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Pen Collectors of America
Limited Edition Pen
(and other pens by Bexley)

PCA Limited Edition pen, c 2002

The Pen Collectors of America is the principal national organization for writing instrument collectors in the U.S. Membership in the PCA (for a relatively modest cost per year) gets you several fringe benefits, including a subscription to PCA's invaluable magazine, the PENnant.

A couple of years ago, PCA decided to offer a limited edition pen as a fund-raiser. The PCA being primarily composed of vintage-pen collectors, it was logical that the pen should clearly recall the pens of yesteryear. To realize the product, they turned to Bexley, a firm that has for a decade or so turned out small runs of beautiful pens modeled on those made in the first half of the 20th century. Bexley was founded by pen enthusiasts including Howard Levy and Jack Leone, who collaborated with the famous pen collector and pensmith L. Michael Fultz, along with PCA board members, in the design of this particular pen.

The Bexley-made PCA pen offers several links to the past:

  • The barrel, cap, and section are made of an attractive red/black "woodgrain" hard rubber, recalling the material used so well by Waterman during the 1920s. Two wide gold-plated "cable twist" bands are fitted on the barrel, something like the sort of trim you might have found on a higher-line pen of the period.
  • The pen's long, tapered cap is the same diameter as the barrel, and can be screwed on to either end to create the smoothly tapered profile associated with old-fashioned taper-cap eyedropper pens from the nineteen-teens and before. You can unscrew the taper and remove the washer clip (yet another bit of the past) to make your PCA pen look that much more authentic. The pen is a bit stouter than the typical antique taper-pen, but then again it has to hold more stuff inside than the old pens did.
  • Although it uses international cartridges (or a converter, which is supplied with the pen), it can also be filled with an eyedropper (which is also supplied). I haven't had the guts to try this myself, but the section is tightly-fitted and should seal well.

The pen has a smallish but very serviceable and smooth-writing two-tone 18k point made by Bock of Germany (the firm responsible for the "OEM" points on many famous brands, including Pelikan), handsomely engraved and finished (with Bexley brand markings); mine is a broad stub, but more conventional fine, medium, and broad points have also been produced; the point is on the rigid side, so the stub might be your choice if you want at least some of the appearance of shaded writing that you'd've gotten from a 1920-era pen (Bexley has been offering free point exchanges on this pen). The barrel is laser-engraved with "Pen Collectors of America 2001," and the serial number (041 in my case) is stamped on a small plated disc at the end of the barrel. The machining and finish of the hard rubber is excellent, quite probably better than you would have seen on an old Waterman even when it was new (Bexley has access to computer-aided machinery undreamt of by L.E. Waterman or his contemporaries). The smooth finish and high polish actually make this pen look like fine wood (although we collectors recognize it as hard rubber, something altogether rarer and finer).

The pen comes packed in a very attractive hinged box, with a lower compartment for papers, converter, and glass eyedropper. A total of 188 pieces will be made in the series.

The Verdict

For the PCA, Bexley has created a wonderful pen that evokes the past without expressly imitating it. The pen isn't cheap (PCA asks $325 plus shipping), but it is certainly on the low end of the scale for limited-edition pens (and is priced at about the same level as many comparable Bexley regular-producton pens). Looking at the price another way, I see from an online inflation calculator that $325 in today's money equates to about $17 in 1910; you could easily have spent that much for a pen with this level of trim back then.

Maker Bexley (for PCA)
Origin USA (Columbus, Ohio)
Production 2001
Type Cartridge, converter, or eyedropper fill
Point 18k with silvery mask.
Construction Red/black woodgrain hard rubber cap, barrel, and section; gold plated trim.

Bexley Duofold Replica

Bexley Duofold replica, #034 in this color, c 1990

On my last iteration of this website, my principal imaging device was a flatbed scanner at work that I used in off hours. The site, as I hope you may agree, has benefitted immeasurably from my use of an actual camera (a Sony DSC75, to be specific), and few pens more so than this early Bexley tribute to the Parker Duofold Senior. It is a true button filler, and many of its parts will actually interchange with an authentic Big Red; it's certainly much more accurate even than Parker's own 1980s reissue. Now, through the magic of CCD imaging, we get a better (tho' far from perfect) look at its subtle gray marble acrylic finish.

Bexley continues to offer a limited-production Deluxe model with this styling, although most of these have gone to cartridge/converter filling (rather than the historically-authentic button filler on this pen). The pen has a big and fairly flexible 14k point (of provenance unknown to me, although it looks a bit like something Aurora might have done) and an unusual hard-rubber feed, together with a "dished" hard rubber grip section with a nice roughened texture (one of the few departures from the basic Big Red shape).

The clip is a pretty pale 10k pure gold; plated discs at either end of the pen identify it with the Bexley trademark, and its serial number (#34 of 1000 in this color).

Bexley Multi-Max pencil

Bexley Multi-Max in Terracotta plastic, c 2003

Back when I was in grade school, I could barely wait for the glorious day when I would "graduate" from the traditional fat pencil to (wow!) a ballpoint pen (I just missed the end of the fountain-pen era in schools). Now, the fat pencils are back; several makers have recently started selling pencils with ultra-oversize leads, and one of the first of these was the Bexley Multi-Max.

The $60 (list price) Multi-Max is what is known as a basic "drop-lead" pencil; no automatic gizmos here, just press the button and a clutch at the front releases its grip on the graphite (which then comes sliding out of the pencil). The 5.6mm lead (more than eleven times the diameter of the typical modern mechanical pencil lead, and bigger even than the traditional 1/8" draftsman's lead) is so fat that you need to sharpen it frequently with the pocket sharpener that Bexley supplies in the Multi-Max kit (or, if you are of a more creative bent, you can just let the point wear down to a nice crayon-like shape).

Bexley Multi-Max with accessories

That kit also includes additional graphite and dayglo-colored red, green, and yellow leads (which work quite well as highlighters) as well as two ballpoint refills in special holders, which can be used in place of the lead. This apparently qualifies the Multi-Max as a "multi-mode writing instrument," although I must confess to being less than impressed by the ballpoint (but then, I seldom use the things anyway). You also give up the one-piece one-click convenience of the mechanically-fancy multipens found elsewhere; you have to tote around your little plastic box of leads and do a lot of switching around to use the different colors. In fact, you might as well carry around the cool tin box that the Multi-Max comes in, so you'll also have a place to keep the sharpener.

The Multi-Max is made in several striking plastics, including Terracotta (shown here) and a lovely Cracked-Ice finish. It's quite a bit bigger and heavier than most fountain pens, so if this is a problem for you, you can instead opt for the more compact Mini-Max, which comes with a wider assortment of colored leads and sells for $70.

Oh, yeah, bring your own eraser...the Multi-Max doesn't have one, and has no place to put one (but, being a fountain pen user, I usually never have to erase anything anyway).