How Many Ways Are There to Define Mint?

Or perhaps, more accurately, how many ways should “mint” be defined?  The answer to the first question seems to be an infinite number while the answer to the second (and correct question) is one.

It’s really quite simple.  “Mint” when used as an adjective to describe something offered for sale, like a pen, means “new”, “unused”, and “perfect condition”.  Mint means that  the pen has never had a drop of ink in it, through it or on it.  It might have been tested with water to make sure that it operates properly but no ink.

Just take a look on a few pen discussion boards in the “for sale” section and you will see that it is obviously not so simple.  People love to use the word (almost as much as “rare”, but that’s another topic for another day!) to get your attention and hopefully buy the pen(s) that they are trying to sell.  Once they have your attention, that’s when the meaning gets modified (read: twisted) to suit their particular circumstances.  When I say “modify” what I really mean is that’s when they pull out the weasel words and thus begins the slippery slope.  You know what I am talking about – “mint but its been dipped … a few times” or “mint but its had just a few cartridges (or converters) run through it”. 

The best ones, of course, come from the wild west of capitalism, Ebay.  In fact, those are the ones that inspired me (read: pi$$ed me off) to write this.  Here is one of the latest (after I have corrected the spelling and grammar) – “MINT CONDITION…(please note I use the word “MINT” meaning that in my opinion it is excellent and shows little usage wear, if it wasn’t for the slight split in the cap …  If you look at the picture of the cap by the split it maybe missing a very thin gold band as well…”.  The vendor seems to think that if they clearly explain THEIR definition of “mint” or provide what they think is full and fair disclosure, they have absolved themselves of their irresponsible use of the word to begin with.  C’mon folks, get with it!

“If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, it must be a duck”


“If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands.”

Although I occasionally chuckle at some of these descriptions that are so off the wall, I am so frustrated by the time they have wasted by getting me to look at an advertisement that is false.  When I clicked on their link (or whatever) and read their ad, I was interesting in reading about and possibly buying a mint pen, not one that has been used as a tester by their entire family and is now missing a few parts, has a few scratches, bent nib, etc…

You get the picture.  We’ll tackle “rare” another day!

2 thoughts on “How Many Ways Are There to Define Mint?

  1. Please take into consideration that a pen may have been inked at the factory or by the retailer for quality control purposes.

  2. While I agree with your comment, mine was made in the context of use by the end user, which is (usually) quite different. For example, I don’t think that you would you say that any product is not “new” because of the testing that occurs prior to its delivery to a customer.

    Unfortunately too few manufacturers actually undertake the simple quality control procedures that you mention. For an eye opening discussion of this matter, I refer you to, “Inadequacies of Writing Instrument Design and Manufacture – Including Checks on Nibs and Writing Performance” by Geoff Roe, past Director of the Writing Equipment Society UK.

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