What you need to know about a fountain pen on Ebay:
Originally Posted by tiger02
Is it safe to buy fountain pens on ebay? What would I be looking for? This is still just an exercise, but maybe some day.
First of all, I haven't known authenticity to be a problem.
Secondly, the following information assumes that you know which pen you like and what material it's made from.
(Disclaimer: I am not engaged in the business of selling pens. I have bought, sold, and traded pens in the capacity of an enthusiast for well over ten years. I have owned a wide variety of pens during that time. What I impart here is based on the knowledge I have gained.)1. The filling system
From the bottom up in terms of both modernness and elegance, the types of filling system are:
Cartridge/convertor: This requires you to unscrew the pen and then insert a cartridge or dip the nib in a bottle and twist the end of the convertor, which is a cartidge-size piston filling mechanism that you can insert in the pen in lieu of a cartridge.
It's great for convenience. It may be a reason to avoid a higher-end pen. Personally, I would not pay more than the price of a new Parker Duofold for a cartridge/convertor pen. For the greatest convenience among this type of pen, the Namiki Vanishing point is unrivalled.
Piston filler: Twisting a knob on the end of the pen barrel activates a piston plunger system that fills the pen from a bottle. Piston fillers can only be filled from a bottle, which makes it perhaps not the most convenient type of pen.
The best modern pens use the piston filling system, the best known being Montblanc 146 & 149 and Pelikan, among the German pens, and Omas and Aurora among the Italian pens, with an occasional offering from Montegrappa.
The following mostly applies to vintage pens:
Button filler: Very few modern pens are offered with a button filling system mechanism. The classic example is the vintage Parker Duofold. Unscrewing a cap on the end of the barrel reveals a button, pressing which compresses a rubber bladder that sucks up ink when the button is released. These only fill from a bottle.
Lever filler: Lifting a lever mounted in the side of the pen barrel compresses a rubber bladder that sucks up ink when the lever is released. Sheaffer invented this system in the early part of the 20th century and Waterman was able to skirt the patent issue by inventing a locking lever system.
Pens with rubber bladders can be repaired fairly easily and replacement sacs are available.
Vacuum fillers: In the 40s and 50s, various vacuum filling systems were invented. The Parker Vacuumatic and Sheaffer plunger fillers are typical examples. These are seldom in working order when acquired and require special expertise to repair.2. Nib grade
First of all, don't be suckered by Ebay titles that boast a 14 kt. gold nib. Nibs are made of either karat gold or stainless steel. Modern nibs are usually 18 kt. and often have a platinum (rhodium) mask.
The nib is the heart of the pen. Nib grades are typically Fine, Medium, and Broad (F,M,B). They can also go extra-fine (EF) to extra-broad (BB), and come in oblique, italic, and left-handed varieties (the Parker Duofold, for example, offers 24 nib grades incl. left-handed nibs). Finding the nib grade that best fits your writing style takes some time. What works with one maker's pen may not work with another's.
Once you have found a combination of pen and nib that works for you and you have used it for a while, the nib will wear to some degree and smooth out. At this point, you more or less have a bespoke pen. And if you want true bespoke options in a nib, you can have it modified to suit you exactly. Broken nibs on vintage pens can also be repaired in most cases.3. Size
You probably want a gentleman's pen unless you're buying that special lady a gift, in which case you probably want a ladies' pen. Modern pens like the Parker Duofold come in the large Centennial size and the smaller International size. Omas has made the Princess and Dama ladies' models that can easily be confused with the larger gentleman's models in an online auction. Often the size will be named differently depending on the maker. This makes it important to learn about a maker's range if you find you have an interest in their pens.Filling system, nib grade, and size
should all be specified in an auction, and often information about size should be stated as an actual measurement. If you are interested in a pen on Ebay and the seller does not give information about any of the above 3 criteria, ask.