An Interview with Pavoni
The Fountainpen Network (FPN) is where I learned my most important lessons on identifying vintage Montblancs, dating different models, estimating their rarity and value, and just appreciating their engineering and design. Here you will find many generous and kind members wholeheartedly sharing the knowledge and experience they have gained over years and even decades. Pavoni is one such member and his contributions through three FPN threads were a great inspiration to me as a budding collector. I strongly recommend a visit to these threads --> An Enthusiast's Collection, An Enthusiast's Appreciation, and An Enthusiast's Collection - Part 2.
But, I had questions! So, I asked Pavoni about his favourite vintage pen brand, favourite models, and more. Read below...
From L to R - 139, 138, 136, 134, 132, 236, 234 1/2, K 232, 232, 334 1.2, 333 1/2, 332, and two 432 Stylos.
There are many vintage pen brands that one might choose to collect - what do you find so special about Montblancs?
I am often asked this question, mainly because of the aura around the name 'Montblanc'. They have clearly been successful in spreading brand awareness as many people seem aware of the name and most of those associate the name with high-class pens. There is a curious seductive snob value to the brand that appeals to some people, and which greatly irritates others. In the pen collecting world, the Montblanc brand seems to divide opinion - a marmite brand! But anyone familiar with the history of Montblanc could hardly begrudge them their impressive heritage.
For most of my time at school, I used - was made to use - a fountain pen and it wasn't until the last year or two that we were allowed to use ballpoints. So I have always had a familiarity with fountain pens and I have always strived to have a decent hand. I would now describe my handwriting as 'ornamental' and as such, I find it difficult to write with anything other than a dip nib or fountain pen. If I have to write with anything else, I would use a pencil, then a brush pen and then a rollerball. For letter writing, I use my right hand and my left hand for notes or scribbles.
Wartime models with the etched cap bands, instead of the typical cap rings.
The first time I saw a Montblanc in the flesh was at University - a student friend of mine told me his father gave him the pen. I am unsure why but, from the very moment he (reluctantly) gave me the pen to look at (probably a MB 144), I was hooked. I was seduced. I bought my first modern Montblanc - a birthday present to myself about 25 years ago - a MB 145, which took me a long time to appreciate because it was such a poor starter from the moment I wrote with it. I put it away in a drawer for about 5 years, before bringing it out, flushing it and then enjoying it as I should originally have been able to do. I bought my first vintage Montblanc in an old junk shop in Budapest - it was a battered MB 432. This must have been around 2009. Irritated that I couldn't fix this stylograph, I accidentally found and ended up joining the Fountain Pen Network (FPN), from where I was lucky enough to find the brilliant Max Schrage, who had worked for Montblanc in Hamburg for over 40 years. He repaired the MB 432 and slowly but surely my introduction to vintage Montblanc pens became a little obsession.
I am naturally attracted to history and, having worked in the retail industry for 36 years, I was fascinated by Montblanc's history. The Company started in 1905, two years after my own employer had started and as such, it was fascinating for me to note the number of casual similarities between the two companies that had so captivated me and pushed me to learn more.
From L to R - 139, 138, 136, 134, 132, L71, L72
The rationale for my Montblanc collection is well documented on the FPN and I now consider it complete. I have some 12 modern pieces, 18 pieces from the 1950s and some 41 pieces from the 1930s and 40s. The vintage part of my 71 Montblanc collection is my favourite part. I find it hard to describe to someone the feeling I get from holding one of the 13# series. These are magnificent writing instruments that were once so popular, so ubiquitous. I feel privileged to own them and as such, I treat them as my very special friends. And because I treat the pens well, I feel they enable me to write well.
Whilst I also have a Soennecken, UHU, De La Rue Onoto, and Conway Stewart collections, I also have a few pens from Pelikan, a Nakaya, a Platinum, a Visconti, a couple of Parker pens, Kaweco, Waterman, Swan, Wahl Eversharp, Conid, and Desiderata and a Ford Patent pen. However, my pride and joy is my vintage Montblanc collection for the reasons given.
A few 23x pens, and three 334 1/2 pens at the right end.
Modern Montblancs look and perform very differently from the vintage ones. How do you feel about the changes?
I prefer the vintage Montblanc pens, which have more heft and seem better balanced in the hand. I feel they tend to have a more comfortable grip section- at least for the way I hold pens and, given my ornamental hand, I much prefer the vintage nibs because they seem to allow more flex and therefore more detail or ornamentation to one's handwriting, and which in any event is better for my particular style of writing. I find it hard to explain the wonderfully satisfying sensation I get from a flexible vintage nib that does what I want it to do. Of course, much of this is subjective and will probably sound like utter rubbish to some people. I admit that I probably benefit from some form of placebo effect when making the comparison between modern and vintage, such is my affection for those early Montblanc pens. However, my handwriting does tend to benefit from an older flexible nib and I am fortunate to have a number in my collection. That said, at work I am fortunate enough to use a dip pen whenever I choose and, part of my daily carry is a modern MB 165 pencil (which I use EVERY day) and a modern MB163 rollerball (for backup). The modern Montblanc is just not as ab attractive instrument to me and the nibs do not suit my style of writing for anything other than quick notes. In fact, anything after 1954 tends not to grab my attention in the way the earlier era pens do.
Mixed lot from the '40s and '50s
Which pen from your collection, in your opinion, has the most historical significance?
The MB 139, followed by the MB 149 (1950s), and the MB 149 (modern). You have asked which pen (singular) and I have listed 3 pieces. However, the reason is obvious. The Kaiser pen (MB 139) was such a magnificent pen for its time and it has now assumed a rather mythical air since. The 1950s version - now a MB 149 - was again another shift in pen design and historically important, certainly to Montblanc. It retained much of the majesty of its famous father (MB 139) but had sufficient to make it a pen of the future (rocket shaped), which remains to the present day where the modern MB 149, has its own unique position in the history of fountain pens even if it hasn't the majesty of its grandfather (MB139 or father). Possibly, the MB 149 (1950s) is the most important pen but, I say this out of earshot of my beautiful MB139 pens (of which I have two 😊).
From L to R - 138, 139, and 149 (1950s)
If you were asked to part with your entire collection except for three pens that you are most attached to then what would those three pens be and why?
Just 3 pens from my entire collection of 205 pens would be difficult. But 3 pens from my 71 Montblanc pens.........probably both of my MB139s and my MB149 (1950s) simply because of the cost-value of these pens and their importance to any collection of vintage MB pens. I have good versions of each but, I would be hugely depressed at having lost the other 68 Montblancs. No, it doesn't even bear thinking about. I don't want to think about it. Horrible. ☹
From L to R - 139, 149 (1950S), 149 (2010), 136, 146 (1950S), 146 (1985)
What tips would you give budding collectors based on your experience?
Join the FPN and read, read, read. Then read some more. Then, determine to aim for a collection of pens, rather than just a bunch of pens or a drawer full of pens. A collection has a theme, a reason, an easily definable description. Don't just collect pens, collect for a collection that you can be proud of. Choose a brand and learn its history, learn why each model was introduced. By living the brand one breathes life into the collection. Passion in one's collection is the essential element that pulls it all together 😊