I wasn’t looking for a fountain pen when I went to Target (I’ve given up on them since the brief glory days when they carried Rhodia notebooks, Pilot Plumix, 0.38mm gel pens, and such came to an end) but as I made my way through the back-to-school carnage (admittedly not nearly as bad as what I saw in Walmart) I spotted abandoned there, on a miscellaneous free-standing product display, one lone blister pack containing a Paperchase Wonderland Cartridge Fountain Pen. As I hunted down the source, I promised myself, if it was under five dollars, I’d give it a try. I found the rest of the Paperchase Wonderland collection on an endcap over in Home Office. The pen was $4.99.
From what I can tell, the body comes in two designs: all black, and the whimsically decorated purple, covered in Alice in Wonderland illustrations. The design (the whole themed collection, really) screams painfully trendy-cute in much the same way slapping an owl or a mustache (or a mustachioed owl for radmax hipster points) onto something would, but we will forgive it for that. The plastic is of the cheapest sort, and will surprise no one should it break. The cap is snap-on, and posts easily. The grip section is easily my least favorite part, because though there is texturing there, further up the barrel the ridges for the cap collide with my grip style for a purlicue-irritating experience.
The pen comes with five blue standard short international cartridges: four displayed in the blister pack, and one hidden in the body of the pen. It also came with the empty bottomless cartridge pictured above left, in the pen body on the feed as though it were a cartridge in use. I suspect this was a clever little way to demonstrate by example how the cartridges are supposed to be used without having to print up any instructions.
The nib is labeled only with “IRIDIUM POINT M” and according to the package, this pen hails from Germany (veracity, at this price point, somewhat dubious). It’s a true European medium by my reckoning, and writes a little more wet than dry, though by no means is it what I would consider juicy. You feel the nib as you go across the page—it’s a tactile feeling, satisfying in its way, nothing scratchy about it, no unaligned tines, no skipping or problems with ink flow. I was impressed with how quickly after the cartridge was in place the pen was writing—it was ready to go as soon as I put the pen together and put it to paper. Non-fountain pen users aren’t interested in a finicky pen. This just might be the gateway pen I’ve been looking for to lure those folks in.
This pen has everything I could want in a gateway barebones beginner pen. You can find it in a common store (Target). It’s refillable with the most standard cartridges around, and has room in the body to carry a spare cartridge. It comes with a total of 5 cartridges to start you off. It writes right away without any finagling, and though it isn’t some buttery nirvana of smooth steel sliding words across the page, it writes satisfyingly well. And it’s cheap—cheap enough to be bought on a whim, to bring new people to fountain pens, and when it inevitably breaks or its owner gets tired of the cheap grip or what have you, they’ll be hooked, they’ll want more, and they’ll begin the fantastic spiral into buying better and better fountain pens.
I’m having trouble finding a link to anywhere suitable to buy it online, so check your local Target, or coerce someone you know who lives near a Target to check theirs and mail it to you if they find one.