Mapping Out Plan for a Fan of Cartography

Times Staff Writer

Question: I've always had an interest in geography and want to expand my map collection. I've decorated our den with some interesting and colorful examples of early cartography. Where should I look to expand my collection?--S.F.

Answer: One place you might start is the U. S. Geological Survey, which, since 1879, has produced a number of colorful contour maps of this country. Inquiries may be made through the survey's headquarters, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston, Va. 22092.

Naturally, antique maps are very popular--not to mention expensive--if they are authentic. Among others in great demand and generally affordable are mid-19th-Century maps of this country. Military maps also are popular, but, as you might expect, the further back in history you go in this area, the more expensive the item.

But even maps of more recent vintage are grabbed up by collectors who are attracted to the art of elaborate cartography and fine printing.

Q: Have you heard of an organization for marble collectors?--C.C.

A: Our files show a Marble Collectors Society of America, P. O. Box 222, Trumbull, Conn. 06611.

Most common among collectible marbles are those made of clay, stone or crockery. More expensive are the older, handmade-glass variety. What is "expensive" in this category? More than $1,000 has been spent for a single elaborately designed marble containing figures such as animals.

Q: I have an old Waterman fountain pen, and I'd like to know if it would generate much collector interest.--M.L.

A: We would need a more precise description. But in any case, if your Waterman dates back to the turn of the century, and particularly if it has a No. 20 serial mark, it could arouse great interest among collectors. At the time, it was one of the largest fountain pens being produced in this country with a gigantic hard-rubber ink reservoir.

Among other firms, the Parker Pen Co., W. A. Sheaffer Pen Co. and the German-based Mont Blanc company have produced pens particularly prized by collectors.

The first handmade Watermans are practically non-existent. But some of the mass-produced types of the 1890s are still around. That No. 20, by the way, could change hands for several hundred dollars, one collector noted.

One important thing to remember as you explore this field: Try to acquire pens in decent working condition, because this makes a difference in a pen's value. Unlike some other collectibles that may simply be mounted and forgotten, collectors like to use their antique fountain pens and invariably will view a working pen in good condition in a more favorable light than one that doesn't work or is missing parts.

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