I wish I could remember all the useful info I got from OcalaFlGuy when I decided I wanted a 51. Bruce gave me a list of questions to ask sellers about the condition (which actually work well for pretty much ANY vintage or vintage-ish or used pen, truthfully): cracks, major scratches, brassing, bite marks, mis-aligned or broken tines, bad tipping, and so on. And to ask for better pix of the nibs/tipping/feeds (admittedly very hard to do for a hooded nibbed pen). He also (very kindly) helped me scope out potential pens to bid on and estimate what they should go for (I'm not remotely as good at that as he was on that last point).
Early on in my search I was bidding on a Cordovan Brown 51 Vac. The seller didn't know a lot about the pen, but was selling it for the former owner. I'd ask a question and the seller would check and give me an answer in a few hours to the next day. We had a lovely rapport going. And then... I got SNIPED -- with seconds to go . I'm not actually sure at this point I even WANT a Cordovan at this point (I'm actually not that wild about the color) -- it's just that I was pretty new to pens in general and vintage ones in particular, and I was SO CLOSE....
And then a couple of weeks later I won a Teal Aero with a gold-filled cap, while on the phone with a friend of mine.... Come to think, she was floating around at the event I was at the following fall when I missed the ending of the auction on the Plum Demi I ended up getting (she's also the one who gave me a Pelikan M200 with the Bayer logo on it as a joke -- not realizing that it was probably a $100 US pen that someone was giving away, and probably NOS at that -- the box looked to be in mint condition -- likely a corporate gift that the recipient said "oh, how... nice...." and shoved it in a desk drawer for a couple of decades...). A couple of years ago someone was doing a PiF of some cheap Chinese pen and did it as a contest; the runner up was going to get an Inoxcrom "Tin-Tin" pen and I said "If I win could I have that instead, so I can give it to my friend?" (I'm sure it's now completely lost in her house -- but she's half Spanish and is also a HUGE fan of the comic and she just SOOOO needed that pen... ; and I bought her a bottle of modern Skrip Blue to go with it.)
Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth
"It's very nice, but frankly, when I signed that list for a P-51, what I had in mind was a fountain pen."