941 and produced until the early 1970’s, many pen fanatics will tell you the ’51’ was the best fountain pen ever made. Most pens were considered essential tools decades ago and though not “cheap” (a new ’51’ was $10-$20 at the time – ~$140 today adjusted for inflation? ), many working class households had a least one. I will admit paying $69 for a 1951 model (they contain a manufacturing date code) that has turned out to be my favorite but I also have some that I paid as little as $2 which work just as well.(love those flea-market prices)
So yesterday, killing time before a customer appointment, I walked into Charlotte’s Southpark mall and visited a shop selling new pens. In one display case I spotted a familiar shape. Parker has re-released the ’51’ but the surprise came as I read the price tag- $350! Besides people with strange habits like myself, who buys fountain pens these days? (probably the same folks who drive the most expensive luxury cars knowing that $350 is nothing compared to some pens I’ve seen) Sure, the new model has more gold features than any of my pens but knowing how well my 50+ year old versions still work and how little I have invested the question I have is; When did something once considered so utilitarian become a luxury item?