October 2011: Yeah, We’re All Tree-Huggers

Extra Fine Points Index  ]


BY DON FLUCKINGER • There I was in the upstairs bathroom at my house minding my own business, getting dressed for work, and a little pull-quote jumped off the page to which my wife Kate had left open the September issue of Shape. Can’t run down the basis for this stat, but I’m guessing that’s worldwide:

100 million: Number of pens discarded each day. Extra Fine Points

To put some stuff on to the good side of the karmic ledger, or to at least stave off dumpster-filling, the magazine points readers to Seltzer Goods’ Seven Year Pen instead of garden-variety ballpoints, which on the surface sounds like a good idea.

Ballpoint pen

Check it out. To wit:

I’m sure it’s a good pen. As for the high design? After perusing the selection I’ll take their word for it, I guess.

But Shape’s editors missed a golden opportunity in not suggesting fountain pens as the true environmentally conscious alternative to ballpoints. Come on!

First of all, I’m pretty sure these Seltzer pens don’t take refills; at least the site doesn’t indicate it. So what are you going to do after seven years? Chuck it toward the landfill, that’s what.

Fountain pens — and I know, I’m preaching to the choir here — at least the ones filled via bottles, create much less waste.

And let’s talk a bit about design values: Design is in the eye of the beholder, and whatever you like, we got it. Antiques from snake pens through to classic Art Deco and postwar modern writing instruments, 1960s kitsch, industrial 1970s, and everything in between can be found among the ranks of fountain pens.

In fact, there’s such a wide range from which to choose, you could get vintage or modern pens echoing most of those designs.

Fountain pen
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
Fountain pen

A hundred million pens. Every day. Man, what kind of a pile would that make? I’m pretty sure my back yard couldn’t house it. Every day!

Back to Seltzer: If you check out their About Us page, you’ll see that they’re all about the environment, down to stationery paper printed only with veggie inks. Well, they should put their money where their 800-square-foot Brooklyn Pencil Factory mouth is, and start carrying some fountain pens.

Because, after all, fountain pens — and their users — got it all over the Seltzer Pen user when it comes to saving the earth. When was the last time one of your Vacumatics made its way to the landfill? Or a Doric? A “51”? Or even a Targa? Ha!

For all the political issues fountain pen users will probably disagree on in this fractious age of debate — be they American or our friends hailing from around the globe — we’re all tree-hugging environmentalists compared to people who don’t write with fountain pens.

The Seltzer people might come after us on the topic of disposable ink cartridges, but I’m guessing that a lot of pen people are like me: too cheap to buy many of those, preferring instead to gas up our writing instruments straight from the bottle. We end up “recycling” more vintage pens that way, if we’re not throwing too much coin away on those blasted cartridges.

Anyway, you get the point. It’s one of the things we can feel good about as we indulge our fountain pen fetish. Carry on, write lots.


[After experimenting with the pen that we bought, we’ve discovered that although Seltzer doesn’t mention this, it accommodates standard Parker ballpoint refills, whose life might or might not be as long as Seltzer claims for the Seven Year Pen. — Richard]


cover Further Reading: Jotter: History of an Icon, by David Shepherd, Graham Hogg, Dan Zazove, and Geoffrey Parker
 
Ballpoint pens flooded the market right after World War. They weren’t very good, but there were a lot of them. They got better, a little, but it wasn’t until 1954, when the incom­par­able Parker Jotter hit the shops, that ballpoints came irrevocably into their own. Read the whole fascinating story here.

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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