Impulse Trading Company

Grass Valley, California 919 Sales On Etsy since 2012

5 out of 5 stars (335)


Impulse Trading Company

Grass Valley, California | 919 Sales

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Richard Gorman

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Richard Gorman

Announcement    Happy New Year 2020!! Thanks to my many customers and to Etsy for making it possible to me to have my little enterprise. Best of everything to you in the year to come.


Last updated on Jan 17, 2020

Happy New Year 2020!! Thanks to my many customers and to Etsy for making it possible to me to have my little enterprise. Best of everything to you in the year to come.


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About ImpulseTradingCo

Sales 919
On Etsy since 2012

Richard Gorman's Esterbrook Story

A mainstay of the Impulse Trading Company's pen trade are the "J" series pens, made from the 1940's on into the '60's, by Esterbrook. The J pens have been called the Timex of the pen world: sturdy, functional, beautiful, and inexpensive. Because they are so well built, they are easy to restore, and often the parts are interchangeable. And, at their peak in the '50's, Esterbrook was making 3 million pens a week, so J's in restorable condition are still out there. But it's not just the J pens quality that I like, it's the whole Esterbrook story... Made in USA all the way. Really, America's first pen company.

In the 1850's, members of the Esterbrook family of Cornwall and a hand-selected group of skilled tradesmen who worked in one of the original pen (nib) factories, and who also happened to be Quakers, transplanted themselves to America, and formed what we know as Esterbook Pen Company. From the Esterbrook family scrapbook: "Richard Esterbrook employed a representative of each of the skilled crafts involved in steel nib making in England - presumably from the John Mitchell Works - and brought them to this country in order to get started. The skills were: Blanking, Raising, Slitting, Piercing, and Finishing... Heat Treating or Hardening and Tempering was also a critical operation."

Starting with 15 people on the payroll, they set up shop in Camden, New Jersey. From the start, they were sincere about making a quality product. The name was among the earliest trademarks licensed by the U.S. government -- I've heard it was the fifth. Coupled with savvy marketing and distribution, the company grew, and grew, and grew, until Esterbrook became a household name, long before the advent of fountain pens.

They made pen nibs in a bewildering array of styles, probably hundreds of different kinds. Not only that, they made millions of them, and the familiar Esterbrook box, or at least some nibs, can be found in nearly every antique store in America. While other pen companies suffered through the depression, Esterbrook thrived.

After dominating the steel nib market for the better part of a century, Esterbrook came late to the fountain pen era. But when they did, they brought their same values of making a high quality product and offering a large selection of nib choices, and they came with stainless steel. They quickly took over the lower priced end of the market, and a lot of the commercial end (making desk and counter pens, etc.) with sturdy pens that served well, and had these cool interchangeable nibs.

The J's were preceded in the 1940"s by the Esterbrook "Dollar" pens. In truth, only the black ones sold for $1; colors were $1.50, but they paved the way for the J's. You will see an occasional "Dollar" pen in the Impulse Trading Company, and a desk pen or two as well.

In the 1960's fountain pens were being quickly replaced by ballpoints, and Esterbrook went onto a rapid decline, ceasing production entirely in 1972. Esterbrook was an American institution for 120 years, from the early Industrial Age to the cusp of the Space Age. During that lifetime they made untold numbers of pens that we can still use today, to the delight of all of us who enjoy the beautiful old writing instruments of days gone by.

Shop members

  • Richard


    One of the last generation that learned to write with a fountain pen, I grew up in the stationery and office products business, and have been involved in the sales of a lot of pens, ink, and paper.

Shop policies

Last updated on June 18, 2018
You have discovered the virtual incarnation of the Impulse Trading Company, a place to find vintage writing instruments and other items related to the process of putting ink on paper.

Accepted payment methods

Accepts Etsy Gift Cards and Etsy Credits
Returns and exchanges
I gladly accept returns and exchanges
Contact me within: 14 days of delivery
Ship items back within: 30 days of delivery
I don't accept cancellations
But please contact me if you have any problems with your order.
The following items can't be returned or exchanged
Because of the nature of these items, unless they arrive damaged or defective, I can't accept returns for:
  • Custom or personalized orders
  • Perishable products (like food or flowers)
  • Digital downloads
  • Intimate items (for health/hygiene reasons)
Returns and exchange details
Unless stated otherwise, the pens I offer have been thoroughly cleaned, restored to working condition, and tested. I guarantee that, when you get one, it will hold ink and write. My workmanship and materials are 100% guaranteed. Vintage pens need your care, too, so you will need a bottle of good ink labelled for fountain pens. Buyer pays return shipping, unless I determine otherwise. In some cases a restocking fee may apply.
The Impulse Trading Company accepts payments through Etsy and PayPal.
We ship USPS Priority Mail whenever possible. Items ship in 3 business days or less.
Additional policies and FAQs
I appreciate fountain pens as an excellent example of American ingenuity, craftsmanship, and marketing. I began tinkering with pens over 25 years ago, and find I gain even more appreciation for the craftsmanship as I restore them.