On June 11, Bonhams hosted the Fine Writing Instruments: The Mel Wilmore Collection of Extraordinary Montblancs auction which featured the greatest single collection of fine Montblanc pens ever offered at auction. These spectacular examples belonged to Mel Wilmore who is described as one of the top Montblanc collectors worldwide, so much so that he had a hidden pen room constructed in his estate, designed and arranged by several important Montblanc employees. Pens reflecting popular celebrities, national pride, commemorative anniversaries and ones exhibiting the finest artistry found great competition among the most discerning pen collectors.
Ivan Briggs, The Fine Writing Instruments specialist, states about the auction, “Mr. Wilmore’s fine Montblanc pens represented a unique opportunity for collectors to acquire legendary pens that seldom come to market, and international interest in the sale was unprecedented. The highlights preview in Hong Kong was met with great enthusiasm, and bids were received from top collectors in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Our clients in Asia were particularly enraptured my Mr. Wilmore’s pens, many of which feature themes celebratory of Asian cultural heritage. Once again, Montblanc’s creations have demonstrated their viability on the secondary market with an auction total of over $1 million, and Bonhams was delighted to have been a part of this historic offering.”
Leading the auction was the world’s first skeleton pen made by Montblanc’s master craftsmen in observance of the brand’s 75th birthday. Using the Meisterstück 149 as their model, Montblanc skeletonized the pen, revealing the perfection of the design by eliminating all superfluities. This limited edition example along with a solid gold watch sold for $68,500 (pre-sale est. $60,000-75,000).
Another top highlight to the auction came to Mr. Wilmore because of his stellar negotiating skills and dedication to his passion for collecting the finest and rarest. This was a complete set of eleven limited edition fountain pens made in commemoration of Nelson Mandela’s 80th birthday. Only 80 sets of these 11 pens were made, the first set presented to Nelson Mandela and the 80th meant for the South African government. After Mr. Wilmore made a very persuasive argument for the 80th set, he succeeded. Offered in auction was one of only four complete sets, selling for $41,250 (pre-sale est. $35,000-50,000).
Several top lots exhibited the talented and accomplished design talent of Montblanc’s Atelier Privés artisan workshop. These pens, crafted for the most astute pen collectors, were received most favorably. Leading this group was a Magical Black Widow White Gold and Diamond Skeleton Pen featuring a delicate black diamond spider and white diamond spider web. Some cultures deem the spider a symbol of good fortune; its figure eight shaped body symbolizes infinity, and to honor this idea, Montblanc only produced eight pens. This one sold for $55,000 (pre-sale est. $30,000-40,000). Françios Ateliers Privés was made as a tribute to the first king of the Renaissance. Featuring black Tahitian mother-of-pearl facets and 342 brilliant-cut diamonds this was one of Montblanc’s most exclusive pens and sold for $37,500 (pre-sale est. $32,000-45,000).
Skeleton pens, pens designed to reveal the instrument’s inner-workings, proved popular throughout the auction, especially those paying tribute to iconic celebrities and influencers. Leading this group was a Charlie Chaplin Skeleton Limited Edition of 88 fountain pens, which from the bowler hat captop to the solid gold walking cane clip, pays tribute in almost every detail to this cinematic icon. This playful tribute pen sold for $41,250 (pre-sale est. $25,000-35,000). Also in this group was a pen dedicated to musical icon John Lennon, a Limited Edition 70 Skeleton Fountain Pen selling for $35,000 (pre-sale est. $28,000-35,000).
Illustrating American pride was the George Washington America’s Signatures for Freedom Series, limited edition of 50 selling for $28,750 (pre-sale est. $20,000-25,000). This lead a series honoring America and its president, complete with a gold nib engraved with a halo of stars and the legend “America’s Signatures for Freedom.” Another patriotic highlight was the White House Skeleton Fountain Pen which was inspired by the architecture of the president’s home. Selling for $23,750 this impressive pen was made with transparent blue resin and white gold columns complete with a sapphire-eyed eagle adorning the base of the sapphire-tipped clip (pre-sale est. $22,000-32,000).
For more information on the sale, go to www.bonhams.com/auctions/20002.>