Our Pen Quality Grading

I'll be honest, pen grading is hard because it's so subjective.  One person's "Excellent" is another person's "Very Good", and so on.

This nice thing about it though, is my reputation is riding on it to a large extent, in addition to the quality of my work.  In the end, it's all about honesty - don't lie, cheat, or steal.  Pretty simple really.  That's why I try to write accurate descriptions about my pens, especially something that has been corrected cosmetically (cap scratches, cap dents, crack repair, etc.).  Many times these are difficult to detect even by experts using magnification.  But it's important to me that you know about it.  So, I disclose it.  I'd want you to disclose it to me.

It's also why I try to take multiple pictures of the pen in various stages of restoration.  Most of them are taken under a professional light tent (writing samples being an exception just because it's easier to snap them with an iPhone) with a high quality DSLR.  The most important thing in creating great pen photographs is proper white balance and color temperature in order to render color correctly.  Even so, burgundy, plum, and most of the reds are just plain hard to photograph even under the best studio conditions.

"Mint like" and "minty" are terms that are an abomination to me and completely overused and more importantly, incorrectly used, in our industry.  "Near mint" is somehow OK for me though.  Let's walk through how I try to classify pens.

Mint/NOS - Never inked, dipped or filled.  No obvious signs of use.  May contain original box, instructions and paperwork.  May be referred to as NOS (New Old Stock), although many NOS described pens and parts are not, in fact, Mint.  Pens of this grade cannot be returned if dipped or filled.

Near Mint - Can have been inked, dipped or filled.  Little signs of use.  Light desk wear, hand wear.  No dents, dings, chips, cracks or major scratches.  No brassing.  An exceptionally well cared-for pen in great condition.

Excellent - Has obvious signs of light use.  Well taken care of and maintained.  Some light but hard to detect scratches from use. Dents, dings, chips, cracks or scratches may have been cosmetically corrected and are ALWAYS disclosed. Little to no brassing.  Pen shows extremely well.

Very Good - Obvious signs of use for a 40 to 100+ year old pen.  Can have some brassing visible to the naked eye but not severe.  May contain tiny dents/dings where repair may be more risky/expensive than the benefit gained.  Any cosmetic repairs will be well disclosed.  Pen shows well.  You would not hesitate to give as a gift.

Good/Fair - Definite signs of moderate to heavy use consistent with age.  Some scratches or dents visible to the naked eye that are more significant than the "very good" condition.  Totally functional.  Brassing may be obvious to the casual observer.  Pen shows OK.

User Grade - Similar to Good/Fair, but it wouldn't hurt your feelings if you lost it.  Your wallet would be OK.  Heavily disclosed and photographed.  Pen is not completely ugly. :))

Poor - I don't even know what this is, but it's not good.  Some components of these pens are so bad they wind up as parts-pens, but some of their components are perfectly acceptable for use on other pens.  Unlikely to find entire pens with this grade on my site.

Parts - Individual pen parts on the site will also be graded as above.


See, it's pretty subjective.  I'll do the best I can.  Ask any questions and we'll work through it.