Frequently-asked questions about this site

I've had this site up for well over a year now, and I regularly get questions from visitors. I try to answer them as best I can, and as quickly as I can. Feel free to contact me at if you have a question, but check this page first to see if your answer isn't already here.

Q: How long has this site been up?

A: Since November, 1996, with three major revisions and numerous minor additions and changes. There are now about 6-8MB of text and graphics. Check the foot of the home page for a current visitor count.

Q: Why did you put together this site?

A: (1) Because I enjoy fountain pens. (2) Because I enjoy sharing information I've learned, and making contacts with people who share my interests. (3) Because I'm a frustrated author. (4) Because I like to dink around with computers.

Q: Do you do professional web design?

A: At this point, this is all strictly a hobby with me, since I am employed full-time and work on the site on weekends and evenings. However, if you have an interesting project, contact me and we can discuss the matter.

Q: What does "penoply" mean?

A: Many people misspell the name of this site as "penopoly", which I think might also be an apt name. However, I conceived of the name as a play on the word "panoply" (see my "about" page).

Q: How do you do the photographs?

A: Being lazy, and basically inept with a camera, I put the pens right on a flatbed scanner and scan them at 72dpi resolution. The scanner also permits me to get pretty good magnification of details. I've prepared a comprehensive page describing this technique, which you may like to read if you are doing your own website or other electronic documentation. I have gotten some advice on photographing pens with a camera, someday I may give this a try.

Q: Do you sell pens? Can you send me a catalog?

A: Not really, and no. I am not a retailer. I haven't even progressed to the stage in my collecting that I sell many of the pens I acquire, although lots of people do this as a way to de-clutter their collections and raise money for more purchases. If you'd like to purchase a vintage pen, I'd refer you to the dealers and collectors listed on my links page. If you are interested in new pens, look for the Yahoo searches on my links page.

Q: I have a [fill in detailed description of pen]. What can you tell me about it?

A: What do you want to know?

Q: Okay, smartass, how much is it worth?

A: This is a very frequently asked question. I asked it a lot when I started to collect, but like most folks who've been in the hobby awhile, I tend to ask it less as time goes by. Once one begins to appreciate the finer points (ahem) of the fountain pen, market value begins to assume a less important role in one's thinking.

To get to the point, however: A vintage pen, like any collectible item (or any saleable item, for that matter) is worth the higher of two values: the most that the buyer is willing to pay, and the least that the seller is willing to take for it. So, prices are highly situational, depending upon who is selling, who buying, and where & when the transaction takes place.

That said, there is enough traffic in vintage pens for some more-or-less standard prices to have been established for the more commonly-traded pens (such as those featured on this site). Still, these prices usually apply to mint condition pens, and any scratches, cracks, worn parts, or non-trivial defects will reduce them sharply. Most folks who don't habitually deal in old pens (for example, general antiques dealers) can't always spot these problems, and often ask higher prices than they really ought to get.

If you would like to see what people are paying for pens, one excellent online source of information is the eBay WWW auction site, a sort of internet flea market for all kinds of junk (including old pens); you can search listings of previous sales by keyword ("fountain pen", "parker", etc.). Many people consider eBay to be a seller's market, since the prices often seem to run a bit high (some people have actually bid and paid more than three times list price (!!) for new pens that have appeared on eBay). Also, you are often dealing with non-collecting sellers who do not always give full and accurate descriptions of what they're selling (what was that about 'caveat emptor'?).

Q: If I send you this pen, can you appraise it?

A: I am not an expert appraiser by any means, and I'd really rather not have you send anything to me, since there are too many ways for it to get lost or damaged on the trip.

Q: Where can I have my pen repaired?

A: Chuck Swisher, an accomplished penmaker in his own right, maintains a list of pen repair resources on his website. For an older pen, your best bet is to seek out one of the hobbyists or dealers who specialize in repairs, since the factory (even if it still exists) often cannot help.

Q: Where can I buy a [fill in name of pen]?

A: Try the dealers and collectors listed on my links page. Many of them maintain online lists of pens for sale.

Q: Can you tell me how to contact [fill in name of pen manufacturer]?

A: Few of the major pen companies have a web presence at this time (those that I know are listed on my links page). There's an excellent list of contact info (addresses and phone numbers) for the major U.S. pen makers and importers on Bruce Harrison's website.

This file last posted on:
2005-Jan-20 17:50:26 CST
MCMVIII, the red network