An Interview with Tom Westerich

February 2020

Tom Westerich is founder of one of the most respected online vintage pen stores - www.penboard.de - and he is regarded as one of the most skilled custom pen makers in the world. Check out this beautiful video about Tom's passion for penmaking (link). While he no longer restores pens professionally, his knowledge and skill are supreme in this area. Tom is also the current owner of the historical Goldfink brand. 

From amongst the many vintage MB pens that have come and left your hands over the years, which ones were the most special? 

Oh! Hard to tell, but yes, some of the “rarest pens” have stopped by at my home... I once had a perfectly kept No. 00 safety filler - with pink enamel silver overlay. It came to me at an event in Leipzig, in the early 1990s. Maybe not the rarest of pens, but as it was in MINT condition it sure deserves to be listed here. At the same event, I saw and touched (could not get hold of it) a No. 25 push knob filler in MINT condition made from rose quartz colour - Galalithe.

Another truly rare pen that I had and sold was the No. 6 Rouge et Noir with the sliding barrel safety mechanism. This was probably one of the first pens ever made by Montblanc in c.1908. 

No. 6 Rouge et Noir, sliding barrel safety

Pic Credit: Penboard.de

Another super rare pen I had was a 124S with a wavy pattern. The 124 is a classic Meisterstück push-knob filler from the mid-1930s. It was available in different variants like the P (pearl marbled), PL (platinum lined), G (glatt=glossy), and S (hatched design). The 124S is probably the rarest of the lot, but this wavy pattern is exceptionally rare even for a 124S. 

No. 124S from the mid-1930s

Pic Credit: Penboard.de

In terms of VALUE only, I had the 4810 diamonds pen by Montblanc (for exhibition only). That is a little awkward, not a real beauty. On the other hand, I owned for a very short time their first skeleton pen - the 75th Anniversary pen with the matching watch. That really is a stunning pen! All the later skeleton pens are boring compared to this one. 

Skeleton Solid Gold Limited Anniversary Edition 75 Years of Passion and Soul, made in 1999

Pic Credit: Penboard.de

Another very valuable pen that I was happy to have was a mottled red No. 12 safety filler in mint condition that came over from Tokyo to Cologne, and went from there through my hands to a Belgian collector. 

No. 12 mottled red safety pen made in c. 1924

Pic Credit: Penboard.de

Yet another rare pen that came into my hands was a Montblanc No. 138 made in 1938 with a palladium nib. What made this already rare nib and pen even rarer was its minty condition. It had the original sticker on! I haven't seen a 13x with such a clear ink window since this pen met me in the late 1990s.

No. 138 made in c. 1938

Pic Credit: Penboard.de

From all these pens, the favourite pens to remember have a history, not essentially a value or a rarity. Like the no. 25 push knob filler, from solid gold, with a beautiful engraving, I was shown one day to evaluate. NO, NOT FOR SALE! But, I managed to extract the owner 's phone number, which I did not have to write down. I memorized it and kept having a chat with the lady for about 2 years, every 3 months. Not only for the pen but because it was a wonderful contact to keep alive. So after these years, I finally got the pen. I had to pay a sum that could evenly be divided by 3 - to her 3 grandchildren.

Which is your favourite vintage MB filling system, and why?

Credit: Madridpens

The push knob filler is a genius system in its elegance and simplicity.  The telescopic filler could be even

more my favourite - but it too often breaks and gives me hell to restore or replace! 

The worst of all?  The first versions of the piston filler, from early 1930ies,  hurriedly developed after the success of the Pelikan pen. Their piston guide too often is ruined and it's a mess to fix them. And the modern piston filler mechanisms - the inner spiral is way too cheaply made and too often is twisted and breaks!

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?

Well, add France to the list, there were pens made there. But, but they are of such poor quality, better forget them! Spanish-made pens may be very unusual, but often the quality is not the highest. Italian pens can be

of extreme beauty! Especially, the Italian made celluloid pens. Italian made overlay pens can be pretty lightweight, really beautiful though! 

German pens, of course, show the biggest variation in designs and the most beautiful pens are made in Germany. To complicate matters, there were pens made in Germany but for a certain market. For example, the 138 PL with a long cap tube and very small-cap top made for Italy. Danish pens - some are a simple copy of the German designs, but there are real Danish beauties, like the no. 25 facetted pens. 

12-side faceted Danish No. 25 in black (also made in green and brown marbled)

Considering your knowledge of other German brands too, what was unique about vintage MBs from its competitors at the time?

Credit: Madridpens

Very hard to tell! Looking at German pens, I see a kind of German-style. You look at a safety filler from around 1920 and just from the design you can tell it must be a German brand. Montblanc's Meisterstück series and the subsequent division into three classes of pens was a genius move. And the engineering, like the push knob filler of the Masterpieces from the 1930s are works of art! The most impressive detail about Montblanc pens? Look at a No. 129 and No. 139 pen, and then at a 149 from the 1950ies. They managed to create two enigmatic designs of timeless harmony and beauty!

Credit: Madridpens

Credit: Joudenali

What are some common myths about vintage MBs that you often find yourself busting for collectors?

The funniest little detail is the white star - many sellers have insisted it is made from pure ivory. They would never accept the fact these are made either from cheese (galalithe is made from casein = cheese) or from simple ivory white celluloid. 

 A negative story is one about fake Montblanc pens, fit with a star seemingly made from chewing gum. BUT, looking at the imprint of cap and barrel you find a perfect hot stamp imprint. The only way to quickly check for a fake is to read the barrel imprint - they all have the patent number 508058 (which is for the push knob filler). But the fakes have the number on all sorts of pens, e.g. on a candy striped Rotring Tintenkuli modified to be a Montblanc. These pens were made in Bulgaria a long time ago, but they keep appearing on eBay every now and then.

A couple of fakes found on eBay! Promptly taken down after Tom W. informed the sellers. 

Similarly, there are quite a few mysteries related to vintage MBs! What are some unsolved mysteries that you too have been wondering about?

Well, imprints on the turning knob are constant speculation. For example, the imprints "M.-N". Similarly, I just saw an imprint on a 149 celluloid knob that read "O.K." Also, the 322 PL you recently showed on your website (link). Some pens appear in a bad mix of models. The 138 pens from the early 50ies, with a 146 nib fit. FAKE! One might believe. But close inspection of all the parts shows that these late celluloid pens were properly built to hold this smaller nib. The strangest pen I had was a simple Carrera fountain pen. I found them at the MB importers to Venezuela. But, it was a piston filler never seen in any catalogue. The importer gave the reason for this special version of the Carrera, "well, we did not like the cartridges and Venezuelans did not yet know about them, so we called Montblanc and they simply made us a batch of piston filled Carrera pens".

And then there was a mystery pen that some years ago came into my possession - The Exekutiv Pen. It was sold in Austria in the 1930s and maybe 1940s.  The appearance was very much like a Parker Depression pen. BUT. every inner detail pointed towards Montblanc. I concluded, yes, it is so. Stefan Walrafen saw my post and got angry, "NO, THIS IS CLEARLY a Parker made pen!" And then I found this box, which is clearly based on the Montblanc Reflex box.

Credit: Jordi Lopez

You are an expert restorer of MBs. In your experience, which vintage MB pen model and problem is the hardest to restore and why?

Credit: FredRydr

Talking vintage pens, the disintegrated celluloid of a black and pearl cap top are a real challenge. Ages ago, I would fill the holes up with thin layers of a mix of Loctite 360 and pigments, only to get the pen back after some years with the inserts falling out. Now, I fill these with a thick solution of celluloid in solvents. Or, if possible, I rebuild the part from a bit of original celluloid. Also, disassembling and restoring a telescopic piston is a challenge. I just recently started to try it. And of course, cap lip repair back to perfection is a challenge. Often, I keep a broken pen for a year or two, before I find the courage and the right technique to do the repair.

It's a constant research for the ideal way to fix a pen and to my understanding that is only possible through exchange with other pen repair people. Learning a trick and keeping it a secret is not an option. 

When did you resurrect Goldfink? And why did you choose to bring this particular brand back?

Good question! Vintage Goldfink pens sometimes are of amazing beauty and quality. And, not many were found in the 1990s. So, one day in the year 2000, I searched brand databases in Germany and found Goldfink as a brand available. And I took it, just because it's a lovely brand. I have not yet really launched the brand, I just randomly produce a Goldfink pen and sell it. Here is one, just finished… 

Pic Credit: Penboard.de

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?

Oh, that's a tough one! There are too many different reasons for collecting. Do you want to invest your cash into something valuable? Buy only perfect and really rare pens from trusted sellers. Do you want to have the perfect writing instrument? For writing? Go to some pen meet or pen show and try the pens. You want to save money and buy from eBay? Bear in mind, that prices may be lower, but a huge percentage of pens will arrive rotten, sold by sellers offering no warranty at all. Or, if you buy from a reputable seller via eBay, you will buy with the eBay fees on top. As a starter, buy good pens but do not immediately go for all the grail pens posted on Facebook. 

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