PenInHand - Musings on the Hobby

What's In A Name, Or An Engraving?

by Jim Mamoulides, March 15, 2002

The Richard Castle Sheaffer Touchdown Sentinel Set

If you look around at enough vintage pens and compare prices, you might notice that there are a number of vintage pens available that have been engraved and that they generally sell for less than similar models in the same condition. Often you will see engravings listed as if they were a defect of some sort. In some cases this is indeed true, but in many cases a really nice engraving job actually makes the pen more interesting.

If you look closely, you will notice that most pens make room for engraving. On metal pens there are often distinct indicia set aside as if to ask, "Please write something nice here." The indicia can be as simple as a blank spot, noticeable in that any pattern on the pen is interrupted at a specific place and then continues. Some have distinct borders, and in some rare cases, very elaborate border art, as on the Sheaffer Honor Masterpiece pens, or on very early eyedroppers with precious metal overlays.

I hope J. W. Culley of Hobart enjoyed this black Conklin Endura Symetrick

Like a number of collectors, I initially turned away from engraved pens thinking, "Why would I want something that had someone else's name on it. I also tended to view these pens as something less than near mint, regardless of condition, much as a child would view a coloring book that had already been colored in.

After going on a search for my Dad to find a pencil to match his father's Parker 51, I started to notice a lot of the pens offered had been engraved. I realized that these were, for the most part given as gifts, so the name was very important to both the giver and the recipient.

Richard Castle's Sheaffer Touchdown Sentinel Set

Imagine Richard H. Castle's son proudly giving him this beautiful Sheaffer Sentinel set. How was that set used? Did it find a place of honor on his father's desk? Did he think of his son every time he picked it up to do mundane jobs such as writing checks or taking notes?

Engraving can take many forms. The Richard Castle pen set appears to be imprinted and painted in. This is not unusual on plastic pens. On many early pens the engraving was done by hand and was an art in itself, and in my opinion actually enhances the pen.

Alex McNab Was Given a Really Nice Sheaffer Autograph TM pen

This Sheaffer Statesman Autograph TM Snorkel pen has all 14 karat gold trim, and in particular a much wider band, which allowed for a very large and hand done signature engraving. Hal Arnold sent me this pen to evaluate. I bought it.

An Example of a Nice Script Engraving on a Sheaffer Fashion rollerball pen

One tends to see machine or imprint engraving on modern pens, such as this Sheaffer Fashion stainless steel rollerball, but even so, a very nice script engraving can look very good, and I'm sure made the pen a treasure.

When Bad Things Happen to Good Pens: Parker 61 Solid Gold Waterdrop With Buffed Out Indicia

Engravings are usually quite a bother to remove, and often leave the pen permanently scarred. In my opinion, this is a true defect. This solid gold Parker 61 Waterdrop pen is breathtakingly beautiful. I have a real soft spot for 61s anyway, but the solid gold pens are among my very favorites of all pens. This example is a case where someone decided to have the engraving removed from the rather small indicia on the barrel. To do this risked the pattern being damaged, which did happen, leaving an oval spot that bleeds into the Waterdrop pattern. The good news is that it isn't overly noticeable. The bad news is that it was done at all. Did the pen get engraved with a profane name? Hitler's cousin? An unfortunate misspelling? Who knows?

Hal Arnold wrote a wonderful piece speculating on the story behind an engraving on a pen that is very touching. It might make you reconsider that engraved pen you looked at last time and make the lower price look more like a bargain than the discount for a defect.

Here are two links to the article by Hal Arnold:

This one is from Bruce Marshall's page, with some background:
Nellie, Clare, and the Special Pen

This one is on the PenTrace Site:
Nellie, Clare, and the Special Pen

Take a minute to enjoy reading this creative and warm story.

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