selling a piece of your family history.

This eBay listing for a Parker “51” fountain pen makes me just a little sad.

The depressing part is this sentence in the description:

This pen belonged to my father.

The fifty bucks he may get for it will be spent quickly, but that pen will be lost to him forever.

I certainly hope that when I pass my nice pens down to Quinn and Lyra in the future, they’ll have some better use for them than to flip them on the 2050 equivalent of eBay…

6 thoughts on “selling a piece of your family history.

  1. MarkHB says:

    In much the same way I had to look pretty hard to find a decent stationery shop that carries Rotring pens (and the ink for ’em), nice charcoal sticks, and good papers both with lots of tooth (for sketching) and satin finish (for when I get around to the Rotrings), you found an input method that meshes perfectly with what you do. I adore sketching. I think it’s a necessary part of understanding shape and form, light and dark, and a part of the transition from idea to 3D mesh. By sketching, I get bits of shape under my fingernails and into my brain. But I had to shop for the materials, because most people these days don’t bother and just yutz with the mouse until it looks right.

    You’re an artist, sir. Your pen is as personal, as personalised and important to you as your carry weapon. In fact, with a fountain pen it can really only have one owner as the metal of the nib will subtly deform to the owner’s handwriting over time, such that it will never write quite right for another hand.

    If that other hand hardly ever writes, and when it does write needs a “writes right now” device, then a biro will better suit their needs than any number of fountains, Rotrings, calligraphy nibs or any other more elegant tool of a gentler age.

    Don’t be sad. Be proud that you’re an artist and craftsman in a mass-produced age. They haven’t really lost anything they needed – and you found something you did.

  2. Matt says:

    I wouldn’t be quite so quick to despair. To you, the pen is an extension, a part of who you are, and the representation of your livelihood.

    Maybe the seller’s father was a writer. Maybe he was an accountant, or a marketing executive. Sure, he used pens, but they were far from his definition – just something that happened to be left behind. Perhaps the real legacy isn’t on eBay – it’s the story board easel still in the office room or the collection of ships in glass jars.

    Or his collection of fine hand guns, which I should really hope aren’t on eBay.

  3. Jay G. says:

    Just to be on the safe side, Marko, better will me your 3″ S&Ws…

    • Marko says:

      No offense, Jay, but if it looks like the kids won’t want my guns, they’re going in the coffin with me, so that I may enter Valhalla properly armed…

      • Kristopher says:

        No they aren’t. You relatives are just humoring you.

        And if you ask for burial cash, you’ll get either “hell money”, or a check.

  4. Laughingdog says:

    Perhaps that pen is just one of many owned by his father. If, when my dad had passed away, he had left me a slew of fountain pens as a result, I imagine I would have sold off a few myself. I’m in a similar position myself. I have a sizable number of old 35mm rangefinder cameras that just sit on a shelf right now. I’d never throw them out. But using Ebay to move them to someone who might give them a new life is appealing sometimes.

    The worst part is that the only camera that I would have actually used, an old Nikkormat SLR, vanished somehow. My step-mother may have lost it. But I find it more likely that she gave it to one of her kids instead, despite the fact that they have no idea how to use anything beyond a point & shoot.

    I’ve heard in the past that you learn the true character of people after a loved one dies and it comes time to divide the belongings. In my experience, that’s probably one of the most true statements I’ve ever heard.

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