Ink Drop Soup: Expensive Fountain Pens Just 30 and Below

21 12 2013

If you follow my Twitter, you already know about the humorous exchange I overhead at my local pen store. It went like this:

“I want an expensive fountain pen.”

“What’s your price range?”

“Thirty and below.”

For those not afflicted with the fountain pen condition, that probably sounds like a reasonable number. You may be thinking, why I could get upwards of thirty units of terrible crappy pen that I like for thirty bucks! But you’re thinking of an entirely different beast. For me, expensive fountain pen starts being an applicable label once we reach one Benjamin, and anything past about three of ole Benjy-boy is reaching the territory of “you had better not” expensive; any price tag with four or more digits is comfortably in the laughably unattainably probably-not-even-if-I-won-the-lottery category of expensive. Five figure fountain pens? Mythical beasts, the mere suggestion of which I will giggle madly at until I cry at the very idea of a mere mortal owning such an ethereal figment.

But back to real human numbers; there are a lot of good fountain pens you can get for thirty-and-below, so rather than merely laugh at the ignorance of the uninitiated, I figured I should throw some suggestions out there. So, random dude I didn’t even talk to in the pen store, it all depends on what you’re looking for when you say “expensive.” I’ll break it down by body types.

Mostly Plastic

They comes in colors everywhere~!

They comes in colors everywhere~!

There are all types of pens under 30 when you look at mostly plastic bodies. The advantage of plastic: bright colors. Stand-out in this category is the Lamy Safari (which apparently I haven’t actually reviewed yet, in spite of owning…several; for link purposes it’s similar to the Vista),  but I’ve enjoyed all of the pens pictured here. There’s the Paperchase Wonderland Fountain Pen, the Chelpark Terminator (and similar, yet unreviewed Conqueror), Noodler’s Ahab Flex and Noodler’s Piston Fill Fountain Pens, the Sailor A.S. Manhattaner’s (which is no longer available, but pretty much identical to the Sailor Clear Candy, and comes in a zillion colors), the Lamy Safari, the Pelikan Future (as yet unreviewed?!), and Pilot’s Penmanship and Plumix.

Plastic & Metal

I also have a Pelikan Steno I got for under 30 that would go here except I don't know where you would get one. Mine showed up at my local pen store...

I also have a Pelikan Steno I got for under 30 that would go here except I don’t know where you would get one. Mine showed up at my local pen store…

Not quite as many, but you’ve got the Pelikan Pelikano, the Hero 616 (as yet unreviewed!), the Ohto Rook, and the Sailor HighAce Neo Beginner’s Fountain Pen.

Mostly Metal

Bonus points if you start singing some kind of musically appropriate song when you see the word "metal"

Bonus points if you start singing some kind of musically appropriate song when you see the word “metal”

Metal is probably more what I’d think a person would have in mind when they want to put the words “expensive” and “fountain pen” together. All three of these are solid options: the Schrade Tactical Fountain Pen is probably the smoothest of the bunch, with three colors available, it also comes with a rollerball option if you get tired of the fountain pen, and it doubles as a weapon. What more could you want for about $25? The Muji Aluminum Round Fountain Pen is a little more comfortable than the Schrade, but less likely to help you win an impromptu brawl. And the matte black Sheaffer VFM is simple, classy, and smoother at both ends than the other two. Bonus, all three take standard international short cartridges.

In hindsight, I probably should have posted this earlier in the gifting season, but depending on your holiday you’ve still got potentially plenty of time to pick any one of these pens up.




7 responses

21 12 2013

Nice selection! Another one I would suggest is the Pilot Metropolitan, which I just got from amazon for $18. Definitely worth a look–it’s all-metal (except for the section) and comes in black, silver, and gold. Understated and classy, it writes better than the rest in its price range. Recommended.

21 12 2013
Bob M

Vikram beat me to it. Anyone that even hints of getting into fountain pen will get a Pilot Metro show up the door from me. I’ve never seen one that didn’t write very well right out of the box. I think there are many many blog posts about what an “expensive” pen is but I think all will agree a sub $30 writing stick that writes well is a great gift. Thanks for the round up. Certainly some I’ve never heard of.

26 12 2013
Link Love: Boxing Day Edition | The Well-Appointed Desk

[…] “Expensive” Fountain Pens Just 30 or Under (via No Pen Intended) […]

28 12 2013
Steve Crane

I recently took delivery of a Pilot 78G purchased from eBay. It’s a really lightweight plastic pen, but looks good with gold plated embellishments. The broad, which I bought, actually comes with a stub nib rather than a standard broad. It writes well and came with both a converter and a pack of six cartridges. All that for $10 plus $2 odd for shipping from Hong Kong. Definitely one to include in this list.

29 12 2013
Steve Crane

What about other Chinese fountain pens besides the Hero 616?

I have two other Hero models (369 and 868) but don’t like them as much as the 616; they’re very slim and have nasty, sharp-edged sac converters. Being so slim these converters don’t work too well.

Jinhao on the other hand makes very solid metal pens with a quality feel. I have their 159 and X750. They can be found very cheaply on eBay and Goulet Pens has recently started stocking them.

3 01 2014

My own experiences of Jinhao (and Baoer, for that matter) are less happy – not a writer out of five pens (two X450s, three 517s).

The Schneider Base fits in the sub $30 range (at current exchange rates – I paid £8 for mine). It’s a bit goofy looking, but a very reliable writer, with a clip you can probably use to lever nails out of wood. I have the black model, but my daughter and her friends favour the pen in purple. If you’re gifting to a non-fountain pen person, it also has the advantage of taking readily available standard international cartridges.

30 01 2014

I like your Rolling Stones reference

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