July 2006: The Joy Of Junk III

Extra Fine Points Index  ]


BY DON FLUCKINGER • Flea markets, antique shops, and even pen-show dealer cigar boxes are loaded with combo pens — fountain pens with pencils built into one end, many of them with cheap or non-existent marques but a few with some familiar names like Waterman’s or Sheaffer’s.

Collectors abhor them, which means they’re sold for pennies on the dollar of their more collectible counterparts.

If you find one that satisfies your needs and has a funky nib (like my factory stub), don’t be afraid to buy it for the short money the seller’s asking and shovel some more into refurbishing it. Extra Fine Points

That’s where I come in, to point out that — if, like me you don’t have little stacks of $100 bills waiting to be burned on all the Dorics, Duofolds, and Hundred Year Pens you see — you actually can have some fun with these writing instruments for relatively short money.

But which ones are worth trying out? I hoped to answer those questions by sampling four combos: I picked a trio from a shoebox full of combos in Richard’s studio, an Arnold, a no-name, a Wearever, and a jade-green Radite Sheaffer Balance. I added in the one combo from my collection, a Wearever that formerly belonged to Frank Dubiel.

What I found:

Trying these out was a lot of fun, and I can honestly testify that there’s joy in this junk. Having used these, I have some advice:

If you find one that satisfies your needs and has a funky nib (like my factory stub), don’t be afraid to buy it for the short money the seller’s asking and shovel some more into refurbishing it. Imagine having a pen of which you like the looks and performance … and it’s not such a priceless gem that you can’t take it with you everywhere you go and write with it.

Wow. That would be something, wouldn’t it? I liked my foray into “junk combos,” and I encourage you to check them out for yourself. I would definitely, however, stay away from the Arnolds. Other than that, follow your heart.


cover Further Reading: The Pencil : A History of Design and Circumstance, by Henry Petroski

If your collector library’s a little “un-lead-ed,” get yourself a copy of this reference on “that other writing instrument.”

Freelance writer Don Fluckinger lives in Nashua, New Hampshire, and is the son-in-law of Richard Binder. His articles have been published in Antiques Roadshow Insider, The Boston Globe, and on the Biddersedge.com collectibles Web site. Please note: Any opinions stated in this column are Don’s alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Richard Binder or this Web site. Don Fluckinger
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