Every hobby under the sun has the potential to get expensive. You know you’ve made the step from novice to enthusiast when you’re willing to drop double the list price for a functionally identical (but limited edition) Performance Center version of a current production S&W, for example. You know you’ve made the step from enthusiast to collector when you shell out five or ten times the list price of a basic model for a super-rare version thereof.
Case in point: this Parker “51” fountain pen currently on fleaBay. From the item description (and the $0.01 starting price), it was pretty clear that the owner of that pen had no idea that he had a treasure on his hands. His “Club 51” model was a very rare dealer reward for selling a lot of pens. Nobody knows exactly how many were made, but they are extremely scarce in the wild. Functionally, it’s no different from the “51” in my pen case, but the sterling cap and the engraving on the barrel make it, um, rather more valuable than mine. As of Thursday evening, it’s up to $1,025, with three days left to go, and I wouldn’t be shocked if the final price went over $2,000. (A stock “51” sold for $15-ish back in the early 1950s, and you can find user-grade models for well under a hundred bucks.)
And if you think it’s nuts for someone to pay a couple of grand for a pen that won’t write any better than its $50 cousin, think about philatelists, the most dedicated and deep-pocketed of which are willing to spend close to a million bucks on a single stamp with an upside-down airplane, or four million bucks on an envelope with two little stamps on it.
It’s no coincidence that the words “collector” and “crazy” are in close proximity in the OED.