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Differences Between Expensive And Cheap Ballpoint Pens?


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12 replies to this topic

#1 vanizorc

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Posted 02 October 2016 - 20:37

Hello; new to this scene and to the forum. Just starting to get interested in better-quality writing instruments, as I've always been a user of ~$5 ballpoint/rollerball pens.

 

I know there’s a world of difference between fountain pens and ballpoint pens, but in regards to the category of ballpoint pens only, I’ve seen them go above $200 in price (e.g. Montblanc). This compares with the ~$3–8 ballpoint pens that can be had at your local stationary store, which are a decent quality, write well, and can last for years (e.g. Pilot). 

 

Is the price difference worth it, and do the benefits (if any) of expensive ballpoint pens go beyond just the component materials? 



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#2 Olya

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Posted 02 October 2016 - 20:44

It is not worth it. If you want to go fancy because you like it, then that's fine, but it will definitely not give a better writing experience. With ballpoints (and rollerballs & gel pens) it's all in the refill, and not the outward shell that holds the refill, which you as writer grip.

 

With fountain pens it's a bit different, as apart from the shell you have to mainly take into account the nib, which you usually cannot replace. So even with fountain pens you don't have to pay too much to get a good writer if the nib suits you and the grip of the pen. With a ballpoint nib & ink are easily changed and are not dependent on the shell.



#3 OCArt

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Posted 02 October 2016 - 21:17

+1



#4 milkb0at

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Posted 02 October 2016 - 22:09

I think it is worth it, within reason. While the exact mechanics of the ballpoint meeting the paper are identical whether the pen is cheap or expensive, there are differences in weight, balance, solidity (I hate rattly pens), material, retraction mechanisms, build quality and other features that make a difference to the overall experience. You can often easily switch between refill types, too, if you fancy a change of refill brand, or to switch from ballpoint to gel / hybrid.

 

Whether that matters to you is something you have to decide yourself. I get on just fine with cheap Jetstreams and G-2s, and probably I will never buy a Montblanc ballpoint, but I like several ballpoints in the tens of dollars range, like my Retro51 Tornado, Fisher Space Pen and Lamy 2000. 



#5 usk15

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Posted 02 October 2016 - 22:13

Probably the best thing to do is to find a refill that work for you and then the body/shell comfortable enough to buy it. It doesn't matter is the price you pay for the BP/RB is low or high as long as you enjoy it.

 

My 2 cents



#6 JotterAddict62

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Posted 02 October 2016 - 22:21

Can not go wrong with a vintage Parker Jotter [ 1960's - 1970's ]



#7 pajaro

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Posted 02 October 2016 - 22:28

The Jotter is great.  I think the two MB 164s I have, burgundy and black, were $44 each from Fahrney's in 1983.  Still using them and the refills last a long time.  Likewise the Pelikan K215 and K400s I got a deal on were worth it.  I am using something that has a good feel and is quality.  The Pelikans can use Jotter refills.  Montblanc replaced my black 164 when the plastic broke, for $10.  Worth it.

 

I have used the MB 164s a lot more than fountain pens. 


Edited by pajaro, 02 October 2016 - 22:30.

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#8 vanizorc

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Posted 03 October 2016 - 03:43

Good points - thanks a bunch for all the info. I should mention that, yes, I value the weight and "solidity" of an expensive ballpoint pen vs a cheaper plastic one. However, for smoothness of writing (which is top on my priority list), it seems rollerballs are better than ballpoints in that regard. (Just found out about this fact today, and it explains why I always prefer writing with my Pilot Acroball out of the rest of my pens, which are all ballpoints.)

 

However, I'm considering the small-sized Montblanc Meisterstück Ballpoint (ref. 108730) at the moment, because it seems to be the only "quality" pen I can find that comes in a small size. I am a petite woman with small hands, so I think a smaller pen for long-term use is more practical/portable for me. 

 

Here's a picture:

 

108730AAAA.jpg

 

 

It is a ballpoint, so I'm wondering whether anyone knows if there are replacement ink cartridges for this pen tube that is a "gel ink", and thus writes more smoothly like a rollerball. Alternatively, if anyone knows of quality small-sized rollerballs, please let me know. 

 

I have yet to venture into the world of fountain pens, and I'm holding off for now, because frankly it would look out of place to write with a $300 fountain pen on a $2 notebook to take notes at work/school, while dressed in casual/business casual attire.

 

 

Edit: Wow, the Retro51 Tornado seems great (good reviews and all), and it's a fraction of the price of the Montblanc. I shall have to seriously shop around before I splurge on an impulse buy...


Edited by vanizorc, 03 October 2016 - 04:07.


#9 Mike 59

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Posted 03 October 2016 - 10:20

I think the main difference between cheap and not so cheap ballpoints is the weight, and materials used, rather than the refill.

 A plastic pen is always going to feel lightweight and cheap, but then some writers want that, plus, pens are easily lost.

 A heavier pen feels more substantial and might even write a slightly heavier line on paper, but also it's worth noting that metal pens tend to get 'top heavy', especially if the cap is posted on the top end of the pen body, more in rollerball than ballpoint.

 

 I bought a small-ish ballpoint last year which is probably the best I've tried, the Franklin Covey Freemont, it's just right (for me) in weight, width, grip and look.

 It appears the pen is made by Cross with the lifetime guarantee. The refill is the normal Cross/F.C. version, which does limit choices of ink colours.

 Try Monteverdi's site for a wide choice of refills that don't seem to appear in the high street shops.

 

 It's almost worth starting with which refills you like, then searching for the pen you like, that takes that refill.

 The common types are 'Parker type' and 'Cross type' refills, but the far east manufacturers tend to use their own types, which are not Parker or Cross fit.

  If you can find them, you might want to try the PaperMate Inkjoy Gel pens which are said to be super smooth writers.

   ( I would like to try them myself, but not seen to date in the UK....still looking.)

(Regarding the Pilot Acroball, a really smooth and value for money pen, good finger grip too, I bought several.)

Photo shows the F.C. Freemont (29 grammes) next to the Acroball (9g) for comparison.


Edited by Mike 59, 03 October 2016 - 10:28.


#10 milkb0at

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Posted 03 October 2016 - 10:28

If you go to a stationers and try out a few cheap pens there, you'll get an idea of which refills you like. I don't mind ballpoints, don't like rollerballs but I do like some of the gel pens and hybrid pens. If possible, try Uni Jetstream, Pentel Energel, Pilot G-2 and Parker Quinkflow (which is different to their regular ballpoint). They'll give you an idea of what it's like to write with them.

 

I'm afraid I can't help with the Montblanc. But looking at size of it in the picture, a Parker Jotter (in whatever nice finish strikes your fancy) and Quinkflow refill might do the trick. The Retro51 Tornado is good too and comes with a rollerball as standard, but you can easily switch it for a Parker, Schmidt or Schneider refill if you want.

 

Of course, the other option is to buy a Lamy Safari or Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen for not much money to see if you like it.



#11 Algester

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Posted 04 October 2016 - 10:49

always believe the pen is the carrier for ink if the refill is bad it's not worth the money, thats pretty much the end of the discussion now finding a good refill and then find the body that works for that refill is typically the top priority, you can pay top money for the body but the refill may not be to your liking so you will need to mate the body with a good refill
(PS: the refill may or may not be more expensive than your pen)

#12 Orpilorp

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Posted 04 October 2016 - 12:43

Good points - thanks a bunch for all the info. I should mention that, yes, I value the weight and "solidity" of an expensive ballpoint pen vs a cheaper plastic one. However, for smoothness of writing (which is top on my priority list), it seems rollerballs are better than ballpoints in that regard. (Just found out about ts fact today, and it explains why I always prefer writing with my Pilot Acroball out of the rest of my pens, which are all ballpoints.)
 
However, I'm considering the small-sized Montblanc Meisterstück Ballpoint (ref. 108730) at the moment, because it seems to be the only "quality" pen I can find that comes in a small size. I am a petite woman with small hands, so I think a smaller pen for long-term use is more practical/portable for me. 
 
Here's a picture:
 
108730AAAA.jpg
 
 
... Wow, the Retro51 Tornado seems great (good reviews and all), and it's a fraction of the price of the Montblanc. I shall have to seriously shop around before I splurge on an impulse buy...




I really like the Retro 51s; I own about 20 of them. They have beautiful and sometimes clever bodies, and fantastic refill cartridges. BUT if it is possible, I would strongly encourage you to hold one prior to purchase, or at least look at the pen's specifications. They are metal bodied and consequently they are heavy.

#13 Algester

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Posted 04 October 2016 - 14:22

Good points - thanks a bunch for all the info. I should mention that, yes, I value the weight and "solidity" of an expensive ballpoint pen vs a cheaper plastic one. However, for smoothness of writing (which is top on my priority list), it seems rollerballs are better than ballpoints in that regard. (Just found out about this fact today, and it explains why I always prefer writing with my Pilot Acroball out of the rest of my pens, which are all ballpoints.)
 
However, I'm considering the small-sized Montblanc Meisterstück Ballpoint (ref. 108730) at the moment, because it seems to be the only "quality" pen I can find that comes in a small size. I am a petite woman with small hands, so I think a smaller pen for long-term use is more practical/portable for me. 
 
Here's a picture:
 
108730AAAA.jpg
 
 
It is a ballpoint, so I'm wondering whether anyone knows if there are replacement ink cartridges for this pen tube that is a "gel ink", and thus writes more smoothly like a rollerball. Alternatively, if anyone knows of quality small-sized rollerballs, please let me know. 
 
I have yet to venture into the world of fountain pens, and I'm holding off for now, because frankly it would look out of place to write with a $300 fountain pen on a $2 notebook to take notes at work/school, while dressed in casual/business casual attire.
 
 
Edit: Wow, the Retro51 Tornado seems great (good reviews and all), and it's a fraction of the price of the Montblanc. I shall have to seriously shop around before I splurge on an impulse buy...

but Acroball is a ballpoint not a rollerball... even then under technicality ballpoints are also rollerballs... the gray line between the 2 probably doesnt exist heck Japan just says, gel based, water based or oil based ballpoints

I like the Caran d'Ache 849 but never liked the refill so yeah... there's that but if you have good D1 refills and you like the 849 you will need this http://unus-product.com/item/ba-cd-01

Edited by Algester, 04 October 2016 - 14:34.







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