Milton man makes it a point to share Parker Pen collection

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Shelly Birkelo
Monday, May 6, 2013

— Dave Nelson always carries a Jotter Parker Pen with him at work.

Its ballpoint nib is durable, and he likes the iconic clip and streamlined design.

“I appreciate how it writes,” he said.

In fact, Nelson appreciates just about everything about Parker Pens.

The 48-year-old Milton man has acquired 3,000 pens and accessories over the past two decades. Of those, about 95 percent are Parker Pens, which he said are probably the most highly collectible pens in the world.

Still, Nelson, who is an employee of the U.S. Postal Service, said he only has 10 percent of the pen varieties manufactured at Parker Pen in Janesville between 1888 and 1999.

Initially a toy collector, Nelson was at an auction 21 years ago when he bought a box of old toys. Inside was 20 Parker Pens. After calling a local pen collector and asking questions, Nelson decided to keep the pens.

“I just knew they had to be worth something,” he recalled.

But the value of the pens is only part of their appeal for Nelson, who is intrigued by the ingenuity behind them.

“To me, it's the uniqueness of the designs and how George Parker did what he did,” Nelson said.

He spoke as he ran the tip of his index finger over a pattern of closely spaced parallel lines with regularly-spaced circular indentations in the silver stainless steel 75 series “teardrop” pen.

Nelson admires the inventive design behind Parker's Sonnet Sterling Silver Cisele ballpoint pen.

Its sterling silver mat was finely chiseled with a crosshatch pattern that received a touch of black lacquer in the grooves and was accented with a gold-plated trim and a top that twists to expose the point, he said.

“It was a heck of a process,” Nelson said.

Nelson, who also does pen appraisals, ships pens all over the world and just mailed a couple old pencils to Russia.

“I have a list of customers. So if I get something unique, I'll call them,” he said.

He even sold some items last year to the Parker Pen family.

“They bought a Parker Sonnet set that included a fountain pen and a ball point pen,” he said.

Scratches and marks on a pen can drop its value from $100 to $10, Nelson said.

Nelson owns pens that range in value from $2 to $2,000.

He said his most valuable and favorite pen is a Parker 75 series Presidential solid gold pen he stores in a lock box.

Among some of Nelson's interesting pens are:

-- A 1965 Jotter Parker pen and pencil set with a gold Parker logo that rests in red silk lining of a black case given to Nelson by an Edgerton woman who served in the Wisconsin Legislature.

-- A Parker Pen leather attaché case he bought from a Janesville Parker Pen salesman.

-- End-of-day pens that had color pallets not found in manufactured pens that resulted from switching out the colors of paint at the end of the manufacturing day.

-- A 1909 filigree solid gold fountain pen in its original green velvet case.

In addition to buying and selling pens at shows, Nelson has bought and sold pens as far away as Chicago, on eBay and through word of mouth.

“I've probably sold over 2,000 pens on the Internet over the past 12 to 13 years,” he said.

Last updated: 10:39 am Tuesday, July 2, 2013

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