the 1820’s silver dip pen

by | Sep 10, 2018 | a slice of life, All Things Home, Antiques, Favorite Finds | 51 comments

Well, I am in Paris and sitting on our balcony overlooking the Eiffel tower as I write this.  There is just no way in the world I can write about all of the events of the past two days in one or two posts.  I think that most of my writing will have to happen when I get home or on the airplane, so I’m not spending precious moments in Europe pecking away at a laptop.

But, I do want to pop in here to share small stories and moments from my trip and then I’ll share the entire narrative (well, the parts that I deem interesting) to flesh out these little stories.

Today, I am telling about the antique sterling silver dip pen I bought while at a flea market.

We went to Marché aux puces de Saint-Ouen and were met there by a Paris Perfect tour guide.  Eric was a specialist in the antique markets and really all things history.  You could see that he loved introducing us to some of his favorite vendors and telling us about that area in Paris.  He was a like a host giving us a tour of his home, which was comforting right off the plane.

After poking through silverware trays and peering into glass cases, I asked Eric if he could inquire about silver dip pens, since they were often made by silverware manufacturers.  We received head shakes from a couple of vendors, followed by a helpful referral to another vendor in another stall who might have a “plume”.  As I’m hearing the word “plume”, I kept clarifying to Eric that I didn’t want a feather, but apparently I need to just keep my mouth shut when listening to French, because “plume” is the word used to describe a dip pen.

At last, we found an unassuming little stall with a little bit of this and that.  At first glance, I didn’t see any dip pens, but I was directed to a case on the left where, just above eye level, were neat rows of dip pens.  I took a step back to get a broader view of the case and it was filled with ink bottles, nib boxes, ink wells, fountain pens, and other vintage and antique writing accessories.

Well, here we go…

Now, up to this point, I had seen a lot of very beautiful, but expensive items.  Justifiably expensive, since they were very old and in beautiful condition, but expensive nonetheless.  I have saved a generous amount of spending money for this trip, so I was ready to splurge, but I wasn’t ready to spend 300€ on an 1800’s copper bunt pan that would just hang on my pot rack.  (I followed my plan and lovingly took pictures of them as my souvenir).

I held my breath as I pointed at a silver dip pen and asked the price.  It was in my splurge range and I knew it was something I would use that would be very special.  Above all, it would fit in my suitcase.  The vendor, who was a delightful woman named Marie, told me that it was from the 1820’s.  That sealed it for me.  I imagined myself drawing and writing with a pen that’s almost 200 years old that I purchased in Paris.  Sold.

I told her I would like to buy it and asked if she was flexible on the price.  She gave me about about a 10% discount off the tag price and I smiled and nodded.  The universal signal of approval.

Marie carried the pen to her register and she started digging through drawers and bags of nibs.

“Would you like nibs?”

“Oh yes!”  I had even been looking at the boxes of nibs and asked for the prices.  She waved her hand dismissively and said, almost as an insistent reprimand, “Oh, no, no.  I will give you nibs.”

She picked out ones that were good for drawing and also ones she loved.  It was then that I realized she didn’t just sell pens, but she most likely used them, too.

“Do you write with them?”  I had to make a writing motion and point to her.  “Oh, yes!”  She pulled a card out of a drawer that showed her skill with a pen.

She added a couple more nibs to the bag and sealed it up for me.

Feeling like we were passed the basic shopkeeper/customer pleasantries, I asked, “What is your name?”

“I’m Marie.”

“I’m Marian.”

Her face lit up and she repeated my name, but with French inflection.  “Ahh, Mari-en!”

I’m not one for hugging strangers, but I had a feeling I just met a kindred spirit.  We don’t speak the same language, but found a common love and we appreciated one another for it.  I held my arms out, silently asking if I could hug her.  She leaned in for a hug and kissed me on both cheeks.

“Merci, mad’ame.”


She walked me out of her stall and we exchanged kisses once more.

The rest of the group had been looking around at other stalls and then waiting for me until I emerged.  They witnessed the kisses and Wendy (of Front Porch Mercantile) said, “Well, I guess she bought something!”

I bubbled with excitement, “I just found a new friend in Paris.”

And the dip pen, beautiful as it is, seemed incidental.

If you want to follow my travels through France and Italy, I am sharing regularly on my Instagram stories.

Disclosure: This isn’t specifically a sponsored post, but the guide and my accommodations were provided by Paris Perfect.  You’ll be hearing more about them in my other Paris posts.


  1. Teresa

    Oh my goodness, your trip to Paris already sounds amazing. My late great-aunt was a world traveler and she always said I don’t care if I have spent every nickel I have on taking trips, I will have something priceless at the end of my life….great memories and adventures.

  2. Jennifer

    Thank you for sharing! What a lovely woman, and now I am missing my friends in Paris and their warm hugs and kisses. I am going to email them asap!! Enjoy the rest of your trip!

  3. Jo

    Well, you brought tears to my eyes. It’s wonderful to find treasures when we travel, but to make friends, even for a very short while, is priceless. You will never forget sweet Marie.

  4. Downraspberrylane

    Love the story, love the pen!

  5. Kim

    Now you’ve got a little story to go along with the pen! 🙂

  6. Connie

    A beautiful pen that is also the best type of souvenir – something you will actually use and cherish! And I can’t wait to follow along and see the beauty you create with it!

  7. Donna

    Yes, I am following along on instagram, picking up my phone more through out the day. I’m living vicariously through you and your mom, hoping one day that will be my daughter and I. She is also following. I know your heart is happy there, may there be many more “friends” in Paris for you! bonjour!

  8. Monica

    What a great story to go with your treasure! I can’t help myself…and you gained a “pen pal” 🙂

  9. Mary in VA

    Such fabulous memories! What a dear lady, so glad she was the one with the pen and nibs!

  10. katerina stepovikov

    You’re in Paris and you buy a pen !! What is wrong with you .

  11. Terrie

    Sounds like you are having a wonderful time in Paris. I love the pen. My husband and I are going to Paris in a couple of weeks and I would love to visit Marie’s little stall. Do you have an address or stall number? What a wonderful pen and even better getting to meet Marie. Enjoy the rest of your trip. Can’t wait to see what other treasures you find. Bonjour

    • Marian Parsons

      I found her card. She is in Allée 8, Stand 179 and her business name is OGNIarte.

  12. Carla

    Wow! I have tears in my eyes and goosebumps. What a wonderful experience! I hope the rest of your visit is as magical as making a new friend.

  13. Debbie Valentini

    I love your story and thanks for sharing. I, too, am an artist and always on the hunt for usable treasures. If you get a chance visit an Art Supply Store and also a Grocery Store. You may be pleasantly surprised at the arrays. Enjoy your trip and soak it all in. Your reporting can wait till you are in route or back. Lucca is my favorite Italian city, the light is wonderful and enhances the old buildings. Bonjour!!!

  14. Elizabeth

    Your charm and openness will win you many Friends in France… Some of my fondest memories from trips to France involve talking with retailers of all stripes.

  15. CONNIE in GA

    What a special find (the pen AND the friend) and a wonderful story! I am enjoying your trip so much via IG stories and can’t wait to hear and see all the details when you return home. Thanks so much for sharing your trip with us!

  16. logan wilhelm

    The French people are delightful, so glad you made a new friend!

  17. MaryLisa

    What a wonderful story to find a treasure and a treasured friend! Your guide sounds amazing and I’m looking forward to learning more about this service.

  18. Monique

    What a wonderful, heartwarming experience!! Thank you so much for sharing!

  19. Patty

    What a gorgeous souvenir!!

  20. Vickie H.

    Lovely, lovely pen and what a sweet experience! Thanks for sharing!

  21. Claire

    I love this! I went to Paris once on a women’s mission trip and on the only day we got to sightsee I spent a ridiculous amount of money on a MontBlanc silver trimmed pen for my husband, who collects pens and was not with me. I bought it steps away from the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs-Élysées. It is decidedly the most exciting gift I have ever bought him.

  22. Cyndi

    What a wonderful story and magnificent pen! I love Paris and hope to return one day. Enjoy your stay and also enjoy Italy!

  23. Susan Kraeszig

    Great story. I’m another one with goosebumps and tears. ❤️

  24. Suzette

    I want to go back to Paris!
    I loved the Flea Markets, but you are right, some items are very pricey.
    Hope you have found some art on the streets.
    I bought several pieces that I treasure.
    I also took 800 pics. Two weeks worth!
    I enjoy them as much as the hat, cape and other things I purchased.
    Can’t wait to see all the wonderful things you enjoy!

  25. Marlene Stephenson

    Thank you, the pen is pretty but, the story much nicer, kindred spirits are a gift.

  26. Karen

    My guess is that writing is in your future as well. What a sweet story – I feel like I’m there with you! So glad you found your pen – AND a friend!

  27. Jenn Anderson

    Fabulous memory and a beautiful pen to keep the memory alive! Great story!

  28. Charlotte

    That was the most beautiful story!!! I’m so glad you’re having a wonderful time! I cried while reading this…

  29. Krista

    Your sweet story made me tear up as well! What wonderful memories you’re making!

  30. Marilee

    Oh my. Your encounter with Marie warmed my heart.

  31. Liz

    I am so happy you found that beautiful pen and made a friend at the same time. I just don’t understand the unkind remark made by Katerina at 7:38 am.

  32. Kathy McDonagh

    Oh Marian, that is such a beautiful story that it had me in tears. I’m really enjoying your Paris Instagram stories too.

  33. B. Folk

    Yep, I’m on the “tears train”, too! I am a “hugger”, and I also strike up conversations with just about anyone (to my husband’s chagrin).
    A wonderful writing instrument is a joy. The pen is beautiful, but the encounter and memory of Marie is precious. One of my sisters gave me a little wooden case with a fountain pen and various nibs for one of my birthdays. It’s a sweet memory and I’ll never part with it.
    Will continue to pray for the safety of you and your group.

  34. Julie | Home On The Hill

    Reading how you communicated more with body language than words brings back fond memories of my travels in Europe.

    Although having to mime to a pharmacist in Spain that my husband needed medicine for both vomiting & diarrhoea that he contracted in Morocco was not exactly a highlight!

    I hope your non verbal communications stay as pleasant as the pen purchase.:) Thanks for sharing.

  35. Carole

    Thank you for sharing this sweet story. The best souvenirs are the memories of interacting with people you meet such as this lovely woman.

  36. Rebecca

    Oh Marian!! I’m so excited you found “your” dip pen!! This post brought tears to my eyes.

  37. Crystal

    I’m so glad you made it to the market. It’s my favorite place…. well, besides the City Itself. I had the same kind of “kindred spirit” encounter with the vendor who sold grain sacks and hemp sheets and vintage and antique cloth of all kinds. And you are right, it was almost more important to me than the grain sacks I brought home! That dip pen is amazing. Such a beautiful instrument. Happy hunting!

  38. Patty Soriano

    A “Hallmark” moment. The people who have happened into my life while I have been on trips, were always the best souvenir I came away with. The memory of a moment shared, the serendipitous step into their realm, brought so much more into my day than anything I could have found on their shelf. I wish I did Instagram. 🙁


    Glad that you are having such a nice holiday with your Mom! You have such a great story to go along with your antique pen! Enjoy your trip! Praying for a hedge of protection for you each day!

  40. Suzq Bridgers

    My son and daughter-in-love collect experiences together, cherished more than gifts, and you now have both. Continue celebrating each day. With joy, suzq

  41. Robbie Zeller

    What a cool life experience, Marian! The pen is so pretty too!

  42. Karen

    Love this story! Is Marie’s shop painted Boxwood?!?

  43. Elmina

    The dip pen is beautiful! I just love how you described this experience! I am sure it is one you will remember. I see you making beautiful art with that special pen! Keep enjoying your trip! ❤️

  44. Pat

    Great story, great pen and a French hug and kisses on both cheeks!!! What a start to your adventure.

  45. Wendy

    My favorite souvenir is an old yellow/white enamel pot I found at the Marché aux puces de Saint-Ouen in an almost discard pile for only 1 euro! It’s a little chipped and the bottom is stained from use, but I don’t care. I somehow fit it into my suitcase, and I use it all the time, always imagining the life it lived iin Paris before coming to live with me,

  46. Sharon

    I’m so glad you’ve discovered an appreciation for art museums! Now that you’re thinking about visiting more in the future I hope you add the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum if you get to Boston, or should I say when you get to Boston. (Boston itself is a delightful City to visit. It’s one of the best walking cities in the United States, full of History, great food and things for all ages to enjo) . This particular museum is a delightful collection from various artists. Set in a beautiful building that’s a pleasure to stroll through and if you’re there during lunch relax and enjoy a meal at their Cafe.

  47. Regina

    I love the pen, but I love the story more. How lovely to find a merchant that is passionate about their products.. and their customers. Enjoy your visit…I am totally jealous.

  48. Kristine

    What a wonderful, deeply warming story. I am so glad you found both the pen and Marie! A lifelong memory that will always bring you cheer!!

  49. Nancy

    Oh Marion,
    I love this post most of all. I can see you, I’m your darling outfit, searching for just the perfect pen and finding, instead, the most perfect friend. Yes a pen was bought, nibs were given, but hearts were warmed. It’s too bad you did not get her address so you could be pen pals, exchanging notes and penmanship with each other.
    Your pen is beautiful, your experience most precious

  50. Kemberly McLain

    I love that you buy treasures that you can actually use. Your beautiful story brought tears to my eyes. Beautiful find and what a beautiful women! You had me a “what is your name?”. Kindness and a smile goes along way and is a universal language.


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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