An Interview with Martin Langberg
I have always admired Martin's vintage pen collection on his Instagram page (pens.dk). In this article, he tells us about his favourite Montblancs, and some other brands that he has thoughtfully curated over the years.
When did you start collecting fountain pens and what sparked off the interest in the first place?
I started my life with fountain pens 30 years ago and began to collect them, what I would call, by incident. My brother in law, Eric Steen Pedersen, who unfortunately and unexpectedly died in 2011, gave me a Montblanc 256 he had found. I tried to stay cool using it on my job, though it leaked ink because of a crack - and I got my first "ink fingers" as an adult. This was his way to try to awake my interest and he told me more than once, that I should start to look for old fountain pens in the region where I lived. I couldn't see why. I had known him since 1971 when he started seeing my older sister and I found out that he collected old brass weights, which I, as an 11-year-old boy, found very weird. In the years to follow, Eric started collecting a lot of different things, going to flea markets and antic stores and I saw it as a part of him - the weird guy side :-) But a little of his passion in Danish lamp & furniture design and quality watches, he managed to pass on to me. One day in 1991 he phoned me, as he had done several times, to get me started finding pens. During the talk he told me, that he just had sold his collection of beer openers for quite a sum of money and I remember thinking "OKAY!" that was a lot of money - maybe I should try and look for pens. I looked up "Antic stores" in the phone book (for youngsters: it's a huge book we used in the old days to look up other peoples phone numbers) and the first store I visited, had some pens. I think it was 5 fountain pens and I didn't have a clue of what the makes where. It turned out, that one of the pens was a Montblanc 122PL, but without the star. Eric had met Poul Lund and started attending pen shows in Germany. He brought my 122PL and sold it for several times the price I bought the 5 pens for. But the best was, that he bought me a legendary book at the pen show - Andreas Lambrou's "Fountain Pens - Vintage and Modern". I read it the from the beginning and back again, learning all about the fountain pen makes and the history combining with the exciting catalogues from the pen auctions at Bonhams, I learned a lot about pens. My new knowledge helped me a lot when I searched for pens. My plan was to buy pens and make a little money at the side, but I had never imagined that I ever could be a collector, never ever. Eric persuaded me to attend my first pen show. It was in Cologne, one of the first (if not the first) arranged by Stephan Wallrafen in the legendary tennis club by the river, and I was really overwhelmed by all the fountain pens and fascinating and very accommodating people from the pen community. The following years I met, in addition to Poul Lund, the Danish collectors Claus Holten and Peter Sommer and the 4 of us had some exciting years at the pen shows in England and Germany. But what finally sparked my interest in collecting, I'll never forget. I have had a lot of pens through my hands and one day, I found an excellent red Montblanc no. 30 and it hit me "you'll never find another one in this condition again - you better put it away for later". From that day on, my number of pens has increased. I do not know, how many I have managed to "pull-in", but I have enough for a couple of years, when I retire, to keep myself busy restoring them.
No. 30 Masterpiece in coral red, made in Denmark
From amongst the many vintage MB pens that have come and left your hands over the years, which ones were the most special to you?
The pen, that has been most special to me, is the red Montblanc no. 30 in near mint condition, that I actually did find to replace the one, which made me start collecting. Other special Montblanc pens to me, were two pieces I bought from the same person - a no. 7 and a no. 8 safety fillers in black hard rubber. Also, a red Montblanc no. 40 taper cap (Danish production) was special to me.
MBs were made in Spain, Denmark, Italy, and Germany. Each of these places added some characteristic design elements to their pens. Do you have a special preference for any particular country’s design elements?
I really like the red and black mottled hard rubber safety fillers from Montblanc, but I have never come across one, that I could buy. Then the Danish production of the 12-sided no. 25 high top or flat top and the 246 are among my favourites. At last, the German classic L139 and 136/134 in black and the masterpiece pens in platinum are also my favourite designs.
No. 25 with 12-facets, made in Denmark
No. 246 in green marbled, made in Denmark
No. 134 (top) and 136 (bottom)
Which is your favourite vintage MB filling system, and why?
I think my favourite Montblanc filling system must be the push-knob filler. I think the design is great and it's a very stable system. But, I also do fancy the piston fillers from the 30'ies, because of the smoothness and the quality you cannot avoid noticing when using it.
No. 126 PL
Considering your knowledge of other vintage pen brands too, what was unique about vintage MBs from its competitors at the time?
I actually focused my collecting on Parkers. First of all because of the quantity sold in Denmark, then I started finding them in different colors, but the pens from Montblanc are just quality and have great filling systems. When you hold i.e. a Montblanc 136 or 134 in your hand, you can easily feel that the pen is quality - the weight and finish is exclusive.
Tell us about some of your favourite vintage MBs from your collection.
I have already mentioned my red no. 30. I bought the pen from a private person, who had inherited it from his granny. Some years later I found one in black and near mint condition too. Those two are among my favourite Montblanc pens. Finding my smallest pen - Montblanc safety 00 - was a very special experience. Attending all the flea markets through the years, I have had a vision hoping to look down in a glass case suddenly seeing a baby safety. One day it happened, exactly the way I had imagined - that was so awesome. But the best part was, that my brother in law was together with me and he passed the dealer and her glass case without seeing the baby safety and even better - he had done that every week for the last 3 month, so he was a little "pissed" on me for a while :-). Beyond the grey striped 146 sets I have, my two Italian safety fillers with solid gold overlay are dear to me. But I have a very dear emphera that I was given for free on a flea market and I didn't even know it existed - my Montblanc playing cards. I have never seen them before and it will be very traumatic for me to pass them on.
Montblanc No. 30 black
Small MB safeties
Montblanc 146 green striated set
You collect some brands apart from Montblanc. Can you tell us about your most prized possessions from these brands?
The most prized possessions from another brand is from my Parker collection. I have focused on the Parker Seniors. The two most prized are my 1922 Parker Duofold Sr. bandless in red hard rubber with the giant imprint, that I bought on eBay a long time ago, and my black Duofold Special with original Parker Doufold sterling silver overlay found in Denmark. The condition is good, but I'm still very satisfied with the pen, because I'll never find another one in better condition. I will not try to repair the dents - it's a part of it's history. Then I have 4 Parker Streamline Seniors - the green in mint condition (with price sticker), the blue lapis in excellent condition, the black&pearl in excellent condition (the brightest color I have found yet) and the mandarin yellow long version also in excellent condition.
Parker Duofold with rare silver overlay
Parker Duofold with rare giant/large imprint
Colourful Parker Streamline Seniors
Do you have any advice for the novice or budding vintage MB collector on how they should think about putting a collection together and what to be careful about?
It's very difficult for me to give advice on how to start collecting, but I will assume, that the reason why you wish to start collecting pens, is passion. We are all different - some want all the pens produced in a period or series, some wants quantity, some wants "a little but the top" and so on. I myself started finding beautiful and colourful quality pens - without any purpose. Later I found out, that having the same size pen in different colours was a driver for me. Now, I even find black quality Montblanc pens beautiful. First I only could afford the cheap and discoloured ones. From there on, I could find them in better and better condition and improve my collection. The rarer the pen is, the more difficult I have with letting it go. Though, I know that I'll have to pass them on, to a new collector one-day :-). I have had the privilege of living in a period being able to find expensive pens on flea markets at very low prices and that way be able to buy/swap to better pens at pen shows. I have therefore over all the years been able to build up my collection by reinvesting my sales in better pens. Today it's more difficult to find pens on flea markets, but the pens you find here, usually are as you see them, so you know what you buy. On the other hand, the internet is so full of pens, that it is easier to sit home and order, but also more "dangerous". Often the pens have been "restored", but not as they should have, or they even are fakes. Though a pen with some repairs and/or even replaced parts can be wonderful, the original pen which is absolute untouched an in mint condition is the very best and the most valuable to have. If you want to start collecting fountain pens, I will recommend you to find fellow collectors to discuss with and guide you. A must is, to attend a pen show and start building up relations. Look at pens, a lot of pens and find the ones you like. Buy books to read about the pens, so you learn. The pen community is fantastic and there are so many good people, that will pass on their experience. Good luck.