Collection Progression

In the spring of 2000, I’d been to France with my girlfriend at the time and she gently nudged me into trying out fountain pens.  I’d started with a fairly inexpensive one.  But I didn’t catch on with it.  A few years later, my interest was reawakened when I stumbled across a fountain pen made by PILOT, called the Vanishing Point.

Pilot VP Black Carbonesque

I got one in Black Carbonesque, as shown.  Amazingly innovative fountain pen.  Sure looked very modern… but then I later learned this was but one of many earlier iterations that began back in the 1960’s, previously called a Capless pen.  Rivera Pens has an enormous Capless Compendium Index that’s well worth a look.  I would later acquire a few of those earlier variants of the Vanishing Point (Capless) pen.

Not long after this point, I managed to find a few on-line forums to support the new habit and discover other people sharing the same interest.  The Fountain Pen Network became my “place to go” for anything pen related.  I got so involved, I even became a moderator and then an administrator for a few years.  But then like any hobby, interest begins to wane and other life priorities take precedence.  Around 2012, I’d dropped off from fountain pen collecting after amassing a pretty sizable collection, mostly focused on Japanese brands like PILOT, Platinum, and Sailor, plus a few German brands like Montblanc, Pelikan, rOtring and LAMY.

NOTE: I’d previously written some fountain pen reviews that I’d hosted on a different site, but will eventually migrate those here.

As a side pathway to collecting fountain pens, I’d managed to pick up some ballpoints and mechanical pencils along the way.  Most fountain pen makers will produce companion writing instruments of the same styling as a matched set, so it’s often encouraging to pick up some of those as well.  PILOT made particularly impressive efforts to produce high quality mechanical pencils that would often be priced fairly close to fountain pens.  In the resale market, they wouldn’t garner nearly as high a resale value, but it was no indication of lesser quality.  A particular motif that attracted me a lot was the stainless steel striped series, in black or silver stripes.  I was compelled to pick up a silver striped mechanical pencil to go with my Pilot Custom fountain pen and rare MYU silver stripe fountain pen.

Pilot-MP-SS_100_6650

The all steel construction on the outside continued on the inside as well. Really impressive quality.  This style of mechanical pencil was designed primarily for general writing.  I would later discover that there is a whole other half to mechanical pencils, namely those used for technical drawings and drafting.  It’s on that end where some writing instrument companies took mechanical pencils to a whole new level.  The Japanese were especially passionate about mechanical pencils, more so than anywhere else.  While their most successful brands (such as PILOT, Pentel, Uni-Mitsubishi), produced many export models, there were always some models made only for the Japan Domestic Market (JDM).  It was a way to make a nod to the Japanese culture that they would have something special, not available to foreigners.  Some magnificent pencil models would be created, remaining mostly unknown to anyone outside of Japan.  This went on from the 1970’s up through the 1990’s, when into the early 2000’s the priority of mechanical pencils changed (mainly due to widespread computer use).  Gradually the very high end mechanical pencils were no longer being produced.  The impetus was to produce affordable mechanical pencils to students, mathematicians, and artists.  So companies started to focus on innovative features, such as lead rotation, greater lead protection, and a rekindling of fully automatic feed mechanisms.

What happened to the high end drafting mechanical pencils?  They mostly sat unused in various people’s homes and businesses, gathering dust or disappearing.  Some old stationery shops would have them tucked away in the back inventory room, waiting for a customer inquiry.  Eventually, as collectors began to start seeking them out, these wonderful writing instruments would be bought up for not much money.  Not long after, as more collectors began pursuing vintage mechanical pencils, prices for unusual and originally very expensive models shot up in value.  


As a segue from having collected some PILOT Vanishing Point fountain pens, I was curious to know if PILOT made any mechanical pencils or ballpoints of this design.  Sure enough, they did produce a ballpoint (but not a pencil).  Clicky Post created a nice review about it, HERE.  But why not a mechanical pencil?  Well, in searching around for “Pilot Vanishing Point Mechanical Pencil,” I stumbled into that curious zone of vintage mechanical pencils.  PILOT created a series of vanishing point mechanical pencils that don’t really share much in common with the fountain pen equivalent.  The most common model you can find is the model H-1005.  The 1000 is the initial series and the last 2 digits signify the lead size.  So there is an H-1003 (0.3 mm) and an H-1007 (0.7 mm).  Naturally, there is a 2000 series, a 2100 series and 3000 series.  There is one more, but it’s almost not even worth mentioning (OK, it’s the H-5005… a gorgeous fully automatic pencil that was 5,000 JPY and produced in very little numbers, making it impossible to find for any kind of price that you might consider reasonable).  What do they all have in common?  A “vanishing point” or retractable tip.  Most mechanical pencils have a fixed lead pipe guide, especially those used for drafting and other technical work.  A retractable tip protects the pipe guide from impacts and bending/cracking.  The challenge is that a movable point means it may have some movement to it when extended.  However, most Japanese made retractable tip pencils would exhibit no play at all.  Very impressive.

It was this “retractable” nuance that caught my eye and caused me to dig further… and turn this into a more serious hobby of finding and obtaining unusual and beautifully designed mechanical pencils.  Sadly, I joined this hobby a bit late, as certain models I would definitely like to own are now seriously overpriced relative to other comparable quality mechanical pencils.  However, I was fortunate to hit the timing well enough to acquire a decent number of really wonderful specimens.  I’ll post a future write-up of the PILOT Vanishing Point mechanical pencil line and in time cover a number of unique, uncommon mechanical pencils.

Just as a teaser, look at this one, made by a brand mostly unknown outside of Japan — Uchida:

Uchida_DrawingSharpE_Gold-02Uchida Drawing Sharp E

Isn’t that a stunning design?  It almost looks like some sort of futuristic rocket ship.  Meanwhile, it’s totally functional. Beauty in motion.  This is what attracted me to vintage mechanical pencils.  This is just scratching the surface.

Upcoming will be a series of reviews on a variety of writing instruments, but the bulk of them will be focused on vintage mechanical pencils (which is my present collection focus).  Stay tuned for more posts coming soon!

Some of the brands and mechanical pencil models to come:

  • PILOT: H-2005, H-2103, Grandee, Sprinter, steel striped models, other retractable tip models
  • Pentel: Mechanica, PSD5, PMG
  • Tombow: Exta, Zoom 505, Mono Delta, Dimple II
  • Platinum: “Z”, Tartan pattern
  • Mitsubishi: W-Knock, steel striped models
  • rOtring: 600, 700, 800
  • Uchida: Drawing Sharp E
  • Pelikan: 550 Tortoise
  • LAMY: 2000 Stainless Steel
  • Faber Castell: TK-matic, Alpha matic
  • Artline: Stainless steel 
  • ACME: Frank Lloyd Wright 2mm


Multi-pens
: rOtring, Pilot, Mitsubishi, Zebra

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