Every so often, someone asks how I manage my collection. I thought that it might benefit the community at large to share my solution and do a review of sorts. This will be one of the few post that you find on this site that has nothing to do with Pelikan. When you get your first pen, you have no need for spreadsheets. Often times, it’s not long before you add a second pen and then a third. Before you know it, you have a collection and a desire to keep a better accounting of it. I think that it is important for any collector to have a record of past purchases with detailed accounts of those transactions. We’ve all been in a position of having to figure out the best way to do this. Initially I used Microsoft Word in conjunction with Excel. This was a very workable solution in the early days but as my collection grew, I felt that this method lacked flexibility. It became harder and harder to keep track of the variables that I was interested in and data began to become the enemy rather than an asset. I decided to search the web and see what other solutions might be out there. I didn’t expect to find something geared for the fountain pen enthusiast but was hoping to at least find a solution that could be retrofitted to that purpose. I wanted an option that wasn’t too expensive, provided flexibility, and would allow me to have a bird’s eye view of my collection by being easily searchable. In that quest, I found Recollector, a piece of software designed for the collector of just about anything.
Recollector is put out by MapRecord Publications which was founded in 2002 by Jeremy Pool. Jeremy is a collector of antique maps and became interested in developing a software solution that would organize and catalog his collection. I’m sure a fountain pen was never even a remote consideration when Recollector was designed nor any number of the odd things that people collect. Despite this lack of specificity, Recollector has proven to be a powerful tool and that power comes from its versatility and ease of customization. When you create a new collection with Recollector, you get a generic template and from there, you can customize it to your heart’s content with fields that are relevant to you. No computer expertise? No problem. While I’m computer savvy, I’m certainly no programmer. I found the process of adding fields, rearranging them, and creating pick lists very straight forward.
Available for both Mac and PCs, Recollector continues to be actively developed and tested on both platforms. Updates and bug fixes have been regular occurrences and Jeremy is very responsive to user feedback and new feature implementation when deemed appropriate/feasible. There is an online user guide, video tutorials, an online forum, and direct email/phone support when all else fails. All of the support materials are thorough and easy to understand and follow. When first setting up your collection, there is a wizard to walk you through the process. Going through the wizard will establish a collection name, a template, pertinent fields, units of measure/currency, and where your collection will be stored on your computer. There are a few templates but I found that a heavily customized general template worked the best for my purpose.
Once you have run the wizard, it is easy to begin adding items to the database. Forgot a field or came up with something to add later? It is a very painless process to add additional fields at any time, even after you have entered your entire collection. I particularly like the option to create pick lists which creates a pull-down menu of options that you’ve pre-specified. For instance, nib sizes are fairly standard so you can have a menu where you simply select EF, F, M, B, etc. You can make pick list for any field that requires simple text input. If you happen to have a lot of pens of similar size or other characteristics, the input process can be sped up by copying fields from one entry into another. This has been invaluable to me in filling out general information such as dimensions for a lot of similar models that may only vary in color but not size.
Once you have entered all of your data, the real flexibility of the program shines through. You can view your data either in a list format, as an image gallery, or as individual entries. These views are easily sortable by a variety of criteria giving you a lot of control as to how you view your data. This is great because not everybody values the same variables when evaluating their collection. The search function is powerful and allows you to search the entire database or just a certain field. Taking that one step further, you can actually create subsets, either on the fly with a search or as a standing grouping that can quickly be accessed. For instance, you could create a subset of just piston fillers or of a certain model. You may have hundreds of pens but if you only want to see your red ones listed, the list can be instantly adjusted to just that subset. This is one of the things that puts Recollector well ahead of the Word/Excel solution.
One of the issues that challenged me previously was how to take my collection on the road, particularly when at pen shows or at brick and mortar shops. Previously, I would put my *.doc or *.xls files in the cloud and then view them when needed. This became a very inelegant solution as the collection grew. Recollector solves this with a companion app for both Apple’s iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch and Google’s Android platforms. This is a read only program that piggy backs off of Dropbox to upload the Recollector database for mobile viewing on the go. I love being able to have all of the details of my collection within the palm of my hand. I have found this invaluable as I now have all of the fields of the desktop version with all the same searchability. Other features of note include the ability to import/export Excel or CSV files, create a collection via a wizard for upload to a website, and the ability to generate printable reports. The report feature is particularly nice as you can choose which fields get included in the output as well as what order those fields are listed. The file is a PDF and can even include an automatically generated index as well as a total cost if you’re brave enough to look. Finally, it is easy to create a backup of your data as well as place a password on your collection to keep out the prying eyes of
Recollector is very versatile and easily customized. While not designed specifically for fountain pen collecting, it is fountain pen friendly. It’s a great cataloging tool though it does lack some polish as far as the graphic interface goes. That’s fine by me as I’d rather have a piece of software that works over one that looks pretty. The program is offered as a free trial which allows you to create and save 25 records before requiring a license. The cost of that license is a one time price of $49 which gets you both the desktop and mobile software along with free technical support and unlimited updates. Given what this can do for your collection combined with the ongoing development and responsiveness of the developer, it is money well spent. I have used the program for several months now and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a collection management solution. Recollector is not the only software out there but it is the one that meets my needs and that’s the most important aspect of any software. Consider giving it a try if you’re looking for a solution and see if it can help you too.
- Easily customizable fields with pick lists
- Ability to create and save subsets or make them on the fly
- Very little technical savvy required
- Reasonable price considering all that your purchase buys
- Very responsive tech support from the creator himself
- Mobile app is read-only and does not allow data input
- Mobile app requires a separate (free) Dropbox account
- Graphic interface is a little lacking on polish
Recollector can be found at Collectingcatalog.com
Download my Pelikan Fountain Pen Collection template for Recollector (*.xml file) and follow these instructions for use
- Recollector for Mac version 1.6.10 & Recollector App for iOS version 1.17
- MacBook Pro Retina (Late 2013) with OS X El Capitan version 10.11.6
- iPhone 6 with iOS 9.3.3
*I have no affiliation with the vendor or the creator of this software. I am simply a satisfied customer. The views expressed here are my own and free of any undue influence.