There are no two ways about it, the release of the Montblanc Rouge et Noir has triggered a resurgence in interest in the Agatha Christie Writers Edition fountain pen. I’m here to check if the legend lives up to its reputation. Read on…
A while back I posted about my supreme luck in stumbling across a very reasonably priced Agatha Christie, just as the hype surrounding the Montblanc Rouge et Noir foutnain pen release was in full swing. The later of the two was an excited yet considered purchase (full review here), whereas the Agatha Christie was an offer too good to refuse. Once I had handed over the equivalent of a couple of weeks salary for many people, I felt a distinct sense of anticipation and even a little bit of fear. Here I was purchasing the grail pen of the Writers Edition line, save only the Hemingway, which was supposed to blow my socks off and yet I was relying on a really bad set of photos, lackluster description and what the internet was telling me about the pen.
Oh yes, the internet can be a powerful opinion leader in the world of fountain pens. If you do a quick google search, you will find many reviews and articles on this pen about how fantastic it is. I don’t know about all of that, but what ultimately what drew me to taking an interest in this out of production pen was its simplicity and reference to Montblanc’s of old with the serpent clip. Many pen companies attempt to achieve those concepts and end up embellishing details and using material that make the writing instruments very socially awkward to use, particularly in a professional setting.
Anyway, back to my boggle, I tried to tell myself to calm down but went into a slightly obsessive tracking mode similar to my experience with purchasing the Montblanc Heritage 1912. I reasoned that this was actually quite a sound investment for what was paid, and no matter how rough the condition of the pen it would easily be able to be retrieved if I needed to sell it. There, an artificial mental safety net achieved, and I was rocketing off to the post office the day I received the pen. Luckily for me, the pen came with the box and papers in reasonable shape and the pen itself was in very good condition.
And so after a few weeks of use I won’t be reviewing this pen as if it were new, quite simply because you can’t buy it new anymore for the recommended retail price. I will instead attempt to review the pen as a collectible with today’s prices to determine whether it is worth handing over your hard earned money to a dealer or re seller.
Name: Montblanc Agatha Christie Writers Edition Limited Edition Fountain Pen
Colour: Black. Available as either a separate fountain pen (23,000 produced), ballpoint (18,000 produced) or as a set of the fountain pen, ballpoint and mechanical pencil (7,000 produced). A more exclusive Limited Edition 4810 fountain pen was also released (4,810 produced) which had a gold plated clip and sapphire eyes.
Materials: Precious resin cap with ivory logo, serpent clip in 925 Sterling Silver, Ruby set as serpents eyes.
Nib Size & Material: Fine. Rhodium plated 18 karat 750 gold nib with serpent head engraving.
Filling Mechanism: Piston filler.
Measurements: 140mm capped, 128mm uncapped, 168mm posted.
Price: RRP $595 USD for the regular fountain pen back in 1993. Currently trend ~$1500+ USD for the FP and $750 USD for the ballpoint.
Available: Fairly regularly available on eBay and via vintage pen dealers only. Make sure you are sitting down though when you see the price.
What Makes It
Aesthetics. It’s subjective I know, but those proportions scream quality, simplicity and elegance. The serpent clip, designed to reflect the tension in Christie’s novels, flows perfectly against the deep black resin and the ruby eyes provide a lovely contrast and sparkle when they catch the light on certain angles. The ‘worn’ ivory star and tarnish of the sterling silver lend an old world charm to the Agatha Christie that just works. It is a glorious pen to behold in the flesh that is not flashy or garish, but full of character and subtlety. The ridges which surround both the cap top and piston knob are well placed and add a sense of stability to the design, much like Greek columns, and are reflective of the period of Agatha Christie’s style of novels in the 1920’s. Montblanc did a great job with the design of this pen and it is no wonder that it has such a large following. A+
Size & Ergonomics. This pen will feel well balanced and natural in the hands of anyone other than those with smaller hands. The pen is based on the 146 and has a slightly heavier feel to it than the standard Meisterstuck of the time. Some people like to write with their cap posted and this pen really delivers for that crowd with a relatively secure posting action and a reasonable balance. I myself do not write with any pen posted so can’t comment on the comfort of longer writing sessions. Speaking of which, when unposted you can simply write for a very, very long time with the Agatha Christie without your hand getting too fatigued. The ink window a really handy inclusion to keep track of how much ink is left. It is quite versatile as far as large pens go, but not unnecessarily so. The serpent clip also has a reasonable length to it which means it securely fastens to your favourite shirt or carry case; super important I think when carrying around a $1500 vintage pen!
Collectability & Investment Value. I’ll be the first person to tell you that smart investing in vintage pens can net you a modest profit in the medium term, however, versus other investment options out there this is certainly not a good choice of asset for return. That being said, the key difference of pens as a collectible item is the ability to enjoy them carefully without impacting the resale value (unless of course the pen is in mint unused condition). On that front the Agatha Christie really makes quite a lot of sense. Looking at the initial outlay of this pen ($595) let’s assume a 3% compounded inflation rate occurs on your money. From 1993 through to the present 2016, that means this pen should deliver a value of $1,174. Given what you would receive for this pen in reasonable condition on a slow day ($1,300) you are still in front by $126 for something that you have already derived use and pleasure from. Of course collecting tastes change like the wind so the risk of the item losing its collectability is ever present. I would suggest however, that the Agatha Christie’s unique place in the Writers Edition world makes it less risky. So, if you are intrigued by the great design and ergonomics of this pen, it will serve you well for a very long time (I’ve even heard of people having these pens expertly re-tipped after 20 years) and you will be able to turn a modest profit afterwards. Have some fun and go for it I’d say!
What Breaks It
High Buy In Price. It’s fairly obvious that a used pen from only 23 years ago that costs ~$1,500USD is not within everyone’s reach nor is it everyone’s cup of tea. Some pens run for asking prices upwards of $2,000 and that is truly astounding given the relatively large supply this Writers Edition was produced in (there are 30,000 of these pens out there!). Value of course is relative to each person and so for me I felt it was a stretch that wasn’t quite in the realm of other vintage Montblanc’s which can run for several thousand dollars. A modern classic you might say…
Nothing Else. For fear of looking like too much of a fan and therefore biased, I sat for a good 20 minutes when writing this post to think of some of the things that I didn’t like after a few weeks of using this pen. I really cannot think of anything else significant as to mention. It is what is says on the box and executes it perfectly, I dare say it is near perfect. There are no issues to speak of with quality and after 20 years of aging, other than the sterling silver tarnishing which is totally normal and can be polished, the Agatha Christie does not suffer design faults such as the cap cracking as in the Hemingway. A real achievement by Montblanc.
As I settled in with the Montblanc Agatha Christie and my initial line of thinking about the pen as a sound investment was tested, the reason I purchased this pen finally dawned on me. It is an enjoyable keepsake with long term potential.
That’s right, this 23 year old piece of plastic was purchased for the love of writing, the way the pen looks and the inherent value it is likely to retain. The pen has a well deserved following in my opinion, it is a legend in the fountain pen world, no doubt about it. You are likely to need to trawl the internet or pen shows for hours to find one at a good price, but at the end of it all, it will be worth it as it is an absolute pleasure to write with and handle. If you have the means and can swallow the hit to the wallet, buy this pen, you won’t regret doing so.
Attached are some photo’s of the pen including a size comparison to help you decide. Good luck!
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