Q: What can you tell me about this beautiful pen? Engraved on its point is “Aikin Lambert No. 5.”
A: As viewed in photographs sent, the reader has an Edwardian nib pen. Also called dip pens, these writing instruments came after quills and before the mechanical fountain pen.
Smart collectors know that pens and all kinds of writing equipment are a popular collecting category. All sorts of early pencils are also collected, ditto old ink containers and anything related to the vanishing art of penmanship. As we get further and further from manual writing, watch for interest in old implements to grow.
Providence, RI pen specialist David Nishimura, www.vintagepens.com , has bought, sold and traded pens of all kinds for almost 20 years. Visit his website to view sample pens of all types and ages, including several nib versions made by Aikin Lambert.
Looking over the photos, Nishimura ID’ed the reader’s pen as from the last quarter of the 19th century. Established around 1870, penmaker Aikin Lambert remained in business into the 20th century.
The reader’s pen is retractable, or telescoping. Because such pens were numerous and popular when made, many remain today. Collectors know that when quantities are available, prices drop.
Another consideration is that today’s buyers prefer old fountain pens over dip pens. It’s one of those wild cards in collecting; one would assume that older is better. But in this case, not so.
Of course, condition is important, and we have no way of assessing that from photos.
Nishimura adds that when it comes to dip pens, “much of the value lies in the nib.” That means no cracks or breaks and no loss of the tipping material. All gold nibs were plated with hard platinum type metals then called iridium. The silvery tipping is easily chipped, and that’s why nib condition is vital.
Currently, re-tipping costs over $60 and so, as he says, “buyers watch this very closely.” On www.worthpoint.com , we found an original posting for a pen like our reader’s that sold on eBay in 2008; fully one-half of the description is devoted to nib condition, down to condition of the tines and flexibility.
In another collecting wild card, Nishimura told us that “Bigger pens and nibs are worth more than smaller ones.”
“Nib sizes 1-3 are small, 4 and 5 are medium, and 7 and up are large,” he added. To complicate matters, there was no standardization, so how large is large is up for debate, plus not all No. 7s are the same size.
Value depends on condition and that all-important nib because that’s where most of the value lies. The reader’s pen with no damage could retail for $100-$200 depending on how and where sold.
Q: How can I find info and value on a collection of Austin products?
A: We’ve written about Austin sculptures before. Considered giftware, most pieces are tabletop decorative items made of ceramic or Durastone, a composite.
I suggest that our reader look for pieces similar to his on eBay. As we write this, over 700 pieces are posted there. Completed sales range from $29 to $74.