I got a couple pastel 359A's from jewelrymathematics on eBay for $8 each which is about the current going price on eBay USA. You can get the price down a bit if you are willing to buy in quantity or from a seller with a lower satisfaction rating.
I think the first thing to say is that both pens write very nicely -- much better than the average Chinese fountain pen. I actually prefer it to the one and only Lamy I still have. It is too soon to say how subject the finish is to scratches, but in my experience I would rate Lamy near the bottom of the heap in that regard. I had a dark blue Lamy Safari with a glossy plastic finish and that got very scratched in light use. I had an Al-Star aluminum-clad one that developed a large boo-boo where the finish had worn off. And my remaining flat grey one does not have those problems but is very subject to ink stains, as was the demonstrator I once had. So I will be surprised if the Hero fares worse, and actually expect it may fare better. But let's wait until we have some data beofre pressing this too far;-)
What really interests me about these pens is something I have not seen mentioned here at FPN: What kind of cartridges to they take? The conventional wisdom online seems to be that they take standard international cartridges, though I am not sure why people say that. One reviewer even went so far as to give this as the reason for rating the Hero above the Lamy.
However, Hero itself seems to think otherwise. On eBay you can find Hero 359 cartridges that are described in some listings as fitting only the 359 pen. Now why would Hero make such a product it its existing international cartridges fit just fine? Other listings give some dimensions instead of naming pen models, and suggest you make sure the dimensions match your pen. These dimensions are closer to those of the Parker/Lamy cartridges than to international cartridges. My own 359A's showed up with these same 359 cartridges. I compared these, and the converter that was included, to short international cartridges and Parker and Lamy cartridges. The nipple seemed obviously more like the Parker/Lamy size than the international. I tried putting the international cartridge in the 359A. Thanks to the clear section, I could see it distorting but not puncturing as I increased pressure. Being a good engineer, I did not force it. Instead I put a Parker cartridge in one pen and a Lamy in the other. Both punctured readily and wrote right away.
I only tried two pens from a single source, and they were 359A's, not the original 359, so I wonder if anyone else has thoughts on using international cartridges on at least some 359s. It would make sense for a Lamy copy to take Lamy cartridges, but for the user that rather restricts the variety of inks available in cartridges.
I tried one of the Hero converters in a Parker pen and it seemed to fit OK. I did not ink it. I tried the Hero cartridges in a Parker Vector and a Frontier. It was too fat to fit in the Vector but it did fit in the Frontier and I was able to puncture it BUT the cartridge did not attach. It was loose and would just fall out if I tipped up the pen.
Edited by bob_hayden, 24 September 2016 - 02:08.