September 2008: Targa Mania! (Part 3 of 3)

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BY DON FLUCKINGER • The last couple months, we’ve been doing the Extra Fine equivalent of sitting around at the corner pub talking Targas with Sheffield, England, pen dealer Gary Ellison, who maintains SheafferTarga.com.

This month, we conclude the discussion by asking Ellison — as well as American Bill Sexauer — advice on collecting Targas. Anyone who’s ever had a Targa question on Fountain Pen Network has probably encountered Sexauer. His typically thorough and friendly answers define what makes this pen-collecting hobby a fun place to hang out and escape from one’s worldly worries.

[All of the photos in this month’s article were provided by Bill Sexauer — thank you, Bill!]

Targas are nearly bulletproof for buying and selling on eBay, because there are fewer things that can go wrong with the pen — or defects that can be hidden with pictures — than with more fragile vintage rubber or plastic fountain pens. Extra Fine Points

He happens to be a manic Targa collector.

“The pen that started me on the road to ruin called pen collecting [was] my Dad’s model 1002 Matte Black Targa,” Sexauer says. “As he got older, I had to take over his bookkeeping for him; I used his Targa which was always filled with his favorite color, Skrip Emerald Green… I [later] inherited the Targa, which by this time was completely glossy, no trace of the matte texture remains. But, it’s still completely black, nowhere has the finish completely worn through. I still use it to this day.”

The worn black-and-chrome Targa that got the party started for Sexauer.

I myself got similarly sucked in: My brother-in-law John introduced me to Targas. He’s not a collector, just someone who bought a couple back in the day and uses them, for real, to this day.

Fountain pen

1005 Gold Fluted is a common model with which many Targa collectors get their start.

Sexauer points out that the Targa design makes it “nearly bulletproof” for buying and selling on eBay, because there are fewer things that can go wrong with the pen — or defects that can be hidden with pictures — than with more fragile vintage pens. Outside the very occasional inner-cap issues or possible leaky nibs, few things can go wrong. Bent clips and dings/dents in the cap and barrel are bad news, as well as bent nib tines. Some of these are repairable, but don’t count on it.

1055 Matte Gray is interesting to some collectors, but ranks among Sexauer’s least favorite.

His main piece of advice is to observe selling prices and read up on what’s rare vs. what’s common in the Targa universe before putting one’s hard-earned cash on the line. An errant assumption a newbie might make is that metal Targas are generally more valuable than lacquer finishes — while the truth is that some are, and some aren’t. Sure, solid gold is solid gold, especially in this economy. But 23K plate gold-fluted Targas can sell for one-fifth the price of rare lacquer finishes, and that’s not even counting the short-run lacque Targas of the 1980s created for Harrod’s that most collectors only get to see pictured in books.

“Get to know the market so that you don’t overpay for the less valuable items, and [so] that you aren’t disappointed that you lose when bidding on the scarcer items,” Sexauer says.

Fountain pen

1085 Amber Moire: Like the Eversharp Skylines, Targas come in Moire patterns that attract some collectors.

What happens after the casual Targa buy turns into a collecting jones? Ellison — he of the 268 different Targa fountain pens and an additional 175 ballpoints (“mostly prototype finishes” on the ballpoints, he says) — advises zeroing in on new old stock pens, which are still plentiful on the market and sometimes don’t even cost more than Targas that have been inked and used.

“The most important thing when purchasing a Targa pen is condition,” Ellison says. “I always try to buy mint new old stock unless it’s a really rare finish. This is especially true when buying a lacque pen.”

Fountain pens

1083 Lacque Black Spiral is a favorite of both Ellison and Sexauer.

For starters, Sexauer says the models that are out there in quantity and still can be had $25–$100 include 1000 Bright Chrome (steel nib), 1001 Brushed Stainless or Brushed Chrome (may have either steel or 14K nib), 1002 Matte Black with Chrome Trim and steel nib, and 1003 Matte Black with Gold Trim and 14K nib.

Common Targas

As it goes with buying pens in general on eBay, he adds that if there are any doubts about a pen on which you’re thinking of bidding, ask the seller questions. While some questionable sellers build feedback ratings with a lot of penny transactions and deliberately hide problems in the pens they’re selling, most sellers who make mistakes do so honestly. Suss out the situation before clicking that “Place Bid” button.

Fountain pen

676 Feather is another fairly common Targa that collectors love.

Of course, the danger with successful Targa collecting — scoring a few pen-show deals, winning a couple auctions on the cheap, swapping for exotic models at places like Fountain Pen Network — is that it only serves to worsen the acuity of your Targa Mania. Beware, because it can lead to madness. Or, in Ellison’s case, broadening one’s collection to include “anything Targa related… various items like desk sets, calligraphy sets, displays, pen pouches, pendants, boxes, catalogs, price lists and adverts.”

Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

July: Sheaffer Targa: The next Parker “51” for pendom

August: Best and worst Targas


cover Further Reading: Fountain Pens of the World, by Andreas Lambrou

Andreas Lambrou’s magnum opus includes an amazing array of Targa models photographed in brilliant detail. If you like Targas, you’ll love the book, semi-recently updated. Printed from new plates on better paper than before, the 2005 edition has wonderfully clear print and tremendously improved color accuracy, brilliance, and depth in the photos.

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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