PenInHand - Musings on the Hobby

Pocket Jewelry

by Jim Mamoulides, June 30, 2004

Pen collectors can be a strange lot. Once you get a certain number of pens, certain questions start appearing in your head that never would have before:

What pens should I keep in my "rotation"? To non-pen people, this is a very strange phrase indeed.



Are pens like crops, where they need to be used a while and then set aside for a rest?

Are they like baseball pitchers, with starters, relievers, and closers?

Imagine such a writing session.

Batter Up

I was working my way through a really long and grueling letter. It was a real battle. I got through the first six paragraphs, and Waterman just started running out of gas. I knew if I kept him in the game he would start sputtering, probably creating some unwanted errors. It was a tough call, but I decided to bring in Parker to get us through at least the next two.


Parker did a great job, but I was on the last paragraph now, and I needed a specialist, especially to wrap up the signature. I looked in the bullpen and called out Sheaffer, the big guy with the stub. Sheaffer pulled it out with a flourish. Game over. We won!

Baubles For The Pocket

If the word rotation is a bit odd, how about "pocket jewelry?"

This is where pens get mighty close to the ladies shoe department.

I noticed this phenomenon very close to home.


Well, actually at home.

It started innocently enough with, "What pen will I use today?" This is where that rotation thingy gets started, by the way.

After some moments of pondering pen cups, pen cases, and pens put away in boxes, bags or whatever, the choice is made, and a pen hops in your pocket for a ride for the day.

But there's a dark side. A cliff you can leap off. And many do!


Early on, I found myself picking pens because of what I thought I would be doing that day.

Lots of note taking? Let's grab something with a nice fine point.

Signatures? There's got to be some broads or stubs around here.

Writing letters? Maybe a medium or a nice flexible nib for some flourish.

The pocket jewelry bug came in very subtly.

I noticed it first when I was headed out to an opera and in picking a pen, I became more interested in how it looked than for any writing I might be doing. What writing would I be doing at an opera anyway?

On business trips I used to pick pens for practical reasons. After some bad experiences with airport security manhandling a Sheaffer PFM V, I started selecting pens for trips based on durability. Local meetings started becoming pocket jewelry events.


There are some pens that are perfect companions in a business setting. One of the best pens I have for work is my trusty Parker 51 Flighter. It's just about the perfect pen. It's reliable. It writes smoothly and without problems. It writes a long time between refills. It's also very boring.

Working in a a sea of Montblancs, I decided to add some flash. Really big pens, like the Waterman Edson, Pelikan M1000 and modern Parker Duofold break out of the pack both in design and color. The Sheaffer Legacy is a great formal looking counterpoint to white splotch overload. The Black Pearl model is like a seersucker suit in a gray flannel setting, though. Legacies are great writers, too.


Cross pens always work in business settings, and the Townsend is an excellent all-business choice with wet and soft writing nibs. These are very reliable pens. They're big and heavy, too.

In more fun settings, I tend to go the other way. I love to cook, and I bang around a lot when I do. The Lamy Safari and Al-Star pens are great choices in rough handling environments. The Al-Star won't stain, so you don't have to treat it gingerly.


My favorite knock around pen right now is the Sheaffer Intrigue. In the pocket, it's very subtle, but out of the pocket, some of the designs are very flashy.

I'm also susceptible to bouts of "pen nerd" and sometimes at pen club or at shows, I'll cram multiple pens in my pocket. Can't have too many pens on hand!

Most Of All: Have Fun!

All in all, most pens are designed both with form and function in mind. Some, like the Safari, lean heavily in the function department, but still look good. Others, like the Edson, obviously started with form, with function following.


However you pick your pen or pens for the day, most of all, enjoy your writing! Pens are the collectible that you can use every day!

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