Fountain Pen 201: Selling Pens

Welcome back to Fountain Pen 201, and happy Fountain Pen Friday! I originally intended to end Fountain Pen 201 last week, but it occurred to me that I haven’t really said anything about selling pens. The result of that brain blast is this final Fountain Pen 201 issue.

At some point, a pen you bought early on in your fountain pen journey is likely to no longer suit your needs or new preferences. Depending on how much you spent on it, you may choose to give it to a pen newbie friend, donate it (might I suggest looking into Pay it Forward?), or sell it.

Selling a fountain pen is easier than you may think. Once you’ve priced your pen, there are multiple avenues available to sell it, some better than others.

Condition

Determining the condition of your pen is an important first step to pricing your pen. To some degree, condition is subjective, but here are my general guidelines:

  • A+/Like New: A like new pen has only been inked once or twice; has zero defects, from the factory or otherwise; and, more often than not, includes all original packaging. Whatever the pen is typically selling for on the used market, you can generally tack on 10% extra for pens in this condition.
  • A/Very Good: This seems to be the most common pen quality available for sale on the secondhand market. There may be some micro-scratches; the original packaging is probably not available; if there are metal parts on the pen, they likely have a patina (if it’s the type of metal that ages); and there may have been some work done on the nib. Ultimately, though, the pen has likely been taken very good care of.
  • B/Good: This is typically basic user grade. The pen has been treated well, but hasn’t been babied. The nib probably has some minor scratching and/or wear to the tipping material; the body probably has some minor scratches or many micro-scratches. It’s obvious the pen has been well-used, but taken care of. Whatever the pen is typically selling for on the used market, you’ll generally be removing 5%-10% for pens in this condition.
  • C/Fair: This is typically a pen with some issues. There may be staining to the material; plating may be missing on the nib or pen body; and/or there may be obvious scratches. There may be a nib issue (e.g. scratchiness, etc.). The pen doesn’t look completely beat-up, and it certainly still writes and the filling mechanism works, but it won’t be the gem in anyone’s collection. There’s a decent change that the pen can be restored fairly easily. You’ll likely be removing 10%-15% of the price for this condition.
  • D-F/Poor: I’d say these pens are best sold as restoration projects (D grade) or for parts (F grade). There’s a good change something is broken or cracked; filling mechanisms may not work; and there’s no guarantee that the pen can be restored. Depending on precisely what’s wrong with the pen, you may be knocking 30% or more off the price.

There are exceptions to the above, of course. For example, you may have a pen in pristine condition as far as looks, but that has a nib issue. I’d say take an average of the various aspects of the pen. For this example, I’d list the pen as a B or B- grade.

Nibs

It’s also fairly common to just sell a nib, especially one with a special grind or a vintage flex nib. I can’t tell you much about pricing nibs, but you can probably find some information with a quick Google search.

Pricing

Ultimately, a pen is worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it, so you don’t necessarily need to research prices. However, if you’re hoping for a quick sale, you should look into the pen you’re selling.

For example, if the pen is readily available at retailers, it’s unlikely you’ll get full retail for your used pen. However, if, like the Pilot Vanishing Point Twilight, the pen has long been unavailable to the general market, it’s likely to command a higher price.

If you’re in a hurry to sell, take a look at what similar pens are selling for, and undercut the price by five to ten dollars. If you can accommodate a leisurely sale, then price the pen at whatever you want and wait for the right buyer.

Another way to expedite your sale is to offer free shipping. A pen that is a couple dollars more but offers free shipping makes a more attractive deal to most buyers than a cheaper pen with shipping costs. It’s silly, but free shipping feels like you’re getting a better deal.

Platforms

  • Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Selling Apps (e.g. Letgo): These aren’t necessarily the best places, but they are all options. They have the added benefits of being free to use and reaching locals, so you don’t have to ship the pens.
  • eBay: A decent choice. It’s easy, if a little time consuming, to list items, and, depending on how you list things, free to use. It probably has the widest reach of all of the selling platforms, so that’s a plus.
  • Local Meet-ups: Let your local pen users know you’re selling a pen. You may get some interest, and you can make the exchange in person.
  • Local Pen Stores: Some stores take secondhand pens. Keep in mind, though, that you won’t get as much for your pen. The store needs to make a profit. I’d suggest going to a store if you’re selling a pen collection. What you lose in money, you make up for in the convenience of selling everything at once.
  • Social Media: Share the pen you’re selling on social media. Tag it with some appropriate hashtags for a decent reach, and see what happens.
  • Pen Alt-Shop: Pen Alt-Shop is an interesting platform if you’re on Facebook. Basically, you post a pen for auction, specifying how many slots and the price per slot. People purchase slots, and pay when all slots are filled. A random number generator chooses one of the slots (people) as a winner. There is more detailed information in the group. It takes a while to get all of the slots filled, but you stand a better chance of getting the price you want for the pen because it’s spread out over multiple people.
  • Reddit: There are several pen boards on Reddit that “allow” selling or bartering. They’re certainly worth checking out.
  • Virtual Pen Show: This is certainly my favorite. People are on Virtual Pen Show specifically to buy pens, and the community is very active. It’s really easy to post a pen on their website, and it’s completely free, although they accept donations. Virtual Pen Show primarily operates on Instagram.

Seller Protection

As with anything these days, you’ll want to protect yourself from potential scammers. When you ship the pen, pay for the extra insurance (if necessary). If the pen is really expensive, you may want proof of delivery and/or proof of receipt (e.g. signature required).

Always keep the receipt from shipping, as it’s proof that you did your job, and, in the U.S. at least, it has the tracking number.

It’s also polite to provide the tracking number and expected delivery date to the buyer (when possible).

Caution

My suggestion before selling any pen, is to clean it out and set it aside for a few weeks or months to be certain you don’t miss it. I’ve seen many posts from people who have purchased another version of a pen they sold because they missed it. You want to ensure that your decision to sell a pen isn’t spur-of-the-moment or something you’ll regret.

Once you’re certain that you’re comfortable selling a pen, best of luck, and enjoy funding future pen purchases. 😉


That’s it for Fountain Pen 201. But I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with Fountain Pen 301. 301 will be significantly shorter, and will be the end of my fountain pen series.

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