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Antique and vintage pens and inkwells set to write auction history May 20

Dick Greve's passion for antique and vintage pens began after he received letters from his mother nearly every day of his military service during the Vietnam War. On May 20, his lifetime collection (500+ pens) will come before bidders, during J. Levine Auction & Appraisal's Vintage Pen Auction.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (May 10, 2016) – A Scottsdale man’s lifetime collection of more than 500 antique and vintage pens and a Southern Arizona couple’s collection of more than 160 inkwells are among the highlights of J. Levine Auction & Appraisal’s “Vintage Pen Auction” on Friday, May 20 starting at 10 a.m. PDT.

Pen and inkwell collage

This sample represents a few of the more than 650 antique and vintage pens and inkwells featured in J. Levine Auction & Appraisal's May 20 auction. (Photo by Amanda Dickey/courtesy of J. Levine Auction & Appraisal)

The auction comes at a time when most people are corresponding via their computers, tablets and phones, but J. Levine owner and auctioneer Josh Levine said there’s strong interest in collecting vintage writing instruments.

“People continue to be fascinated with their history, their beauty, and in some cases, their functionality,” Levine said. “We’re seeing some people buy inkwells for décor, and others buying vintage pens and refurbishing them. When you think about it, these were part of everyone’s lives and helped to record everything from national declarations and business deals to literature, love letters and more.”

For Dick Greve, a Scottsdale resident, his collection of more than 500 vintage pens symbolizes his deep appreciation and love he had for his mother, who wrote him a letter every day he served in Vietnam.

“I was a second class petty officer working as a dental technician in the Navy,” Greve said. “Those letters were very comforting and I got the idea of collecting pens after I returned home.”

Most of Greve’s pens are fountain pens, with some dating back to the 1920s. “There’s a vast collection of Parker and Sheaffer pens, and my favorite are the Montblanc pens,” he said, adding that over the 40 years he collected pens, he’d find them in estate sales, auctions and on eBay.

After the war, Greve opened his own laboratory, where he continues to work as a dental technician. Rather than keep his collection private, he had many of his pens on display in the lobby of his office.

“A lot of my clients got a kick out of seeing the variety of colors and styles,” he said.

glass and metal ink well

This ornate vintage glass and metal ink well is one of more than 160 coming to auction May 20.

A Passion for Finding Rare Inkwells

Back in 1836, ready-made ink was made available and inkwells were created to hold ink. People would dip their feather quills, or later, metal nib pens, in the inkwell and write.

“Many inkwells were portable, but the decorative ones for desks gained popularity quickly,” Levine said. “Just like you see different designs for cell phone cases today, back then you’d see inkwells made of cut glass crystal, milk glass, enameled champleve, brass, bronze, faience pottery, sterling, silverplate, porcelain, and more.”

The May 20th auction features more than 160 inkwells from a Southern Arizona couple who inherited the collection from the wife’s parents.

“She was a teacher and artist who joined her husband during summers at his construction projects in various states in the Eastern half of the United States,” Levine said of the consignor’s parents. “They were members of The Society of Inkwell Collectors who traveled extensively, and they loved the adventure of discovering rare inkwells just as much as the actual collectibles themselves.”

J. Levine Auction & Appraisal is located at 10345 N. Scottsdale Rd., in Scottsdale, on the southeast corner of Scottsdale Road and Shea Boulevard. The public can preview the May 20 Vintage Pen Auction as well the May 21 Art Gallery Liquidation Sale on Thursday, May 19. Doors open for both auctions at 9 a.m. with live bidding starting at 10 a.m. Pacific Time. Bidders can also bid online and via phone.

For more details, visit or call 480-496-2212.

Sheaffer pen

Sheaffer nostalgia fountain pen, 14K yellow gold.

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