Discover pounds... in your pockets: From fountain pens to rare coins, the everyday items that prove to be surprisingly valuable

Emails, texts and social media have their place but for writing personal letters there is no substitute for using a fountain pen.

The history of fountain pens dates back to the 6th Century when we started using quills – typically feathers plucked from a goose – for writing notes. 

It was not until the 19th Century that fountain pens using pig’s bladders to hold ink from a pot started to replace quills as stationery. 

Write stuff: Simon Gray owns vintage pen shop Battersea Pen Home in Epping

Write stuff: Simon Gray owns vintage pen shop Battersea Pen Home in Epping

In 1884 an insurance salesman called Lewis Waterman patented a new design for fountain pens that allowed for smoother writing using ink. This was after losing an important sale because his fountain pen squirted ink on a client’s application form.

It paved the way for a golden age of fountain pen design in the early 20th Century – producing pens that are still highly sought after for writing today.

Simon Gray, owner of vintage fountain pen shop Battersea Pen Home in Epping, Essex, says: ‘Among the most collectable pens is the Parker 51 – a real classic that was introduced in 1941 after a couple of years of trials.

‘It was innovative in that it had a partially hooded nib that meant you could put it down for up to half an hour and then start writing again with the ink still wet – other pens would dry out. 

'It also had a metal cap that slipped on rather than a traditional screw fitting. Earlier pen screw fittings were hard rubber or plastic and easy to break.’

Gray says that among the most valuable is the early 14-carat solid gold capped Parker 51 made in America that sells for up to £3,000. A British 18-carat version can also fetch more than £2,000.

He adds: ‘When it comes to values there are few that can beat the early Japanese pens with ornate lacquer work known as Maki-e. The Namiki company made some of the most sought-after examples.

‘Find a 1930s Namiki with black lacquer and you might pay £800 but if it has ornate and intricate designs then it could cost £5,000.’

A collector paid £183,000 for a Dunhill Namiki ‘double dragon’ Maki-e lacquer pen in 2000. It was hand-painted by Japanese artist Shogo in 1928. 

Other pen manufacturers valued by collectors include De La Rue, Montblanc, Waterman, Conway Stewart, Sheaffer and Mabie Todd.

Gray says: ‘De La Rue was like the Harrods of its day in the early 20th Century – but it is now better known for making bank notes, stamps and credit cards. Early examples such as the 1901 De La Rue Pelican in sterling silver can fetch up to £1,800.’

Gray points out that pens made from the 1970s onwards tend not to be so valuable as manufacturers have cut on quality to keep costs down – but there are notable exceptions.

He says: ‘Montblanc does a marvellous job marketing limited editions and its pens are always in demand.

‘A limited edition early 1990s Montblanc has risen six-fold in value over the past two decades and one in pristine condition may now be worth more than £1,500.’

Pricey: Poster advertising retro Waterman fountain pen for $2.50 in the US

Pricey: Poster advertising retro Waterman fountain pen for $2.50 in the US

SMALL CHANGE? IT MIGHT NOT BE...

Before spending all that small change burning a hole in your pocket, you should take a closer look at the coins in your possession.

A Kew Gardens 50p minted in 2009 to mark the 250th anniversary of the Royal Botanic Gardens may only be worth 50p to a shopkeeper but to a coin collector - numismatist - it could be worth £50. This is because the coin was limited to a run of only 210,000 - one of the rarest special edition 50p coins in circulation - and it is highly sought after by collectors.

Other limited edition 50p coins - such as the one minted in 2011 to explain the football offside rule - sell for as much as £5 on auction websites, while earlier this year an undisclosed number of Peter Rabbit 50p coins were released that are now being sold online for £20.

Minted anomalies, where coins go into circulation with mistakes on them, are among the most sought after. Many are known as 'mules' because they have mismatched sides - a mule is the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse.

A batch of up to 100,000 20p coins went into circulation between 2008 and 2009 without a date stamp. Today, they can fetch £100. The mistake happened when the date was moved from the 'tails' to the 'heads' side. The Royal Mint let the first batch go out with no date on either side.

An earlier mistake was a small but unknown number of 2p coins minted in 1983 with the words 'New Pence' instead of 'Two Pence'. Find one of these - minted in 1983, no other year - and you may have a coin worth more than £500.

CHECK YOUR POCKET OR WRIST WATCH 

The pocket watch was invented in the 16th Century - but the earliest examples were clocks just fastened to clothing or chained around the neck.

It was not until the arrival of the waistcoat - a fashion championed by King Charles II in the late 17th Century - that watches evolved into devices small enough to be discreetly tucked inside a pocket. By the Victorian era, the accuracy of watches had developed to such an extent that every gentleman owned one.

Adam Wasdell, head of clocks and watches for Tennants Auctioneers in Leyburn, North Yorkshire, believes there is potential for unearthing pocket watch gems. He says: 'Pocket watches are popular as gifts - such as Christening presents - and are wonderful statement pieces. Patek Philippe and Rolex tend to be among the most collectable makes.

'We recently sold a Patek Philippe gold open-faced pocket watch from 1898 for £3,100 - even though it had a cracked face and an estimate price of £1,800. It may sound expensive but in the same sale a 2010 Patek Philippe gold wristwatch sold just above its estimate at £5,200. Many pocket watches are rising in value.' In the same sale held in July, a pocket watch signed Pateck - not Patek - and made in 1870 sold for its top estimate of £500. Wasdell adds: 'It was not a misspelt rip-off but made by a different firm. It shows the appeal of pocket watches.'

An enamel and diamond set pocket watch, signed Matthey & Compe, circa 1783, in a fitted leather case will be auctioned by Tennants in November with an estimated price of up to £7,000.

The wristwatch did not become more popular than the pocket watch until the First World War when it was seen as more practical in the trenches.

Up close: The Matthey & Compe pocket watch and its intricate design

Up close: The Matthey & Compe pocket watch and its intricate design

Trench watch manufacturers such as Rolex, Cartier, Omega and Longines developed their skills honed in warfare to manufacture more sturdy timepieces after the war. The Rolex Oyster was invented in 1926 as one of the first hermetically sealed case watches. A year later it was worn by female swimmer Mercedes Gleitze when she swam the English Channel.

The Rolex Submariner - inspired by this early watch - was introduced in 1953 and is now one of the most iconic watches. Its popularity has also been helped as it was worn by Sean Connery in James Bond films.

A 1958 'Big Crown' Oyster Perpetual Submariner sold for a record $74,500 (£56,000) four years ago, while other Submariners from the era still sell for £10,000 - and later ones for £3,000.

These mechanical timepieces have more than 150 parts. They are much more detailed than the quartzpowered watches introduced in the early 1970s. Quartz watches that are not manually wound or use 'selfwinders' - but are powered by electronic pulses and microchips - are rarely sought as investments.

Time will tell: Adam Wasdell with the Matthey & Compe pocket watch, which is up for auction

Time will tell: Adam Wasdell with the Matthey & Compe pocket watch, which is up for auction

AND DON'T FORGET YOUR KEYS...

THOSE keys jangling in your pocket may only cost a few pounds - but lose them and you are probably left with a hefty bill.

A standard home and contents insurance policy should cover the cost of replacing locks around the home - which can cost more than £200. If burglars break into your property before you have changed the locks the insurance company can throw out your claim if it is found your lost keys were used to gain entry.

In claiming it is important to check the details of your policy to see if there is any excess to pay.

Having a set of spare keys is great insurance against loss or theft. But rather than hiding them somewhere obvious - such as under a plant pot by the front door - leave them with a trustworthy neighbour.

Modern car keys include microchips that allow you to open and start the car. This high-tech innovation can lead to a nightmare if they are lost.

Replacement key cover is standard on only about half of all car insurance policies. About a third of those policies that do not include lost or stolen keys as standard will include it as an optional extra for a yearly fee of perhaps £20.

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