10.19.2015

What is My Pen Worth? Part 3 - Determining Value

This is Part 3 in our series "What's My Pen Worth," where we discuss the details of how to evaluate and successfully sell older writing instruments for their maximum value. In Part one, we show how to accurately identify the writing instrument. Part two gives a checklist for describing the condition of the item.

For this last part, you should have noted the following about your pen :

  • The brand, model, approximate year of manufacture and country of manufacture.
  • Whether the pen actually writes and/or can be filled using the filling mechanism.
  • If a fountain pen, the nib size, material and gold content (if applicable).
  • The cosmetic condition of the pen, noting and photographing any scratches, dings, dents, engravings etc.
  • Whether it has the original box and paperwork.

Next, we are looking to get an understanding about the market value of the pen in order to accurately value the piece in your possession.

BONUS - Find out where to sell your pens at the end of this article.

The internet is an amazing tool for figuring out the going price of virtually anything that is sold. Gone are the days of the collectors reference books, blue books or any other printed price guides that assign dollar values to particular collectibles. Not only is that information dated as soon as the ink dries on the paper, it also doesn't take into account the wild bonanza that is the internet marketplace.

You're online reading this article, so you may as well pull up another browser tab or window to get started with your pricing research. Since we know the make & model details from part one, get started by searching the full name of your pen on Google, making sure to include the mode of the pen as well. For example :



"Parker Vacumatic Blue Azure Pearl Major Fountain Pen"

[Manufacturer] + [Model] + [Style / Color] + [Mode]

The point to Googling is to find current or completed listings on eBay, retail websites, or discussion board forum posts that match your pen.

Your query should be as descriptive as possible to start. However, if your search is coming up short on listings, then you should eliminate the additional key words to get a more general result.

eBay will most likely be your most helpful tool in this research, as this will be the most richest resource of older, antique items that are being sold by folks just like yourself. Two other specific sites to look at would be Fountain Pen Network's classifieds and the Pen Swap subreddit.



eBay power seller tip : use Completed Listings filter. Just searching an item on eBay will return all the active auctions, showing you starting bids and items that are way overpriced and will not sell. See what items have sold and their final sell price by check-marking the Show only : Completed Listings filter in the search menu options. Your query will then only show the listings that have been successfully sold and for what value they were sold for.

It is important to note the conditions of the items that are listed. Are they similar to your pen? Are they working or for parts? Are they being shipped from outside of the US or locally? Before getting excited that your pen may be worth hundreds or thousands of dollars, read the description of the auction listing to see if is being sold with the original box or if there was anything special about the item that differs from yours.


Price within the Neighborhood

Consider this process like an appraisal for a house. An appraiser heavily weighs the recent sale values in your particular neighborhood to determine the value of your entire property. The condition of the house itself matters significantly, but you need to understand the price "neighborhood" first and foremost.

Even if you find only one listing for a pen that is similar to yours, it would still be possible to gauge an appropriate value for your pen. Consider the condition value scale we diagrammed in Part 2 :

Brand new, in box with original papers - $$$$$
Like new, recently restored, gently used - $$$$
Used, working, with some cosmetic issues - $$$
Not-working, dings, dents, but all pieces intact - $$
Broken, for parts - $

Hypothetically, lets say the pen you have is in good condition and writes well. If the listing you had found is missing a clip and doesn't write, but still sold for $30, you could easily price your pen in the $80 range since it is higher in the condition value scale.

If you're lucky enough to have a pen that is brand new in box or hardly used, you're always going to be looking at the top-end of the price spectrum.  It is rare for pens that are 20 + years old to be brand new, with original box and paperwork. However, this doesn't mean that you should value your pen 4 or 5 times higher than a gently used version. It still needs to be within the same ballpark.

When there are multiple auctions or completed listings that are in varying conditions, it is easier to determine the value. If there are several pens listed with the same condition as yours, simply take an average of the auctions to get your approximate dollar value.


BONUS : Where to Sell your Pens

Now that you're armed with all the information you need about your vintage pen(s), you may decide to liquidate their value for some cold, hard cash. If you followed the instructions in this article to find the market value for the pen, you should have all the details you need to successfully find a buyer for your pens.

Option 1 : eBay
eBay is one of the largest websites that deal antiques and collectibles. This is a great place to start to find a market value for your pens, and you should be able to find a buyer just as easily and get a good value for your pens. You can easily add images, write a description (using your notes accumulated during your research) and price your item with shipping costs.

Pros : Large audience of buyers. Great visibility on Google. User ratings and eBay dispute system.
Cons : You're giving roughly 15% of your sale to eBay and Paypal in fees.

Option 2 : Private Classifieds
Listing on a forum like Fountain Pen Network or Craigslist usually comes without any fees, but you have to have faith that the other person you are dealing with isn't going to scam you. Take extra precaution, because the anonymity of the internet is at play in these instances since particular users do not have any reputations to uphold (like eBay feedback) and there is no dispute system to handle transactions gone awry.

Pros : Direct sale gets cold, hard cash without any transaction or commission fees. Listing on a pen-related discussion forum can attract many interested buyers.
Cons : No reputation management or dispute resolution.

Option 3 : Retailer / Reseller
Certain pen companies, like Fountain Pen Hospital, deal in vintage pens as well as modern pens. You would contact them directly, send information regarding all the pens you have to offer, and they would give you a quote on what they would pay for your pens. If you have a number of pens to offload in a fairly short amount of time, this may be an ideal option if you don't have the time to individually list them.

Pros : Quick and straightforward sale. Work directly with a reputable company. Good option if you have a lot of pens that need to be sold in a short timeframe.
Cons : The company needs to make a profit on your sale and you may end up getting 50% or less of the market value of your pens.

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We hope you found our three-part series on "What is My Pen Worth" informative and useful in determining the value of your pen collection. If you have additional questions or other recommendations to help other pen enthusiasts, please feel free to comment below.

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Disclaimer : Although I'd love to help every one of you that are trying to do your own detective work, there's not enough time in the day and we're not official appraisers of pens, nor do we purchase our inventory from private sellers.



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