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Luxury pens have become a 'write of passage' for collectors

A growing number of collectors interested in exclusive writing instruments have caused prices for these items to rise. 

SINGAPORE: In today's digital age, it is common to communicate electronically via email, WhatsApp and social media platforms. However, there is a growing number of rather contrarian collectors who have set their sights on acquiring luxury writing instruments. Prices for these tools can range from S$450 for a ballpoint pen to 2.2 million (S$3.6 million) for a bespoke creation.

From a classic "power pen" used to sign business documents, to a playful one that resembles a panda on a eucalyptus tree, choices are aplenty for connoisseurs, some of whom purchase the pens as an investment.

Said Mr Candi Kum, CEO of Aquila Brands Singapore: "Most of the pens do appreciate. The pen that has appreciated the most would be the 1996 Monte Grappa dragon. It was a limited edition and that was when the era of collecting pens really boomed. Then it was about US$4,000 (S$4,978). Now in the after market, you have to pay about US$7,000 to US$7,500 (S$8,712 to S$9,335), and that is if you can find one. People who have it don't want to relinquish it."

Mr Andreas Boesch, managing director for Mont Blanc in Southeast Asia, says the growing number of collectors, and their growing appreciation for this craft, has led the brand to see a price bump for its pens as well: "We see an increase in our average price over time of about 5 to 10 per cent per year across our collections."

But a savvy eye for investment may not be as much of a factor as an interest in what such pens stand for, according to him. "If you invest in a fountain pen, you make a purchase because of an emotion, because you appreciate what it stands for, how it was crafted and the way you feel when you write," he said. "For us, it is very much about sharing writing culture. Writing has an incredible heritage and we want to pass on this message through writing master classes."

Another luxury brand banking on creativity to stay ahead of the competition is Cartier. Mr Gregoire Blanche, the brand's Regional Managing Director for Southeast Asia-Australia, believes collectors are looking for "precious objects with great creativity". Citing the example of a Cartier dragon pen that would retail for around S$54,000, he pointed out: "It really calls for the attention of these collectors. We also have people looking for gifts that are exceptional and that would mean something to the person they are offering it to."