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Gold-Laced Dunhill-Namiki Stars in $650,000 Bonhams Pen Auction

Krone Fountain Pen
A limited-edition Krone fountain pen made from sterling silver and pink stingray, and surmounted by pink diamonds on the cap. The pen is estimated to sell for $8,000 to $10,000 at Bonhams in New York on Aug. 19. Source: Bonhams via Bloomberg

Bonhams will blow a raspberry at the BlackBerry era with an auction Thursday of deluxe fountain pens expected to fetch as much as $649,020.

The 410 lots in the New York sale include a Dunhill-Namiki fountain pen laced with gold dust and mother-of-pearl and tagged to sell for as much as $30,000. There’s also a Montblanc “Magical Black Widow,’’ featuring a weblike white-gold overlay, a filigree spider with black diamonds on the clip and a target price of $24,000. It’s from an edition of 88, of which the first sold for $33,500 at Bonhams last year.

Pens are “a kind of jewelry for the successful man,’’ says Martin Gammon, the auctioneer’s director of business development who is overseeing the sale. A Bonhams pen sale in June raised $411,845.

“The pen market is stable, which is not bad, the economy being what it is,’’ says Ed Fingerman, director of operations at Manhattan’s Fountain Pen Hospital, where pens have been repaired and sold since 1946. Buyers include Bill Cosby and Tom Hanks.

Some aficionados buy and sell for profit. A sterling silver Montblanc pen inspired by Florentine art patron Lorenzo de Medici retailed for about $1,200 when it was produced, and now trades around $7,000-$9,000, Gammon says.

The Bonhams auction is drawn from a pair of private collections. One seller, U.S. businessman Michael A. Tucci, acquired pens for 20 years, never using them, according to Bonhams. The second collection hails from a California entrepreneur who has dubbed his trove “Clavius’’ yet declines to be identified by name himself.

Mammoth, Stingray

The auction includes pens produced during the past two decades -- a field known as “modern limited editions” -- by high-end makers including Cross, Grayson Tighe, Dupont, Parker and Visconti. These editions began as the supply of pens from the vintage era, loosely defined as pre-1980, began to dry up, according to Fingerman.

Materials can be weird, like mammoth ivory, meteorite and stingray, and no theme is too glitzy, arcane and corny. There are pens named after or inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, Mickey Mouse and Moses and the Ten Commandments. Others are decorated with tennis rackets, alligators and maps.

A Krone homage to the Apollo 11 lunar landing includes a silvery mottled moonscape, a piece of foil from the mission and a letter from astronaut Buzz Aldrin attesting to the foil’s authenticity. It’s expected to sell for $1,000-$1,500.

Buyers include “captains-of-industry types who come in through watch collecting,’’ Gammon says. There are also new collectors in Asia and the Middle East, as well as the usual old-guard buyers drawn from the ranks of doctors, lawyers and entrepreneurs.

‘Little Works of Art’

Die-hard collectors might acquire two of a variety -- one to use and another to store, says Fingerman. A pen without the proper box and papers can lose as much as 50 percent of its value.

Besides investment appeal, pens are “little works of art,’’ Fingerman says, reflecting the design sensibility of a particular era. And in a world succumbing to e-mail, texting and Twitter, pens have a retro appeal, he says, “harkening back to a more tranquil time.’’

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