What's It Worth? Aggressive Offer + Patience = Last Laugh
In 1992, a local dealer bought a group of pens at an Orlando auction for $50. He called me because other dealers were offering him $5,000 for one of them; he was anxious to sell but wanted to know the “real” value. I told him I would beat any offer; later he claimed the offer had risen to $10,000 from a New York buyer. Although I couldn’t see it in person, the description sounded intriguing. Since we are aggressive buyers, I offered him $11,000. I bought this odd Waterman snake pen and the “pen fanciers” went crazy. Pen World magazine featured it and the Wall Street Journal did a long article about it entitled “The King of Pens Found in Florida.”
Sadly, I was stuck with it because, out of jealousy, the New York dealer I outbid spread the word that the pen was ugly. After four years, I sent the pen to Bonhams Auction in London, where the New York dealer had much less influence, and I was able to sell the pen there for nearly $40,000. Legend has it that this Waterman three-snake pen with emeralds is the only one in existence. The Aztec (D.), I bought at a local pawn shop for $7,000; it sold for $10,000. I acquired the Forgot Me Not (E.) from a Bogotá antique dealer for $5,000. Keep in mind that most vintage fountain pens sell for $10-$500, and the market is quite soft right now. We are still buying pre-1940s fountain pens, working or not; and modern pen collections, too. Inkwells, blotters and writing instruments of all kinds have interest.
A. The more-common Parker snake pen – $3,000-$15,000.
B. The Waterman three-snake pen, ‘The King of Pens’ – $40,000.
C. Parker Mandarin yellow pen – $200-$1,000 (similar orange/red models bring $50 and up).
D. Parker Aztec pen – $5,000-$25,000; It is rare because most were destroyed by Parker when people mistook the Indian good luck symbol of rolling logs for a swastika.
E. Forget-Me-Not diamond-encrusted pen. Sold 28 years ago for $20,000.
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