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About this site

Penspotters is what I like to think of as a "field guide" to the world of fountain pens. It's designed to assist fountain pen users and collectors (particularly beginners) with information about fountain pens (and related topics). This site may. with any luck, help you answer questions like the following:

  • How do I fill, clean, troubleshoot, or repair a fountain pen?
  • How does my pen work?
  • What's the history and technology behind fountain pens?
  • How do I select a new fountain pen?
  • How can I find vintage fountain pens?
  • I am thinking of buying a (fill-in-the-brand) pen and want to know what other people think of theirs.
  • I saw a pen for sale (on eBay, in an antique shop, etc.) and would like to know whether it might be a good buy.
  • I received a fountain pen from a friend, relative, etc. and want to know more about it.

Penspotters is the successor to my very successful site Penoply (more about the name change below), which has been honored with visits from hundreds of thousands of folks like yourself since I first got it on its feet back in 1996; I hope that this new site will continue to provide the information and commentary you like, with much more new and updated material.

Why did you change the name?

Partly because I wanted to refocus just a bit on the notion of a field spotters' guide, but also because another operation took a very similar name ('Penopoly') a few years back, and I don't want to contribute to any confusion on the topic. Roger Cromwell and Victor Chen, the proprietors of http://www.penopoly.com/, have worked miracles in the repair and restoration of many vintage pens, and are tireless in sharing their knowledge and experience with others. So, I'll get out of the way and let 'em have the name.

Since Penoply (my old site) has already built up a lot of presence in the search engines, I'm running a bit of a risk by dropping the old name. However, I have one or two tricks up my sleeve that may limit the damage.

What happened to the (fill-in-your-favorite) page?

I had a lot of new material that I wanted to put on the new site, and my hosting space is somewhat limited. I also wanted to spiff up the general quality of images and text layout. Therefore, some of your favorite pages may have dropped from the site. If you are particularly anxious to see a page from Penoply that isn't here, just let me know and I'll see what I can do.

Do you sell pens? What are your prices? Can I get your catalogue?

I get a lot of such inquiries (and some are not from credit card scammers), and I must confess that they rankle me just a bit. <rant>The World Wide Web was created as a medium for free exchange of information ('free,' as the open-source software folks say, as in both 'free beer' and 'free speech'), but has developed into a sort of vast virtual shopping mall, and everyone assumes that every website must be trying to sell something.</rant>

I am not a merchant, merely a collector. The purpose of this site remains, as always, simply to provide free information and a way to while away some surfing time. Therefore, I don't have a formal catalogue or price list. I may, from time to time, make some pens or related items from my collection available for sale; check my catalogue page for further details.

Can you tell me how much my pen is worth?

The short answer is, probably not. The longer answer, with some tips for your own research, can be found here.

Can I ask you a question?

Yes. I'll be happy to try to answer your question if you e-mail me. Since I maintain this site as a hobby, please be aware that I may not always be able to respond right away, but I will endeavor to do so. Be aware that some ISP's "challenge/response" anti-spam filters may reject my response (which will probably come from an address unfamiliar to you), so if you fail to hear from me, this may be the reason (I don't like to respond to challenge messages, as I have become quite obsessive and paranoid about spam).

If you, too, are bothered by spam, and want to find out what do about it besides using ineffective filters and insulting challenge/response schemes, you might like to peruse my spam digest website also on this domain:

Oh, and before you write, please check through the site (perhaps using the new search feature) to see if I haven't already answered your question somewhere.

What about you?

I'm a licensed professional engineer living near Washington, D.C. I work in the surface transportation industry, and have participated in system integration, software development, and first-tier maintenance for numerous subway, light rail, and freight rail projects.

My interest in fountain pens began when I found an old brown Esterbrook J in my parents' dining room hutch, and managed to clobber it almost immediately (good thing they're still pretty common -- the Esties, I mean, not my parents -- so I don't feel so guilty). Later, in high school, I had one teacher who proudly flourished an "adjustable" Parker 75, and another who did italic writing with leaky old Osmirioid pens. In college, I made it a habit to buy one or two nice pens every semester (or, at least, as nice as I could afford back then), and found that a good fountain pen improved my handwriting, as well as making note-taking less of a chore. You can see one of my earliest high-school pens here.

Later, after I had a small collection of pens that I'd bought new, I wondered whether it might be possible to find some old "vintage" pens. I was just starting to use the Internet then, and found to my delight that even in those early days there was a dedicated cadre of collectors on the web, and it was from one such collector that I purchased my first vintage pens (you can see them here and here).

I've learned a lot from these more experienced collectors, and as a way of payback I decided to post my original Penoply site back in 1996. Penspotters is the successor to this site, which garnered hundreds of thousands of hits since its inception (and was even briefly honored as a "site of the day" on MSN). I hope the new site will continue to be of interest and service to pen collectors.