Q:  Sometimes what I read on the site does not agree with other sites, or what other collectors tell me, or what I read in books.  What should I believe?

A:  It is often difficult to locate primary sources for determining how vintage pens were originally made and marketed.  At the same time, few collectors take the time to study old catalogs and advertisements for themselves, and fewer still have handled enough pens to be able to fill in the many gaps in the documentary record.  As a result, a large body of pen lore has arisen, most of which derives its authority simply by having been repeated over and over without ever being checked or questioned.  This situation was confusing enough when the main reference sources were books, most of which largely repeated the same old material; with the rise of the Internet, the rate of confusion has accelerated sharply, as new collectors turn first to online forums dominated by collectors only a little more experienced than they.

So how do we know any better?  Formal training in historical research helps: it breeds a healthy skepticism about hearsay, and a drive to trace facts back to their sources.  We've spent countless hours poring over original records relating to pens and penmaking.  Interpretative skills and book learning would count for little, though, without the experience of handling literally tens of thousands of pens over a period of years -- and, crucially, pens fresh to the market, straight out of estates and old accumulations.  Such experience is now becoming increasingly difficult to come by, as the number of fresh finds diminishes and the number of "improved" pieces in circulation grows.