Bodart is pictured Tuesday at the Hampton Inn and Suites
in West Bend, where he was in town to buy pens, as well
as the ink that fuels them.
Gay Griesbach/Special to
WEST BEND — Brad Bodart doesn’t
collect pens — he finds them new homes.
Bodart grew up with stationery; his parents owned Pen and Pad in
Mayfair Mall. At the age of 10, his favorite place in the store was
the pen section.
In 1999, he bought Pen and Pad’s competitor, Daly’s Pen shop. Daly’s
opened its doors in downtown Milwaukee in 1924 and is billed as
America’s oldest pen shop.
A portion of Bodart’s customers were of the millennial generation,
but they favored less-expensive fountain pens — Pilot Metropolitans,
futuristic looking TWSBI, German-manufactured Kaweco, all of which
can be purchased for under $40.
Not exactly profitable.
Some customers would visit his brick-and-mortar store to try various
writing instruments, but would buy pens online. Once they got the
pen and weren’t sure how to use it, they’d return to the store for
Instead of fighting the eBays and Amazons of the world, five years
ago he moved to selling vintage writing instruments online. He
closed the physical store about a year ago.
Now Bodart’s customer base is worldwide, especially in Europe and
Asia, where fountain pens are still in common use.
Traveling from his home base in Wauwatosa, Bodart and by extension,
Daly’s turned to the road to replenish his inventory.
Bodart sat in the Glacier Conference Room of the Hampton Inn and
Suites in West Bend equipped with a smartphone, iPad and an array of
fountain pens and inks that were brought in that morning.
By mid-day March 30, traffic had slowed.
He did pick up a couple of 1940s-era Schaefer pen sets and a few
sundry items, but last week in Madison, he bought a 400-piece
“You never know what will walk in the door,” Bodart said.
He buys and sells classic name brands; Parker, Waterman, Sheaffer,
Montblanc, Pelikan, Omas, vintage and pre-owned fountain pens,
ballpoint pens, roller balls and pencils along with ink wells, nibs
and other ancillary items.
Bodart said that often, pens that can go on writing are thrown away
when children clear out an elderly parent’s home.
Last year in Beloit, he bought a collection from a daughter whose
mother worked at the Parker Pen Company, founded in 1888 by George
Safford Parker in Janesville. The company closed its doors in
Janesville in 2009.
After looking through the bulk of the collection, the woman opened
her purse and pulled out a box with three prototype Parker Vacumatic
Bodart guessed that her mother worked for one of the higher managers
and was probably sent to the archives to retrieve the prototypes.
Since pens, especially at a pen company, move from here to there,
hand to hand, it’s likely the Vacumatics found their way into her
But his biggest prize was a hand-painted Parker Duofold. Duofolds
had their world premiere in early 1921.
“When it came into the store I wasn’t sure what it was,” Bodart
He had a Parker expert come in to identify the instrument and sold
it to a man in Chile.
The find earned him a six-page spread in “Pen World,” a niche
magazine for fans of fine writing instruments.
“I’ve never found one like it before or since,” Bodart said.
When it comes to personal writing instruments, Bodart’s weapon of
choice is a Parker 45 cap-actuated ballpoint pen and he prefers a
Bodart said he doesn’t seek out pens once owned by the rich and
famous since provenance is difficult to prove, but he once owned a
Cross Townsend with Barack Obama’s official presidential seal.
For decades, presidents used Parker or Cross pens.
President Donald Trump’s bold signature comes from the nib of a
Cross Century II rollerball pen with felt insert, Bodart said.
He still has a once-signed photo of former President George H.W.
Bush from 1980 — the problem being that the ink on the signature
faded to nothing.
Bodart disparages the loss of teaching cursive in most schools.
His German grandmother wrote recipes in flowing formal script that
nowadays is as difficult to decipher as cursive is to those in
school after Common Core standards dropped cursive from required
“It’s a shame kids don’t learn cursive,” he said. “What they didn’t
realize is that they also removed the thought process, the artistry,
the spark in the brain.”
But not for a sector of the millennial generation. Type “learn
cursive writing” into a computer and hundreds of suggestions pop up
instantly. They are taking cursive classes and learning to decode
messages from their parents and grandparents.
For more information about Bodart and Daly’s, including his pen
buying calendar, see