Last Year, This Glenside Collector Spent $20,000 on Items That Are Probably on Your Desk Right Now

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Philly Pen Circle member's writing implement
Image via Tom Gralish at The Philadelphia Inquirer.
One of the prized possessions of a Philly Pen Circle member.

Hobbyists often latch onto offbeat collectibles: celebrity hair samples, hotel do-not-disturb signs, even fossilized feces. But a local resident focuses on a junk drawer or car console mainstay: a pen. Zoe Greenberg’s filed a Philadelphia Inquirer story — presumably not written in longhand — on a Montgomery County member of the Philly Pen Circle.

The organization celebrates the implements of handwriting.

Mike Gealt, 74, routinely leaves his Glenside home for Philly Pen Circle meetings with other pen enthusiasts. Members register by signing their names in an 1800s ledger. They then discuss such details as the finer points of custom fountain pen nibs.

A cream-of-the-crop fountain pen is known as a “grail pen.” They are so named because an individual collector has learned of their unique features, interesting design, or outstanding performance and must obtain one — even at four-figure prices.

Gealt said he estimates he spent around $20,000 on pens in 2022.

An orange and blue Taccia Miyabi urushi-lacquered pen is among his favorites. Its outside is made from the hardened sap of the Japanese urushi tree. One of these pens costs $850.

“I don’t call myself a collector,” joked Gealt. “I’m an accumulator.”

Read more about Mike Gealt in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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The science behind a fountain pen makes for complicated upkeep and repairs, as this video demonstrates.

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