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An unusual but highly effective demonstration of the intricacies of the technique could be found at Bonhams’ (15/10 per cent buyer’s premium) sale of fountain pens on July 23. The auctioneers were offering a set of fountain pens lacquered with a design known as the Tango-No-Seku or Boys’ Festival pattern. The set is composed of six pens each carrying a different stage of decoration which builds from the initial outline on the first to the finished design on the last: as shown in our illustration featuring details of the pens’ caps and main body sections.

The set was made by the Japanese firm of Namiki and retailed and distributed by the British firm Dunhill. Dunhill and Namiki entered into a distribution agreement in 1930 after which pens of this type were known as Dunhill-Namiki.

However, this demonstration set appears to be in a league of its own. Bonhams’ specialist Alexander Crum-Ewing had not been able to discover any Namiki demonstration sets other than this one, which had been acquired during the last few years from the archives of one of the world’s premier pen stores. Its rarity was reflected in the pre-sale estimate of £40,000-50,000, more than double the highest auction pen price – the £20,000 paid in the same rooms almost exactly a year ago for a single Dunhill-Namiki.

In the event the set sold at the top of the estimate, purchased for £50,000 by an international collector/dealer on behalf of a client against competition from the phone and the room.

This price made a significant contribution to the sale total of £153,020 for the 898 lots, which saw 86 per cent sold by value and a rather lower, 69 per cent by lot, the unsolds coming largely from the lower value, mixed condition multiple entries.