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Expensive Pens: What Makes Them Worth It?

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#1 AustinMalone1999

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 02:16

So, the pen I most desire is a Edison Menlo, pump filler. However I won't be able to afford one for several years for sure, and the original Parker Vacs scare me. I know it's expensive but I love that shape and the filling system, and the ability to pick your own acrylics. What makes a pen worth it to you, personally, I like steel nibs just as well as gold nibs, if tuned properly. Is it purely aesthetics, purely the nib (softness, smoothness, plating?), or size? For me it is mainly shape and filling system, I have $75 for my Pump Filler, and I'll probably spring for a Newton Pen after that. 

 

Also, what is the most you can ever see yourself paying for a fountain pen. Please don't give any answers like ''the minimum should be $300 because quality is expensive'' this is simply not true for the majority of users.

 

Thanks for your time and I look forward to reading your responses



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#2 de_pen_dent

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 03:56

For me - aesthetics is what attracts me to the pen.   Then other factors qualify whether or not i feel the pen is worth the price - materials (yay to celluloid, wood, maki-e or urushi) and filling mechanisms.     The material has to be something really special if I am going to pay >$350 for a CC pen.   

 

Occasionally, eg with the Gates City pens, it is primarily the fact that they are re-creations of unique designs from the past with unique filling mechanisms, so i can have the reliability of a modern pen with the design elements of an old classic.

 

One element i am trying to *eliminate* from my purchase thinking - the name of the pen.  I often find myself gravitating towards a pen b/c of its name, even if the name bears no correlation to the design of the pen.    Eg, take the MB Solti.  I am a big fan of Solti the conductor but there really is no big difference between the Solti, the Brahms and the Toscanini.   If they were called Models A, B and C, I'd just pick one and be done with it.     Smart marketing, though.

 

LE, special serial numbers, one-of-a-kind, etc mean nothing to me.   Quite honestly, it chafes me to have to pay a premium for an artificially-created demand - but then, i am a user not a collector.

 

The most I have paid for a pen now - $1500:  a maki-e pen with a design that has a lot of personal appeal to me.    For the most part, most of my pen purchases are in the $500-800 range, as that is the range where i find a lot of pens which appeal significantly to me and which I feel comfortable using on a daily basis.


Edited by de_pen_dent, 07 August 2014 - 03:59.

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#3 Keyless Works

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 04:26

I am generally not swayed by the filling system.  An unusual filling system might be a perk but I don't think I have ever bought a pen because of the filling system. 

 

The most important part of the pen for me is the nib but a lot of times I purchase a pen for a combination of attributes.  I definitely put a lot of weight on the way the pen is made (materials/craftsmanship), how it looks and if vintage, it's place in history.  

 

My most expensive pens are usually a combination of these things.  I only like pens that I would use on a daily basis so that rules out most metal pens and anything enormous or overly ornate.  

 

The most I would pay?  No idea...I can go off of pens I know I would buy if money was no object.  For vintage $10,000; I haven't seen one that I would want for more than that.  For modern pens $3,000.



#4 Lyander0012

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 04:42

For me, what makes a pen, or an expensive pen rather, worth it cannot be attributed to any single factor. 

 

I like gold. I'm weird that way. I agree unreservedly that a steel nib can be just as smooth a writer as a gold nib when properly tuned, but I like the look of the material, and gold nibs offer a slightly different kind of springiness to the writing experience that cannot be easily emulated by steel nibs. I'm not saying all gold nibs are springy, since there are a few 21k nibs (cough cough) that are fairly rigid nails as well, but that gold nibs are usually softer and more pleasant to use is a statement I think true enough to warrant a casual generalisation.

 

Another factor is aesthetics. Some pens look great with a bare minimum of bling, like the Lamy 2000 (though some dislike its design, for whatever reason), while others, such as the Pelikan Toledo pens, utilise fairly pricey components that add a more complex, more ornate design to the pen. Busier designs aren't for everyone, but for those that enjoy them, then I suppose they can justify price premiums by means of all the extra stuff on the pen.

 

I suppose one of the bigger contributors to a pen's price that makes it "worth it" is the amount of effort that goes into actually making these pens. Fountain pens that roll off an assembly line will usually be cheaper than ones that are handcrafted, which explains the price of Edison Pens' Signature Line offerings; machines can get by well enough without a salary, as far as I'm aware, but people do need something to help pay bills with :P

 

Brand recognition might also play a factor, since as in the case of Montblanc pens, well, the brand is commonly associated with a certain level of prestige, and some would say that it was a privilege to own a product of theirs; while not everyone thinks that way, it's still something that an individual may feel makes an expensive pen "worth it".

 

Now, the above are merely what I consider to be the things that make an expensive pen a worthwhile purchase for the end consumer, If we were to talk about what makes these pens expensive, well, I'm sure that a lot of that would be companies trying to make back what they spent on marketing. 

 

 

Regards, 

Kevin

 

 

P.S.

I just read Keyless Works's post after submitting mine, and remembered that I recently got my first vintage pen, haha. Yeah, in those cases, the scarcity of the object definitely plays a role in determining its price, and its worth to the buyer. The condition of the object is also something that one would take into consideration, since it only stands to reason that objects of advanced age in good to mint condition, rare as those are, would be in greater demand, and fetch a higher asking price.

 

Cheers!


Edited by Lyander0012, 07 August 2014 - 04:48.

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#5 Vgimlet

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 05:05

For myself alone, I could not see myself paying more than 200 for a pen at the max.  Maybe 300, for one with a special gold nib.   The two pens I want in that price range are unique and cool, but not so expensive I would be uncomfortable using them in my real life.    I have a lot of inexpensive pens that write well and for the most part, I'm happy with them.  But there are a few special pens I wouldn't mind adding.

 

I am willing to spend that much for something unique to my collection (my dream Gate Gity Belmont pen with I hope a Binderized nib and the possible gold nib) or a certain maki-e pen I have my eye on.    I feel these would be worth the money because they would be either somewhat personalized, or a one-of-a kind purchase.  But I don't have a desire to pay a lot of money just for a well known brand, but that's just me.   I can see the allure, but it doesn't draw me in.   Any FP I buy has to be practical.   I like my useful items to be used, not sit on a shelf because they are too valuable to use.

 

With that said, I am reluctant to say 300 will be my final price ceiling ever.   As a collector of tarot cards, my initial price ceiling started at 100, and ended up going quite a bit higher over time. ;)


Edited by Vgimlet, 07 August 2014 - 05:15.


#6 Icywolfe

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 05:41

My most expensive is the Justus 95 at 312 USD.

 

Why did I get it? My Sig says I'm a Pilot Fanboy, that is one reason. The main reason it can have some line variation like the falcon while I can use it in normal notes with having it bend on the upstrokes. Many say the S and H is a gimmick but I see it working. Hard is just hard to have line variation, while soft is just happens no control. It feels much better than the Ahab.

 

So for me it's because I'm a pilot fan and a special nib unit. Warrants me buying a expensive pen. My next expensive might be the Modern Maki-e pen just for the looks from platinum. Okay maybe the very odd CON 70 converter, sadly I'm using my CON 50.

 

I don't even own a LE version of the Safari or All-star. (Wut) Not worth the cost.


Edited by Icywolfe, 07 August 2014 - 05:46.

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#7 Chi Town

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 06:01

I could not see myself paying 3,000.00 or more now a days, especially nowadays when I am retired! When I was working i spent aplenty for pens, and the pens that caught my eyes where a specific brand, in sterling silver, Limited Edition, Stub, Italic or even better Left Hand Oblique nibs! 

 

I am currently redoing my inventory of pens, one at a time, and am quite suprised at how many Vintage Pens I have in relation to what I thought that I was top heavy in (modern pens). It's quite funny to see or remember where I started my collecting at. I used to cringe when I spent 9.99 for a pen and then find out that it needed to be overhauled, I almost cried :-) Now my most expensive pen is a $2,200.00 sterling silver LE. That I have never inked or dipped. I might add that I have quite a few pens in that category of never being inked or dipped and those are usually the pricer pens......

 

When I do buy a pen it is always with the intention of being able to sell it at a later date nd being able to make money on it from the price that I paid for it today......


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#8 rochester21

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 07:20

I don`t know what are the "originals", but i bought a great 1948 Parker Vacumatic for 65 usd right here on fpn. Although i noticed they now sell for about 100 usd on average. Still, not expensive- depends on where you live.

 

Quality makes expensive pens worth it.  The problem is that sometimes the asking price has little to do with the costs of production or level of quality.  It`s up to you to decide what is the best price/quality ratio.

 

For me, it`s seems that the fair price for a quality fountain pen doesn`t pass the 100 usd barrier on average, either when buying new or used pens.  But i don`t buy pens from the store or specialty sites(for vintage), i can`t afford them there. 

 

If you make your money count, you don`t have to spend a lot of money to buy great fountain pens- just as long as they`re not the most sought after pens.   For me, a fountain pen is not worth a couple of thousand dollars just because it comes from a famous manufacturer who only made 100 of them.  Because that`s got nothing to do with the quality itself.


Edited by rochester21, 07 August 2014 - 07:21.


#9 Lyander0012

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 07:22

I could not see myself paying 3,000.00 or more now a days, especially nowadays when I am retired! When I was working i spent aplenty for pens, and the pens that caught my eyes where a specific brand, in sterling silver, Limited Edition, Stub, Italic or even better Left Hand Oblique nibs! 

 

I am currently redoing my inventory of pens, one at a time, and am quite suprised at how many Vintage Pens I have in relation to what I thought that I was top heavy in (modern pens). It's quite funny to see or remember where I started my collecting at. I used to cringe when I spent 9.99 for a pen and then find out that it needed to be overhauled, I almost cried :-) Now my most expensive pen is a $2,200.00 sterling silver LE. That I have never inked or dipped. I might add that I have quite a few pens in that category of never being inked or dipped and those are usually the pricer pens......

 

When I do buy a pen it is always with the intention of being able to sell it at a later date nd being able to make money on it from the price that I paid for it today......

 

Sounds like quite the stable you have there, Chi Town! Haha, if it's not too much trouble, a few pics of the more outre pens in your collection would go a long way towards adding eye candy to this forum :P


Cheers!

 

Kevin


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#10 Bo Bo Olson

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 11:25

You work your way up to expensive pens.....in most cases. Some have so much money they start with a 149.

 

I started chasing cheap old pens....vintage.

There comes the day where the €30-$50 border is broken. I was getting top of the line, with good nibs for cheap.

 

Then eventually the €100. That was for me a new Pelikan 605 on sale. The first new pen I'd bought since 1971's P-75.

 

My MB Woolf bought with my wife's wish as a birthday pen, on sale for 1/3'd off.

 

It is very, very pretty, well made, good nib....was it worth €450 on sale?

???

Can get that much for it used today....so I'd say yes.

 

You can get a bottle of Johnny Walker King George, for €500....and it is going to get empty sooner or later and the bottle is pretty but you are not going to get a fortune for an empty bottle.

Nope don't have a bottle of that .... Do have a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue label....which is as much as I ever spent for a bottle. I don't remember but it cost about half what my on sale Woolf cost.

 

My Pelikan 500 only cost €160....great well made fancy pen. It is worth it. Sure, because of it's nib, it's better by far than any modern pen. MB or Pelikan or any one else out side of some Art pens from Japan where you are paying for art from living Japanese National Treasures. 

 

Expensive gets you a better hamburger, often a better wine, mostly a better bottle of scotch and or pen a tad better.

Worth is in the eyes of the beholder. At live auctions I see real paintings go cheap....art is something I can not do. I see "modern" art that I can do, going for real money.

My eye does not behold that.

 

Others spend money on puzzling...to be interpreted by an art critic...an art critic knows everything but how to paint.  I guess it's just status...I can afford to give out big bucks for a splotch on the wall.

 

An 'expensive' pen is in the eye of the beholder....some feel flush with $100 in the wallet....others don't bat an eye at giving out $1000 once or twice a day.

 

How much more is better made, how much is that worth?

A Toyota is the best car in the world....or a Bentley.

 


Edited by Bo Bo Olson, 07 August 2014 - 11:56.

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#11 ddyager

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 11:30

Based on the discussion so far, it looks like improved performance is not so high on the list of reasons for choosing an expensive pen. In many cases a gold nib would be worth a premium over a steel nib, and high reliability (good materials, quality control, solid design) is always desirable. These things add to the price, but there are many pens, modern and vintage, in the sub-$300 range than can provide them. Possibly an exception would be hand-crafted nibs.



#12 de_pen_dent

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 14:04

Based on the discussion so far, it looks like improved performance is not so high on the list of reasons for choosing an expensive pen. In many cases a gold nib would be worth a premium over a steel nib, and high reliability (good materials, quality control, solid design) is always desirable. These things add to the price, but there are many pens, modern and vintage, in the sub-$300 range than can provide them. Possibly an exception would be hand-crafted nibs.

 

Agreed.    $200* and change starts to get you into the gold nib territory, and beyond that, spending more isnt really going into the nib.   Given that nib technology isnt exactly a fast-developing area, it isnt as if there is a lot of R&D involved here as well (leaving aside some of the new nibs that Visconti, Delta, etc are playing around with - and even there, the greater cost is due to smaller manufacturing economies of scale).   

 

So after a certain point, very little of the additional money is going towards better performance.   It is going towards design, materials, maybe filling system, etc.   

 

*I have a couple of $1 Hero P51 clones that I've handed out to all our office staff who want them - i used one the other day to sign some checks and it blew my mind how well it wrote:   10/10 in terms of performance as far as a stock F nib goes.    So $200 and above is a very, very generous margin for where performance starts to plateau!


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#13 ISW_Kaputnik

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 15:43

I have not yet reached $200 for a pen, but I have considered (and decided against) a couple of $220 models.  So perhaps that is close to the limit.  Maybe say that hypothetically $250 in today's dollars might be the maximum, and that's really pushing it.

 

It's not just a matter of how much I can afford.  If I could afford four $150 pens, I could have gotten a $600 pen instead.  But no matter how much I enjoyed writing with it, it would have bothered me to have spent that much on a single pen.  When you achieve a certain level for performance, durability, and reliability, when you have a pen that is comfortable to write with, has a good ink capacity and a reliable filling system, I can still see paying a little extra for premium materials and an attractive design.  Not that much extra, though.  Pay too much, and I just feel that I'm being taken advantage of.

 

By the way, one of the $220 models I mentioned was a Pilot Custom Heritage 92, which costs about that from US dealers.  I did get one, but it was $133.80 including shipping from a Japanese eBay dealer.  I did spread the tines just slightly to make it write a bit wetter, but now it's a lovely pen.

 

And I have a number of cheaper pens which are certainly good enough.  I wouldn't be unhappy using a Pilot FP-78G every day.  Also if you include vintage pens, you never know what deal you might find.  My flexiest gold nib is on a Moore L-94 that cost me around $30.


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#14 The Blue Knight

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 15:48

Steven Brown puts his thought, that I very much agree with in a nice little video.



#15 Randal6393

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 15:55

Pens are an everyday tool to me, don't collect them as much as use them. So I look for a pen that is reliable, writes well, with an italic nib, and that I can use for years with various inks and adaptable. 

 

So far, the Noodler Ahabs and Konrads are the pens that meet my needs. Reliable and easily maintained, capable of changing inks and nibs without extra effort or tools. Have a Lamy 2000 and two Pelikan M200s that are prized and valued for being good go-to pens but even they don't give the customizing that an Ahab or Konrad does.

 

Since I want an italic nib with good to fast flow and capable of being sharpened without losing tipping, I buy italic nibs, usually in the 1.1 mm range. The Knox and Nemosyne are OK but the Goulet JoWo nibs are by far the best.

 

Cost of my pens runs around $40.00 each.

 

Enjoy,


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#16 wastelanded

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 16:05

I chase the nib. I don't care if a pen looks like it was run over by a Bradley tank, if it writes nice then I love it. I have a couple of pens like that, look rough as a badger's arse but write like heaven.

 

I see my personal limit at $200. Luckily my grail pen is a tortoise 400NN.


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#17 Davros

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 16:37

I've bought a number of expensive pens; the most expensive still in my collection are Scriptorium pens (~$225).  

 

Some of the worth comes from the nib; it is possible to get cheaper pens that will hold the Jowo nib units, but the nibs are checked and smoothed and I've never had a bad one; I know that when I ink the pen, it will write just as I like.  

 

Some of it is picking your own materials.  

 

Some of it is being indulged in your pen whims; I can get my cap clipless, I can have Renee order custom materials for a finial, I can demand that the custom materials be redone if I'm not happy, I can ask for additional section threads and extra space in the barrel so I can eyedropper my pens in peace, etc.  The result is a pen that is very much tailored to me.  Honestly, a lot of it is working with an artisan who knows her craft.  I like that my pen has a story, and the time and care we spend deciding on material, trim, details, modifications, etc. add a great deal to the experience.  It adds emotional worth, and the process means that I end up choosing much more carefully than "oh, yeah, I kinda like the look of that Nemosine in gunmetal".  And I like that my money is going to a person that I know and wish the best.  I like pen companies, but there's just something immensely satisfying and intimate about planning your own pen with someone.  

 

So look: maybe a perfectly balanced clipless orange 7" demonstrator desk pen that holds 4ml of ink and writes like butter isn't your thing, but it makes me happy, and given how much time I spend writing for pleasure and work, having a pen that makes you happy is nothing to sneeze at.  

 

I also count my vanishing points as expensive, but I use them for entirely different things: I'm paying a premium for a great writer that doesn't draw too much attention, that is easy to deploy, that writes on command, that is sturdy and that I can let other people use with each instruction because of the clip placement.  I can grab a pair of VP inked with contrasting colors, and spend a happy day knowing that I have easy, dependable writing and editing available at a touch of a button.

 

I guess expensive pens are worth it if expensive pens are worth it - to you.  

 

tl;dr: My expensive pens are perfectly suited for their use.  My inexpensive pens, even if I love them, all have some significant flaws that make writing with them under the circumstances I want to less than ideal.



#18 jar

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 16:45

Taste.


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#19 Waski_the_Squirrel

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 16:54

As pen price increases, there are diminishing returns on quality. The extra cost then is paying for the name of the pen, the gold hardware, the finish, or the artist. My most expensive pen at the moment is a Pilot Justus 95. I paid under $300 for it, but not enough under to really justify the pen to myself. Right now, I don't see myself buying another pen in that price range. I love the pen, but that's just too much money in exchange for a pen.

 

The Edison pens like the Menlo are interesting because they are custom made pens and they have unique filling systems. I like the Menlo's system quite a lot and would enjoy one as a demonstrator. However, I wouldn't enjoy it enough to justify the cost. (I also couldn't use my favorite inks with it.) 

 

Another facet to consider is income and budget. If I made more money, I would certainly have a higher comfort level with pens. I would have a higher comfort level with pens now  if I didn't have other things to spend my money on, both necessities and non-pen luxuries. If I valued pens more, maybe they would take up a larger part of my luxury budget. As it is, pens are a writing instrument. I'd prefer to spend my money on books, the painting I did on my house, the semi-custom trim I want to put in this fall (I'm doing the work, so it won't be too fancy), the tumbler composter I want, etc. 

 

As for the pens, I am perfectly happy with a $20 Noodler's Konrad. For double that, I get a nicer Konrad with a better material and a little bit better shape. I get the qualities I like: built-in filling mechanism, screw cap, and good looks. My Pilot Justus actually lacks the built-in filling mechanism, but I don't mind converters. In the Justus, the unique nib is what got me to pay the premium. My other expensive pen, a Pilot Custom 823, caught my eye because I didn't own a gold nib at that time, I loved the filling mechanism, and it was a gorgeous pen. I learned from that pen and, later, the Justus that gold nibs don't thrill me as much as I thought they would. 

 

I own two production-line Edisons which I bought for the looks. I own a Platinum 3776 Shoji which I bought because it was gorgeous and I'd heard it had a great nib. I own a Monteverde Regatta Sport mostly because of the unique looks, I wanted some carbon fiber, and I really wanted a magnetic cap.

 

The funny thing is that the Noodler's and the Pilot Justus 95 are the pens which stay inked all the time. 


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#20 orfew

orfew

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 18:14

A pen is worth as much as YOU are willing to pay. No more...no less.


" Gladly would he learn and gladly teach" G. Chaucer





Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: edison, steel nib, gold nib, materials, filling systems



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