Tips For Buying From A Pen Board


This truly is a long post. Not interested in reading the details? If I were you I might not either so key points are listed below for those who prefer CliffsNotes to the full story. No offense taken if that works for you.

Key Points:

  • Don’t let the pressure (competition) best your common sense.
  • Message board participation does not make a reliable seller.
  • Read the fine print as well as between the lines.
  • Ask questions and pay close attention to how the seller responds.
  • Will seller refund if pen does not arrive as advertised?
  • Protect your investment by using a secure form of payment.
  • If seller is not a good communicator before the sale, don’t expect him to improve after he is paid.
  • If the pen is a gamble, keep within your comfort zone or be comfortable taking a risk.
  • If you get a bad feeling about the transaction, trust your instincts and PASS.
  • There will be other opportunities, probably even better than the one today.

That’s really all you need to know but if you are a glutton for punishment or have nothing better to do, read on.

Whatever the final outcome of my latest pen fiasco, it has been a reminder that purchasing pens can be risky business. While pen board venues may seen like friendly places with truly like-minded aficionados, some sellers subscribe to a different set of standards than others. Many will stand behind what they sell. Others will not. Caveat emptor.

One of the weaknesses with board listings is that the competition can be just a click away from beating you to the “first come – first served” showdown. The fastest gun wins. Sounds like the Wild West to me. Yeehaw!

The pressure to best another buyer may send your common sense running for cover. At least on eBay there is a ratings system that provides a measure of reassurance. Plus with an auction there is time to review the seller’s description even if the pen model is one you know well. Admittedly you can get scooped with a Buy It Now purchase but that is pretty rare. All of which means you can still get burned on an auction purchase, but at least you have time to evaluate a pen as well as the seller before pulling the trigger. Message boards offer no assistance which makes them much  higher risk especially for the trusting pen enthusiast.

While buying from a known source may be your best bet for a satisfactory purchase, don’t mistake message board participation for reliability. The pen I recently purchased skips and occasionally drops blobs of ink. There are more issues but let’s keep it simple. Even if skipping was the only issue, the seller has repeatedly asserted the problem is me – not the pen. Maybe the guy doesn’t know much about pens. 300+ posts on a pen board doesn’t mean all that much and that total might be padded with a lot of content-free, “me, too” ones. Giving weight to a seller’s posts might mean something but it is not the same as an eBay rating.

Take the time to read the fine print as well as between the lines before you hit that send button. This is not a situation in which you want to be surprised or for that matter disappointed. A little close reading can avoid a lot of trouble.

Some sellers can be cagey and justify all manner of omissions.  Then claim no misstatement was made because you, the buyer, failed to ask just the right question to reveal that concealed flaw. Granted this can happen in any venue but when there are no repercussions to the seller, there are surely those who will take advantage of you as well as the lax environment.

Still have doubts? Ask the seller if he will refund your payment if the pen turns out to be damaged, non-functioning or whatever fits the exact situation. The seller of Skippy The Pen wouldn’t make things right but did not state that in his listing. To be fair he should have included “Sold as is” if he did not want to be held responsible. In fact he spent my payment before the pen even arrived! I’ve seen this subject discussed at Fountain Pen Network with the majority agreeing that the better sellers do not spend the money until the transaction has been successfully concluded. That means not only a seller who has received his money but a buyer who has received the pen he expected and in the condition advertised. The end result is two winners not a winner and a loser.

In my case the seller insists I would be “customizing” the nib rather than fixing a problem. Really? I just received an email from a pen friend, well-known for her calligraphy and drawings, who is certain there is something wrong with the pen. She has owned the same model and knows exactly what it can do. A nibmeister who saw writing samples calls it an “adjustment” though hopefully not a full repair but definitely not a customization. With his queue and summer vacation plus shipping time, the long-awaited, top of my wish list pen will be away for some ten weeks. The pen may turn out better than ever but that won’t be for months and certainly violates my expectation that the pen was ready to go to work.

Note that the pen was advertised as nearly new/hardly used without any caveats. Seller later claimed to have used it at least six times. How he missed the skipping/gushing is a wonder to be sure but three brands of ink produced identical, disappointing results. Sounds like a nib issue to me but, hey, having used a couple hundred pens doesn’t make me an expert. In this I bow to the superior knowledge of the nibmeister and the pen princess.

Despite the question of proper function, the seller suggested I sell the pen to someone else if I didn’t like it. However, being an ethical sort, I would have to disclose the pen’s issues and discount it accordingly. The relatively low price on the pen when I bought it, may indicate the seller discounted it for issues that were undisclosed but that’s just speculation on my part. Maybe he just needed some fast cash. Regardless, this is a reminder to ask questions until you are satisfied you know exactly what you are buying. If a seller won’t be bothered to answer or seems less than forthcoming, you know what to do.

Still want that seemingly fabulous pen? Protect your investment and use a secure form of payment. If a seller insists on cash, check or money order, sound the retreat and click the back button unless the seller is someone you know and trust or at least comes highly recommended.

After a few email exchanges, my seller refused to communicate. Whether ignorant of pens or people, his intransigence turned a problem into a dispute. That left me with a substantial investment in a pen that wouldn’t write right but at least I had PayPal to come to my aid. Well, sort of, since the best that the seller offered was $35 towards the “customization” plus first class postage. So Skippy will go off to camp for the summer and that’s that.

Worst case scenario? You lose your money and the pen. Can you comfortably afford that? If you have to gulp when hitting the Send Money button, think again about the purchase. Years ago I bought a pen that was sold “as is” and turned out to be complete trash. The seller made no claims so I knew going in what could happen. It amounted to a gamble I was willing to take given the cost and the pen model.

In the end the problem is how to spot a dodgy dealer and for that there is no pat answer. However, if you feel even remotely uncomfortable or uncertain, I say get out and fast! Let your nose, gut, intuition, bells, whistles or whatever guides you get the upper hand. You may regret losing out on a terrific pen but another will come along. Hey, it might even be better than the iffy deal on which you pass today.


Note: Just in case you were wondering, I won’t publicly “out” the seller. However, if you follow my recommendations, you’ll never buy from him anyway.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Margana, Julie, Pendemonium, Sam, Penned and Papered and others. Penned and Papered said: RT @inkophile Inkophile's Tips for Buying From A Pen Board: http://short.to/32alf […]


  2. […] This truly is a long post. Not interested in reading the details? If I were you I might not either so key points are listed below for those who prefer CliffsNotes to the full story. No offense taken if that works for you. Key Points: Don't let the pressure (competition) best your common sense. Message board participation does not make a reliable seller. Read the fine print as well as between the lines. Ask questions and pay close attention to how … Read More […]


  3. There should be a CARFAX for pens, too! Great suggestions for buyers to be aware of. Especially the first one. All-too-often, we throw caution to the wind and let ourselves get caught by pushy sales tactics. Anytime that someone implies a constriction on an offer that doesn’t allow you to spend time in doing your due diligence in researching the product or seller, that should send up a red flag.


    • Bwahaha! CARFAX for pens! Sign me up ASAP. 😀


  4. Thanks for this post! It is always tricky to out people and I believe you did the right thing – didn’t out the seller, but at the same time wrote a good “buyer’s manual” and described the problems in a good way! Big thanks!


    • Dang! You read through to the end? I can’t believe anyone did that. Hope your pens weren’t too cranky while they waited for playtime. 😉


  5. […] I suppose if there’s a cautionary tale it is to be mindful when you are purchasing a used pen that all may not be as it initially appears. The fact that the Ragtime Black comes up rarely meant I was reluctant to return it to the seller. I was fortunate to have found a simple and friendly repair option. (See the Inkophile’s Tips for Buying From a Pen Board.) […]


  6. Wow, thanks for the tips I really appreciate the post. I just bought my first “eBay” pen. Luckily my transaction went smoothly and my Burgundy Parker 51 Special works great. I just remind myself that I am taking a risk every time I buy something from an auction site/message board on the internet.


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