I'm curious about why people collect certain pens - specifically pens from different countries.
At the Ohio Pen Show a few weeks back they have a very large presence of vintage pens. And the vast majority of those pens, from my anecdotal perspective, are American pens. There are some vintage pens from Germany too, with a smattering of Italian pens etc., but almost no pens from Japan. Or maybe they're there and I'm overlooking them because the shiny Vacumatics and Duofolds are so distinctive - but I don't think so.
Are vintage Japanese pens viewed as less collectable? Is this a geographic thing?
I don't know this for certain, but it seems to me that the reason that those of us in the US don't see vintage Japanese pens as frequently as European (especially German) and American is there were probably a lot fewer that came to the US in the golden age of fountain pens.
"Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind"- Rudyard Kipling "None of us can have as many virtues as the fountain-pen, or half its cussedness; but we can try." - Mark Twain
I like mid-century design in a user-level writing instruments and the very compact typewriter designs, again including ephemera.. I have a selection of German pens from this time because they are interesting and (mostly) black. A lot of Pelikans, Gehas, and ephemera of the period.
My Japanese writing instruments are new and were bought for looks and performance. I have very few American pens because of my dislike for Parker, professionally and personally ... killed my interest.
The reason for the lack of vintage Japanese pens is simply that they are hard to come by outside Japan.
You can find some on ebay, but the best place is Yahoo Japan auctions.
Another trouble is that out of the big 3 we know today, Sailor wasn't that well regarded at the time (more a niche brand and not seen as good quality I think) and Pilot churned out so many pens, they don't even know all the models they did themselves. You don't even know what exact model name to search for a lot of the time.
Imo their vintage pens were well made too, just like American, British and German pens were. Japanese companies made Paker 51 style pens as well, so even design-wise there were overlaps, so they weren't "behind" or unaware of their foreign colleagues/ competition/ peers. To me their pocket pens were the most innovative, certainly sth you don't see and find outside Japan.
Also the language barrier is not to be underestimated. Even today their English isn't the best (they are working hard on changing that), and in the 1960s and thereabout they were taught another Asian foreign language at best, if any second foreign language at all (I don't know this for certain). Even for non-Italian speakers (as example) you can kind of guess how to navigate an Italian website or understand bits and bobs, but Japanese with a totally different script (or rather characters) and language is in a totally different league..
I certainly wouldn't put the reason for the lack of vintage Japanese pens down as quality issue. I'd say that's the least problem.
I don't know how long eyedroppers were prevalent in Japan, I think quite a bit longer than in Europe & the US, so that might also be a reason for a certain lack of offer and perhaps even interest.
There is also a lack of overall documentation on vintage Japanese models, even in Japan. The best site on this is Cronicas Estilograficas, a great blog often recommended by Algester.
In ways, our interest in certain brands or vintage models is also fuelled because our grand-/ parents used XY or we saw a commercial as children or have a nostalgia for that pen we used to have, and so we hunt down those pens. We have partly an emotional attachment to these pens or even brands. In ways it's just simply what we know best. A vintage Japanese product just doesn't hold any nostalgic value, so the interest is immediately lower.
The craze for Japanese stationery (overall) started only in the last few decades, when they started to seriously work on their products (talking disposables, ballpoints and that) and now in the last years (maybe?) also for their fountain pens (I mean outside Japan, even inside Japan actually). The Japanese weren't even houshold names for quality until the 1970s or so (in & out of J), and anyone with a bit of money or status in Japan bought foreign products, certainly pens. Parker, Waterman, Pelikan etc etc were all regarded as "better" than their domestic Pilot, Platinum or Sailor. Some shops in Japan didn't even carry any Japanese fpens! Until fairly recently even! Some still saw them as "inferior"... The grass is greener and all that.. I recommend watching Begin Japanology on youtube, the episode titled "stationery". No fountain pens, but very interesting nonetheless. Some other episodes shed light on this mentality too and change in history in Japanese overall manufacturing.
I once had a Sheaffer made in Japan....sold it because it was a nail.
The Yen & DM were held artificially low for decades, and the US did have it's own cheap pens, Wearever, Venus etc.
Japan had the reputation decades ago of making cheap junk before and after WW2....by the '70's that had changed in Electronics and slowly with cars. The US TV's and electronic industry made as good or better, but Congress allowed them to dump products in NY for less than they sold in Tokyo.
Wonderful - thanks for the detailed and informative post!!
I'd just like to add that overall, stationery & writng instruments are of great importance in Japan, going back to their own tradition of calligraphy, which is still taught at school (like cursive in Europe, I guess that's a good equivalent). As pens & writing are of great cultural importance, even the cheapest have to perform flawlessly - enter amazing Japanese pens at any price point, from disposables to maki-e fpens!
I think that another reason is that Japanese pen evolution differed from American and European. Most of the Pre-War Japanese pens that I have seen are eyedroppers - something that would have seemed archaic to the Western market of the 30's and 40's.
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