June 2007: The Franken-set I’ll Never Sell

Extra Fine Points Index  ]


BY DON FLUCKINGER • I have this great Sheaffer’s set. Although, you can really only use the word “set” loosely to describe these writing instruments, sort of like some collectors might call a brushed-steel Targa a “Flighter,” even though Sheaffer manufactured and marketed no such pen it called a “Flighter.”

(Sort of like Chrysler technically never made a car it called a Pacer, but car collectors will likely refer to the PT Cruiser as a “Pacer” two decades from now.)

While some of my more fragile or valuable writing instruments stay home and safely stored away, this “set” will become my semi-regular companions. Extra Fine Points

Fountain pen This set started out as one of those eBay purchases from way back in the days when I was even more ignorant that I am now: I overspent on a set. Overspent, even had it been in the “perfect” shape the seller described it and not a Vac-Fil model that didn’t “Fil” whatsoever. With, I might add, gold-fill caps whose myriad dings mysteriously weren’t present in the seller’s auction photos.

I doubt this was ever a “set” to begin with. The ballpoint had a “1750” imprint but the pen had no number. That says to me the original owner (owners?) probably purchased them separately.

I gave up on the caps and donated them to science. Specifically, sent them to Daniel Kirchheimer to destroy, in hopes he might deconstruct the caps, see what’s inside, and develop tools and a mandrel to de-ding Sheaffer gold-fill caps for future collectors.

After three years of fruitlessly sifting through various dealers’ parts hoard for replacement gold caps, I gave up and found some non-gold caps that fit the threads. One’s a 14K Autograph cap, the other’s a garden-variety one with a gold-fill band. The pencil came from an Essex, MA, antique shop junk bin.

So, to sum up the set’s flaws that will make Sheaffer purists cringe:

Yet, the writing instruments polished up beautifully, and the set’s become a reliable everyday workhorse. Since I am unafraid to devalue it by dropping it or risking its hide in my briefcase, it will be the ambassador pen set that will showcase fountain pen collecting to my non-collecting friends and associates, who will see it in business meetings, restaurants, and at parties.

I’ll journal with it. Other people will write with the pen and immediately fall in love with the balance, weight and thickness of the pens, the smoothness of the classic vintage Triumph nib, and the gravitas of the 14K clip and band of the pen.

While some of my more fragile or valuable writing instruments stay home and safely stored away, this “set” will become my semi-regular companions. Its first big trip was in March to Arizona for Spring Training, where I journaled my thoughts and notes about the day’s events as I collect autographs and take in the spectacle, hoping to some day write a book of baseball musings someone will actually publish.

What’s the point of all this, you might ask? Pens were made to be used. In this hobby, we value pens that weren’t used, and the stickers or paper bands that came with them. Yet it’s only through using our vintage and modern pens that we learn to appreciate each one’s individual beauties, and deepen our own interest in pens and writing with them.

I’m proud to have built this Franken-set and to be toting it around. Like it or hate it, one thing’s for sure: Sets like these bring new collectors to the hobby and increase the value of everyone’s pens. How, you ask? Once a new collector “catches the bug” when someone like me hands over my pen for them to try, demand rises for the more upscale collectibles in your collection.

So rip on my ugly set all you want. To me, it’s a classic that writes just great. It should stand up to a lot of wear, I figure — with two White Dots, Sheaffer would have to guarantee the fountain pen for two lifetimes, right? You can bet this sit won’t sit idle in storage. I’m going to find out.


cover Further Reading: Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

OK, so you know what a Frankenpen is, but do you know why it’s called a Frankenpen? If you’re younger than me, this seminal horror novel might not have been on your school reading lists. Better late than never.

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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