What's It Worth? Aggressive Offer + Patience = Last Laugh

Publish Date

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.

You have seen us in Forbes Magazine, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Stop in or call 727.896.0622 for an appointment. House calls available in certain circumstances.

Stop in or call 727.896.0622 for an appointment.

Comments, questions or suggestions for this column, please send to jeffreyphess@aol.com.

Hess Fine Art - Fine Art, Auction, Watch and Antique Experts Since 1984

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