PenInHand - Musings on the Hobby

My Moriarty

by Jim Mamoulides, July 31, 2004

Maine is one of those picture postcard places where rough, misty, rocky shorelines are only an hour and a half from rolling, tree covered green mountains. Two lane blacktops are the rule in Maine, and any trip from point A to point B is going to meander around the countryside. Go in almost any direction and the journey will be met with miles of rural splendor.

A view of the Rangely Lakes from the Height of the Land

Maine is one of the larger sized states, and yet one of the least populated. The largest city in Maine, Portland, would be a small suburb of most major cities, with not even a hundred thousand people. Most of Maine is made of small towns strung together by roads and rivers, between the mountains and the sea. It's a great place to get lost in.

We go to Maine every summer and Mainers, who otherwise are generally not as bold and brassy as their New England neighbors to the south, are quick to tell you that Maine "is the way life should be." It's a slower pace without urban sprawl and all the associated rushing around.

Maine was made for vacationers who want to get away.

Pen Hunting In Maine

Since I started collecting pens, every trip to Maine has included several side trips to the many antique dealers that literally dot the map. Most every small town in Maine has an antique dealer, though the venue may vary widely. Some towns have large antique malls, others have traditional shop dealers, and there are more dealers working out of their garage than you might expect.

My wife and I enjoy antiquing, and she is a much better pen picker than I am. She has an eye for a tiny cylindrical shape in a cluttered jumble of junk than I do, and she taught me a technique that has since never failed me: Ask.

The barn at the Shaker village at Sabbath Day Lake

If you learn anything when you are out hunting pens in the wild, learn to ask. Ask if the dealer has any pens or pencils. Ask if they know other dealers who do. Ask if they typically buy pens, so a return trip can be scratched or planned. Much can be found out in conversation. And that conversation can lead to finds. One dealer remembered having a couple of interesting pens after a short chat. These were pens that were not out on display and had to be fetched. Not asking means not finding. Ask.

Expanding The Horizon

This summer's trip included a visit to Boothbay Harbor, a picture postcard town on the Maine coast if there ever was one. We stayed overnight at a great bed and breakfast and basked in the ocean sights, sounds, and the salty scent.

A small waterfall on Route 26

My normal stamping grounds are central Maine and each summer the pen hunting has been quite good and I've come home with a literal bag full of pens at great prices. Usually it's a mix of very nice stuff, unusual finds, and sprinkled with several pedestrian fixer-uppers. This summer was no exception, and I brought back a large cache of interesting pens that I've been working on since.

In The Steps Of The Professor

On this trip to the coast, out of my usual territory, we started hearing something new:

"Were you sent by Moriarty?"

"Moriarty usually comes around here every so often and buys all our pens."

"I'm sorry, Moriarty just cleaned us out."

All up and down US 1 we heard variations of this same theme. Unlike the many antique stores safely tucked away in the western mountains, there was a prowler traveling the wide coast road.


They actually spoke his name! Asked if I was sent by him!

Stop after stop were dry holes. No pens at all. The coast was clean.

Moriarty had hit them all. He had taken all the pens with him.


Sumgai, I Know Thy Name

With no luck on the coast, we returned north and west. We made several more trips to our usual haunts and found more pens before our time ran out. I actually left pens behind at several stores. I also passed on a place that had a warehouse sale the day before we had to return. I had bagged my limit, literally, and needed to prepare for the trip home.

A typical Maine lake sunset

We had a great trip and I did find a lot of very interesting pens, from a very tiny Cross pendant pencil, to some nice Parker and Sheaffer pens, and several unusual finds, including a Le Boeuf, an Arnold twist filler, and several mint Italian pens. More about those in future articles.

In spite of the good hunting, there was now a long shadow cast from southern Maine.

Sumgai, I know your name!

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